Adolf Hitler Lager – Forst Zinna


This former Military complex ‘Adolf Hitler Lager’ in Forst Zinna was built in 1934 during the early days of the Third Reich. The camp was part of the German re-armament program. The complex was build around a huge military training area.

Because the other camps in the neighborhood were named ‘Altes Lager‘ and ‘Neues Lager‘, this was first called ‘Lager III’. Other names were ‘Waldlager Jüterbog’ and its official name ‘Adolf Hitler Lager’.

Aside from the usual buildings such as living quarters and mess halls, the Adolf Hitler Lager offered a Cinema, Swimming Pool, Officer’s Casino, Living Quarters and its own Waterworks. In addition to the actual military camp, a separate provisions warehouse was built. By 1937 the Adolf Hitler Lager even had its own train station. The camp was first used by the SS, the Schutzstaffel. But later, from 1935 it was used as a trainings camp by the Artillerieschule Jüterbog. From 1940 it was a training site for tank drivers. Later, at the end of the war, the RAD-Infanterie-Division were housed in Forst Zinna.

Immediately after the end of the Second World War, the Soviets took over the site and used it as a displaced person’s camp. This DP-camp were primarily for refugees from Eastern Europe and for the former inmates of the Nazi German concentration camps.


After use by the ‘Deutsche Verwaltungsakademie’ who turned it into ‘The German Academy of Public Administration’ with the goal of training the DDR political elite. Talented artists were asked to help with the design of the new buildings, interior, and furniture. The Yugoslavian architect Selman Selmanagić (1905–1986), a representative of the Dessau Bauhaus, designed the furniture in 1947. Painter Lothar Zitzmann (1924-1977) received a government order in 1952 to create a mural for the Academy in Forst Zinna. When the contract was awarded, the GDR politicians themselves did not yet know that the Soviet army would soon claim the Forst Zinna Barracks for themselves in order to accommodate an army staff.

Eventually, the site was taken over by the Soviet Army in 1950. The first soviet troops to move in were the Staff of the 18th Guards Tank Army – renamed in 1972 to staff of the 3rd. Guards Mechanised Army. In the 1970s, the Soviets decided to expand the former Nazi Barracks for a Construction Battalion. By now the former Adolf Hitler Lager consisted of several administration buildings, supply buildings, a cinema, a theater, the obligatory swimming pool, and apparently even a Zoo.

Railway accident

In January 1988, Forst Zinna experienced one of the worst railway incidents to occur in the DDR when an express train crashed into a 36 ton T-64A Soviet tank on the tracks. Six people lost their lives and another 33 were injured. 


Many troops started heading back to the Soviet Union in 1989, seeing the sign of the times coming thanks to Gorbachevs Perestroika. The Soviets officially handed over the keys to the newly unified Germany on the 1st of January 1991. As many other military bases began to return to German hands, the country found itself in control of facilities it no longer had any use for. It was therefore decided the majority would be demolished, including Forst Zinna.

At the end of 2007 the demolition of Forst Zinna started. Only a small part of the complex is listed and safe from demolition. Most of the camp is due to disappear in the next years. I photographed the old ‘Adolf Hitler Lager’ or ‘Panzerkaserne Forst Zinna’ in 2012, 2016 and 2020.

Built 1934
Abandoned 1991
Demolished 2007