Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain)

[Two videos and random other photos below!]

The name Teufelsberg, ‘Devil’s Mountain,’ is a misnomer all around.

The Berliner-beloved hill on the city’s western edge is neither a mountain, nor should it be blamed on some demon. Teufelsberg should be called, “Humanity Heap.” That mound of dirt is owned by us.

The hill is perhaps best known for its Cold War spy history–the former CIA listening post perched  on top–but the creepy spook ruin  is only the bright cherry donning the whipped-cream-chocolate-fudge-triple-chunk History Sunday. Teufelsberg’s gooey history comes in layers.

Alas, as everything good in this world…under constant threat from redevelopement, including a new plan with new investors…Teufelsberg’s days as it is known now are numbered.

Nazi Tech. to Top-secret ‘Verboten’ to Lover’s Lane

Who knows what stood on the site previously (I’m sure lot’s of historians do) but way back in the dreamy/nightmare days of the Nazis, the site wasn’t called Teufelsberg, rather was home to the beginnings of a Nazi technical college and was the planned site for the Auditorium Maximus, the gigantic parthenon-looking dome Hitler had Albert Speer design as part of the Weltstadt Germania. Look it up, if you don’t know…it’s nuts. Yes, a little discussed fact is that the apparent incentive behind the whole Lebensraum thing was, besides the mineral and oil deposits deliciously included, all about real estate speculation. That fucker (and his friends) had Big Dreams.

And we know how those dreams ended. The dicks.

As a sort of thanks after the war,  the Germans blew up what was left of the construction site and buried the grand Nazi dreams under 26 million cubic meters of destroyed city as if to say, “this is what we think of your Weltstadt Germania. It’s a trash dump now.”

The result is that much of Teufelsberg’s 370 foot elevation consists of  an estimated 15,000 houses, and a whole lot of other trash, at least, according to German Wikipedia (and some book I read years ago.)

(how’s that for ‘sourced?’)

But that doesn’t make the place unique….Berlin lost around 400,000 buildings in the war. In Berlin many of the ‘hills’ are actually such piles of rubble. The hill in the Friedrichshain People’s Park near my house, for example, was also pile of rubble made possible by Hitler’s dreams. Indeed, rubble is what happens when idiots take over your country and start war with the world.

Berlin has lots of rubble.

But Teufelsberg’s layers don’t stop there.

Just as Berlin was trying to rebuild from the one war, a new, so-called ‘Cold War’ was getting in the way of rebuilding.

The GDR had decided to build a wall and corresponding kill zone around the western part of city, and to defend their little island, the occupying Americans and Brits hiked up to the top of Teufelsberg and found they got great reception on their spy radios. From up on the hill, they could hear what the ‘Commie’ Germans and Soviets said quite-well, in fact…so they, the United States National Security Agency, built themselves a little listening post, a so-called field station, smack dab on top.

Reportedly, a part of the infamous Echelon network, the Teufelsberg listening station was some heavy-duty top-secret shit in its day. Spook central. An important station able to hear most everything in the GDR, and parts of Poland and Czechloslovakia. So top-secret the wild boars were brought in to guard the mountain….

Ok, I made that part up.  The boars are more native to the forests around Berlin, but they are said to be quite problematic in the forest adjoining Teufelsberg.

Anyway…the Cold War ended and the Americans finally left, and in the 90s investors bought the place with plans to build a resort. They began gutting a couple buildings and knocking a couple down…but they had only just begun and the economy panned and Berlin already had a glut of space, so they soon pulled stakes and left…and Teufelsberg, ever since, has been left a ruin. Yea!

Much of the hill now gets quite a lot of use. Teufelsberg is where Berliner’s fly their kites and paraglide in the day, for the kids there is an insane bmx bike course on the back side of the hill, sledding in the winter, etc…and at night the hill with its romantic view over all of Berlin is where Berliners bring their sweethearts to suck face, fondle and be fondled.

The old listening post is, however, fenced-in private property and one is not allowed to go in. Entering is Verboten. It is ze law!

Yea, right.

Alas…like anything fenced or wall-in in Berlin…Berliners immediately cut holes, went inside and put the fucker to use. The creepy old place has been utilized for everything from parties and raves, art installations, films, taping music, everything you can imagine, really, and all for the most part illegal. Apparently everyone in Berlin has at one time or another broken the law, ‘snuck’ into Teufelsberg and checked it out.

The Devil’s days are numbered.

One last great odd layer of history…in 2002 David Lynch reportedly wanted an investment in Berlin and spontaneously bought the area hoping to build a transcendental meditation center on the site. Unfortunately for Mr. Lynch, under pressure from citizen groups the Charlottenburg’s equivelant of a city council  voted to rezone the area for use as a public open space. No building allowed.

Especially no creepy, yuppy joga cult building allowed.

So the meditation project got wound up in contraversy, thanks probably in part to Berlin’s healthy yellow press, and Lynch bailed on Teufelsberg.

Slowly but surely Teufelsberg’s media presence has grown. Numerous films about the place can be found online…photos abound, and finally this year a young entrepreneur set up a tour on Saturdays where people can even legally enter. Each of Berlin’s newpapers have run a story in the last months. The Tagespiegel, one of Berlin’s newspapers reports the 25-year-old hobby historian Andreas Juetterman, has doubled the people he allows on tours and is now expanded to two and three days a week.

And the Tagespiegel reports this: The current owner represented by the Cologne architect Hartmut Gruhl has now applied for Historical status for the site, after his original plans to build were also refused by Charlottenburg, and if Landmark status is given, he says that makes it no longer ‘public open land,’ at which time he plans to go ahead with ‘preserving’ the landmark, renovating it into up to 50 lofts, a café, fitness center and Spy museum.

The sharks are circling for Teufelsberg. Luckily the locals want to keep the site a park. We shall see.

What do I think? Teufelsberg is a mountain made of layer after layer of the leftovers of human activity.  We own that hill. It should be preserved as a park, should be publicly owned and made a UNESCO world heritage site. Yea, in my world maybe.

Anyway…for now it is pretty nifty, as these videos attest.

Video two

And the slide show

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About Andrew Flohr-Spence

Something about the sound and the word. Was a singer/bassist for five years, a German major for five, an English teacher in Germany for another five, then a journalism major in Denver for 5 more, and now I'm back in Berlin (for a while, I intend).
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One Response to Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain)

  1. Joe says:

    Actually the self-absorbed teenager in the scarf is more Berlinesque than the old Teufelsberg’s past.

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