The city of Wünsdorf is located 40 kilometers (almost 25 miles) south of Berlin. About 30 years ago, its population was 60,000 people, of which the majority were soldiers in the Red Army.
They lived on one of the largest military bases in Europe within the largest Soviet military camp outside the USSR. Inside the camp were schools, shops, hospitals, and recreation areas. There were also daily trains.
The former headquarters of the Soviet forces was so large that it received the nickname “Small Moscow.”
The town of Wünsdorf appeared in 1874 after the unification of the two villages of Nächst-Wünsdorf and Fern-Wünsdorf. By the end of the 19th century, the city already had its own Berlin-Dresden station, and the population was about 600 people.
The construction of the military training ground and the Pikhota Streltsy school began in 1906 and was completed in 1910. From that moment, Wünsdorf became the largest military center of the last two empires – the Third Reich and the USSR.
At the end of World War II, after the fall of Nazi Germany, Wünsdorf became a Soviet military camp. Initially, it acted as a shooting range for the Prussian forces, but then army barracks began to appear.
With the construction of the railway line, the entire region acquired strategic importance. By the beginning of World War I in 1914, the 60,000-acre complex had become Europe’s largest military base.
Wünsdorf became the headquarters of the Wehrmacht, the united armed forces of Nazi Germany, in 1935 and was considered a military stronghold. They built a modern Zeppelin underground communications center with walls 3.2 meters thick, as well as several bunkers with meter-thick roofs disguised as rural homes.
The Soviet Union began to control Wünsdorf after the Nazis fled. It became a powerful Soviet city in Germany and a forbidden city for the Germans. Local residents were evicted, and all roads into the city were closed to traffic.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the reunification of Germany, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was inevitable that Russian soldiers would be recalled to their homeland. People left in a hurry, so they didn’t take most things with them.
Consequently, 98,300 units of ammunition, 47,000 units of artillery, and 29.3 tons of garbage, including chemicals, waste oil, old paint, tires, batteries, and asbestos, remained scattered over a vast area.
There were even shops full of electronics, radios, televisions, and refrigerators. The buildings were full of household appliances, and in some cases even pets were left behind. Today, the whole complex is completely abandoned.
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