Teufelsberg update: Beware the devils on Devil's Mountain!

Filed 15/11/2012 | Updated 8/9/2015 (Scroll to the bottom for the latest)
I'd been getting a lot of bad stories of people being threatened, bullied and – in short – exploited at Teufelsberg so I've decided to get to the bottom of what's going on. I went there today.
I circled the perimeter edge looking for a convenient hole in the fence but didn't find any so simply hopped the front gate. Fuck it, I wasn't hiding from anyone. I wanted to see what was going on.
I walked up the main entrance, saw a car ahead, heard voices, kept going. As I rounded the corner and made to go past them a guy approached me straight away. Demanded money. Why? Because it's private property and you can't simply walk around.
I asked who he was. He said it wasn't important.
I insisted. He said he was working for the security company. Wouldn't tell me the name of the security company.
I asked for ID, some proof of who he was. He refused.
I said I didn't believe him, he could be anybody, and that I was going on ahead to take pictures. I told him the site belonged to an investor group based in Cologne and it was up to them to decide who could go and who not.
He continued on about the security company. I again asked for proof.
“You can look it up on the internet,” he said. He still wouldn't tell me the company name.
I again asked for proof, something to fucking look at.
“I don't need to show you anything.”
You do if you want money from me buddy.
I showed him my press ID, told him I was going ahead to take pictures and I wasn't giving him money.
He laughed at the press ID.
“That's no good to you here.”
Then I started taking photos of him. He seemed surprised at first, then he laughed, stuck his tongue out, raised his fingers at the camera.
I went to move past him and he started shoving me as the aggression levels were rising. I went to walk on. He went in front of me, started pushing me back.
I warned him to be careful not to overstep his bounds.
He kept shoving me back. I held my ground.
Then another guy came around the corner, from the direction of the main domes, with two or three tourists in tow. He charged over straight away, shouting. He pushed me back, put his face in my face. He was scowling, his face contorted with rage.
He was much bigger. A thug. A thuggish thug, as opposed to the mere goon I'd already been talking to.
I had pretty much the same conversation, wanted to see some proof of who they were. I said the site belonged to the Cologne investment group and that they were the ones to decide who should go in etc.
“I live here,” the thug said.
He had a clipboard in his hand and I asked to see it. It was filled in with the names and addresses of people, but I couldn't see any mention of any security group, Cologne investment group or tour agency.
He threatened to call the police.
“Call the police,” I replied. The police would have been welcome at that stage.
He said the owner of the investment group was off doing a tour and that I could talk to him when he came back – but that I'd have to wait at the gate for him. He named a name. It didn't sound like the name the head of a Cologne investment group would have.
I took a picture of him. I think the fact I had pictures of them put them off hitting me. That, and the tourists, who were still standing by awkwardly. I guess they would have been witnesses.
But I knew at this stage I couldn't get past without risking some serious violence. This guy was just itching for me to make the first move so he could retaliate. I'm not crazy. I knew I was pushing my luck.
I agreed to go back down to the gate to talk to “the owner.”
He asked me to delete the photos. I refused.
As we were walking back to the gate, he made a wanking sign and said, “You can take your pictures and do this with them.”
A thug, and clearly a wanker too.
As I was leaving, some couple I had already met outside looking for a way in arrived at the gate.
“How much is it in?” the guy asked me.
“I don't know. I didn't bother asking,” I told him.
The thug forgot about me. He had customers.

So I didn't get to the bottom of it, but I will. It seems pretty obvious the guys charging people admission are fraudsters. Whether they're squatters, or security charged with looking after the premises but taking advantage of it on the side, or whether they're entitled to rip people off remains to be seen. As soon as I find out what's going on I'll let you know.

The pictures here were taken on a previous visit in 2010, apart from the photos of the security guys. That's the thug on the left, the goon's on the right.

UPDATE: November 17, 2012 - I spoke with Teufelsberg's owner and with the guy he has entrusted with security on the site. Full details are here: http://www.abandonedberlin.com/2012/11/teufelsberg-update-devil-in-mountains.html

UPDATE: September 8, 2015 – Shalmon Abraham’s rental agreement with Teufelsberg owners Hartmut Gruhl and Hanfried Schütte has been scrapped. A bailiff arrived last Tuesday, Sept. 1, to announce the eviction after a dispute over the rent.
Abraham had been charging admission to the site but the owners weren’t getting the benefit, apparently. Hanfried Schütte said he was only interested in money, Der Tagesspiegel reported.
“Money was taken in but no rent was paid,” Marvin Schütte, Hanfried’s son, told Morgenpost. It’s possible that the Schüttes saw how much he was making and decided they could do it better for themselves.
Marvin is the new “Pächter” (tenant) and he too has big plans for the site, including the opening of a café, beer garden and art gallery. He won’t be able to build much more as the area is protected as a forested area.
He told Abandoned Berlin today (though he didn’t know he was talking to AB) that there will be even more street artists working on the site than before, and that their work will be more varied, using all sorts of materials. Teufelsberg’s art attacks are set to continue.
More importantly, he let AB and AB’s young sidekick in for a look for €7. Tours are still ongoing and will continue, despite the change in tenancy, but we got in after the last one and were left to our own devices as we poked around.
You can’t go right up to the very top anymore – it’s blocked off, presumably for security or safety reasons – but Teufelsberg’s still very much worth a visit. Especially now the goons are gone.
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Me and a friend went there this summer. We went through a hole in the fence farther to the right of the road entrance. We had heard of people getting charged and stuff like that but we made sure to keep a low profile. The people charging and acting as "security guards" appear to be squaters making a buck and they mainly guard the gate and access to the top of the 3 domes. We explored most of the buildings and the building with the lone sphere without any conflict with anyone.The only time we were asked to pay was below the three spheres and we just turned around and continued exploring. 5 Euro wasn't that big of a deal i guess but we had already seen most of the complex and been to the top of the other dome so we didn't bother. It was, however, one of the top experiences I had while in Berlin and really hope I get to go back.

i went in June with two mates. no people demanding money at the gate so everyone was free to roam the main 3 domes. too many people in summer for 2 thugs to intimidate. but there was a guy at the base of the other dome wearing an orange vest. he claimed to be security and told people to leave. he wasn't really enforcing his position or charging anyone. sound experiments in the top dome were great fun. it's an amazing location

I was there this summer with some friends (pics here, fascinating place: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pthread/sets/72157630402876232/). I actually think we may have run into the guy in your second picture.

There was a good number of people wandering around the main large building, had to be two to three dozen. A group told us that they had run into a guy in the building who had told them to leave, and to avoid that floor. I saw him later, it seemed it was just chatting with someone (in a friendly way), but we decided to avoid where he was, and got to see the whole building.

We got to continue on to where the military police were, and went pretty deep into that also very large building. In all we ended up seeing most of the site, and it wasn't until we were on our way out that we ran into Mr. Meathead. He asked us if we paid, and my wife just said yes and kept walking. I tried to do the same and he started pushing me, similar to your story. Although there was another adult male with us, this guy was fucking huge, and as we were on the way out anyway I just agreed to let him escort us out the front rather than risk escalating things further.

I'd be interested in hearing more about legitimate tours. 15€/person is a bit pricey but if they give you access to a lot of the place and are informative I wouldn't be against it when some visitors come to town. Since the place is seemingly crawling with these guys I'm not sure how keen I am to go back.

I'd definitely be interested in hearing what you find out about the actual owners of the site though. We were definitely thinking that these guys were just trying to rip people off and weren't legit, although amongst our group there was disagreement as to whether they were in cahoots with the hippies or the two groups just tolerated each other.

Since last May, Teufelsberg ist hired out from the Cologne investor to a private tenant. He organize the security at his own expenses to protect Teufelsberg from vandalism, metal thief and firebugs. This two guys you met there are the real security, i'm sorry to hear, that they were a kind of awkward with you, for my opinion the organisation of security and entrance fees is still a bit obscure at the moment! As a quid pro quo he can use the area for guided tours or other of a business nature (fims, photographing, workshops...). i think, it's fair and the only way to protect Teufelsberg at the moment. But it is not legal to take entrance fees without visiting the TBerg while a guided tour. For your next visit show your press ID at the entrance on Sat/Sun, I'm sure the regularly staff let you in for free. Be sure, the entrance fee, that every legal visitor pay on Sat/Sun is not for enrichment of the tenant, it is two-thirds for protection of the heritage Teufelsberg, and for one third for the guy (student, historian or US-contemporary witness), who guides you! :)

Thanks for all your comments and interest. I've since been talking to the Teufelsberg owner and to the guy who runs the company responsible for security and the tours. I'll have latest update posted shortly!

Thanks for your comments former Teufelsberg guide!
I'd have a lot more compassion for protecting the heritage of Teufelsberg - and let's face it, the place is fucked. It was fucked when I was there in 2009 for the first time - if there weren't hired goons threatening and assaulting people on the site.
Whether they work for Berlin Sight Out or merely themselves is almost irrelevant. Nobody should physically or mentally abuse anyone, in any circumstances.
As you can see from all the comments on the previous Teufelsberg post, I'm not the first person to run into problems. I'm sure I won't be the last. Just because the guy running the operation has permission from the owner to run tours does not make it OK to bully and harass people, even if you think it's merely being "kind of awkward with you."
I have a new update that I'll be posting now. It fills in a few blanks in the story.

Hi, i agree, that nobody should physically or mentally abuse anyone, of course!

I think, the securities thought (how they learned it in another locations), you're a kind like "burglar", who don't want to leave the place. They are "street-mavericks" from the high-rise estates round Berlin. I know one of the photographed guys, to normal visitors he is very friendly and polite. You're right, that they had to identification themselves as regular guards.

BerlinSightOut is normally a friendly young team of guys, who put a lot of volunteer work in protection of that heritage!

So I'm sorry you caught them flat-footed :(
I'm interested in your update! Andreas

It's up now Andreas. Hope it clarifies a few things. Thanks again for your input!

Hi, yes i saw it. thanks for your article - it bring light into the darkness and it composed for those involved adequate, i think :)

Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

hi there! i wonder why you are not bothering about the fact that you climbed over or through a fence. the fence makes it quite obvious that t-berg isn't a public place. something is wrong with your reception of reality. when you enter private property through a fence, YOU are a thug bullying the people being there legally (do you have a badge on you, when you walk around your garden, to show someone who might climb through your fence to have a closer look at your house?).
it is an obligation by the city authorities that the site is only visitable in guided groups because parts of the area are dangerous (you will not notice when you inhale asbestos...). the tours on the weekends are well prepared professional guidings by people knowing a lot about the place and its history. everyone visiting these tours is very satisfied and noone feels charged to heavy for the tour.
easiest way for reporters: tell the people there before you arrive that you would like to write something, then come to the place with your press ID, do a tour to get information and then, i'm sure, you'll get an interview with someone who's able to tell you something about the place, the legal construction of the place and the people working there. there is nothing secret about this (as one could think from the article), you only have to ask and stop speculate!
the aim is to make a public place out of t-berg for everyone. but as long as the vandals continue to come through the fence it'll be very difficult to develop such place!

Thanks for your comment Mr/Ms. Anonymous. Are you sure you're not working for a certain tour group per chance?!
As I clearly wrote already I hopped over the front gate. I wanted to find out what was going on. There were no signs detailing tours and I walked straight up to where the people were. There was no hiding involved.
Did you even read what I wrote? I showed the first security guy my press pass, explained who I was, and what I wanted.
I am not a thug bullying anybody. I obviously offended your friend who evidently does it on an ongoing basis, but anyone who acts like a thug is a thug in my book. He was just itching for a fight, extremely aggressive. There was certainly no mention made of any tours. As it turned out later - read the follow up post - it's because tours aren't allowed on the site during the week. The security/tour group evidently use it as an extra way to make money.

I went there this afternoon with a friend and encountered the guys you photographed--at the gate, sitting at a table with a very suspect, handwritten sign asking for 7 euros for a 1-hour tour. We were very suspicious, both because of the way they looked and the handwritten sign. But we had already circled the property and couldn't find a way in through the fence and so it seemed the only option if we wanted in was to acquiesce. So we paid and were taken by a dowdy guide up to the highest tower, where we were (generously?) allowed to stay for almost two hours before being asked to follow him down to the entrance. Meanwhile, many other "artists" were walking around with spray paint, joints, bicycles. It seems unlikely that they paid to get in there. So at the end of the day, not sure what to make of these guys.

Thanks for the comment! Glad at least, that you had two hours to roam about. I could tell you what I make of these guys but I don't want to be rude.

So these guys are still kicking around? A friend is in town and I would love to bring them but I'm not paying to get into a place I have been in enough times for free, especially since it is still seems so illegitimate.

Yeah, they're still there. Not sure if the situation's going to change anytime soon to be honest. Bring your friend somewhere else!

Went there today with a friend as we are visiting Berlin. Handwritten sign on the gate saying privately owned etc also that artists are welcome?? If the security is there to stop all the graffiti why are they advertising that it's fine?
Seemed to us that a bunch of squatters have moved in and just taken it over.
Saw quite a few people living in crappy caravans around the area and also on our way out noticed that they had moved a caravan to the front gate which I assume is now the front office.

Happy to have seen it as it is very interesting but the people in there bring it down. Would be happy to pay for a proper guided tour for someone that looks like they aren't just doing it to afford their next hit.

They're just opportunists, likely scoring their next hit.

if you want´s to visit us on Teufelsberg legally, you are welcome!

More Info and contact: http://www.berliner-teufelsberg.com/web/

The last of my lo fi specials from last year,this time it's Teufelsberg https://vimeo.com/94172588

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