The 1936 Olympic Stadium is still very much in use - though extensively rebuilt and modernised - particularly as the home ground for Hertha Berlin football club. What is less well known is that the remains of the 130-acre Olympic Village (Olympiches Dorf) can still be seen. We made a journey out to the far Western edge of Berlin to photograph what has survived of it.
One building still intact is das Hindenburghaus, which was a Gemeinschaftshaus (or Community Centre) for the athletes and other visitors. It was named after Field Marshall, and second president of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, who was patron of the Berlin Olympic Games until his death in August 1934. You might also know that he had made Hitler Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, and signed the Enabling Act of March 1933 which effectively gave Hitler carte blanche to run the country all by himself.
|The Hindenburg House - main entrance|
|The Hindenburg House|
Another place where athletes could go to chill out are the swimming baths:
They don't look like they have been used in a long while, though there are apparently plans to renovate them and have people swimming there once more.
|Swimming Baths at the Olympic Village|
After the games and during the war, the Speisehaus was redeployed as a military hospital and filled with beds.
|Das Speisehaus der Nationen|
|Garage Doors at the Olympic Village|
|Athletes' Living Quarters|
Today, many of the buildings are totally derelict:
|Ruined athletes' accomodation at the Olympic Village|
|The Meissen House: Jesse Owens' Accomodation|
Inside you can see how it looked at the time, all very cramped and Spartan;
|Jesse Owens' shared room.|
I am reminded in part of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, where political and religious persecution was played down to almost non-existent in the media, and whole shanty towns were bulldozed and people evicted in order to give Beijing the appearance of a clean city. Curiously, the son of Hitler's favourite architect, Albert Speer Junior, was commissioned to design the overall access plan for the Beijing Olympic stadium. Things that make you go hmmm.
After the war, the Olympic Village grounds became part of the Soviet Sector and later East Germany. The Soviets built an enormous army barracks across the road from the Olympic Village, and housed the families of the married soldiers in rows of vast Plattenbau high-rises built amongst the remains of the athletes' huts.
|Soviet High-rise Flats at the Olympic Village|
These were only abandoned after reunification and the departure of Russian soldiers in the 1990's, but the buildings have quickly become ruined:
Who knows what will come of these buildings, or the remains of the Olympic Village itself. The German authorities probably find themselves in a dilemma: on the one hand, this is a historic site that deserves to be preserved, but on the other it resurrects the phantoms of a terrible time in German and World history. At the moment, the area is fenced off with barbed wire but is accessible to the public (during the Spring and Summer up until October 31st - cost 1€ entrance fee). You can even go on guided tours around the site and inside the buildings, but I doubt if you will find mention of the Olympic Village in many tourist guide books or coach tours. With so much more demanding renovation projects taking money out of Berlin's coffers, I don't think that much will be spared to do anything other than make sure the Olympic Village buildings don't become a danger to the public. But we'll see.
If you want to visit the Olympishes Dorf for yourself, then take a red RE2 out to Elstal Bahnhof, where you can get a bus (the 663) up the hill (or walk - it isn't too far) to the Eulenspiegelsiedlung. That's not the stop signed Olympishes Dorf, but the Eulenspiegel housing estate which is right next to the one and only entrance to the Olympic Village area. You will know you are at the right spot when you see the bronze statue of Till Eulenspiegel himself
|Till Eulenspiegel - with owl and mirror, naturally.|