Photo Gallery A Secretive Soviet City in Germany

The town of Wünsdorf near Berlin was once the headquarters of the Soviet military in East Germany and home to some 50,000 soldiers. But after the Red Army's departure in 1994, the buildings were left to crumble. One photographer explored the grounds, and was fascinated by their silent charm.
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After World War II, the town of Wünsdorf, some 25 kilometers south of Berlin, became the headquarters of the Soviet army in East Germany, and thousands of Red Army soldiers were stationed there. At the time, it was a bustling, heavily guarded military base surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. Now it is deserted and crumbling. Here, a gloomy foyer welcomes guests to the complex that once housed Nazi Germany's Supreme High Command of the Armed Forces.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Visitors to the deserted complex can still find traces of the former occupiers in the deserted complex's empty rooms, like this forgotten piano. A closer look, however...

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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...reveals that the now gutted instrument played its last notes long ago. The keys have all been removed; only a skeleton remains.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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A local development agency now maintains the abandoned military complex and offers tours of the grounds. Because the buildings still have electricity, even the most expansive rooms like this theater auditorium can be admired in their true grandeur.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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It was from behind these curtains that performers used to give Russian troops a reprieve from their monotonous duties, keeping their spirits up while they were stationed so far away from home. Today, the room only plays host to a limited number of curious tourists and eager photographers.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Natural light reflects off the polished foyer floors right outside the theater. Even after the Red Army had pulled out of East Germany in 1994, performances still took place here from time to time.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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In the early 90s, the Soviet army commenced its "honorable return home." Military vehicles and machines would be transported home on trains and ferries -- or dismantled and destroyed on the spot. The soldiers took everything with them, except for a few spare parts, like the ones seen here in this old automobile depot.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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The floorboards in this room have been removed, revealing not only a wooden, rib cage-like structure, but the two worst enemies of old, abandoned buildings: moisture and mildew.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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The depots and armories weren't the only things to be gutted before the Red Army left -- the Soviets also took bathroom doors and the dividing walls with them.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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For the most part, the buildings within the complex have been completely emptied. But every now and then, one comes across objects that, because of their advanced decay, appear all the more striking. Like this safe, which due to its peeling green paint almost resembles foliage.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Void of its previous owners, the former military base is almost serene today, even idyllic, especially when light from outside bathes the complex in a warm shade of gold.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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While on assignment at the complex, photographer Jörg Rüger noticed that the Russians only seemed to use six different colors: yellow, blue, gray, brown, pink or -- seen here -- green. After being subjected to the elements without a fresh coat of paint for years, the flaking pastel tones provide for a very different atmosphere, one that Rüger tries to convey in his photographs.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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The view through a slot in the wall intended for a projector. Many of the rooms at the military base were designed with the entertainment of the troops in mind.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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The last commander of Soviet forces in Germany used to swim laps in this pool. However, it's been years...

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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...since there was water inside. Much like the other athletic facilities inside the base, this swimming pool is now nothing more than an exhibit in a museum.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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The locker room showers are surprisingly well maintained. Here, soldiers used to rinse off before jumping into the cold water of the nearby swimming pool.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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The pool's temperature was regulated by burning coal in this oven.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Even the dividing walls in the pool's locker room weren't left behind -- perhaps due to demand for the wood.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Visible through the smudged windows is a figure that once had considerable meaning for the base's inhabitants.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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It is a statue of Vladimir Lenin. But today the founder of the Soviet Union no longer gazes upon clusters of exercising soldiers, but on an empty field.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Visitors often stumble upon inexplicable constructions, like this cage here, the original function of which remains a mystery.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Although the gargantuan military base was only deserted 17 years ago, it feels more like an eternity.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Surprises await visitors in many of the complex's countless rooms, like the pommel horse seen here.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Rüger used light to give even the most seemingly banal staircases a mysterious feel.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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In the attic of the theater, Rüger found this leftover chair, which he then used to create a beautiful still life.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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If you look closely enough, you can still find faint traces of the base's former tenants, like how this curtain has been tied to a window.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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With few objects to get in his way, Rüger was free to use light to create aesthetic geometric patterns.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Not every staircase was adorned with such ornate banisters. The quadratic rooms and bare walls were typical of barracks architecture.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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Stage rigging for the complex's theater were some of the only devices left unchanged when the Soviets pulled out.

Foto: Jörg Rüger
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From this hallway, the muffled sounds of performances could once be heard from the theater one floor below. Now the only sounds to be heard are the footsteps of the occasional visitor or the creaking of floorboards.

Foto: Jörg Rüger