Haunted halls tailor-made for Nazi uniforms: The Heeresbekleidungsamt

Filed 15/10/2014 |
Things that go bump in the night are only slightly less scary when they go bump in the day. Throw in Nazis, dark dripping basements, endless hallways, chill winds, the ghosts of Soviet soldiers and – most disconcerting of all – giant seagulls, and everything becomes immaterial when sheer terror takes hold.
Light was failing when I got to the Heeresbekleidungsamt, previously a uniform factory for the Nazis. They wanted to look good, the fuckers. They weren’t getting their clobber from H&M.
Shadows were looming and my fears were blooming. I didn’t know what to expect, who I might meet. Were they expecting me?! Probably. The wind was whipping up, indignant. Leaves blew past my face as I approached the door I hoped was open. I pushed it. It was. CREEEEEAAAAAK. Jesus, my heart was in my mouth. My heart was thumping. I wouldn’t have been able to scream even if I wanted to.
Darkness was closing in fast. I couldn’t see far. I had a torch but refrained from using it lest its telltale beam gave me away. I only switched it on when I couldn’t see a thing, flashed it at the wall in front of me. RAUCHEN VERBOTEN! Old German script. Evidently written by Nazis. They were health freaks, obsessed with their bodies – of course they’d frown upon smoking. They frowned on everything that wasn’t blue-eyed and racist.
I cursed their small-mindedness and continued up the steps, hoping I wouldn’t bump into any of them. This place was once infested with them; there were surely a few still hanging around. The floor was wet, dark. I hoped it wasn’t blood, inched forward. Broken glass crunched underfoot. A bang, a door, wind. Shit. Every sense on high alert, every alert on high sense. I stopped, waited, went on again.
I couldn’t see much, but found the stairway. It went up and it went down. I went down. Weird shit hung from the ceiling, weird shit lay on the floor. I poked around, poked weird shit. In the dark, noises, weird noises. Alert told sense, get the fuck out! Sense didn’t need to be told twice, though probably shouldn’t have needed alert’s involvement.
I ran up the stairs, tried ignore the howling, hurried through the hallway, the corridor, the other hallway – how was there another one?! – stopped, started, stopped again, started again. Fuck, I have to get out! I got out, or you would not be reading these words…
I even went back, or you would not be looking at these photographs, but that was just as hair-raising, despite the daylight, which only served to show the horrors I had merely imagined before.
But let’s start at the beginning, where things normally start. I’d actually been looking for this place, way back in 2012, when I instead found the Panzer Kaserne nearby. You trip over old abandoned military camps in this part of the world.
The Nazis began building the Heeresbekleidungsamt (literally Army Clothing Agency) on a 20-hectare site in Bernau around 1938, taking three years to construct eight arched two-story partly interconnected buildings with reinforced concrete and large windows. Altogether they boast around 65,000 square meters of floor space.
Some 1,300 workers were moved here from the previous Heeresbekleidungsamt on Lehrter Straße in Berlin (just up the road from today’s Hauptbahnhof) to start making uniforms and supplies for the German war effort. It was all a waste of time, obviously. They lost despite their shiny new attire.
The Red Army took over on April 20, 1945 and used the place as a storage/warehouse facility and to repair their uniforms. It became their launderette. They also used it up to 1947 to transport war loot back to the Soviet Union. Train tracks out the back facilitated their getaway carriages. The Soviets really cleaned up, not just their uniforms.
East Germans were allowed onto the site to sell items and perform maintenance work from the end of the 1970s, but otherwise it was it was a purely Soviet affair.
They were the smartest-looking Soviets this side of the Atlantic – until the whole collapse of the Soviet Union left everything in tatters.
There hasn’t been a call for uniforms since they left on Aug. 31, 1994. The giant seagull took over some time after that, mocking the departing Russians with his cawing and non-discreet laughter.
It seems he was brought here by the German Maritime Search and Rescue Association (DGzRS), who operated a local office here sometime between 2000 and 2004 judging by all the papers they left lying around. Datenschutz my ass.
As it is, the seagull has the whole Heeresbekleidungsamt to himself. Other parties harbor plans of apartments but for now at least it’s only the seagull’s harbor.

Bernau’s Heeresbekleidungsamt, or “Army Clothing Agency,” where the Germans had military uniforms made for the German war effort. No running around in rags for these guys. Ordnung muss sein. Also used as a storage facility for military supplies. Taken over by the Red Army who used it for similar activities and for transporting loot back to the good ol’ USSR.

Schönfelder Weg, 16321 Bernau bei Berlin. Not sure of the exact number. If you follow Wikipedia’s advice you’ll be climbing into somebody’s house across the road. See directions below.

How to get there
Get the S-Bahn or regional train to Bernau and it’s not too far to walk from there. Head north coming out of the station, take your first right under the tunnel, then left past the Bahnhofspassage Bernau shopping center and you should end up on a busy road from which you can see a roundabout. Go straight through the roundabout, take your first left and that will be Schönfelder Weg. The Heeresbekleidungsamt is behind the big wide gate after a bunch of trees on the left. Here’s the map.

Getting in
You can simply hop the gate if you’re unperturbed by the nosy neighbors across the way. Maybe they’re not nosy. As if! They’re neighbors, of course they’re nosy. They’re probably standing behind twitching curtains with fingers at the ready on their phones to ring the Polizei at the slightest sign of a misdemeanor. Of course they said nothing when the Russians were there…
Anyway, back to getting in. If you’re concerned about the neighbors you can walk through the trees to the right of the gate (there’s a little path) and simply hop the wall a bit further on at a more discreet location. Then you’re in. Pick a building and explore.

When to go
Colors are lovely there this time of year. Daytime is best if you want to see them, nighttime is better if you want to be scared out of your wits.

Difficulty rating
3/10 It’s just a matter of hopping the wall and going in. No biggie.

Who to bring
Ghostbusters! Oh, that’s who to ring, sorry. But you might consider bringing them if you pluck up the courage to go at night. You could also bring a few friends if you’d enough courage for a party. There are plenty of signs of people having had parties here before.

What to bring
Bring a few sandwiches to stave off the hunger, a few beers to stave off the thirst, and a stave to keep any lurking Nazis at bay. Bring your camera of course if you want to take photos, and a flashlight to light your way as you pass through dark corridors…

The aforementioned nosy neighbors should not be underestimated. Keep the noise down and you should be OK. Watch out for possible security, though I didn’t encounter any. Otherwise keep an eye out for tortured ghosts, humorless ghouls, haunted spirits and grotesque goblins. Witches and vampires should be avoided too. Hallowe’en is just around the corner.

Many thanks once again to Mark Rodden for casting his eagle eyes over the copy before it’s inflicted on the world.

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Holaaaaaaa?? Thanks for your incredible blog! We visited this place today and it was completely amazing. It is huge and we hadn't time enough to take a look into all the buildings. In our next visit. We found some interesting russian newspapers of 1952. Rauchen verboten all around. We have also seen two deers.
The "entrance" was pretty easy to find and to get across. Just where you told, is located a comfortable way to get in.
There was heavy machinery around. It seems that they are working next to the buildings (maybe cutting trees all around or something? Who guess?). Today was a car parked in front of one of the buildings. But anyone inside or gossipping.
Worth it.

Hey there! I went there yesterday with a friend. Absolutely amazing! Getting in through the woods to the left side on the back of the area you won't find any neighbours nor you'll have to hop a wall. Some of the buildings were locked up so it took some time to find an open door. The moment we set the first step into the building we heard a door banging, looking to the other corner of the building we saw a random naked guy running out of the building disappearing around the corner, just like the deer we scared sh^t out of shortly before. Maybe a nazi Zombie, desperately searching for his clothes - there aren't any left, we checked. Keep exploring!

I was in East Berlin in 1974 and went to many sites like this South along the road from Sassnitz. Our group was carefully watched so no in-depth exploring was allowed. I got to see those Russian Troops you mentioned that were all over the place, even though their presence was denied by the DDR. While I did not get to explore places like you have done, I did get to see the Amusement park you visited when it was up and running. And everywhere we went it looked like the War had just ended and another one was about to start. Glad you are able to explore there today. Watch out for the Ghosts of the Stasi...they're everywhere too!

Thanks Jack! I love hearing impressions of how things were.
"Everywhere we went it looked like the War had just ended and another one was about to start." Brilliant!

we were there today..and found the gate wide open. There is an art exhibition for the moment in Bernau (still till Sept 13th), and also on the site, in the first Of the 8 buildings). We went to 2-3 other buildings after that, but no way to get in...
www.kontext-labor-bernau.de for more info about the Kunst im Stadtraum exhibit

Hey, thanks to the great map, we found this place just 3kms away from the Panzer Kaserne. Here it's more locked-up but once you're in you can figure out some ways up and down through the different floors and the basements, lovely big bird ruling a dark corridor ! There's obviously still artists around here with stuff for future exhibitions or workshops.

Thanks for the tip on this place. We hopped the wall to the right, behind the trees. When we got in we saw a car through the trees so we kept a low profile and stayed out of sight in one of the buildings for an hour or so. What an interesting building, especially down in the basement. Eventually we heard voices and saw a big group strolling around looking at the buildings. We thought they may be a tour group looking around and waited for them to leave. However 2 guys found us but were nice and friendly. It turned out that they were the new owners of the land. The buildings will be redeveloped for apartments, and they had been showing prospective clients around. They were ok for us to continue to take photos and told us all about the plans for redevelopment, which will start in September. After a while they went off and we took a few more photos before we walked out the front gate.

We went there yesterday and could just go in - the gate was open. Because of what Eoin posted earlier, they now seem to have the area open for possible investors to show them around. Saturdays it's 10-15. We just walked in and thought let's see what the people say if they see us. We met several people there, all just said "hello" and we said "hello" back.
I didn't talk to them further, but probably now it's the time to go if you still want to see it!

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