Tanks for the memories: From Heeresbekleidungsamt to Panzer Kaserne

Filed 30/1/2012 | Updated 28/10/2014
Not much can be learned from the old abandoned Panzer Kaserne in Bernau but for the fact that Russians love covering their walls in newspaper and playing basketball in attics. It’s true.
At one time the Red Army’s 90th Guards Tank Division was headquartered here, according to what I’ve gleaned from conducting my fill of painstaking and contradictory research. It’s all very confusing so you’ll have to Bär with me…
Before the Soviets and long after the last bears were roaming Brandenburg, the Nazis were in charge. These were the main offices and administration buildings for Bernau’s Heeresbekleidungsamt (Army Clothing Agency), which I detailed in another post concerning its secondary complex nearby.
I didn’t encounter any Nazis on my first visit, and so presumed I’d stumbled upon the wrong site. I didn’t realize the Heeresbekleidungsamt was spread over two.
This was where some 1,300 workers made, repaired and cleaned uniforms for the Wehrmacht during the Second World War, lovingly cleaning them, pressing them and ironing them so German soldiers could keep up appearances when off invading foreign parts.
They were a bedraggled-looking lot by the time the Russians took over and promptly made themselves at home in April 1945.
The 90th Guards Tank Division consisted of various tank regiments, motor rifle regiments, an artillery regiment and air defense missile regiment, as well as other supporting units.
It only came into being in 1982, when it came under the jurisdiction of the 20th Guards Army, which was headquartered in Eberswalde and had taken part in the Soviets’ 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
There were other divisions in Bernau before 1982, but effectively it’s all the same. There were Soviet tanks, missiles, weapons and soldiers with arms and legs a-plenty, ready to be put into action quicker than you could say Sputnik.
Thankfully they were gone by the time I hopped over the wall and in. The deserted barracks is spread out stoically, with its imposing buildings, huge and overbearing, all ringed off by a high wall which sealed the camp from the outside world. Not that it cares as it sits out its solitude in the forest.
The Soviet star still shines above the front door, but inside there wasn’t much to learn about our departed friends. More than 20 years have passed since they left, and each winter has done its worst, wiping walls clean without emotion, smashing windows, dragging down roofs, stripping the ubiquitous newspaper off the walls.
Worse, they’ve flaked away the previously inspirational murals to leave patches of paint in their wake, old makeup worn away like Russia herself.
Decay and rot are doing their best to erase her memory, though most of the buildings are sound. They’re certainly still good enough to play basketball in their attics, as the Russians must have done with their aforementioned arms and legs to alleviate the boredom of waiting for a war that never came.
Now the attics are occupied by pigeons – I guess they like basketball too – cooing and whooshing at visitors to shoo them away. They’ve waited long enough for peace and quiet; they don’t want to give it up now. Maybe they just love scaring the shit out of intrepid explorers...
The only other heart-in-mouth moment came as I walked by yet another doorway to spot the legs of a man inside. A dead soldier. Forgotten perhaps. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to leave. Russians being Russians, they didn’t bring him either.
I’d already walked past the doorway before I realized what I’d seen. Shit! A fucking corpse! Maybe he’s still alive, maybe he’s only sleeping. Dead or alive. I don’t know which is worse. I inch back, stretch my neck around the corner. A tarp and a pair of shoes. Thank Christ, there’s no body, ‘twas only a trick of the eyes.
They love playing tricks in places like these, when nerves are jangling and every sound is a ghost. The spirits of the past just wait for the right time to say hello. Don’t be shy.

What
Abandoned Soviet military camp, home at one time to tanks and, of course, Russians. Formerly served as the main administration buildings for the Nazis’ Heeresbekleidungsamt, or uniform making/repairing/cleaning facility. None of them are there anymore. Well, just a couple of their ghosts...

Where
Schwanebecker Chaussee, 16321 Bernau, Germany.

How to get there
Get the S2 S-Bahn in the direction of Bernau, get off at Bernau-Friedenstal‎, walk in the direction the train was going, under the underpass, follow the path around to the right until you come to another underpass, this time under the motorway, keep going, take the path up to the right, past a small lake with a private fishing club hut. This is where you cut into the forest. Either follow what you can of the path in a westerly direction and then cut in to the left, or walk to the back of the fishing club and strike a right there. Either way, once you’ve made your choice, stick to it and keep walking until you reach the high wall. Follow it until you find a spot where it’s easier to climb in. Here’s a map in a well-meant but ultimately futile attempt to make it easier to find.
There’s also an simpler but less exciting way from Bernau S-Bahnhof. Turn left when you come out of the station, go down Breitscheidstraße till you hit Weißenseer Straße. This becomes Schwanebecker Chaussee. There’s a Lidl on the corner on your right. You can easily hop the fence from the carpark, or – if you’re worried about nosy parkers (ha!) – you can continue along Schwanebecker Chaussee and get in on the right further on.

Getting in
Not too hard. There are parts where the wall has collapsed or where a convenient mound of muck has gathered to give you an easy jumping off point.

When to go
Daylight. You really don’t want to get lost in the woods when it’s dark. For all I know the place is crawling with boars and wolves.

Difficulty rating
4/10. I’ve downgraded the difficulty considering the easier access from Schwanebecker Chaussee. Still, it’s not as exciting as hacking your way through the woods.

Who to bring
Probably a good idea to bring someone, in case one of you breaks a leg, gets eaten by a wolf etc.

What to bring
Camera, beers, a sandwich or a bag of crisps to keep you sustained. Waterproof boots are a must if you’re going to go traipsing through the forest.

Dangers
Don’t go into the old theatre because it really does look like it will collapse if someone even sneezes. The roof’s gone already. It’s just a matter of time before the rest goes. As usual, watch out for the Polizei, especially if any of you are brazen enough to approach from the road.
You also need to look out for security. Somebody is keeping a loose eye on the place. On the latest visit (last Friday) there was a jeep parked in the main gateway. He was facing out and the gate was still open so it didn’t look like he was staying long. I gave him a wide berth and got in further up the road. By the time I’d worked my way through the buildings to where he’d been parked he was gone. Just like the Russians.

UPDATE: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 – Updated to fill in a few blanks on its history, namely its Nazi past. Nazi pasts have a habit of hiding and this one nearly got away, nearly. I should also point out that since my first visit in January 2012 the buildings have become home to some really fantastic street art. It’s worth visiting for the art alone. Now it’s a veritable street art museum. All the pictures shown from this point were taken on the latest visit.

Gratitude, once again, to Mark Rodden for looking over the text before it was subjected to the interweb.

Dedicated to Old Fool. I used to enjoy your brilliant blog posts but your blog is gone and there ain’t no trace of you no more. “Great fun!” you wrote on these pages in April 2012, wishing you could be here. The feeling is mutual. You said you were a time traveler, traveling at 1 second per second (sps). We’re all time travelers now. Hope you’re doing well, where/whenever it is you’re traveling.
WWII 1567370307505996036

47 comments

It IS great fun! Thanks. Or I should really say tanks.

I went today, nice and pretty good condition. Aproaching from the parking lot in Lidl was not a problem. Thank you!

Nice! But as somebody who grew up in the neighborhood, I can assure you that there are no wolfs and probably haven't been since the 18th century.

Nice! Thanks for sharing this place, and all the others on here. Your site has provided much of the planning behind my Berlin exploring trip I'm aiming to do in August

I love your blog! I'm flying to Berlin next month with my friend so maybe we'll check one of these abandoned places ;)
I'm pretty curious if a police officer has ever caught you while visiting some abandoned place? And what kinds of consequences would being caught cause?

A really , really great place! You could spend there the whole day, exploring the area. If you bring big gumboots you would be able to explore the big basement vault.

here some impressions: =)

http://fotophilipp.jimdo.com/neu-sowjetische-panzerkaserne/

Thanks Jules! I'll try an update with new material in the coming days. Otherwise it'll be another couple of months...

Anonymous - apologies for the late response. No, I've been lucky/careful enough not to be caught by Polizei. So the consequences are a little unclear. As far as I know, once you don't actually break into a place - i.e. smash a window or break down a door - you can only be done for trespassing rather than the much more serious charge of breaking an entering (which I've been told is a criminal offence). Of course, the best idea is simply not to get caught.

First of all, thank you for sharing these great places. Yesterday, we did visit the site and I did not expect it to be this large.

I was extremely fascinated about all the newspapers that are used as a foundation for wallpaper. Some of my Russian friends translated some of my photos and it is all propaganda. You can find newspapers titled "The Truth", which to me is something very special :-)

There are some original Soviet murals scattered around the site and I have to say that the one of a soldiers head is remarkable.

The Soviet gym was the highlight of the day, especially because there are still some items there (e.g. a ball).

All in all a great day and I ticked yet another one of your list!

Thanks again.

Went there yesterday. Everything was pretty awesome except when me and my friend reached the third floor of the main building we heard voices. We looked outside and it happened to be 4 people in military dress. Not sure if they were there looking for people or if they were explorers like us. We didn't stick around to find out though. We narrowly escaped the building unseen as they had entered the same building we were in. saw two more groups of teenagers entering the compound as we left but we figured we would play it safe. Awesome location though just wear proper shoes haha.

After an adventurous journey through mosquito and horsefly infested woods, and over mountains of asbestos, we finaly arrived at this nice location ravaged, only to find elementary school kids playin there and the fact that a Lidl parking lot was virtually built on the premise. It's a cool place, but there's a much simpler route there; go to the Lidl and climb the fence.

Cheers Paul. Yes, it's probably easier to get in by Lidl on Schwanebecker Chaussee (as I wrote) if you want to be less adventurous. Glad you enjoyed the journey. Isn't it fun?! ;-)

This place was on the schedule after visiting both Krampnitz and Vogelsang. It really added some flavour to the whole old military buildings experience. The place itself isnt as gigantic as Krampnitz but still amazing. Building upon building, one bigger then the other.

The main building (with the Soviet star) was in the process of beeing boarded up, the building itself is in poor condition and i guess they dont want people hurting themselves. The gym (with the basketball) had collapsed due to a fire and there was signs of fires in other buildings.

All in all a very interesting trip but beware where you walk, someone has removed all the manhole covers!

Went there today, in the blazing heat! (34 degrees celsius) Awesome place, indeed very easy to get in through the LIDL parking lot... in fact, there was already a hole in the fence so we didn't even have to climb or anything.
We did have one scary moment when all of a sudden a car passed by on the dirt road next to the main building (we were already inside the building at that time). We don't know if it was security or something like that since we just kept really quiet for a few minutes, hoping nobody would come in.... and luckily, nothing happened. So I guess they didn't see us. Or, they did... but they just decided it was too bloody hot to care ;)
Anyway, highly recommended place!

Thanks for the comment! Glad you survived the heat.

Went there recently. Would not recommend entering lidl because its right next to many apartments so many people can see with balconies looking over to the building. The main street also has a large wall with "Achtung" signs saying that its being watched.

We got in easily by going down the main road a little and there is a dirt path and u can park there and there were already holes in the fence to get in. Can't say how to get there by train as we had a car.

Really impressive place and highly recommended!

We've been there in late summer 2013. Quite easy to access. Lots of holes in fences. No security present. However, from what i heard there is occasionaly a Sec-Car to be found on the premises, which basically makes his drive-by-alibi-sweep before leaving again. In any case totally worth it.

I was wondering: has anyone been to the second compound, which lies east of the Bernau-station? As far as i know it also belonged to the buildings depicted here (i.e. former Heeresbekleidungsamt turned Sovjet instalation). We were too tired to go there on that day. Just heard that its soil is supposedly heavily contaminated with some chemicals and that it is more officially designated as "Sperrgebiet". I dont expect any security there, though. Just dont know whether its worth the trip to Bernau again.

That's actually what I was looking for initially when I found this place! I need to make another trip to Bernau to check out the Heeresbekleidungsamt. I'm not sure what kind of condition it's in now though...

Well, in Google Earth you can get at least an impression of how the buildings look from the outside - through photo links. However, i did not find any pics of the inside. So it might be trashed or just empty. I wouldnt expect too much there - but you can never know.
If i have some time and find someone who wants to tag along, i'll take the annoyingly long trip from southern berlin to Bernau and check it out.

It's pretty empty as I wrote in the post (you can also see photos of the inside in the post!) but it's definitely worth the trip. Unless you really are particularly lazy.

It seems like the second compound is very closed off. From the pictures i could find on Google Maps doors and windows seems to be very well shut, lots of unbroken windows too so it seems like it hasnt been too trashed.

Visited last weekend, but everything is closed down with metal plates. Large site. Please be careful and inspect your body after your visit for ticks!

Thanks for the comments Marcel! Hope they didn't tick you off too much ;)

Hi! In a lot of articles i read: 'watch out for the police'. Obviously, that's because you don't want to be taken outside which would end the exploration. But (i'm Dutch so don't know your laws): what could happen? Will they take you to their office, fine you, or just let you go outside? Assuming you only take pictures and don't molest anything...
Thanks for your answer!

Hey guys, is there a way to still get in or is everything sealed?

Why do you call this "Panzer Kaserne Bernau"? This site at Schwanebecker Chaussee has been from start to end of war Heeresbekleidungsamt Bernau (Hauptamt) with admnistration and the other site at Schönfelder Weg 17, where you've been recently, has been a depot of the same institution. Due to war this Nebenlager never has been completed. There has been a private mental home nearby at S-Bahn station Friedenstal, also used by soviet army after war. Thats really totally collapsed now.

Hey, thanks for the info! I remember at the time (April 2012) I found it hard to nail down exactly what it was. But what you say about Heeresbekleidungsamt over two sites makes sense, especially after the research I did recently on the other site. Still, that was only during the war, meaning it's still possible the Soviets had a Panzer Kaserne here. I'll need to check into it again - unfortunately I didn't link to what I had found before. Do you know where the Red Army’s 90th Guards Tank Division was based if it wasn't here?
Either way, thanks for your contribution. I'm always grateful to be corrected if I've gotten something wrong.

20th Guards Army at Eberswalde -> 90th Guards Tank Division "Red Banner" at Bernau -> with 68th and 215th Guards Tank Regiment and 400th Tank Artillery Regiment. Also deployed at Bernau 58th Tank Regiment until 1990. You can use the Website of Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt Potsdam www.mgfa.de where you'll find a location database for Nationale Volksarmee (NVA) and Gruppe der Sowjetischen Streitkräfte in Deutschland (GSSD/WGT) in section Service -> Standortdatenbank NVA und GSSD.

Thanks a million! I'll check it out and will be updating this post accordingly.

I was happy to visit this place today, and had no problems at all, which was quite amazing as I'd chosen to enter/exit from the Lidl car-park, as this seemed like a convenient place to lock my bicycle. I also sounded like an Elephant, as I clomped and crunched my way around the buildings.
The art-work is truly amazing, although I couldn't find the piece which was signed 'Sonia' in your photo... maybe you can recall roughly where it was located? ....ha ha, i'd be amazed if you could, as this place is F-ing massive.
Thank-you for your blog, it really gives me something different to do when ever I visit Berlin.
Peace,
UncleEvey

I was there today. The access from Schwanebecker Chaussee is really easy. The place is quite big and has got a lot of things to explore... First we didn't find an entrance to the main building, so we sneaked in and out through a window. Later we saw that one of the main doors in the front is actually opened!

There were a few other groups of explorers/photographers and also a group of children (!) making some kind of initiation day in a spuky (?) place. No security, Polizei, Nazis or russian soldiers disturbing people.

I do remember where it was. It was in the building directly behind the main one (to the northeast of it) and in the right-hand wing. Not sure if it was first or second floor though. Good luck!

thanks for that. Don't think i'll get time to go back, as I'm on the way to Oslo soon.
You don't know of any abandoned buildings in Oslo do you? lol
Keep up the good work!
UncleEvey

I was there this morning, and I have to say that the place is freakin' awesome. Thanks for sharing!

Regarding the access, I directly "hacked my way through the woods", and could not find it easier. After taking the dirt path to the right in the fishing club hut, keep walking and pretty soon you will see a yellow pole on your right. Continue straight ahead and after one hundred meters (maybe less), you will see another one on your left. Right after passing that point, you should see a small trail that goes into the woods and directly towards the wall, which has a huge hole (if you can even call it a hole) that was once covered by a now smashed metal fence. Jump over it and you are in, with the old garages on your right.

Pretty much all of the important things has been said but keep a look on the outside, we encountered an older guy with a dog and are quite sure this was some kind of security.

Not as much history-related things as I thought, but a loooot of good streetart/graffiti.

Also don't underestimate the size of this area, it's really huge and you need to plan ~6hrs if you want to see all (!!) of it.

Also bring a flashlight.. 10% of the rooms we saw were to dark to move in without one.

Played basketball with a couple of people there recently. The place is amazing!
We also entered from the parking lot at lidl.
There was so much to see..can't wait to go again!

Was there today. No need to go in from the back as we did really. The fence is open. Its big but kinda the same thing over and over again. Difficulty level 1 i would say..

I visited this Place at the 26th August. I was there with my Girlfriend and it was very soothing. It's a good Place to be alone with another Person. It's so quite but very beautiful to see all those abandoned Buildings. But leave this Place before 7pm! There comes Creatures u can't identify and you think that it's something which want to kill you. I visited this Place once in Spring and twice in Summer. We was sitting on the stairs and talk [...] I realized that it's late and I meant to my Girlfriend that we have to go. We went. We walked by a little Forest. I've heard that something walked over leaves. I thought that it's a Human. I was wrong [...] I looked deeper in the forest and I found nothing. I looked again. Suddenly I saw an Animal with a black Face, but I can't identify this thing. I snapped the Hand of my Girlfriend and we left this Place very quickly. All in All It's a great Place for ya if you want to be with somebody alone. But I recommend you to leave this Place before 7pm!

Thanks for sharing your experience. Just so you know, you don't need to capitalize nouns in English. Don't ask me why you need to do it in German...

If you look above under "where" you'll sniff it out.

Thanks for the great website, we've been using it for a while ! We went to Bernau on the 17/01 and it was beautiful to wander around the several buildings in the snow. So much to see there ! We passed through the front gate with no difficulty and were alone for a long while, then followed some footsteps which led us to the forest side, from which a good few other explorers were coming in.
Made a little video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoiNvvu6sxU

had a techno rave inside a few weeks ago, was the perfect place for it. No Polizei either :D love, L.

Post a Comment

Share

Book

Search