Field Station Berlin Teufelsberg: NSA spy station on buried Nazi college

Filed 26/6/2009 | Updated 9/9/2015
A Cold War relic lies abandoned on top of a mountain made of rubble, built over a Nazi college that couldn't be destroyed after World War II. The gates of the former US spy station are locked and secure, its perimeter sealed by an uncompromising high fence, an angry crisscross mesh of wires that clearly imply “Eintritt Verboten!”
Welcome to Teufelsberg, literally ‘Devil's Mountain,’ a hill reaching 120.1 meters above sea-level, made from an estimated 12 million cubic meters of war rubble (apparently about 400,000 bombed houses) pushed together in the north of the Grunewald forest in West Berlin.
Buried deep beneath is what remains of a planned Nazi military training school designed by Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer. So sturdy was it that attempts by the Allies to destroy it failed, so they covered it with war-rubble instead. There was plenty of it around at the time. Every day, 80 truckloads of 7,000 cubic meters of rubble collected mostly by local women used to arrive. They became known as Trümmerfrauen or ‘rubble women’ for their efforts.
Perched atop this (wo)man-made mound now sits the old abandoned listening or intelligence-gathering station used during the Cold War by the Americans and British to learn what was going on in Russian-controlled East Germany. It wasn't very discreet; three huge bulbous globes, two radomes perched atop buildings three-stories high and another sitting a further six-stories higher, creating a giant condom-shaped tower.
Due to its unique fucked-up history – a starring role in two World Wars and its subsequent division between the world's superpowers – Berlin found itself at the center of the so-called Cold War. Thankfully this remained only a pseudo war that flattered to deceive and never came to fruition despite the considerable expense accrued by its protagonists. Like Berlin’s much-delayed new airport would prove to be years later, it was a considerable waste of money, time and effort, with very little in the way of airborne activity.
Spying and surveillance were the order of the day in divided Berlin. American mobile listening units, eavesdropping on Soviet and East German communications in the late 1950s, discovered they got better reception and coverage from the top of Berlin’s highest (albeit modest) mountain. Astounding!
The first mobile units took up position atop the hill in July 1961, with more permanent facilities following in 1963 before Field Station Berlin Teufelsberg gradually grew over the following years to become one of the West's largest spying stations ever – arguably the most important.
“This is all sort of difficult to discuss since we are still bound by oaths of the time,” former Teufelsberg linguist Lew McDaniel told Abandoned Berlin. “While the NSA admits it had a presence in Berlin, details are still cloaked.”
As the artificial mountain was in fact located in the British sector of Berlin, the Brits and Americans cooperated with their spying endeavors. Presumably this means the British GCHQ did whatever the NSA told it to.
Apparently British officers had their own toilets, while the Americans had to make do with just the two types – men’s and women’s.
USM 620 Kilo, as the facility was also known, was part of the worldwide Echelon spy network. Each radome globe contained massive 12-metre satellite antennas and the most sophisticated spying equipment for the time, enabling the western powers to intercept satellite signals, radio waves, microwave links and other transmissions, before interpreting and analyzing their findings. It’s clear that they didn't really trust the Soviets that much. The feeling was mutual.
Contrary to common belief, there was no radar equipment installed at the facility. There was no need for it. Radar is used to detect objects (such as airplanes, missiles, terrain) and the Allies already had radar facilities at Tegel, Tempelhof and Gatow airports. Teufelsberg’s function was to listen – nothing more.
“This was no radar hill,” former policeman Reinhard von Bronewski told Abandoned Berlin. Von Bronewski worked with the Berlin Brigade and had been told same by many former Teufelsberg military police, troops and high-ranking officials.
“The Soviets were pissed that the ‘Big Ear’ could even pick up their farts!” von Bronewski said. “It was no radar hill, it was the fuckin’ big ear in front their ass!"
Field Station Berlin lost its raison d'être after the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War, and was eventually abandoned in 1992 to the Wildschwein that call Grunewald home. The Americans used to call them “Grunie Pigs.” Boardom was setting in.
Teufelsberg was used for air traffic control on civilian flights in 1994 but that didn’t last long.
In 1996, the 4.7-hectare site was sold to architect-developers Hartmut Gruhl and Hanfried Schütte for 5.2 million Deutschmark. They had plans to build ‘exclusive’ apartments (all apartments are exclusive now, negating their exclusivity), a hotel and restaurant, as well as a spy-museum. Spiraling costs put paid to all that however, and the project was abandoned with debts piling up and the work in its infancy.
The developers agreed a deal with filmmaker David Lynch for the site’s sale by February 2008. Lynch and some crazy foundation of meditationists and yoga-bashers wanted to build a ‘Happiness College’ featuring a 12-storey 50-meter high ‘Tower of Invincibility’ to house 1,000 students. However, the city turned down the proposals for some reason and the deal fell through.
Former Teufelsberg workers want to preserve the remains of the listening post as a memorial. They bemoan the damage caused to their beloved spy station by vandals and other unwanted visitors. The ‘Save Teufelsberg’ campaign remains in full swing.
The veterans placed a replica of a commemorative plaque (pictured to the right, image courtesy McDaniel) at the site for the 50th anniversary of the first permanent spying facilities on the hill in September 2013. In Morse code dots and dashes, it states “In God we trust, all others we monitor.” They’re hoping to get permission for a permanent bronze plaque.
No new buildings can be erected on the site after it was declared part of the surrounding forested area in 2004, though the developers still retain ambitions of developing the existing buildings.
Meanwhile, the city wants to buy it back. Gruhl and Schütte are demanding way more than the city says it’s prepared to pay. Negotiations are likely to take some time.
There was a time curious visitors could enter through the broken fence and go in for a peaceful wander before Shalmon Abraham started renting it in 2011 and charging admission. Thuggish security ensured people paid up while giving the impression of protecting the vandalized buildings from vandals.
Abraham invited street artists around to decorate the walls in a win-win situation for both. The artists had a place to work and their work only boosted Teufelsberg’s commercial appeal for Abraham’s paying guests’ benefit.
But the rental agreement has been scrapped after a dispute over rent. The bailiff arrived to announce the eviction on Sept. 1.
Schütte said Abraham was only interested in money, Der Tagesspiegel reported.
“Money was taken in but no rent was paid. And nothing was invested in the conservation although that was agreed,” Marvin Schütte, Hanfried’s son, told Morgenpost.
It’s also possible that the Schüttes saw how many visitors were visiting 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. His hands are tied somewhat due to it being protected forest area.
Abandoned Berlin met him yesterday (though he didn’t know he was talking to AB) and he said he will have even more street artists working on the site than before, and that their work will be more varied, using all sorts of materials.
Tours are still ongoing and will continue, despite the change in tenancy, but AB and AB’s young sidekick got in after the last one and we 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 otherwise Teufelsberg is pretty much as it was before, released from the clutches of the hired goons. Maybe now it can finally enjoy a peaceful retirement.

Field Station Berlin Teufelsberg, former Cold War spy station or listening post brought back into the public eye recently in the wake of the NSA spying revelations. The GCHQ has left its American counterpart to bear the brunt of public anger. Of course, the anger is only recent. As one Teufelsberg veteran put it: “There is some irony in German anger over spying. Presumably, they had no headache when the Soviet bear and its cubs were being watched in order to keep them at bay.”

Teufelsbergchaussee, 14193, Berlin.

How to get there
Get the S-Bahn, S9 or S75 to Heerstraße, or S1 to Grunewald and walk/cycle from there. Map can be accessed here.

Getting in
From the car park simply walk the paved ‘Dragonfly street’ path until you come to the fence. It’s much better fortified since someone noticed there was money to be made. If you follow it around without finding any holes you’ll come to the main gate. From there €7 will buy entrance as part of a tour. Apparently huge groups go at weekends so it’s probably best to go at other times.

When to go
Daytime is best for observation purposes. Teufelsberg provides great vistas over Berlin, as you’d expect from the city’s highest ‘mountain.’

Difficulty rating
8/10 if you plan on sneaking in, 1/10 if you pay.

Who to bring
Bring your kid if he/she likes street art. Bring your lover if you don’t have a kid.

What to bring
Camera. Beer. A torch. A few sandwiches. It’s a long walk from the station.

It’s not as dangerous anymore since the previous tenants covered holes and blocked off areas from which you could plunge to your death. Not as exciting either. Still, there<’s the possibility of mutilation. Be careful not to get blown off on a windy day.

This post has been updated on several occasions from the one that first appeared on June 26, 2009 to take latest developments into account, add historical details, witness accounts, more photos and to make other general improvements.
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I was here two days ago and saw some amazing graffiti and art pieces, definitely worth a visit. Pictures below:

This may have happened, but I was just there yesterday - and it is now owned and run by a set of people that encourage visitors!

Check out my blog to see about our visit there.

Yes. There is no problem anymore!

This may have happened, but I was just there yesterday - and it is now owned and run by a set of people that encourage visitors!

Tuffelsberg was definitely a radar intercept site. The british have always been miles ahead of the world with radar. Americans were not stationed there permanently.
I had a skill they did not have and worked there temporally for two weeks to fix the location of the military air ports. Just needs to be done once as they dont move much. lol

Think of being able to see a air traffic controllers radar in Russia at the same time as the Russian air traffic controller with out their knowledge.
Be respectful of the buildings and men tha worked 24/7 for your freedom.

The Army security agency worked 7 miles fron there in the forest for the national security agency. one road in one road out,Our small site contained morse code intercept operators, cryptolgists, linguist,and radio direction finder for warsaw pact military and Russia and double agent spies.Our mission was military not civilian as today.

All electronic signals are recorded.

Yeh, radar, my dad was working with radar at end of second world war. Sadly nowadays Gchq is used to do on it's own people...

Does anyone know when they plan to re-open the tower/roof access? I'm visiting Berlin in September and thinking of visiting Teufelsberg, but not if the towers still blocked.

It is important to keep these monuments preserved as a permanent message about how desperate and cruel mankind can be.
Be vigilant and observe new, modern day, acts of aggression against humanity and be sure to let the world know!

April 2019 and the tower was closed by authorities. Basically you can only walk around the place and not eenter most buildings. Great potential but needs to be taken over by people who know how to develop a site like this. Don't waste your time or money, limited views.

Lot of entitled people here who inexplicably get offended when they are caught breaking rules. Doesn't really matter. The place has been allowed to turn into a shit pile. Broken bottles, trash everywhere. Real shame.

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