Devil’s Mountain, Berlin

Teufelsberg, or ‘Devil’s Mountain’, is a Trümmerberg, a mound of rubble. Under the slippy leaves and autumnal gunge that lined its footpaths when we went, on an otherwise bright October day, some twenty-six million cubic meters of debris is piled: the debris of post-World War Two West Berlin. In the roots of Teufelsberg’s trees are tangled bits of bricks, bits of windowsills, and bits of the fingernails of the women, the Trümmerfrauen, whose work it was, at the end of the war, in the absence of thousands of men, to clear up all the bits. Teufelsberg isn’t simply man-made; it isn’t nature wrought by man, but nature wrought from what man has wrecked. Even before it was a hill, it wasn’t just another piece of Grunewald greenery but the site of a Nazi military school designed by Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer. Today the mound is topped by a tall, whitish tower in a messy state of architectural undress. Itself topped by a big white ball, hexagon-etched, great for making pitter-pattering echos in, this tower and the surrounding buildings are what remain of the American listening-post, or spy-station, that operated here in the Cold War years. There was a ski-jump once as well. And a small vineyard, too — what that kind of wine could do to you, who can tell. At one point in the recent past, the site was earmarked for luxury apartments: a grafitied show-home still semi-exists. It’s perhaps no real surprise, then, that none other than David Lynch, film-maker and advocate of transcendental meditation, not long ago planned to buy Teufelsberg and build on it a ‘Tower’ — yes — of ‘Invincibility’. The plan fell through.

Devil’s Mountain // A Partial History in Images

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