Abandoned Places in Berlin: The Goebbels Villa in Bogensee

Abandoned Places in Berlin

A visit to the summer house of Josef Goebbels

A Jewish Mystery...

There are many abandoned buildings throughout Berlin. Some are “white elephants” that were abandoned during their construction, some are buildings that were found to have defects that endangered those who entered them, and buildings that lost the function they performed. Such a building is the country-house of the former Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich, Dr. Josef Goebbels.

An hour's drive from Berlin

About an hour’s drive north from Berlin, in a thick forest, lies a huge complex in the centre of which is the country house of Josef Goebbels, who was the Minister of Propaganda and the Gauleiter, the governor of Berlin on behalf of the Nazi party. A day-tour to this area can be a possibility for those who feel that they have already “seen everything” in Berlin and even participated in our “Berlin during the Third Reich” Tour. We offer a visit to the place as a private day-tour outside Berlin

In addition to Goebbels’ country house, the area is linked to another period in German history: it also has remnants of the Cold War period and Communist era.

Adjacent to the summer house, it covers an area of over 1.6 million (!) square meters (1,680,000 square meters to be exact). A huge complex that was used after the war as a training and education centre of the East German Communist Party (SED). A trip to the place is also a nature excursion, with the entire estate lies next to one of the most beautiful (and popular) lakes in the Berlin area.

Nadav guiding
Guide Nadav Gablinger giving explanation in the abandoned site of the Goebbels Villa in Bogensee

Why is this even related to Berlin?

First, an explanation why the state of Berlin has a property that has no land connection with the city. Baron (Count) Wilhelm von Redern was forced to sell the estate (which included the nearby Lake Bogen – “Bogensee”) to the Berlin municipality, after falling into huge debts (some say the debts were due to gambling)

The City of Berlin is giving the area as a gift to Goebbels

In 1936, the City of Berlin decided to give Goebbels a birthday present – the Von Redren estate.

Goebbels expanded and built the estate in the centre of which is the villa, covering an area of ​​1600 square meters with 30 rooms, 40 study rooms and a cinema hall, where he could watch propaganda films before they were approved for distribution. At the time, construction cost 2.3 million Reichsmarks (about $65 million in today’s values). The payment did not come from his own pocket, and the construction costs were borne by the UFA film studios.

Goebbels used the mansion as a refuge from his family (the couple had 7 children) and especially as a love nest where he hosted mistresses, actresses, artists as well as senior politicians. Hitler did not like Goebbels’ actions and with the encouragement of Goebbels’ wife, Magda, Goebbels was forced to stop his affair. 

The Goebbels family moved into the village house. His six children (the 7th child was from Magda’s former marriage, and he did not live in this house) studied in the nearby village (according to the propaganda films they were used a peasant carriage a means of transportation), played in the fountain in the doorway and waded in the waters of the nearby lake until early 1945 when they returned to Berlin and eventually were murdered by their mother, who committed suicide a few minutes later.

Ownership Issues After the Fall of the Nazis

In 1945, the Nazi regime fell. The area of Bogensee was part of the Soviet controlled zone, due to become later part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). 

After the Fall of the Wall, many properties that were nationalised by the communists in 1945 were open for ownership disputes. 

Despite Goebbels’ reputation, one of his relatives had no qualms demanding that the property will be returned to the family. Aside from the fact that there is a law in Germany that prevents the use of profits made by the heads of the Nazi regime or making a profit from them, it turned out that Goebbels never bothered to register the property under his name. The municipality of Berlin gave him the property, but it does not appear in the records in his name, so the claim was dropped immediately.

beheaed sculpture in bogensee
A beheaded sculpture in the Bogensee compound

After The War

In the year after the war, the house served as the base of the Red Army, which, in 1946, handed it over to the East German Communist Youth Movement (FDJ) headed by Erich Honecker (who became later the Secretary General of the Communist Party) who developed the place, expanded construction and turned the place To the Education Center for the Communist Movement, which hosted students from around the world. One of the highlights of the place was when in 1981 the West German Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, visited the centre and even held a press conference.

bunker in bogensee

After the fall of the wall

After the fall of the wall, various uses were made of the spacious structures. There was a centre for training social workers, the Berlin police used the classrooms for annual conferences, kindergartens were established and even a barbershop was opened there.

Part of Goebbels’ country house, the living rooms, with the wooden floor, became a beer pub. Some rooms were rented as B & B at a price of 200 marks per day (a very high price for this area of ​​Germany). After a while (until its closure) the buildings were used as a training ground for the youth in order to become artisans. The place was revived, the rooms were renovated, a hotel and restaurants were opened. In 1999 the holding costs became too high for the organization that held the place, and it was decided to close the training centre.

Since the beginning of the millennium

Since 2000, the house has been empty and waiting for a buyer, an investor who will save him from his boredom. However, the Berlin municipality, the landlord of the place, is picky about the sale, it is not willing to sell for the highest price, and certainly not to organizations or people who might have connections to extreme right-wing movements, who will make improper use of the house.


One concern is German law that allows the seller to bind the buyer to a particular use of the property for ten years. After ten years, the buyer can do with the property almost anything that comes to mind. The fear is that an organization with ties to neo-Nazis will buy the property and after ten years will use it for evil.

There is one maintenance worker left whose job it is to try and keep the buildings in reasonable condition.

But even he can not prevent nature from taking over the place again.

In the coming years, the Berlin municipality intends to demolish some of the buildings, “this will save 150,000 euros a year,” said Birgit Möhring, director of the Berlin municipality’s real estate company, to the Spiegel Magazine. “I would like to demolish Goebbels’ villa. You don’t have to save every site for preservation.”

Perhaps after the demolition it will be easier to use the mighty buildings for the benefit of the public.


Want to learn more?

Want to know more?

We will of course be happy to combine such and other sites with private trips in Berlin and tailor an interesting and special experience for you in Berlin or a day trip outside Berlin.