East Germany’s Soviet Heritage – Soviet eyrie Sperenberg

“Heather of the Mark, Sand of the Mark” – that is what Brandenburg State’s anthem is all about and to the south of Berlin, in Sperenberg you can find plenty of it as meanwhile nature took over from once deployed Soviet airmen. Being built by GDR for its big brother and comrade in arms, the Russians used the airfield until 1994. Since then the huge 24 km² extensive abandoned area is exposed to decay.

All roads and footpaths of the former military complex are now under control of grass and trees, something that would grind every sergeant major’s gear. The escaped premises of the Sperenberg airfield once belonged to Kummersdorf where Germany’s military research institute was located. A huge hall for big vehicles bears witness to those times when army engineers and their heavy equipment worked in Sperenberg.

Tracks in Sperenberg have a long distance character. From the eastern barrack main gate to the western end of the actual airfield it’s well over 6 kilometres of walking; a way my feet had to cope with even two times as I’ve visited the Sperenberg complex in March with photographer friend Victor Boyko and another time in autumn with photo buddy Torsten Goltz, who shot the panorama further down.

While in March the late winter light filtered by leadenly coloured thick clouds emphasised the place’s melancholic atmosphere, autumn stages the whole area literally flamboyant, yet even romantic. Thus we’re not the only ones taking a walk among the abandoned buildings of Sperenberg down to the airfield.

Merely more than half a year has lapsed between both visits I made to Sperenberg; actually a short time, but decay visibly took its toll as for example the roof of the sports hall collapsed. Now the huge letters telling “Hold high the Flags of Army sports” dazzle from the hall’s foundation walls.

Human visitors play an important role in decay though as for example the interior of the airfield’s control tower is completed devastated. Only 20 years ago this building, now being surrounded by high trees, had a non-stop vision of the whole airfield and all things going on. Vandalism allowed only the foundation walls to stand still.

Apparently I am not the only one around enjoying autumn weather. Unbelievable but true, and despite a locked and weld shut eastern main gate, some cars could get inside the former military complex to go crazy fun driving on the former runway.

The Russians basically left East Germany through Wünsdorf, the high command of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG). Sperenberg is not far from Wünsdorf and was hub to fly out heavy vehicles back home.

An eyewitness being staff sergeant at the time when the Russians flew out military equipment with their huge Antonov An-124 and Ilyushin Il-76 aircrafts told me, that not only army vehicles ended up on the planes also private ones, stolen, with 4 wheels, nice coating and maybe a Mercedes star. That’s the way some pilots made a mint of money at that time.

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