Party at Saddam's house (The abandoned Iraqi embassy)

Filed 18/6/2010 | Updated 5/2/2014

Papers are strewn everywhere, files, important documents, letters, photos, names, addresses; mountains of them ripped from folders and filing cabinets and just scattered around. Chairs are overturned, sofas gutted, desks ravaged, walls blackened, shards of glass lie on the floor. Dirty curtains billow in the nonchalant breeze through broken windows.
You’d think a bomb hit the place even before you realize where you are. But this is one Iraqi site which was never bombed – it was simply abandoned.
They must have just left the Iraqi Embassy to East Germany (German Democratic Republic or GDR) with no notice at all. “We’re leaving. Pack your bags and get out!”
They didn’t even bother to clear their desks. Some 20 years later the telephones, rusty typewriters and telex machines were still sitting on desks, along with manuals and lists of phone numbers. There was (June, 2010) even toilet paper still on a roll beside the smashed up cistern!
Most of what they left behind in January 1991 was still there. All the good stuff was gone of course; I was looking for a picture of Saddam Hussein to hang on my wall. Any medals, busts or trinkets were long pilfered but there was still more than enough to hold the attention. A receipt from April 28th, 1970 for 1.070,66 East German Mark made out to Herr Dr. Hl Hussani, whoever the hell he was, and letters addressed to Mr. Issam Salman Al Rawi from the Iraqi embassy in London. Manuscripts on the Iran-Iraq war, and plenty of pictures of missile launchers in action, smiling Iraqi soldiers and wartime propaganda.
Saddam himself was there too! Smiling beautifully and radiating with glory on the cover of a brochure soiled by 20 Berlin winters and the passing of time. Time hasn’t been kind to him either I’m afraid.
“Mmmmm, he looks so young!” exclaimed Jenny when I later showed her the picture. Maybe it’s a good thing he’s gone after all.
I’d hopped over the half-hearted barbed-wire effort on the front gate and made my way in through the cellar. As is becoming customary, I’d no torch with me (I finally bought batteries the Sunday before at Mauerpark) so I was relying on my camera infrared to light the dark rooms. It didn’t light much. I stumbled over debris, banged into overturned furniture and crunched on broken glass as I groped my way around in the darkness. I pushed open doors, peered around corners in the dark, half expecting a decayed corpse to suddenly roll out in front of me.
My heart was in my mouth. It nearly shot out of my mouth when I heard voices upstairs as I was rooting through some files. Who the hell was that?! I waited and listened. They spoke again. A laugh. Then I knew it wasn’t the Polizei. Or Saddam’s henchmen protecting deep dark secrets. I continued rooting.
Most of the letters were in Arabic, so I’d no idea what plots they were divulging, what secrets they were sharing, whose ideas they were betraying. I should have paid more attention during Arabic classes. I continued searching.
The 5,000 square meter site belongs to Germany but the Republic of Iraq has “perpetual and exclusive rights” (as is embassy etiquette) after being granted same by the now defunct GDR government.
The Iraqis have apparently bigger fish to fry and look set to keep ignoring it from their plush all-Germany embassy in Zehlendorf.
“No comment,” from an Iraqi spokesman.
Meanwhile, someone in the Berlin city planning authority: “It’s a matter for Iraq; there’s nothing we can do about it.”
The building was built in 1974 when Iraq enjoyed good relations with the GDR. It had been the first non-socialist state to recognize East Germany as a country in 1969.
Saddam Hussein even invited head honcho Erich Honecker to Baghdad in 1980, probably to discuss arms deals.
The East German National People’s Army helped Iraqi preparations for chemical warfare, with Der Spiegel reporting in 1990 that four officers from the ‘Chemical Services’ of the NVA led a project until the early 1980s to develop chemical, atomic and biological weapons at a facility near Baghdad. George W. must have read that particular article. Or at least had it read to him.
Saddam Hussein’s policy included hits on political opponents abroad. Apparently the East Germans were happy for Iraqis to use East Berlin as a base for operations in West Berlin, and embassy staff could pass through Checkpoint Charlie as and when they pleased. Two were arrested in West Berlin following a tip-off on August 1st, 1980 as they were receiving a suitcase full of explosives.
They turned out to be the embassy secretary Khalid Jaber and the head of Iraqi intelligence in East Berlin, Hay Ali Mahmood. They were accused of a plot to bomb a congress of Kurdish students in West Berlin, in Wedding, just up the road from me. The tip-off came from the Syrian Intelligence Service to the West German Bundesnachrichtendienst intelligence service (BND). Apparently.
Reports of large amounts of weapons and explosives at the Iraqi embassy in Berlin were confirmed by the GDR Interior Ministry in September 1990 when it was placed under watch. Iraq was already a month into the first Gulf War after invading Kuwait, and then German reunification took place in October. (Unconnected events.)
The new all-German government, no doubt on its best behavior and keen to kiss arses across the Atlantic, ordered staff out of the embassy in January 1991 while the first Gulf War was coming to an end. It’s been abandoned ever since, stuck in a bureaucratic tied-knot which I hope won’t be untied for a long time to come. It’s absolutely fantastic!

What
Former Iraqi Embassy to East Germany.

Where
Tschaikowskistraße 51, Berlin 13156, Germany.

How to get there
Get the S2 S-Bahn from Friedrichstraße to Pankow, and then get either the M1 tram from there to Tschaikowskistr. or the 155 bus to Homeyerstr. Here’s a map so you can figure out where to go from there. It ain’t far!
You could also cycle which is the best way to get anywhere in this city.

Getting in
Just find the bit of the gate in front where the barbed wire isn’t too high up. There are a couple of spots where the barbed wire sits under the top of the gate. You can also approach from the back or side by hopping over the fence and cutting through the trees.

When to go
Daytime is best so you can see what the hell you’re looking at.

Difficulty rating
6/10 Not hard to get in, but need to be on the lookout for police and nosy neighbors. Germans have an uncontrollable urge to ring people in authority when they suspect someone might be breaking the law, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with them. “Das ist verboten, verdammte Scheiße. Ich muß dringend die Polizei anrufen!”

Who to bring
Like-minded explorers.

What to bring
Camera. Tripod if you want to be fancy about it. A few beers to sip on the roof. And a torch. Bring a torch for Jaysus’ sake!

Dangers
The aforementioned nosy neighbors are a pain in the arse, but the Polizei do respond to their calls. My first attempt to gain entrance was aborted when a Polizei Wagon parked outside the place actually reversed to see what we were up to as we were nosing about outside. There’s evidently no crime in Berlin – the Polizei are always itching for something to do. Use your discretion or they’ll be down on you like a scud missile.

More wonderful pictures, despite the lack of fancy equipment, can be seen here: Iraqi embassy pictures.

UPDATE: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 – Nothing much has changed since my initial post nearly four years ago. I’ve become a dad and got myself a job, but what I mean is nothing much has changed at the Iraqi embassy…
Saddam’s no longer there. I hear he’s very much dead now. The walls are more blackened, broken glass more sharpened, papers more fluttered, furniture more scattered. There’s more graffiti on the walls (some of it, indeed, may be called “street art” but not all if it) and the breeze blowing through is stronger, but otherwise it’s pretty much as you were.
I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open to see if I can ascertain any developments from local media, but there’s been nothing, not a smidgen, nothing to suggest the ongoing situation will ever change. Either that, or they’ve been very careful about letting me find out…
I’d be very surprised if it stayed the way it is, abandoned forever, left to the squirrels to scamper over broken glass and discarded typewriters without a care for stamped forms or visas. But they seem safe for now, free to keep gathering their nuts. Some nuts gather squirrels but they’re a different type of nut, common but not exclusive to Berlin.
I didn’t meet anyone on my last visit a couple of weeks ago, not a nut, not even a squirrel (I presume they’re all hibernating anyway) so there’s nothing really here to update, bar pictures of the latest pilgrimage. They’re intermingled among the old ones.




shady shit 1836464048019634990

38 comments

Hey, glad to have discovered your blogs. Did you know that a group of us goes on the occasional urbex photo shoot? We've been to Beelitz, Teufelsberg, Krampnitz, etc. The group is going to Saddam's digs today but I'm afraid I can't join.
http://www.toytowngermany.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=166326&st=135

"If it's verboten it must be fun."

Classic!

db

great place, thanks a lot for the info. had a fun day out

same here, there is a new project there to build some luxory appartments...Berlin is on the way to be sold out, it s a shame!!

There's still time to get in and check this place out. No sign of any construction work when I popped by a couple of weeks ago...

Brilliant! I spent a few years clambering over fences in the East working in a UK military intelligence gathering job and getting paid for it! Have you done the "White House" at Zossen Wünsdorf, the Dallgow-Dörberitz former home of 35 Motor Rifle Div of the Soviet Army or the Olympic village? Fun! By the way an update on the T Berg: there are now official tours at teh weekends around the T Berg and a security company run by a guy called Herr Emge who is quite friendly and let me and a camera crew in to do a documentary for the History Channel no probs. Oh and the sweet dame from Potsdam with her Imbiß caravan now at the entrance most weekends is a hoot and does great currywurst. Allet jute, ND.

I did the Olympic village a while back but want to get back out there, and I haven't been to the White House yet. Thanks for the tip - it's on the list!

Hi man, love your blog! Hoping to call out to the embassy this weekend to for a taster before I pluck up the courage to get to Spreepark or get round to taking the trip out to Olympic Village. Heading back to the beautiful island in a next month so need to get a move on!

Thanks for another inspirational piece.

The easiest entry is probably to just hop over a small fence at the back-end of the garden towards Hermann-Hesse Str. There are no 'verboten' signs there either. When the trees have leaves you can quite easily avoid detection going in that way. Although it is a quiet street people in Pankow seem to stare at strangers that stand out in some way so dressing 'middle-classy' and darkish grey/green might be a good idea. I was in the building for maybe 20-30 minutes. I don't read arabic so I have no idea if the papers were cooking recipes for hummus or mustard gas. The building has had multiple fires, it seems, but is in OK condition otherwise.

It's an unusual site and the proximity to residences and offices adds a bit to the excitement. Since it's so easy to get to from Berlin it makes for a nice little trip.

You're welcome! Thanks for another helpful comment!

I don't get the address here. Is it one of the four buildings around a central courtyard on Tscaikowskistrasse? If so how do you access it from Hermanhessestrasse because that's separated by a block or more? I have to say I enjoyed your report on it immensely so I reckon this is on the to do list now!!!

Its location is precisely marked on the map already thoughtfully provided for you. When you go into that courtyard, Tschaikowskistraße 51 is the first one on the right. You don't access it from Herman-Hesse-Straße because, as you say, it's a block or so away, but you could possibly access from (the main) Tschaikowskistraße at the back before you go into the courtyard (towards Herman-Hesse-Straße as a kind commenter already noted).

Just an update for you, me and my friend when in March and it was still easy to get in with no sign of security. The only problem was heaps of people out on the street, perhaps because we went in the afternoon. Because of this we could not go in on the main street, and instead jumped the white fence in the front, we had to be careful no one from the offices next door noticed us.

The main stairwell had been burnt out, and we weren't brave enough to test out if it was still strong so to get up to the top levels we had to go up a ladder in a small cupboard and onto the roof then through a window (be careful on the roof as the people in the offices/houses have a clear view of this).

The only time anyone saw us is when we were coming out and someone came out of the office and saw my very ungraceful dismount off the fence, he just laughed at me and didn't say anything.

Happy exploring!

I went here recently on a Sunday afternoon, and absolutely no problems getting in from the main entrance on Tsschaicovsky Strasse (sp.???). Just be mindful of neighbours and passers-by, otherwise no problem. I'd recommend going when the nearby office buildings are closed on the weekend. We strolled right in through the open front gate.

Still lots of papers, desks, furniture etc. left. Don't expect to see paintings of Saddam Hussein but there are still plenty of interesting documents strewn around. I didn't venture up to the upper floors on account of the burned-looking stairs, however I did hear people walking around up above.

Interesting site, and and easy trip within a relatively central site in Berlin!

http://imgur.com/a/xvoyr

Went there today and had no problems! Jumped over when work was in session, stayed for two hours, but as I was leaving the workers shifts from the other buildings were just finishing so I had to stealthily hide until most of them left. Definitely I would suggest going on a weekend.
It was an incredible time. I felt so connected to the place, unlike any feeling I've ever had in a museum or other historic sights. There's definitely still so much to see. I cannot imagine how much better it would have been nearly right after it became destitute.

Cool pictures! Glad to hear it's still accessible and nicely abandoned.

just found this blog today…pretty incredible. I'm in berlin until the end of this week and looking for a shooting location to film a dance piece. i dance butoh. was wondering if you have any advice... we'd be looking for interesting space that has texture... just to shoot something short..

You could try the former children's hospital at Weißensee. It's pretty trashed but if you're filming you're unlikely to be disturbed by security etc. Beelitz is probably the most photogenic site but it's a but further out...
Good luck!

I am visiting my Sister in Hamburg next week Therefore, I would like to ask if you could recommend any places to visit Hamburg. I will be filming the places I Visit a personal Project,

Regards,

It's sad what people can do to buildings. We went today, and except for the documents, there's not much historical 'beauty' left. Only in the basement there were two images of saddam somewhere laying around, and half an hour later one was gone. Still, rocking the blog though! Thanks!!!

Fence is open just walk in through the Front door.

Crazy. People go there linke to a supermarket. Fence still open.

Went there last sunday early morning. Nice location, but very trashed. But there are still some nice things to see, such as diplomatic documents. Gate is now closed, but you can still easily hop the gate. Best time to go: in the weekend early morning.

Visited the embassy saturday on the 21ste of juni. Situated next to a quite parking lot it was easy to scout around to see if nobody was looking. It was the middle of the day on a saturday and very quite. We parked the car next to gate en went under it. Barbe wire is on the top side of the fence/gate but not everywhere. If your're not too big you can fit under the gate. We ran to the garage and had a good look around the embassy. Really completely trashed but you could still find documents with photo's, very nice! Papers everywhere!
Greeting form the Holland Urban Ex Club :-)

Was here today, as the previous comment also says, place is totally trashed. Everything is broken down, trash and what more everywhere. If it wasn't for a few papers and books between the trash, you could not tell what it used to be. Very easy to get in though. The gates are open but as there was a man in front of the building next to it, we climb the fence on the right side.

Was there on the Sat 25th of June with friends. The front gate was opened no-one was around we put our bikes further down the street and strolled in. Easy peasy nice visit. Little dip in Weissensee after and life is perfect. Enjoy...

i was yesterday and yes, one month ago was closed, but yesterday i just went in through the door, like a boss :D
Quite cool. I need to come back as i didn´t have too much time and i would like to find a Saddam picture. It would be amazing to go with someone who could read something of the books there. Thanks for your post!

btw, i agree absolutely with that : Germans have an uncontrollable urge to ring people in authority when they suspect someone might be breaking the law, even if it has absolutely nothing to do with them. “Das ist verboten, verdammte Scheiße. Ich muß dringend die Polizei anrufen!” :D

I'm sorry if that is what you really have experienced in Germany. However, I'd suppose you're just ruminating a nationalistic stereotype, don't you?

That ain't a stereotype. I'm going on experience. I've seen it many times.

I wrote to KrliTo, and Spudnik answered in same narrow-minded attitude. Fine. Then a big hooray to both your chauvinism...

I went there today but I didn't dare to get in since there were several people inside who seemed to be living there and even looked well-established.
Given the noise they made, the neighborhood may be more tolerant than expected..

Went today, no-one is living there, but lots of nosy neighbours to watch out from. They were not a problem though. The place is great, but if you expect pictures of Saddam, etc, you'll be disappointed, they are long gone. Thank you Spudnik for the tips, it was a great adventure!

I'm just coming back from there. Someone set fire in the building and the police and fire department came. Thankfully I was thinking to pass the fence when they arrived but I didn't enter. The police just stopped on my side by car and then they continued to enter directly inside the embassy...

The guys who set fire must be very stupid... :(

Hey, all I say wow thats fucking interesting and Im Iraqi myself. So Im thinking to visit this place first week in september when I come to Berlin. Anyone want to join me for this?

Ashraf, if you haven't already visited, I'd be interested

I did man, Im not in Berlin anymore. But it was good I felt home in that place actually even tho it looks shit cause idiots have burned the place. And I couldnt get a fine book to read.

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