You always need a plan B. Especially when you’re planning to infiltrate abandoned sites. On this warm summer day, we were glad to come well-prepared. Only a few minutes before, it turned out that we couldn’t use the easy access to the compound of today’s abandonment. So, it was time for our fallback option. We had to the take the inconvenient way: Following rail tracks for several hundred meters, in hopes that no train would come, then scrambling through stinging plants, just to get rewarded with a high fence we had to climb in the end. Finally, we made it onto the property! But due to our detour we had to orientate ourselves now. The buildings we wanted to see were on the other side of the premises. And guys, the problem is: This property has a size of around 400.000 square meters. And we’ve heard of security patrolling here from time to time...
These grounds once were the company headquarters of a chemical company that’s still active today. The story dates back all the way to the end of the 19th century. Back then a factory for laboratory preparations was founded here. Next to all kinds of industrial chemicals especially gas shells were produced here until the end of World War One. As might be expected, there were several incidents here with the chemical agents. Not before the end of the war focus of production was changed. Because in the 1920s a merger with a pharmaceutical company was implemented. Now most of all pharmaceuticals were prepared here next to the laboratory chemicals.
While exploring we were really amazed about the condition of this place. For starters, there’s the fairly advanced level of decay. This wasn’t surprising us at all since these buildings have been vacant since the reunification of Germany in the end of the Cold War. But all the peeling paint on the walls and nature that’s returning left us speechless. Secondly, the decay was especially breathtaking in combination with the left-behind furniture. Most other old factories from the times of the German Democratic Republic, or GDR for short, that we know are pretty much empty. So, we were really astonished that we were still able to find so many details here. Thirdly, this facility is in the middle of a major German city. Other abandoned places located like this one are completely destroyed nine times out of ten after a vacancy that long. And sure, there’s vandalism and graffiti here as well but - last but not least - there’s also great street art. And when all these four things add up in one exploration, we’re in real urbex heaven.
Now we have been on the property for several hours already. But in order to explore everything we would need to spend days here. The whole site is rich in variety. That’s because of the history of the chemical plant. In the past not only a variety of compounds was produced here, but there was also research happening. And of course, there was administration located on the premises as well. All different kinds of company’s departments could be found here. But how is it possible that an economically powerful factory like this could devastate so much that only ruins are left behind today?
After the victorious powers of World War Two were dividing Germany into four occupation zones, the factory was under Soviet control. So, the owner was dispossessed and the plant was nationalized. And actually, the company could develop excellently first off. It counted as one of the top three pharmaceutical factories in the GDR. During that time several other chemical plants in Eastern Germany were absorbed. Like the medicine factory from our recent episode for example. The pharmaceutical company became bigger and bigger and had not only contact with plenty of communist countries but also with the capitalist class enemy. Until 1989, this facility grew to a size of around 2.800 employees.
Now, when divided Germany was reunited again, a leading pharmaceutical company from Italy was absorbing this firm. Apparently, this was a stroke of luck because new markets and segments in Eastern Europe opened up for the parent company. And then the inevitable happened: The corporate headquarters in Germany was moved. In fact, only for a few hundred meters but the old structures were simply too outdated. A more modern building complex was constructed right next door. And so, the company is still active today with the same name and is producing drugs for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
The old factory site however is deserted. Not least because of the field being contaminated extensively. Soil and ground water got heavily polluted by the high amount of toxic substances which were produced here. In the past the persons in charge didn’t care about any environmental consequences. Over several decades hazardous wastewater was drained into a nearby canal. This didn’t change before the acquisition by the Italian chemical concern. But the disposal of all the residual waste is extremely costly and so, the big compound will lie idle for an indefinite time.