There is an abandoned Soviet military airbase in Germany known as Wittstock Air Base or Old Daber Airfield.
This interesting place is located quite a distance from the big German cities, near the town of Wittstock, which lies on the northwestern outskirts of Brandenburg. The official name of the airfield in German is Flugplatz Alt Daber, but most refer people to it as Wittstock Airbase.
In 1934, a glider airfield was set up on this spot as part of the Nazi Aviation Skills Initiative. However, it wasn’t long before a school of the Wehrmacht Airborne Forces was created here. Between 1938 and 1940, this site was expanded into a Luftwaffe airfield as part of Germany’s massive militarization effort, and the facility was connected to the Groß Haslow railway.
Training began in 1939, while the development of the site was still ongoing, and this airfield soon became one of the most important training centers for the landing forces of the Third Reich. The school continued to operate during World War II, with paratroopers being trained there until 1944.
During its operational service, the airbase was being continually expanded and updated. Military hangars and training buildings were constructed around the site, in the style of German military architecture of the Third Reich. There was also a commandant’s office, a fire station, and a weather station.
After the end of the Second World War, the Wittstock airfield was put to use by the Soviet Armed Forces instead. On April 30, 1945, the last German aircraft left this airbase, and on May 3 of the same year, the facility came under the control of the Soviet army.
The Red Army began to expand and alter the airfield. A significant change that they made was transforming a section of compacted grass into a concrete runway measuring 2,400 meters (7,900 feet) long. In addition, a radar site was installed to the west and a surface-to-air missile site to the east. Som hangars were redesigned by the Soviets to act as gyms.
Several air regiments were stationed at Wittstock, and between 1946-7, it seems that the head of the Guards Fighter Aviation Corps was Stalin’s youngest son, Vasily.
By this point, the functional buildings included a command center, garages, hangars, accommodation, an officer’s library, and a sports hall. Wolfgang Dost, a historian who visited the airbase when it was under Soviet command, commented on how Wittstock was like a city all by itself, holding hundreds of people.
There are rumors that the Germans built an underground cinema with 200 seats so that military staff and visitors could watch newsreels or entertaining films. It is unclear whether the Soviet army used the cinema, but before they left the airbase in 1994, they bricked up the lower levels, making them wholly inaccessible, and their purpose remains a mystery.
In the winter of 1985, Wittstock airbase became the first place in Europe to house Soviet MiG-29 fighters. As part of the reunification of West and East Germany in 1989-90, it was necessary for the Soviet army to leave all German military bases by the end of 1994. On June 19, 1994, the airfield was handed over to the local authorities after the last 24 MIGs took off from the runway.
After that, the airbase was closed, but the facility was used for some time as a race track and a venue for music festivals. With no real effort made to control access to the site or maintain it, Wittstock airbase was looted and vandalized.
In 2014, the city authorities began dismantling some buildings with the help of the Regional Development Fund and the Federal Agency for Real Estate Tasks. This was necessary because tests had shown the presence of asbestos. Many buildings on the site were demolished, and nothing was left inside those that remained.
In the absence of humanity, a wealth of interesting flora has sprung up around the site, and some bats have also made part of Wittstock airbase their roosting site. Since around 2017, the site has been used as a Photovoltaic power storage station, and solar cells cover the runway and much of the rest of the airfield. Only some central buildings remain due to their historical significance.
If you are interested in seeing what this airbase was like in real life, then photographer Alexandr Technolirik recommends watching the film MiG-29 über Deutschland, which was filmed by German journalists in Wittstock in 1990. This is a unique report documenting a Soviet military airfield.
A big thank you to Alexandr and his LiveJournal account for sharing such amazing photographs about this site.
Alex lives in Germany and has got an account where he writes about different locations. He has written his own article about this location where you can find more of his photos. You should definitely check out his LiveJournal account and Facebook page.
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