On top of Devil’s mountain
“Everybody who worked here said they call it ‘The Hill’. It’s a little other-worldly. There’s still something a little magical about the place.”
Deep in the Grunewald Forest about six miles from the center of Berlin sits a curious artifact of the city’s Cold War past.
“We were 110 miles inside Warsaw pact territory. We were right in the middle and we could listen in all directions.”
It’s called Teufelsberg or “Devil’s Mountain” in English and it was where the NSA once operated a vast spying apparatus in the heart of Eastern Germany. It’s a place that still echoes with intrigue and mystery and a place that has gained relevance in the wake of the NSA spying scandal.
“There’s a renewed interest in espionage in America given the recent events and particularly, in Germany,spying on German politicians that it’s interesting to see this relic of former NSA and an NSA that had a different purpose.”
Deep within the city.
“When we say Teufelsberg we’re talking about an artificial mountain. It was built of the rubble of World War II in Berlin for 22 years. Up to 100 trucks came out every working day and dumped rubble here. Later on the Allies, the Americans and the Brits, built a listening station on top of the hill and this was simply a wonderful place to have a listening station.”
The gleaming white domes here were once crammed with some of the most sophisticated surveillance equipment in the world. American Chris McClaren served here from 1973 to 1975.
“I was a traffic analyst. We would get the manuscripts, the transcripts, from things which had been recorded the night before and then we needed to analyze those. ‘Who is that?, What are they doing?’ It was detective work; it was bits and bits of…of little pieces…of putting a puzzle together.”
But after the Cold War ended, the station fell into disrepair and it’s now largely a ruin. Like many places in Berlin, it has fallen victim to vandalism.
But two years ago artists were invited by the installation’s private owners to transform the empty concrete walls and gaping spaces into a gallery of graffiti and it’s now a place where history, decay and art intermingle to create one of Berlin’s most unique places.
“For being somebody who needs an abandoned space with lots of walls to paint on, this place is pretty ideal. And, uh, also being American – not really having places like this where I’m from –at least not…that are very easily accessible, Teufelsberg is a dream.”
Artists now paint here regularly and an informal tourist business has sprung up so that people can explore the sight.
“You find stuff and see stuff here you can’t see anywhere else.”
The sight’s managers say that renewed interest in the former NSA listening station has prompted calls for new action to do more with Teufelsberg – but in the meantime it remains an ever-changing canvas using past and present.
Source: nytimes

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