After a one year absence (One year in Tehran) I’m currently living in Berlin again. Before I left, I planned to visit the VEB Fotochemie aka Glanzfilm AG aka Kodak AG and Kabelwerke Köpenick aka VEB IKA. Initially I didn’t want to go alone, but finally I was too impatient.
Like other industrial ruins, I passed it hundreds of times in my youth.
Initially (since 1907 according to wikipedia) the area was occupied by Glanzfilm AG. After some 20 years business didn’t go well, so the American Kodak Corp. bought Glanzfilm. The factory was renamed Kodak AG, Werk Köpenick and was the second producing photo-chemical products aside German AGFA.
Due to WW II the factories were confiscated as “enemy property” and after WWII, in the German Democratic Republic, production of radiographic film, black-white film, photobase paper and chemicals continued, but the factory was renamed to VEB Fotochemische Werke Köpenick.
Finally after Germany’s reunification the factory was returned to Kodak. But due to digital photography, the products were not needed anymore. Until 2010 X-ray-Retina was produced and then the factory was shut down.
Some of the buildings are used as apartments now. However most of the equipment is still in a rather good shape.
How many times did I pass this building in my life? Honestly it may be more than a thousand times. It’s right next to the main street towards the airport, the Autobahn, a friend of mine, my university and an industrial area. In December 2013 there were some buildings in front, but they’ve already been removed.
The complex of two buildings was built in 1904 and the C.A.F Kahlbaum Spritfabrik GmbH (Carl August Friedrich Kahlbaum Spirit [alcohol] Ltd). Since 1920 the factory was leased to the state. In the First World War the German state had a monopole on producing spirit, because the earnings were needed for the war. After 1945 spirituous beverages were produced at this location by VEB Spiritus Adlershof (Berlin Beverage industry). Till 1960 the alcohol of distilleries in the vicinity was delivered by train, but was changed to trucks afterwards. The factory was very productive. It exported its best spirit (Primasprit for food and pharmaceutical industry) to West Germany.
1. Abandoned airplanes
On the area of a former airport in the North-west of Moscow there are some old planes and helicopters from the Soviet era.
Around the airport there were many buildings and construction of a shopping centre. The runway was used by driving schools and bikers. If the plane and helicopter cemetery is still there or whether it’s been removed – I cannot tell especially because the look of the outskirts of Russia’s capital is changing fast.
The Spreepark was once the only amusement park in Berlin, opened all year.
Built in the GDR (DDR) in 1969 around 1.7 millions people per year visited Spreepark from 1969 till 1989. At that time it was officially named VEB Kulturpark Plänterwald (Cultural park Plänterwald) and Kulti by the people. The 45m high Ferris wheel was the main attraction. A TV Show named Spuk unter’m Riesenrad (Spook under the Ferris wheel) made Kulti more popular.
The chemical factory in Rüdersdorf, nearby Berlin, was part of the VEB Chemiewerk Coswig (chemical factory Coswig). The VEB was integrated in the VEB Kombinat Agrochemie Piesteritz (Agrochemical Holding Piesteritz) and produced the feed phosphate Rükana. It was obtained by de-fluorining a mix of raw phosphate, phosphoric acid and soda.
Rüdersdorf has rich soda sources and even today the Rüdersdorfer Zement GmbH diggs and extracts soda processing it to cement.
The mining history in Rüdersdorf leads back more than 750 years.
Today the area of the VEB Chemiewerk Coswig lies abandoned at the end of a street just over a bridge. In summer 2013 it served as scenery for the movie Monument’s Men (with George Clooney, Kate Blanchett and Matt Damon).
There are still some wooden signs indicating the presence of a film crew around the area, which is in general a bit creepy. Especially the basement, where the sounds of the outside world sound quite scary. But it’s nice to record some “Zombie” videos.
Still it is really cool to climb around and onto of the silo high towers (not the really high ones, god forbid). Though they led to great pictures.
At the beginning of 1950 the VEB Kühlautomat Berlin (a cooling factory) was founded in Berlin-Johannisthal. First only industrial refrigerator were built and repaired.
Later on all different types of cooling devices were produced (e.g. for grocery stores).
In the mid 1950s the conservation of food concentrated on the one of fish. That’s why the production of refrigerating plants for ships started. Meanwhile 1000 people were employed at the VEB Kühlautomat.
In 1968 the VEB Kühlautomat Berlin (KAB) and the VEB Motorenwerk Johannisthal (engine factory) merged. The result were excellent fabrication conditions for the VEB KAB, that made the fabrication of screw compressors (dt.: Schraubenverdichter) possible.
In the 1970s research and development concerning new technical concepts were undertaken to avoid high licence fees.
That’s why the screw compressor advanced over a couple of years.
In the 1990s, the now called Kühlautomat Berlin GmbH a new sort of screw compressors was developed. It was designed for industrial cooling devices and AC as well as CFC-free (dt.: FCKW-frei) cooling fluids and ammonia.
Unlike other former VEB, the KAB GmbH did well in the first years in the capitalism after the socialism.
Though in 1994 the well-known GEA AG bought KAB GmbH and merged it with its subsidiary company to GRASSKO*KAB.
During that time the GRASSKO*KAB was split into five GmbHs, which started to become autonomous in 1996.
At the end of 1996 the last companies became independent and moved from Berlin-Johannisthal to Berlin-Reinickendorf, the headquater of GEA.
The complex has been built after 1882 on behalf of the Brewery Borussia. In 1898 it was bought by the Schultheiss Brewery AG and the complex has been extended for the first time.
The Brewery produced beer and lemonade for Berlin and the surrounding area.
After the 2nd World War the name was changed several times and the breweries of Berlin were merged to VEB Berliner Brauereien (VEB Berlin Breweries). The brewery in Niederschöneweide was named Bärenquell-Brewery.
In 1991 the Henninger Bräu AG bought Bärenquell and continued the production at this area. Two years later Henninger Bräu wanted to wreck some buildings, which was denied due to monument conservation.
That’s why the 1st April 1994 the beer production was shut down, only the distribution was continued for a couple of years.
I explored that site with some friends of mine. I don’t know how many times I passed it in my life. It has been – without lying – thousands. Everytime I took the S-Bahn or drove by car into the city, I saw it from out of the window. But just as with the other abandoned buildings, I just accepted its presence and never had deep thoughts about its history or to explore the complex.
Walking around, we met “many” other people checking the buildings out. At the end we went up on the highest tower and watched the sunset over Berlin. We had a great view up there and I guess spending New Year’s Eve with some drinks, music and warm clothes can really be cool.
When it was already dark, we saw one room at the other side of the site illuminated. Though we didn’t want to go back, cause I seemed someone was living there.