Evolving Visions of Teufelsberg, Berlin

Teufelsberg is in a state of transition. For many years after the listeners and analysts left it was merely in a state of decay, the various buildings, all relics of the Cold War, randomly vandalized in a way that was sad to see for many who were key instruments of America’s containment policy. Personally, it was hard to square the occasional pictures I’d see of its dilapidated state with my memories. For three years I was “on watch” with hundreds of others whose primary function (contrary to some wild rumors) was to serve as a check on Soviet ambitions during the great bipolar conflict of the late 20th century. My reaction to the site's slow demise vacillated between a sort of “time-marches-on” shrug and indignation at what seemed to be blatant disrespect for those few whose service helped keep millions of others free. Ultimately, I had my own pictures and memories which were and are still intact, impervious to the disregard of others who seem willing to ignore the historic context of their own existence. Of late there has been a renewed interest in “the hill” as those who worked there called it. The owners of the property now allow a U.S. Army veteran who worked at T-Berg to conduct tours of the site. Additionally, a “Save Teufelsberg” movement is afoot to preserve the site as an important Cold War icon. And its walls are attracting graffiti artists from around the globe who see the former listening post as their own blank canvas. The result is a strange combination of the curious, the irreverent, the artistic, and the nostalgic. What will come out of that mix is anyone’s guess. What I know is this: Irrespective of Teufelsberg’s recent past or its uncertain future, the sounds, sights, and feel of a place that defined my life for three years remain undisturbed and indestructible, safely tucked away in the deep and personal recesses of my mind and heart.

Teufelsberg, Berlin, from the Grunewald, February of 1985.

Teufelsberg, Berlin, from the Grunewald, February of 1985.