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Hitler’s Folly – Schwerbelastungskörper

The Schwerbelastungskörper in Berlin and Viewing Platform

A giant slab of concrete may not seem like an obvious attraction but it is how and why the Schwerbelastungskörper (heavy load-bearing body) came to be here, in a residential part of Tempelhof in Berlin, that makes this monolith worth exploring.

This was to be the site of a triumphal arch so big that it is said that the Arc de Triomphe would fit within its opening.

It was in Matt Frei’s documentary, Berlin, for the BBC, which helped fuel my passion for the city ignited on my first visit, that I first learned of the Schwerbelastungskörper and Albert Speer.

Speer was the architect commissioned by Hitler and the Nazis to create an awe-inspiring and grand new city on a massive scale.  This was to be Hitler’s Welthauptstadt Germania and the monumental arch on the site of the Schwerbelastungskörper would be its southern gateway.

The city was to be crossed by two grand avenues.  The East-West axis of this cross was to be Strasse des 17 Juni.  The North-South axis would cross it on its way to the Grosse Halle (Great Hall), another extravagantly colossal building.  Though the plans for this boulevard were never realised the Siegessäule was moved from its original position near the Reichstag in preparation.

There were some concerns about the marshy soil of Berlin and whether it would be able to support the weight of the giant structures Hitler wanted to be built here.  The Schwerbelastungskörper was laid so that measurements could be taken to show how much it sank into the ground.

The structure has a diameter of 21m.  It rises 14m above ground and a further 18m is buried below the ground.

A Visitor Provides Scale For Schwerbelastungskörper Berlin

A Visitor walking around the Schwerbelastungskörper provides a scale for the massive concrete block

The ground was to be deemed suitable if the concrete body sank less than 6cm.  It sank 18cm but this wasn’t what put paid to Speer’s vision.  Hitler dismissed the findings but his attention was diverted from his plans at home by his desire for war.  So this concrete cylinder stands as a reminder of what might have been.

Standing atop the viewing platform alongside the stone looking back to the centre of Berlin gives a sense of the scale involved in Speer’s plans.

The View Towards Potsdamer Plat From the Schwerbelastungskörper in Berlin

A View Over Schwerbelastungskörper to Mitte and the Fernsehturm in Berlin

And a map on display here shows the locations of the key elements of the design.

A Map of the North-South Axis of Hitler's Plans For Germania at the Schwerbelastungskörper in Berlin

Lying about inside and under the structure are a few bits of rusting old equipment.

Machinery at the Schwerbelastungskörper in Berlin

A Rusting Pump at Schwerbelastungskörper Berlin

The Control Panel of a Rusting Pump at the Schwerbelastungskörper in Berlin

The Schwerbelastungskörper is on the corner of Dudenstrasse and General-Pape-Strasse in Berlin.  The nearest U-Bahnhof is Platz der Luftbrücke and you can take the Bus 104 from outside the station to the stop at Kolonnenbrücke, though it is only a short walk.  The site is only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays – check the website for further details.

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9 Responses to Hitler’s Folly – Schwerbelastungskörper

  1. Lorenzo 7 May, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    There’s a lovely small artist’s book about the Schwerbelastungskörper which I strongly recommend: http://nodeberlin.com/archive/susanne-kriemann-12650 — I bought my copy at Pro Qm

    • andBerlin 7 May, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      I haven’t seen the book before but I love the shop so I’ll be sure to check it out next time I’m there. Thanks for taking the time to let me know about it.

  2. Georg | Digital Cosmonaut 7 May, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    there are tours offered with the berliner unterwelten as well, they are def. worth checking out.

    I assume what you see on the picture might be part of a pump system. A “Rückschlagventil” is a non return valve – most commonly used for pumps and hydrants.

    • andBerlin 7 May, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      I noticed the tours mentioned in the literature but didn’t want to recommend it as I haven’t taken one. I may have to check it out now. I saw a hatch in the floor inside the structure but my picture didn’t come out too well and I was itching to get down there.

      Good skills with the identification of the equipment!

  3. gemmaiobrien 8 May, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    Very interesting!

    • andBerlin 8 May, 2012 at 10:35 am #

      Thanks, I was a little bit worried that no-one else would find a giant slab of concrete interesting but thankfully not the case!

  4. berlioz1935 21 January, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    I grew up there in Dudenstrasse (formerly Immelmannstrasse) . and we saw the “Thing” often enough. The Koilonnenbrücke used to be a wooden structure and we children were always afraid we would fall through the gaps between the planks.

    • andBerlin 23 January, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      It must have been quite a sight for children. It seems unbelievably big to me as an adult so to a child it must seem monstrous.

  5. stefan 23 May, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    The thing looks like a Housing for a Pump (water) and a Ventil Controll eventually for the drain water in the bottom chamber.
    The Round “Mirror” can be a Pressure “clock” for the Pump
    Greetz from big B

    Stefan

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