Fodder for thought: VEB Kraftfuttermischwerk Fürstenberg

Filed 4/12/2017 |
Oh, how it aches! It suffers in silence on the banks of the Havel, dreams and memories flowing like the past into Röblinsee. The Kraftfuttermischwerk made food for animals, now it’s just food for thought.
The way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach and for a time VEB Kraftfuttermischwerk Fürstenberg was loved by all who gobbled up its produce. But turkeys, chickens, pigs and cows are fickle fodder futterers. No gobble, no party – Futtermischwerk forgotten.
Mauerfall made a pig’s dinner of it, as indeed it did of many things. There were 120 workers here when it closed in 1992 despite big investment to bring it up to standard. It had been in operation since 1957.
The Futtermischwerk wasn’t the only casualty of reunification. Local man Werner Strache wrote about the changes in Fürstenberg at the time, saying, “the economy collapsed, businesses closed down.”
The biggest employer in the town, the Fürstenberg section of VEB Schiffselektronik Rostock, was closed down, while the Kraftfuttermischwerk “had to stop its work,” Strache said. Two clothing factories that mostly employed women were also wound down.
“Unemployment that was never before experienced or feared took hold,” Strache wrote. “Now we know what it is to be unemployed and no longer needed.”
It wasn’t always a Futtermischwerk, oh no! It used to be known as Behrnsche Mühle (Behrns’ Mill), upholding a long tradition of milling in Fürstenberg on the Havel. The tradition was grounded in the 14th century.
It seems the first to build a mill on the site of what would later become the Futtermischwerk was Johann Christian Negendanck in 1720. The mill went through various owners, naturally enough, before Ludwig Behrns took it over in 1876.
Behrns had good timing. The railway reached Fürstenberg the following year and had a huge impact. Suddenly people could get trains. But from a miller’s point of view, it meant a greater supply of grain, and more options to distribute the milled product.
Horse and cart took the grain to and from the trains, and Behrns grew the business by expanding the site. The mill had around 12 workers in 1894.
Ludwig Behrns died in 1904. Willy Behrns, his son, took over. Willy oversaw a renovation of the business in 1910, but a large fire on Oct. 6, 1911 arguably had a greater impact, burning the whole place down.
More than 100 construction workers helped build a new mill – the buildings you see today – within six months in 1912. Very soon it was producing 400 sacks of wheat and 200 sacks of rye every day. This increased rapidly over time.
Apparently “no expense was spared to keep the business up to date technically in all areas.” A new flour and bran granary with access to rail and water was added in 1925, when 10 rail carriages could be loaded with grain at the same time. Steamboats and tubs were loaded waterside.
By the time Firma L. Behrns celebrated 50 years in 1926, it stood “as an exemplary company whose good foundations ensure it will also maintain its level in future.”
The mill was one of north Germany’s biggest, (and north Germany was much bigger at the time, too), daily producing 800 sacks of wheat and 400 sacks of rye.
Willy Behrns died in 1942. Two years before he died he signed off a letter to the Rostock University library with “Heil Hitler!”
Now maybe people will say everyone signed off every letter with “Heil Hitler!” at the time – that it was the equivalent of Liebe Grüße. Other letters from Firma L. Behrns in 1938 were also signed off “Heil Hitler!” by someone who only signed their initial, R.
But I’m not sure it was a prerequisite at the time, and if it was, people could still decide – at risk of death, admittedly – to fight it or oppose it. Nazis only got to power because German people let them. Many did oppose the Nazis of course, but nowhere near enough. It doesn’t appear that Willy Behrns was among them.
After defeating the Nazis in the war, the Red Army used his mill as a camp for a while, before it became a VEB (volkseigener Betrieb) and milled grain again, this time for the DDR.
VEBs were so-called publicly owned businesses in East Germany, meaning they belonged to the state and not the public at all. You couldn’t just wander into a VEB and demand your share. No, you had to go in and sweat your ass off working for the VEB. The only bit you owned was the sweat you produced before you gave it away. The VEB owned you, on behalf of the DDR. Yet they called them volkseigener Betriebe.
The DDR was still finding its feet as a communist state eight years after its formation when the grain-mill became a Kraftfuttermischwerk. I’ve no idea why. Maybe one of the manager's lady friends took pity on a starving donkey and convinced her sweatheart (a sweetheart who works in a VEB) to feed it. Of course, if you feed one donkey, you have to feed them all. And so the Futtermischwerk was assumedly born.
No doubt Kraftfuttermischwerk Fürstenberg produced fine fodder but it’s all snow from yesterday, as Germans like to say, and in a sorry state now.
Empty, desolate, dislocated from society, it longs to be taken back into its fold, unforgotten and cherished once again. Not even the geese flying south for winter bother checking in. Why would they? There’s nothing to eat in these giant cavernous halls any more.

What
VEB Kraftfuttermischwerk Fürstenberg, a former fodder factory fabricating fine futter for farm folk’s flocks. Before that it was a mill, milling grain for all folk and their flocks.

Where
Schützenstraße 9, 16798 Fürstenberg/Havel.
(In DDR times, Mitschurinstraße 9, Fürstenberg 1432.)

How to get there

Get the regional train to Rostock from Berlin Hauptbahnhof or Gesundbrunnen and get off at Fürstenberg. Take your first right onto Schützenstraße when you leave the train station, then your first right again to go under the bridge. Keep going, and you’ll find the Kraftfuttermischwerk on your left. You can’t miss it – it’s the massive clearly abandoned building accompanied by several smaller clearly abandoned buildings. But
here it is on a map for those of you that like to be sure.

Getting in
It’s easy enough to get through the half-arsed fence. The buildings are all accessible too. Happy days.

When to go

Daytime. I know this seems to be the default time to go now, but it would be quite dangerous to come here at night and I don’t recommend anyone does that. This is a large industrial site with lots of pitfalls, things to fall into and off. It’s much better and safer to see where you’re going.

Difficulty rating
3/10. The biggest hassle is the train journey from Berlin. Plan a daytrip and take the time also to check out the various Lenins who are still residing in the area.

Who to bring
Well don’t bring your pet pig if that’s what you were thinking. Sorry to disappoint the critter, but the only grub now is at the Chinese restaurant on Bahnhofstraße, though to be honest I’m not sure a pig would eat it. Bring whoever you’d like to bring.

What to bring
Bring some food so you don’t need to go to that Chinese restaurant, and some water so you don’t get ripped off at the train station. Fürstenberg is a weird place, where the locals seem to think every visitor is from Munich to be milked for every last cent they have. Bring some beer and some cheer, for there are no Spätis in Fürstenberg.

Dangers
As mentioned already, there are no Spätis in Fürstenberg. Be warned! Otherwise the Kraftfuttermischwerk is quite a dangerous place in itself, especially if you climb up and are in any way afraid of heights. The floors at the upper levels are not stable and if you happen to be on one when it collapses there won’t be much hope. You do need to take a lot of care. Stay alive.


Many thanks to Frebbe again for his invaluable research assistance, and to the overworked Mark Rodden for proofreading again!

VEB Kraftfuttermischwerk Fürstenberg 7094705646398531550

1 comments

Nice! I´d seen it from the train, but never found the time to visit it, since my trips to Fürstenberg had always the aime of exploring the Soviet stuff. But it seems to be really cool, congrats!

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