The history of this place begins in 1934, when Germany began to restore its army and build up its military power. A new military camp was founded on the outskirts of the vast Jüterbog military training area in Zinna Forest, some 40 miles south of Berlin. By that time two other camps, Altes Lager and Neues Lager (Old Camp and New Camp), already existed in the vicinity of the training area, so this camp became known simply as Lager III.
The construction of the barracks complex lasted from 1934 to 1937. A railway station was opened, and a food warehouse for the Reich Army was built in a separate area nearby. At the time of completion, the name of the barracks was changed from Lager III to Adolf Hitler Lager.
Initially, in 1934, an SS camp was located here, then a year later it was used as a training base by observation units of the Artillery School of Jüterbog. From the 1940s, an educational center for training drivers of tracked vehicles vehicles was established here, including a school for training crews of the armored assault gun Sturmgeschütz III, which was developed in the Jüterbog military area.
After the end of WWII, the Soviet leadership set up a displaced persons camp at the former Adolf Hitler Camp, where they collected all refugees and former prisoners of war — including survivors from concentration camps — in East Germany to send them to their homeland.
The subsequent history of the town is a little atypical for such objects. Immediately after the end of the war, units of the Soviet military were deployed to take over most military bases of the Wehrmacht in what was now the German Democratic Republic (DDR).
At Forst Zinna, after the liquidation of the displaced persons camp in 1947, the Deutsche Verwaltungsakademie (German Administrative Academy) “Walter Ulbricht” was established, created on the initiative of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.
Here managerial cadres were to be forged for the future socialist state that arose two years later in the territory of the Soviet Zone of Occupation of Germany.
The Academy existed in this place for six years, after which the garrison town of Jüterbog and the Forst Zinna camps were occupied by Soviet military units, and the Academy was transferred to Potsdam. A Soviet staff department was installed at Adolf Hitler Lager. The 74th Motorized Rifle Regiment was stationed here until 1983, when it was transferred to Krampnits.
Forst Zinna military area became home to the 32nd Guards Tank Division and the elite academy of the Soviet Air Force until the withdrawal of the western group of troops from Germany in 1994.
Such is the story of this interesting place. It has been sadly derelict for two decades — after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, a use for the huge camp was not found and it was left to gradually deteriorate and collapse.
The authorities of Jüterbog have been looking for an investor for many years to fund the reconstruction of the Forst Zinna military complex, but no one has expressed the desire to invest huge amounts of money in restoring the historical complex of East Germany.
So one way or another, its future is set on a course for demolition. The tank hangars and garages for the machinery have already been demolished — if there are no positive changes in the town’s fate, the excavator will soon get to other buildings.
Forst Zinna is beautiful in its atmosphere. The presence of guards protected the old buildings from mass vandalism, graffitiers and lovers of taking out the garbage and dumping it in abandoned territories.
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