The Wuhlheide in World War II

Plan for the Wuhlheide Folk and Forest Park by Ernst Harrich, 1924, colour (Archive Treptow-Köpenick Museums)
Aerial view of the Wuhlheide Public and Forest Park 1943: Start of construction of the forced labour camp on the former sports meadow and the large forest meadow (Archive Treptow-Köpenick District Office)

Almost at the same time as the end of the work in the Wuhlheide Public Park, the National Socialists came to power in Germany and began to reshape all areas of public life in line with their ideology. This also meant the end for the “People’s Park Idea” (Volksparkidee) as a park that everyone could use as he pleased was not in the interest of their totalitarian state. On the outside, this had no consequences at first, but this changed with the beginning of the war. Very soon there was a lack of manpower, financial and other resources to care for and maintain parks. From 1941, air raid shelters were built for the civilian population in many Berlin parks, including the Wuhlheide. While reports on the deployment of anti-aircraft units in the Wuhlheide area can no longer be verified, the establishment of forced and labour camps on the Wuhlheide site is undisputed.

Forced and labour camps in Wuhlheide

East of the Trotting Course between the railway line and the Wuhlheide waterworks, one of the many so-called Reichsbahn community camps was operated from 1942 to 1944. It was originally designed as accommodation for workers from all over Germany to help build the imperial capital “Germania”. During World War II, German workers became scarce and forced labourers from the areas occupied by the Wehrmacht and prisoners of war were moved in. Designed for 1,495 people, the camp consisted of eight accommodattion barracks as well as various additional facilities. In addition to 932 Soviet prisoners of war (“training and working Russians”) it also housed English and Italian prisoners of war, who had to carry out manual earthworks on construction sites of the Deutsche Reichsbahn. According to a note, the Italian prisoners of war were free workers from 16.04.1944 and were therefore no longer guarded.

Another camp is said to have been located on the former sports meadow and the large forest meadow of the old Public Park area. It is reported that foreign forced labourers, prisoners of war and concentration camp prisoners lived in the fenced-off camp. They had to work under the most difficult conditions in the Oberschöneweider factories, where large quantities of armaments were produced. The notorious Gestapo camp Wuhlheide, on the other hand, was not located on the Wuhlheide, but on the grounds of today’s Berlin Zoo in Friedrichsfelde.

Reference:

  • Jörg Bock, die wuhlheide. Zur Geschichte des Volks- und Waldparks, Karlshorster Beiträge zur Geschichte und Kultur, Heft 8, S. 46f.
  • Die Wuhlheide, Dokumentation der Projektgruppe „Stadtmaler“ 1996/97; Edition Motiv der ARBLI GmbH, S. 41