Teufelsberg – abandoned NSA listening post on Berlin’s artificial hill named “Devil’s Mountain”

Teufelsberg (German for “Devil’s Mountain”) is a man-made hill in Berlin, Germany, near the Grunewald area. It is situated in Berlin’s Grunewald Forest, approximately 80 meters (260 feet) above the nearby Teltow plateau and 120.1 meters above sea level. It was named after the Teufelssee (Devil’s Lake) in its immediate vicinity.

On top of the hill, the US National Security Agency (NSA) built one of its largest listening stations, which is assumed to be part of the global ECHELON information-collecting network. The British Sector contained “The Hill,” as it was colloquially known by the thousands of American soldiers who worked there around the clock and commuted from their quarters in the American Sector.

After exploring various areas in West Berlin in search of the best vantage point for listening in on Soviet, East German, and other Warsaw Pact nation’s military traffic, mobile Allied listening units began operations on Teufelsberg in July 1961.

They observed that Teufelsberg surgeries produced a considerable improvement in hearing ability. This discovery prompted the construction of a large structure atop the hill, which would eventually be overseen by the NSA (National Security Agency). Work on a permanent facility began in October 1963.

The ski lifts were removed at the request of the United States government because they allegedly interfered with communications. The station was active until the collapse of East Germany and the Berlin Wall when it was decommissioned and the equipment was removed. The buildings and radar domes remain in place.

Teufelsberg buildings.Source
Berlin views from Radio Tower at the Trade Fair. Source
Buildings on Teufelsberg Source
Some of the radar domes of the former NSA listening station on the top of Teufelsberg. Source

Other weird events occurred during NSA operations: it was discovered that radio signal reception was better at certain times of the year than others. The ‘culprit’ was eventually discovered: it was the Ferris wheel of the yearly German-American Volksfest Festival on Zehlendorf’s Hüttenweg.

The Ferris wheel was then left standing after the occasion. While there were rumors that the Americans had excavated a shaft beneath the ruins, this was never proven and was most likely based on reports that those who maintained equipment in one of the first enclosed antenna structures accessed the upper levels of the inflated dome via an airlock that led to a “tunnel” embedded in the structure’s central column.

Speculation about what may have been within the extremely limited area frequently resulted in fairly detailed but erroneous stories; one concept claimed that “the tunnel” was a subterranean escape route, while another said it hosted a submarine facility.

Teufelsberg .Source

During Berlin’s economic boom following German reunification in the 1990s, a group of businessmen bought the former listening station site from the City of Berlin to create the intention of creating hotels and flats. The listening station was thought to be worthy of preservation as an espionage museum.

However, because of Berlin’s construction boom, the Teufelsberg project became unprofitable. The construction project was then canceled. There was talk of the city buying the hill in the early 2000s. This is questionable, though, because the region is saddled with a $50 million mortgage. The site has been heavily vandalized after the firm abandoned the project. The area is currently fenced and secured. Until September 1st, 2015, guided tours were provided.

Visits to view the graffiti art and get access to the domes are still possible since the site has been turned into an artists’ playground and commune. It should be mentioned that the facility is not up to high safety standards (although better than when it was unmanaged). The land and structure have uneven surfaces strewn with shattered glass and rubbish. The main dome is accessible by ascending a pitch-black stairway in the middle of the edifice. The current admission cost is €7, which must be paid at the main entrance gate.

Teufelsberg. Source

Following the announcement of plans to demolish the facility and reforest the hill, talk of preserving it resurfaced in 2009, spearheaded by the Field Station Berlin Veterans Group, which hopes to name the memorial after Major Arthur D. Nicholson, the last military Cold War casualty, the tour officer for the United States Military Liaison Mission who was shot and killed by a Russian sentry near Ludwigslust on March 24, 1985.

Following no further development after 2004, the hilltop declared a forest in Berlin’s land use plan in 2006, preventing the possibility of building.

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