Flugplatz Rangsdorf: Hi-jinx, lo-jinx and the plot to kill Hitler

Filed 29/10/2015 | Updated 11/11/2015
Four years later we went back to the scene of the crime. It was cool, clear, bright. The air tasted like adventure garnished by fear, something wrong. A strange bird watched like a hangover, waiting to see if we’d go through with it. He cocked his head tauntingly. Damn you bird, we’re going through with it.
“Remember be quiet this time. No crying, no wailing. That’s why we were caught the last time.”
The young fella nods solemnly, big brown eyes wide. He couldn’t remember the last time – he was two months old – but he was determined not to get us caught again.
We survey the fence. Flattened. As if by an elephant.
“We’d better watch out for elephants.”
He nods solemnly again, big brown eyes wider still.
We push our bikes over the fence, plough on furtively through the trees and follow in the footsteps of Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. This is where he took off with a bomb for Hitler only to be foiled by a table leg. A common wooden table leg, stubbornly loyal to the last.
I don’t mention any of this to the young fella. He was still looking for elephants among the trees and weeds, conquerors of the mighty German Luftwaffe and Soviet air forces.
Flugplatz Rangsdorf’s dalliance with the skies began in autumn 1935, when Bücker-Flugzeugbau GmbH, which had been established on Oct. 3, 1933, moved here from Johannisthal and began production of its sports and training airplanes. Bü-131 biplanes were snapped up by the Luftwaffe (German air force) for training purposes, while more were exported and others were produced under license abroad. More than 5,000 were built altogether.
The airport was officially opened as “Reichssportflughafen Rangsdorf” on July 30, 1936, on the eve of the Olympic Games. You also had the accompanying Aero-Club-Haus at Rangsdorfer See and Reichsschule für Motorflug (RfM), the only sports flying school in Germany, which was attracting students from abroad. They used to converge at the Aero-Club-Haus for a laugh and a giggle. You know, students.
Ernst Sagebiel, who also designed Tempelhof, was responsible for the plans. Sagebiel was a bit of a genius but he caught the Nazi bug going around at the time.
Despite the grass runways Rangsdorf was the fittest airport in the Third Reich! (To the right you can see Otto Graf von Hagenburg showing off in a Bücker Bü-133 on July 15, 1937.)
Press at the time apparently described it as “the most beautiful sports airport in Germany.” The Army Sports School wasn’t too far away in Wünsdorf and of course sport was all in vogue with the Olympics in town. It provided a nice distraction from war preparations, with the convenient benefit of contributing to them too. Fit soldiers make better soldiers and the Nazis were obsessed with physical perfection.
Carl Clemens Bücker continued with his burgeoning aircraft production and the stars were coming out to shine as well as national and international flying shows took place.
Long-distance flier Elli Beinhorn introduced her Messerschmitt Me-108 “Taifun” monoplane at Rangsdorf, while her racing car driver husband Bernd Rosemeyer learned to fly here. They were quite the celebrity couple, feted across the land. Rosemeyer was killed while attempting to reclaim his speed record in 1938. Beinhorn lived to 100. (That’s them pictured to the left with Ferdinand Porsche on the right. Ferdi had just told them what Volkswagen would be getting up later on, the rascal.)
Beate Köstlin, who later became Beate Uhse and opened the world’s first sex shop, also learned to fly at Rangsdorf. A pretty remarkable woman, her museum is supposed to be in Berlin. It’s temporarily closed since the building was knocked down to make way for something more lucrative. If it’s not bombs it’s speculation that destroys the capital.
The actor Heinz Rühmann kept his plane in a hanger at Rangsdorf, hangin’ on, while his pal Ernst Udet, the second-highest scoring German flying ace of the First World War, also had a plane here. So too did the stunt pilot Gerd Achgelis.
European champion aerobatic flyer Liesel Bach was among many fearless fliers to win titles with the Rangsdorf-constructed Bü-133.
Once the war broke out, or, to put it another way, once Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Rangsdorf took over from Tempelhof for six months as Berlin’s main passenger airport. Lufthansa had flights to/from Danzig, Königsberg, Munich, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Bucharest, Athens, Istanbul Copenhagen and Stockholm. A connection with Moscow was reestablished from Jan. 21, 1940.
Otherwise, the focus turned from sport to war. Fighter planes were everywhere, whether from Berlin or nearby Zossen-Wünsdorf, where of course the Germans had their army headquarters.
Meanwhile the Bücker factory was making use of French and Soviet forced labor to keep churning out those flying war machines. Not only did it have to fulfill its own orders but it had to help others too. It built the silent and sneaky DFS 230 glider, wings for the Stuka Junkers Ju 87 dive-bomber, tail panels for Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters, as well as parts for the radio-controlled Henschel Hs 293 glide-bomber, a predecessor to today’s noble drones.
During the war many aircraft from the Luftwaffe and German army were stationed here. So it was that one Oberst Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg flew off with Oberleutnant Werner von Haeften at 7am on July 20, 1944, with two bombs in briefcases for Adolf, who’d gone off the rails a bit.
The war wasn’t going as well anymore and von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators had had enough. Von Stauffenberg had his own ideas; he’d never joined the Nazi party, but he was all for invading Poland and furthering German interests. He’s a hero to the German resistance movement but he acquiesced to Hitler and co. until the shit hit the fan and conscience stirred enough for him to take action. But at least he did; many turned a blind eye. He had more spine than most (though evidently not enough to get the job done whatever the consequence).
Von Stauffenberg got to Wolfsschanze (“Wolf’s Lair”) in what’s now Poland, managed to arm his bomb, but there wasn’t time to set the other. He left his briefcase at the table where Hitler would be and stepped aside, waiting for the phone call that would excuse him. It came in time, he made his apologies and left before the explosion ripped though the room. That was it, von Stauffenberg thought, Hitler’s dead, the fucker. He hopped on his plane, few back to Rangsdorf and spread the good news.
Of course Hitler wasn’t dead at all but alive and majorly pissed off with all these assassinatory developments. (That’s him with Mussolini having a gander at the damage to the left.) Someone had unwittingly moved the briefcase out of the way behind the table leg that saved him. The table leg didn’t know any better.
Hitler was intolerant at the best of times and a purge followed, with guilty and innocent, everyone murdered, including von Stauffenberg and von Haeften. There was no let up to the killing. The war carried on, the dying continued.
Production at Rangsdorf continued too until Apr. 20, 1945. The Luftwaffe flew west the following day. The game was up, noose tightening. The Red Army took over without a fight a day after that. On Apr. 30 Hitler took his own life. He did it just a stone’s throw from where von Stauffenberg was shot.
The Soviets occupied Rangsdorf after the war and put the Bücker factory works back into use from August 1946, overhauling and repairing aircraft piston engines initially, then jet engines, and then helicopters from the seventies. Training continued at the airfield till the mid-fifties.
A signal regiment of the Soviets’ 16th Air Army was stationed here from 1955. The Russians knocked down some buildings and built others and they stayed up to 1994. By then the airfield was full of rubbish from other Soviet airfields cleared after German reunification, old aircraft and missile wrecks and things like that.
None of the Russians were left by the time we made our first visit, just a gruff security man, alerted to our presence by my young sidekick’s crying. I guess we can’t hold it against him. He was hungry or maybe he just didn’t like the place. Too many ghosts.
We didn’t find any elephants in the end either unless you consider von Stauffenberg was the elephant in the room. Ultimately the resistance was only token, but at least there was that.

What
Flugplatz Rangsdorf. Former airfield that gained notoriety as the one from which Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg flew off with a bomb for Hitler as part of the ultimately unsuccessful July 20 plot.

Where
Flugplatz Rangsdorf,
Walther-Rathenau-Straße, 15834 Rangsdorf, Germany.

How to get there
Hop on a train to Rangsdorf – the RE7 and RE3 pass through – and head south once you come on the right hand side of the rail line. Once you get to the roundabout turn right and walk or cycle along Seebadallee until you get to Puschkinstraße on your left. Turn left and go along Puschkstraße until the first fork in the road, where you turn left onto Walther-Rathenau-Straße. Walk (or cycle) the length of Walther-Rathenau-Straße until you can’t go any further. You’re there. Here
’s a map as if you needed one.
 
Getting in
Just find a bit of the fence that you can hop or even cycle over. Really, there’s no challenge to it at all.

When to go
Daytime is best to see what you’re looking at. You could have a party at night but it’s a residential area and I’d say it wouldn’t be long before someone called the Polizei.

Difficulty rating
2/10. Very easy. A four-year-old can do it.

Who to bring
Bring a four-year-old if you want to test the above, or a grown up if you don’t.

What to bring
Bring a few sandwiches to ward off the hunger, some booze to ward off the thirst, and maybe a stick to ward off the ghosts of disgruntled airmen.

Dangers
Ghosts, Polizei, nosy neighbors. There was a car parked to the north of the site on the last visit that may or may not have belonged to a security guard, or a ghost. Hallowe’en is just around the corner. Best to proceed with caution.


Thanks as ever to Mark Rodden for checking for typos and cutting out repetitions and repetitions and repetitions and repetitions.
The black and white photos are from the Bundesarchiv for illustratory purposes, the rest are authentic adventure shots for illusionary porpoises.
WWII 249316850803039257

10 comments

I was there last Monday at 7 am. When you approach this place from Usedomer Str. you will find a gap in the wall on the right-hand side. The tower was not accessible, in contrast to two hangars. Watch out for boars. cheers

Hello I spent an hour or two in this amazing place....last Saturday 16th april....
I never encountered any problems apart from a couple of deer who ran out in front of me...the only shock of the day....very eerie to be in there all alone.....
It had been raining and the sound of all the drops coming through all the roofs was an added bonus...still there was a couuple of times where it sounded like people were walking towards me.....only to find no-one around....thanks for the blog and all the advice....!!!

I was there yesterday. At the end of Walther-Rathenau-Straße there was a big (>1 m) fence/gate right next to a private house. Was in the middle of the day so a lot of people around. Instead we crawled under a fence on a quiet part of Kumminer Str (to the west), through some bushes.

We went today and took the advice of the previous 'anonymous' post: we found a way onto the airfield in Kumminer Str, but we didn't have to crawl, there was a nice hole in the fence. I liked the abandoned gym best, it's an amazing spot to take pictures. But beware of the wooden floor. It's not deep if you crack through, but if you're wearing short pants, you can quite easily sratch up your leg :( Lesson learned!
We met one other urbexer, and there was a drone coming our way and stopping for quite some time - that was kind of creepy.

Amazing place. Been there yesterday. https://www.facebook.com/jumpallintheair/media_set?set=a.10153873427856476.1073741836.713091475

was there today. Went via Krumminer Strasse (and not Kumminer strasse, as so people mentioned above). Easy access

СЛУЖИЛ 1990-1992 . ВЗВОД ОХРАНЫ.ВСЕМ ПРИВЕТ.

visited this place in may, quite easy to get in. found a cool place with graffiti:
https://www.urbanpresents.net/en/2016/11/airfield-rangsdorf-urbex-art-may-2016/

Hi,
I finally had the chance the visit the place this month. Great sight, few people, extreme cold. :)
I also took the chance and I´d like to contribute to your findings:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnPq4PsDhMQ

Cheers!

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