The US in Ger­many

JES­SICA MANN zeigt uns eine ehe­ma­lige Ab­horch­sta­tion Us-amerikanis­cher Spi­one – eine mit Graf­fiti über­zo­gene Ruine auf einem Hügel in Ber­lin, die Erin­nerun­gen an den Kal­ten Krieg wachruft.

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Cold War his­tory at Teufels­berg in Ber­lin

Ber­lin­ers are sur­rounded by mem­o­ries of the Cold War. In the city that spent decades at the epi­cen­ter of the geopo­lit­i­cal con­flict, re­minders are still around ev­ery cor­ner. In re­cent years, how­ever, Ber­lin’s Cold War his­tory has in­creas­ingly seemed to blend into the back­ground — into an ever-chang­ing and pro­gres­sively gen­tri­fy­ing ur­ban land­scape.

There are a few places in the city, how­ever, where vis­i­tors to the Ger­man cap­i­tal can still im­merse them­selves in the past. One of these places is the for­mer US lis­ten­ing sta­tion at the top of Teufels­berg — far re­moved from the city’s shiny new shop­ping malls and hip­ster scene.

Lo­cated in the Grunewald For­est on the western edge of the city, Teufels­berg, which trans­lates into English as “Devil’s Moun­tain,” is what is known as a Schut­tberg in Ger­man — a man-made hill formed from the rub­ble of World War II. There are sev­eral of these mounds in Ber­lin, and Teufels­berg — at a height of nearly 400 feet (120 me­ters) — is the high­est.

Deep in the bot­tom of the hill lie the foun­da­tions of a mil­i­tary tech­ni­cal col­lege in­tended by the Nazis to be part of a larger univer­sity cam­pus. This was never com­pleted and, be­gin­ning in 1950, it served in­stead as the ba­sis for Teufels­berg. Be­tween 1950 and 1972, 26 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters of rub­ble were de­posited on the site.

Thou­sands of trees and bushes were planted on Teufels­berg, too, turn­ing the hill at the same time into a park com­plete with ski jumps and a re­stricted area used for mil­i­tary pur­poses. Even now, a visit to the hill makes its ap­peal clear — both from a recre­ational and a strate­gic per­spec­tive. The view from it across the city of Ber­lin is as­tound­ing. From parts of the lis­ten­ing sta­tion, you can see for miles. And, as it turns out, with all the right equip­ment in place, you can hear for miles, too.

Al­though Teufels­berg was tech­ni­cally in Ber­lin’s British sec­tor, the US mil­i­tary

as­tound­ing [E(staun­din] er­staunlich, verblüf­fend blend into [blend (Inte] in­einan­der überge­hen de­posit [di(pa:zet] ablagern, de­ponieren ever-chang­ing [)ev&r (TSEINDZIN] sich ständig verän­dernd gen­tri­fy­ing [(dzen­tri­faiin] aufw­er­tend im­merse: ~ one­self [I(m§:s] sich ein­tauchen, sich versinken lis­ten­ing sta­tion [(lis&nin )steis&n] Ab­horch­sta­tion, Ab­hörsta­tion mound [maund] Hügel, Auf­schüt­tung recre­ational [)rekri(eis&nel] Freizeit- rub­ble [(rvb&l] Schutt, Trüm­mer

was al­lowed to place an­ten­nae at the top of the hill in the late 1950s. By the 1960s, both the Brits and the Amer­i­cans were car­ry­ing out plans to con­struct more per­ma­nent struc­tures on Teufels­berg — in­clud­ing gi­ant radomes, the globe-shaped hulls made of fab­ric that pro­tect radar an­ten­nae — to con­tinue mon­i­tor­ing War­saw Pact mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions. The Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions would later be run by the US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

“But the West Ber­lin press al­ways just re­ferred to it as a radar sta­tion, not a lis­ten­ing sta­tion,” says Christo­pher Mclar­ren, who works as a tour guide at Teufels­berg. “Our re­la­tion­ship to West Ber­lin was a very good one.”

Mclar­ren worked at Field Sta­tion Ber­lin, as the sta­tion was called, from Feb­ru­ary 1973 to Septem­ber 1975. He was a sig­nals traf­fic an­a­lyst. Recorded sig­nals were tran­scribed and their con­tent ex­am­ined in de­tail. Many of the sol­diers had stud­ied East Euro­pean lan­guages. “Put sim­ply, our job was to fig­ure out who was speak­ing, and what they were do­ing,” Mclar­ren says.

Be­yond that, how­ever, the sol­diers were en­cour­aged to keep an eye on each other dur­ing their round-the-clock shifts. Any signs that a col­league was deal­ing with un­usual per­sonal prob­lems or — of even greater con­cern — had sud­denly come into a large amount of money were to be re­ported. The worry was that such a de­vel­op­ment could mean that the per­son in ques­tion was tak­ing or­ders from Soviet in­tel­li­gence, the KGB.

One well-known Cold War spy did in­deed work at Field Sta­tion Ber­lin. In the mid-1980s, the US sol­dier and sig­nals-traf­fic an­a­lyst James Hall sold hun­dreds of mil­i­tary se­crets to the Soviet Union while sta­tioned in Ber­lin and Frank­furt. He was caught and, in 1989, he was sen­tenced to serve 40 years in a mil­i­tary prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Hall was re­leased in 2011.

An­other re­al­ity of daily life for the sol­diers on Teufels­berg was the grim knowl­edge that, if West Ber­lin were to come un­der sud­den at­tack, Field Sta­tion Ber­lin and all the in­for­ma­tion it con­tained would need to be de­stroyed. In all like­li­hood, there would have been no es­cape from de­struc­tion for any of the sol­diers in­side.

De­spite their se­cre­tive work­place, how­ever, the sol­diers led sur­pris­ingly nor­mal lives, work­ing their shifts and tak­ing the bus to and from the bar­racks or to other parts of West Ber­lin. Some even cy­cled home through the for­est, brav­ing the wild boar that still wan­der the Grunewald. Many of them look back fondly on their time in Ber­lin. Or­ga­ni­za­tions of vet­er­ans who worked at Field Sta­tion Ber­lin have even ar­ranged re­union trips back to the site.

“Ev­ery four to five years, they come back to Ber­lin,” says Mclar­ren. “But some of them still won’t an­swer too many ques­tions about their time here. That’s just the mind­set of peo­ple who’ve worked in in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.”

Mclar­ren him­self never thought he’d be back at Teufels­berg. Af­ter his stint

bar­racks [(bäreks] Kaserne brave sth. [breiv] etw. trotzen fig­ure out [)figj&r (aut] ifml. her­aus­bekom­men fondly [(fa:ndli] gern grim [grim] düster hull [hvl] Außen­hülle, Schutz in­tel­li­gence [In(telidzens] Ge­heim­di­enst- like­li­hood [(laik­li­hud] Wahrschein­lichkeit mind­set [(maind­set] Denkweise, Ein­stel­lung radome [(rei­doum] Radom, Radark­up­pel re­union [ri:(ju:nien] Wieder­se­hens- se­cre­tive [(si:kre­tiv] geheim sen­tence [(sen­tens] verurteilen serve [s§:v] hier: ver­büßen stint [stint] Ar­beitspe­ri­ode wild boar [)wai&ld (bo:] Wild­schwein

at Field Sta­tion Ber­lin, he stayed in the city. But it wasn’t un­til his wife stum­bled across the Teufels­berg web­site a few years ago that he re­turned to it.

“It had changed so much that I couldn’t help but feel deeply shocked,” he says about the di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion of the build­ings them­selves. “But I am very pleased that it is still there and that I get to tell my story about the kind of ex­pe­ri­ence it was.”

Since 1992, when Field Sta­tion Ber­lin was closed, the fate of the site has been con­tin­u­ally up in the air. In the early years, con­cepts for de­vel­op­ing the site ranged from leisure parks and ski­ing cen­ters to artists’ stu­dios and so­lar power sta­tions. None of these ideas came to fruition, how­ever, and in 1996, the prop­erty was sold to the ar­chi­tec­tural con­sor­tium Gruhl & Part­ner.

Plans to build lux­ury apart­ments on the site even­tu­ally fell through as the re­sult of com­plaints from neigh­bors and con­ser­va­tion­ists who op­posed the con­struc­tion plans. The only re­main­ing ev­i­dence of the short-lived build­ing boom on Teufels­berg is one model apart­ment, which — like the orig­i­nal struc­tures and radomes — was van­dal­ized over the fol­low­ing years, when the site was es­sen­tially aban­doned.

To com­pli­cate mat­ters fur­ther, the area re­turned to its pre-1930 land-use sta­tus fol­low­ing the un­suc­cess­ful con­struc­tion plans, and was of­fi­cially deemed wood­land again and thus land where de­vel­op­ment was not al­lowed. Al­though Ber­lin has shown some in­ter­est in buy­ing back the hill, the cash-strapped city is un­able to af­ford it.

To­day, Teufels­berg is cov­ered with graf­fiti which dec­o­rate its nearly ev­ery sur­face. For the past few years, the own­ers have opened the site to artists — who have cov­ered the build­ings’ im­mense in­te­ri­ors with street art — as well as to vis­i­tors who pay to tour the area. Con­certs have even been held within the radomes them­selves, mak­ing use of their in­cred­i­ble acous­tics. Teufels­berg has also gained at­ten­tion as a film lo­ca­tion for movies and tele­vi­sion, in­clud­ing the re­cent Amer­i­can se­ries Ber­lin Sta­tion.

The ques­tion of how best to keep the site’s Cold War mem­o­ries alive, how­ever, re­mains unan­swered. Much of the of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion sur­round­ing Field Sta­tion Ber­lin will be­come de­clas­si­fied within the next sev­eral years.

“It would be nice to have a small mu­seum, and there are var­i­ous plans,” Mclar­ren says. “But there’s no power or run­ning wa­ter, and you’re not al­lowed to build.”

Mclar­ren says he thinks that Teufels­berg will re­main in limbo for some time yet, but while he un­der­stands the dilemma, he sees the down­sides to the sit­u­a­tion.

“Peo­ple are very for­get­ful. A whole gen­er­a­tion doesn’t even re­mem­ber a split city,” he says. “It’s good to re­mem­ber what can hap­pen. The idea of war — real war — is so far out of our con­scious­ness now. That can be a dan­ger­ous at­ti­tude.”

aban­don [E(bän­den] ver­lassen cash-strapped [(KÄS )sträpt] knapp bei Kasse con­ser­va­tion­ist [)ka:ns&r(veis&nist] Umweltschützer(in) de­clas­si­fied [di:(kläsi­faid] freigegeben deemed: be ~ [di:md] gel­ten als di­lap­i­dated [di(läpi­deitid] baufäl­lig, ver­fallen down­side [(daun­said] Kehr­seite, Nachteil fate [feit] Schick­sal fruition: come to ~ [fru(is&n] ver­wirk­licht wer­den in limbo [In (lim­bou] im Ungewis­sen stum­ble across sth. [(stvmb&l E)kra:s] zufäl­lig über etw. stolpern thus [DVS] somit van­dal­ized [(vän­de­laizd] mutwillig beschädigt

A visit to the for­mer sig­nals in­tel­li­gence sta­tion is a chance to learn about Cold War his­tory, ad­mire graf­fiti, and take in views of Ber­lin

Not spies, but fans of a snowy slope: there was a re­stricted mil­i­tary area on Teufels­berg, Ber­lin’s high­est hill, as well as ski lifts, which can be seen in this photo dat­ing from 1966

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