There are quite a few places in Germany called Vogelsang, but two of them became part of Cold War history. They were located on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain that divided the world into East and West. Although both are named Vogelsang, these military twins were quite different, as twins often are.
Before the Cold War
The first Vogelsang, a place between the villages Einruhr and Gemünd in
the Eifel National Park, is located 55 km (35 mi) southwest of the city
Cologne (Köln) in Germany, and close to the Belgian border. Until 2006,
this place was known as Camp Vogelsang, a military training area. The
camp however first had a more sinister history.
The history of this Vogelsang twin starts in 1933. Adolf Hitler, then chancellor of Germany, decided to create four Ordensburg, training centers for the offspring of the leadership of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party).
By 1936, three NS-Ordensburgen were partly build and already in use, Ordensburg Krössinsee in Pomerania, Ordensburg Sonthofen in Allgäu and Ordensburg Vogelsang in the Eifel. The forth in Marienburg was never built. The first Vogelsang NS Junkers (cadets) arrived in 1936.
|Ordungsburg Vogelsang (source: VoWo)|
The Junkers were lectured, or rather indoctrinated, on Nazi ideology, race science and foreign policy, and they received intensive physical training. The nearby Walberhof airfield provided pilot training.
The Ordensburgen were to become the breeding ground for the future Nazi elite. Regular education in the Ordensburgen ended in 1939 when the Second World War broke out. Vogelsang Castle was handed over to the Wehrmacht and its Junkers drafted in the armed forces.
In the excellent video below you have a 360° view of Vogelsang and inside its buildings. Start the video and grab the video screen with your mouse to look around. The interview is in German, but you can select settings > subtitles > auto-translate and choose your language.
Ordensburg Vogelsang housed troops during the German 1940 western campaign and several fighter squadrons were stationed at Walberdorf airfield. From 1941 until 1944, Vogelsang housed several Hitler schools, and from 1944, military training was given to boys aged 15 to 16 from the Hitler Youth. Vogelsang was cleared in 1945 after Allied air strikes had destroyed several buildings.
Camp Vogelsang Training Area - West Germany
After WWII, Ordensburg Vogelsang was in the western part of divided Germany, officially known as the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). The area was taken over by the British Army in 1946. They initially planned to destroy this symbol of National Socialism but eventually turned it into a 6354 hectares (63km² or 25 sq mi) training area.
The people of the nearby village Wollseifen were ordered to leave the area and the village was then completely destroyed (later rebuild as urban warfare training area). Between 1946 and 1950, the British rebuild the castle, heavily damaged by air strikes. The training area consisted of nine firing ranges and an infantry exercise area. The British handed over Vogelsang to the Belgian Army in 1950.
|Belgian 2nd Lancers Rgt with M47 Pattons, Vogelsang 1962 (source: legerdiensst)|
After the creation of NATO in 1956, the Vogelsang training area was used for nearly five decades by the NATO countries Belgium, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Germany and France.
|Belgian insignia Vogelsang|
source: Christophe Cobbaut
Parts of the training area were returned to the civilians in 1960, reducing the training area to 4200 hectares. Over the years, the Belgians restored damaged buildings and added new ones. Vogelsang could accommodate 2500 troops and was used extensively for military exercises until 2005, when the camp was handed over completely to the German government.
Since 2006, the facility is open to the public as Vogelsang Internationaler Platz, part of Eifel National Park. You can visit the camp, which has an exhibit about its history and Nazi documentation on Vogelsang. They also organise guided tours. Burg Vogelsang is a protected monument since 1989.
Soviet Base Vogelsang - East Germany
The military twin of Camp Vogelsang was a Soviet base in Vogelsang near Zehdenick, 55 km (35 mi) north of Berlin, in former East Germany, officially known as the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Although less in size, this one had serious striking power.
|Mural monument at the Vogelsang Soviet base (source: Johan van Elk)|
After WWII, Vogelsang was still a small village in a vast and dense forest that was difficult to access. The Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany (Rus. Группа советских оккупационных войск в Германии - ГСОВГ ) claimed 2,000 hectares of the forest and commissioned in 1952 the construction of a military base in Vogelsang. The construction of the base was planned, built and paid for by the East German government
|Soviet Forces in Germany|
In 1959, the Soviet R-5 and R-5M Pobeda (Rus. Побе́да, NATO name SS-3 Shyster) theatre ballistic missile became the main strike weapons of the garrison. They carried a 300 kt thermonuclear warhead that could reach all strategic targets in Europe. The R-5M missiles mainly targeted the PGM-17 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile in the United Kingdom. Less than a year later, the Soviets withdrew the R-5's.
From 1983, the TR-1 Temp (Rus, Темп-С, NATO name SS-12 Scaleboard) mobile theatre ballistic missiles with 1500 kt warhead were stored in Vogelsang. Enough to raise hell across Europe.
All Russian troops, then called Western Group of Forces, withdrew in 1994 and the abandoned town and the military buildings were partly demolished. What remained of the military town is now gradually reclaimed by the forest, as shown in the aerial video of the base.
Little was known about secret "object" Vogelsang, but gradually more details surfaced. At the Lenin in Vogelsang website are several memoirs of soldier Serik Kulmeshkenov (translation), Igor Platonov part1 & part 2 (translation part 1 & part 2), the son of an officer, and Colonel Zharky F.M. from the 25th division (translation),
Vogelsang vs Vogelsang
Although we cannot compare Camp Vogelsang training area with the Soviet Vogelsang base and its nuclear strike capabilities, we should consider the British occupation zone, which also included the Belgian Forces Germany, and the American and French occupation zones. These zones stretched from the western border of West Germany to the East German border. They too deployed nuclear missiles.
The MGM-1 Matador surface-to-surface cruise missiles, armed with nuclear warhead, were deployed in 1953 by the 1st Tactical Missile Squadron from Bitburg U.S. Air Base. These were withdrawn in 1962. Three U.S. Army battalions, stationed in Germany, and two German Air Force wings received Pershing 1a nuclear missiles in 1965, and by 1985, the U.S had 108 Pershing II missiles in Germany and 464 nuclear armed cruise missiles in Germany and neighbouring countries.
And we didn't even mention the many unguided nuclear bombs, stored by both NATO and Soviet units on many locations in powder keg Germany, let alone the thousands of ICBMs, both fixed and mobile, in the US and USSR. In the end, all occupation troops left Germany in the 1990s, fortunately without firing a single doomsday-shot. The last troops to leave were the Belgian Forces Germany in 2005. In hindsight, a bit weird that we slept like babies when stationed there.
Below additional information, many photos and videos from both Vogelsang twins. Non-english pages are provided with translation link.
Camp Vogelsang (former West Germany)
- Vogelsang IP Internationaler Platz official website
- Nazi Ordensburg Vogelsang video camp and old photos
- LandmarkScout NS Ordensburg Vogelsang
- Vogelsang 1934–1945 history in German (translation)
- Homefront Wargame Center Vogelsang field trip
- Wollseifen drone video urban fighting ghost village
- Kamp Vogelsang historical 1930s footage of construction and use, and videos of post-war training area (in Dutch)
- Kamp Vogelsang Belgian website (in Dutch)
- Belgian 2dn Lancers exercise and tank river crossing
- Belgian 17 Mechanised Brigade video 1996 Vogelsang
- Dutch Fuseliers final exercise video 2004 Vogelsang
- British Army in Vogelsang REME support 1968
- British Army BAOR Locations Vogelsang photos
Soviet base Vogelsang (former East Germany)
- A Soviet missile base in Germany BBC News
- Vogelsang 1976-1979 video many photos everyday life
- Secret base Vogelsang docu (translated subtitles available)
- Vogelsang Soviet Nuclear Base in the GDR SightRaider
- The Abandoned Soviet Military Base by Rebel Historian
- Vogelsang 1980 many old photos school Nº 33
- Lenin in Vogelsang - Soviet stories (translation)
- Vogelsang GSVG 1952-2013 history (translation)
- Garison Vogelsang - stories and photos (translation)
- Abandoned Spaces missile bunkers in Vogelsang
- Garnison Vogelsang aerial video remains camp
- Soviet Military Base video Sam Ledger
- Vogelsang Russian Camp video Anna's Burning Curiosity
- Vogelsang 2014 video Willi Seiner (town buildings)
- Vogelsang 2013 video Willi Seiner (bunkers)
- Vogelsang 2020-3 video Willi Seiner (town buildings)
- Vogelsang 2020-4 video Willi Seiner (town buildings)
- Inside Soviet camp of Wünsdorf largest base in the GDR