Atop of a hill, in the suburbs of Berlin, is an abandoned US listening station called Tuefelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). Like the Berlin Wall, it stands as an eerie relic of the Cold War.
Devils Mountain is named after nearby Devil’s Lake. Like most in Berlin, it is manmade and more closely resembles a hill than a mountain. After World War II, the debris from the war was turned into “trummersberge” or rubble mountains. These became the highest geographical locations in Berlin. Tuefelsberg is the tallest among the trummerberges. Perfect place to spy from.
Spies Like Us
During the onset of the cold war, the US started parking mobile radar stations on top of “The Hill”, as they called it, to spy into East Berlin. Around the time the Berlin Wall was constructed, in the early 1960’s, a permanent field station was built by the NSA for greater efficiency. This would become one of the largest and most active NSA facilities in the world.
After the Cold War, the building was emptied and abandoned but remained quite a mystery. Over time, the facility would fall into disrepair and become home for many legendary rave parties. At some point, a developer purchased the property and tried to renovate the main building into high-dollar condos. There have been talks to convert it into a Cold War museum. Or a nightclub. The city even discussed buying the land. All to no avail.
Most recently, the city of Berlin has categorized the site as a ‘forest’. This designation will eliminate the future possibility of further construction to the area. Fittingly, rumors continue to circulate as to the fate of the old spy facility.
Fortunately, as it stands now, a group of resident artists has permission to give guided tours and use of the facility. The majority of the space has become an overgrown urban art gallery. Graffiti artists from the all over the world have come to paint on the ample wall space that a giant windowless building provides. Tuefelsberg has become one of the largest galleries of graffiti in Europe.
After discussing visiting the site for years, a small group of friends finally organized a visit on a hot summer day. Teufelsberg is in a suburb of southwestern Berlin on the edge of the Grunewald forest. It’s relatively easy to get to — thanks to Berlin’s wonderful transit system. Taking the S9/S75 train (towards Spandau), we got off at the Heerstrasse Station. Exiting the station, we took Teufelsseechaussee, a street, and park. We could see the iconic listening towers looming ahead.
After a short walk on a trail through the woods, we arrived at the entrance gate. Paying a small fee, we were soon on a surprisingly thorough and informative guided tour given by one of the on-site residents. The highlight, for me, was going into the largest dome used for acoustic spying. The acoustics inside of the geodome were astonishing. The slap-back echo was trippy. I can only guess how many people lost their minds at raves inside of this geodome.
Where’d Everybody Go?
During the tour, I got separated from the group. I was absorbed in taking pictures as I am wont to do. Not really sure what happened except everybody left me. I tried not to take it personal or panic, but I had gotten left; locked inside a wing of the dilapidated facility. I made the most of my time, exploring and taking more pictures.
Eventually, I found a way out. But not before my wife, fearing the worst, had formed a small search party. Wandering lost, I started hearing my name being called out from various quadrants of the premises. Mind you, the acoustics were a little deceiving. Needless to say, I lived to tell the tale.
Leaving Tuefelsberg, we visited Devil’s Lake as a light rain began to fall. Many people, as Germans are known to do, were sunbathing and swimming in the nude. We sat off to the side and smoked a joint as one of our friends took a swim. It was a nice way to conclude the day.
Britt is a photographer/music producer & proud member of #teamtraynham