The airport was official opened as “Reichssportflughafen Rangsdorf” on July 30, 1936, on the eve of the Olympic Games. Despite the grass runways Rangsdorf was the fittest airport in the Third Reich! Press at the time apparently described it as “the most beautiful sports airport in Germany.” The Army Sports School wasn’t too far away in Wünsdorf and of course sport was all in vogue with the Olympics in town. It provided a nice distraction from war preparations, with the convenient benefit of contributing to them too. Fit soldiers make better soldiers and the Nazis were obsessed with physical perfection.
Once the war broke out, or, to put it another way, once Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Rangsdorf took over from Tempelhof for six months as Berlin’s main passenger airport. Lufthansa had flights to/from Danzig, Königsberg, Munich, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Bucharest, Athens, Istanbul Copenhagen and Stockholm. A connection with Moscow was reestablished from Jan. 21, 1940.
Otherwise, the focus turned from sport to war. Fighter planes were everywhere, whether from Berlin or nearby Zossen-Wünsdorf, where of course the Germans had their army headquarters.
During the war many aircraft from the Luftwaffe and German army were stationed here. So it was at this airport that Graf von Stauffenberg flew off with Oberleutnant Werner von Haeften at 7am on July 20, 1944, with two bombs in briefcases for Adolf Hitler.
The war wasn’t going as well anymore and von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators had had enough. Von Stauffenberg had his own ideas; he’d never joined the Nazi party, but he was all for invading Poland and furthering German interests. He’s a hero to the German resistance movement but he acquiesced to Hitler and co. until the shit hit the fan and conscience stirred enough for him to take action. But at least he did; many turned a blind eye. He had more spine than most (though evidently not enough to get the job done whatever the consequence).
Von Stauffenberg got to Wolfsschanze (“Wolf’s Lair”) in what’s now Poland, managed to arm his bomb, but there wasn’t time to set the other. He left his briefcase at the table where Hitler would be and stepped aside, waiting for the phone call that would excuse him. It came in time, he made his apologies and left before the explosion ripped though the room. That was it, von Stauffenberg thought, Hitler’s dead, the fucker. He hopped on his plane, flew back to Rangsdorf and spread the good news.
Of course Hitler wasn’t dead at all but alive and majorly pissed off with all these assassinatory developments. (That’s him with Mussolini having a gander at the damage.) Someone had unwittingly moved the briefcase out of the way behind the table leg that saved him. The table leg didn’t know any better.
The Soviets occupied Rangsdorf after the war and put the Bücker factory back into use from August 1946, overhauling and repairing aircraft piston engines initially, then jet engines, and then helicopters from the seventies. Training continued at the airfield till the mid-fifties.
A signal regiment of the Soviets’ 16th Air Army was stationed here from 1955. The Russians knocked down some buildings and built others and they stayed up to 1994.
My visit was rather short when security with jeep chased us down the buildings luckily we find a way too escape.