Teufelsberg

The Mysterious Structure of Devil’s Mountain

By David Daly

In Berlin, Germany, travelers' eyes are often drawn to a small mountain towards the city's western portion. With several large white spheres towering atop the odd mound, the decaying remnants of a space-age looking structure seem out of place. The abandoned facility is known as Teufelsberg, German for "Devil's Mountain, and it has a storied past. 

 

Before World War II, the Nazis had begun to construct a military-technical college on the plateau. The facility was never completed and amounted to little more than a pile of concrete by the time Berlin fell. By the end of the war, the German capital of Berlin was in complete ruins.

 

The city was divided between the Allied Powers, with the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union each laying claim to a section of the city.

Between 1947 and 1991, the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies distrusted each other. They grew embittered with fear that war would erupt with Berlin as the scene for many tense standoffs and military build-ups. On the night of August 13, 1961, while most of Berlin's citizens slept, the German Democratic Republic in East Berlin began sealing off their portion of the city. What started as mere fences and barbed wire eventually grew to become the Berlin Wall.

With tensions escalating, the Nation Security Agency of the United States began using Teufelsberg as a mobile listening post. Given the elevation, the man-made mountain provided one of the best vantage points for spying on East Germany and the Soviet Union's activities.

 

Teufelsberg intercepted East Germany communications as American and British forces listened and jammed Soviet signals. At one point, there were approximately 1,500 spies employed at the facility working around the clock over three work shifts.

 

Used for an advanced game of spy vs. spy, the towers adorned with spheres are actually "radomes," or structural, weatherproof enclosures designed to protect and conceal cutting edge technology. 

The station was operational until the end of the Cold War when the Berlin Wall fell. Before closing, the United States removed all of its sensitive equipment and abandoned the site. Once Berlin was reunified, the National Security Agency had no need for the facility.

Up until 1972, the Allied powers dumped most of the rubble on top of the site, with an estimated 34 million cubic yards of waste discarded there. Sitting on top of the Teltow plateau, Devil's Mountain had grown to an impressive elevation of 260 feet high.

 

Regardless of the enormous amount of debris at the location, people tried to make use of it. For example, a ski jump was built on the hill at one point, and at the height of its popularity, the facility housed a 79-foot ski jump and stands to hold 5,000 spectators. Skiing ended in 1969, with the ski facility wholly removed in 1999.

With visions of covering the hill in hotels and apartments, the site was acquired by investors in the 1990s, hoping to capitalize on Germany's economic boom. However, the project would never see reality as it was soon determined not to be profitable.

 

Many uses have been proposed, including a spy museum, but, for now, the area remains abandoned without a purpose. The current owners have fenced in what remains of Teufelsberg and allow visitors to tour the site for a small fee.

 

Now covered in an eclectic collection of graffiti, Devil's Mountain is home to an unconventional art museum showcasing everything from abstract art to politically motivated murals.

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