Kaserne Krampnitz was the Wehrmacht's cavalry school and it was built in the 1930s during the time when Germany was under the rule of the dictator Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party. After the fall of Berlin in 1945 the occupying Russian forces used the site as an army barracks until they pulled out in the nineties after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
We saw Red Dave's amazing site report in Derelict Places and decided that we had to go take a look for ourselves after our exploration of Beelitz-Heilstätten. It was only a short train ride to Potsdam itself from our base in Berlin, then we jumped on a bus for twenty minutes or so. The bus stop we got off at was literally right outside the walls of the site, and a convenient section of the wall is missing just a few yards to one side of the bus shelter. After walking through the undergrowth for twenty or so meters we came to a dwarf wall beyond which was the back of the so called "Kasino", which was actually the Officers' Mess. A convenient open window gave us easy access.
Clearly security is not overly high on the agenda at Kaserne Krampnitz - we did see a white van, presumably security, bimbling about the site, and at one point a large lorry drove down from the north to the gate at the south end where it stopped and off loaded some building materials. We almost walked into some workers who were hidden from view by tress, but we heard them just in time to double back without being seen. But beyond that we were completely undisturbed for the duration of our exploration and we found access to all of the buildings was relatively easy - indeed in the case of two of the most attractive buildings there is literally nothing to bar entry.
The site has been used quite recently by the film industry as a location during the making of both "Enemy At The Gates" and Quentin Tarrantino's "Inglourious Basterds", a promo poster from which is shown BELOW RIGHT. There is a hall way at the top of a flight of stairs where there is an outstanding "Adler" mosaic ceiling, but we were quite unable to find this beautiful, if slightly sinister swastika carrying eagle on our first visit. Wishing hopefully that the premise of "better luck next time" would hold true we tried to find the Adler building again a few weeks later, and with a good pointer from an urb-ex colleague Donald, we went straight to it! There is some question as to the Adler's authenticity as all symbols of the Nazi party were banned in Germany after the war, and the mystery only deepens if you also consider the fact that the Russian occupiers were highly unlikely to have left a symbol of their much despised former enemy completely untouched, beautiful or otherwise. In the Kasino there were two classic Nazi era swastika carrying eagles carved into the stone walls by a huge fireplace, but they have been chipped away leaving only a ghostly outline to show what they once were. One theory then is that the Adler ceiling mosaic was constructed for one of the films. This adds up if you consider that the numerous barrack blocks are classically Soviet in design compared to the theatre and the Kasino, both of which are clearly Germanic. At first sight it appears that the Adler building is just another cheerless grey brick built Soviet edifice, that is until you spot the ornately decorated balcony overlooking the entrance from the road running from Potsdam past Kaserne Krampnitz. The interior of the building immediately confirms the origin of the builders too - it is ornately decorated with extensive sandstone door lintels, parquet floors and a significant amount of architectural aesthetics - no stark, cold, cheap and nasty concrete here.
We had a beautiful, hot day for our October visit with most unseasonably sunny weather. Unfortunately though the light provoked numerous flares and "orbs" to appear on many of our pictures - perhaps Derek Pakhora, the (im)famous Pakistani medium, and full time fraud, was on site that day along with his host of ghostly friends, creating all those orbs for us *smirks... Please excuse the occasional picture with orbs, or those where I have tried to "repair" the particularly offensive orbs in Paintshop. Hopefully the editing won't detract too much from your enjoyment of the photographs.
We climbed in through the Kasino window and stood still for an age, totally amazed by our surroundings. Although the building has been empty for almost twenty years it is still in a really good condition, and the quality and style of decoration is quite something to behold. All the walls are panelled out in wood and the ceilings are ornate. But the ceiling in one room is simply jaw dropping - you will see what we mean in the photos shortly! The first floor of this building felt very strange under foot - I suspect woodworm or dry rot has drastically weakened the joists leaving them springy and weak - so we didn't do much upstairs, proceeding instead to the roof space before leaving. A further factor for moving on early was our concern over the amount of noise we were making - the ground floor is covered in wooden tiles which look at first glance exactly like marble. How odd then when you tread on them and they creak deafeningly with every footstep! The Japanese used to construct special floors which could not be walked on without making a noise - a sort of burglar alarm Shogun style - and in the Kasino, the warping of the floor tiles, presumably by damp, has produced a similar alarm, one which we were most anxious not to "set off"!!!
After visiting the Kasino we wandered around looking unsuccessfully for the Adler building until in the end, thoroughly frustrated, we gave up. Had we been able to get right round to the front of the building which was the prime suspect then we would have immediately noticed the ornate balcony and the penny might have dropped, but on our October visit workmen were down at the gatehouse end of the site, and as that is only a few yards from the balcony, clearly we were not going to get any closer to them than we needed to. Four weeks or so later it was a different matter. Armed this time with much better information, and with the site apparently empty, we went straight to the building and soon found a way in through the cellars. It was only a short time later that we found ourselves standing under the Adler.
But the mystery of why this magnificent Nazi era decoration was left untouched when all others have been erased or destroyed, remains to be solved!
The numerous Soviet built barrack blocks really are the most cheerless concrete monstrosities imaginable and once you've seen one you have pretty much seen them all. You will get some idea of just how many of these blocks there are at Krampnitz from this occupation period photograph - SHOWN ABOVE LEFT. The difference now though is that the undergrowth has almost completely swallowed the buildings up and the consequential impression is of great, grey concrete toads squatting in dense woodland! The only exception to barrack block boredom was finding the dining halls and kitchen complex, but beyond that it was very much a constant case of same old, same old. Up at the north east corner of the site we wandered across a large parade square, past the horrendous graffiti tagged saluting post, and in to the theatre. This building stands out like a sore thumb because of it's Germanic architecture. The theatre hall itself has a small stage and would probably have seated 2 or 3 hundred people at most. It clearly doubled as a cinema too because at the back of the hall there is a balcony reached from the first floor, and in the back of the balcony wall there are projection slits. On the other side of the wall there is a raised platform in a hall way upon which the projectors were sited to shoot through the holes at a screen which was dropped over the front of the stage from the proscenium arch. Sadly the projectors and the screen are long since gone but hopefully you will agree that it still made for some interesting photographs. We hope too that you will enjoy the Adler building pictures now that we have finally managed to take some!