A day trip out of Hamburg: Alfred Nobel’s abandoned dynamite factory

Drive alongside the river Elbe, see the Nuclear power station and it’s huge emergency cooling pipes, walk through a forest of hundreds of destroyed bunkers and see the beautiful water tower, the only remained building of Alfred Nobel’s German dynamite factory, that served as a forced labor camp in World War 2 and was destroyed mostly then.

Watertower Geesthacht

Background

The Krümmel dynamite factory was the first explosives’ factory outside of Sweden that was built by Alfred Nobel the inventor of the dynamite in 1865. At its pick in 1915, it was the biggest explosive factory in Europe. 

But its “glory days” came during WW2, when the factory consisted of 750 building, and had a direct train line from Hamburg to the factory’s gate. Almost 12,000 forced workers worked there, living in camps around the factory.

On April 7, 1945, a heavy air raid destroyed the factory. 

The infrastructure of the factory’s residential barracks, used to host forced workers and regular employees, made the place fit to host war refugees immediately in 1945. Later, two churches were built on the site, basic one in 1946 to serve the refugees, and in 1954, the main church was built.

Until 1952 the area was cleared and sold to several institutions. The current owner of the remaining area (the bunker forest) is the Swedish energy group Vattenfall, which also operates the neighboring nuclear power plant.

The only building left from the main part of the factory is the water tower (There are another two, one administrative building, inside the nuclear plant and the other is just a storage house).

Walking through the historical place

The best way to get to the place (which is now called “bunker forest” – “Bunkerwald”) from Hamburg is with a car. 

One thing to note from the left, before crossing the nuclear plant from the right with the car are the huge water pipes going up the hill. They are used as emergency water to flood the reactor if an accident happens and the normal cooling system fails. 

We had to try several entrances around the forest to find the actual way, and it is clear that there is a wish that people won’t go there – after all, it is the ground of an active nuclear factory.

To get there you cross a school, and two kindergartens. They all look very not normal for the area, and we were wondering for what was it used in the past.

After that, one needs to go through the forest of blown bunkers, on a way fenced from both sides.

At the end of this fenced road there is a metal gate. On the other side, the power plant stabilization field. But the gate is not locked, and a sign declares that the entrance is at your own risk, what means, that you are allowed to enter. 

The bunkers forest

Once crossing the electricity plant to the left, going down the hill back into the woods will reveal the beautiful abandoned tower.

A “one man bunker” is standing outside the water tower, where one used to hide while dealing with experimental explosive, and you can find several explanations signs around, all in German.

The trip from Hamburg last less than an hour, then a 15 minutes walk to the tower.

Once out, on the hill where the power plant, you could go and have a beautiful view on the river Elbe, and the nuclear plant on the right. 

How to get there

We parked the car near the Waldschule, from there it’s a 15 minutes walk.

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