- The “Forbidden City” is a military base in eastern Germany that has barely been touched in 25 years.
- The complex was used as the Nazi command center during World War II and occupied 40,000 Soviet soldiers during the Cold War.
- Haunting photos of the abandoned military base show what the Forbidden City looks like today.
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There’s a military base in eastern Germany that’s been abandoned for 25 years.
Known as the ‘Forbidden City,” the Wünsdorf complex in Zossen – about 20 miles outside Berlin – dates back to the early 20th century. It was used to house prisoners of war during World War I, and in 1935, it became the headquarters of Germany’s armed forces, serving as the Nazis’ military command center during World War II.
Soviet forces took over the base during the Cold War. It was home to 40,000 Soviet soldiers, according to one estimate, and it was the largest Soviet military camp outside the USSR. East Germans who lived outside the complex couldn’t get in without special permission, giving way to its nickname, the “Forbidden City.”
But Soviet occupation of the base would end following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. By 1994, the last troops had left the Forbidden City.
Now, 25 years later, the base has hardly been touched, save for occasional tours of the decaying landmark.
As a photographer with a focus on abandoned buildings and a passion for history, I traveled to Wünsdorf to see the Forbidden City for myself.
Here's what the military base looks like today.
A huge statue of Vladimir Lenin, the former leader of the Soviet Union, is still standing in front of the main entrance to the abandoned military base.
Inside, paint was cracking and peeling off the walls and ceilings — a stark contrast to the ornate decorations on some of the walls.
In this former office, tons of artifacts were left behind — including old world maps and furniture.
Rooms like this were used by some of the 40,000 Soviet soldiers that lived in the Forbidden City.
This grand staircase leads to the upper floor of the main building of the base.
Many of the walls, stripped of their wallpaper or cracking from peeling paint, are shells of their former selves.
The neglect of 25 years was evident in connecting rooms like this one. The base hasn't been used since the last Soviet soldiers left in 1994.
This decorative room on the main building's first floor leads to the Lenin statue overlooking an abandoned soccer field.
At the end of this dim hallway stands an illuminated image of Joseph Stalin carrying a child.
These decorations from the Soviet era are, miraculously, mostly intact.
Here's the view from the top of the staircase looking down. Though the railings are badly rusting, you can see the care and craftsmanship that went into creating them.
There were a number of athletic facilities on the campus, including a swimming pool. To get there, I headed through this former locker room.
The swimming pool, completely empty of water, has remained frozen in time. You can see the lane dividers still hanging mid-air.
Soldiers would shower off here after taking a dip in the pool.
This theater used to host various performances. Although it's very dark in the room, you can see the beautiful decorations on the ceiling and relatively good shape of the theater, compared to other decaying corners of the Forbidden City.