Krampnitz: Potsdam's Abandoned Nazi and Soviet Military Complex

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  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    Vegetation is starting to reclaim the old complex.

    High walls, gates and barbed wire surround the abandoned old building. Floorboards creak, branches scrape against dirty windows, and encroaching weeds creep inside. It’s not surprising that the site doesn’t attract many visitors, and intrepid explorers are likely to find themselves alone, except for creepy reminders of the facility’s former occupants, including an imposing mosaic of a Nazi eagle – a symbol of Hitler’s Third Reich – and Cold War-era Russian newspapers.

  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    A reminder of the complex’s Nazi past

    Looking around at the peeling paint and overgrown grounds, it’s hard to believe that the rundown old buildings were made use of by two powerful totalitarian regimes. But this is exactly the purpose Krampnitz served. Located just outside Potsdam in Germany, the complex was first used to train Hitler’s most promising cavalry officers and then as a Soviet Cold War outpost until its 1992 abandonment.

  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    A dilapidated Krampnitz interior

    Krampnitz was constructed in 1937 during Germany’s rearmament period. This was a time when the Nazi Party began secretly accumulating arms, which contravened the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. Looking at decaying rooms like this one – with its moldering features and peeling wallpaper – it’s evident that nobody has used this complex for a long time.

  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    An exterior view of Krampnitz

    The German cavalry were the first to make use of the huge complex. The Army Riding and Driving School, as it was known, was an equestrian training center for the most talented Nazi officers. It may be difficult to imagine now, looking at this neglected, grey building, but at the time it was a place bustling with horses and servants of the Third Reich.

  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    A deserted, but relatively intact room in the complex

    The thought of so many military officers in full Nazi regalia calmly practicing their riding is somewhat unsettling. No doubt the Nazis took better care of their prized animals than those they considered “undesirables” and sent to concentration camps.

  • Image: Foantje

    A carved wooden ceiling above a deserted old room and collapsed chandeliers

    Although it looks drab and empty now, this abandoned barracks is testament to the expense and effort invested in the construction of Krampnitz. The ceiling, floor and walls are all wooden, and the ceiling is elaborately carved. These were definitely not your ordinary army barracks. Here, it looks like someone has removed the chandeliers.

  • Image: Foantje

    An abandoned bathtub with no sign of any plumbing

    After a long day of riding, the officers of Krampnitz would likely have been looking forward to a long soak in the tub. There are over 50 buildings at Krampnitz, which indicates the enormity of the site. The complex even had its own theater, officers’ club and tennis court – a far cry from the battlefield, and light years away from the conditions in which so many of the Nazis’ prisoners were kept.

  • Image: Foantje

    A screened-off room at Krampnitz

    Many of the buildings at Krampnitz were used for storage, and the screen wall here suggests to us that this was one of them. We wonder how much the Germans took with them when they abandoned the complex in April 1945, at the end of WWII. But the complex wasn’t empty for long. Krampnitz was taken over by the Russians just a day after the Germans left.

  • Image: Foantje

    An abandoned safe lies in the grass.

    Photographer Foantje took this shot of a safe while he was hiding from what he suspected was building security. Being caught somewhere without permission is one of the perils of urban exploration. “We always have a code if someone’s there so that we don’t have to make much noise or yell or something like that,” says Foantje.

  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    A lonely looking chair sits in the middle of darkened room

    The Soviet soldiers stationed at Krampnitz belonged to the 35th Guards Motor Rifle Division, or, as they were called when they first moved in, the 1st Mechanized Division. These military men were part of the Red Army during WWII and went on to become involved in the Russian occupation of East Germany throughout the Cold War. Conditions at the complex may not have been as luxurious as they were under the Nazis. Lining the walls are newspapers from the 1980s that one explorer speculates were used for insulation.

  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    Scattered feathers

    Feathers litter the floor in this photograph. According to rumors, Krampnitz was a filming location for Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 war movie Inglourious Basterds. Although it’s true that some of the filming was done in Potsdam, there’s no confirmation that the movie was actually shot at Krampnitz. It’s also thought that Jean-Jacques Annaud’s 2001 movie Enemy At the Gates was filmed here.

  • Image: Luisa Orduño

    A close-up look at some of the complex’s solid brickwork

    Visitors to Krampnitz report feeling an eerie atmosphere in the dilapidated complex and often claim to be reminded of this part of the world’s troubled past. “Bringing all of this history to life – it’s not in a book or on a movie, it’s right there in front of you,” says explorer Jonny Whitlam. The Nazi mosaic and the bizarre Russian graffiti in the attic would certainly add to these sensations.

  • Image: Foantje

    Sports images decorate the wall in this large room

    When the Soviet Union fell apart, its installations in Germany were abandoned. Krampnitz’s glory days are definitely long gone, and the facility is slowly falling to ruin. Who knows how long it will be before it’s eventually demolished to make way for something gleaming and new? In the meantime, there’s no doubt that the complex is an interesting place to explore.

    Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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Yohani Kamarudin
Yohani Kamarudin
Scribol Staff
Anthropology and History
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