THE SZCZECIN LAGOON
follow the traces of a surprising technological history
Today's green vacation region along the German-Polish border bears abundant evidence of a rich history of technology – fascinating buildings, famous names and the traces of technological developments now chronicled in the history books.
Anklam – Rolling Lift Bridge
The rolling lift bridge on the railroad line from Stralsund to Berlin via Angermünde bridged the Peene River at Anklam and opened the passage for riverboats. The bascule bridge’s special feature is its opening mechanism. American engineer William Donald Scherzer (1853–1893) designed a structure in which the movable part of the bridge rolls on a semicircular gear. Counterweights keep the construction balanced.
The bridge structure was built in 1938 by Friedrich Krupp AG and is one of the oldest surviving examples of its type.
Between 2011 and 2013, Deutsche Bahn AG replaced the bridge with a new structure that met the lines’ technical requirements, a rolling lift segment was refurbished as a technical monument and relocated next to the new structure.
Anklam – Gantry Slewing Crane
The Anklam gantry crane was a prototype for a series of port cranes built by the Kranbau Eberswalde VEB (state-owned enterprise). It was developed as a full gantry block column slewing crane with luffing jib in 1963, and installed in the port of Anklam between 1964 and 1967. It began operations in January 1967, initially only for stationary usage. Following a number of modifications, it became fully operational from mid-1967. Until the 1990s, it served as the mainstay for bulk and general cargo handling for the Hafenumschlagsbetrieb Anklam VEB. General repairs were carried out in 1983. The crane, which is now a protected monument, was still functional until around 2018. It has a lifting capacity of 5 metric tons with a reach of 7 to 22 meters and a lift height of approximately 16.5 meters.
Lassan – Lassan Mill
The water mill at Lassan was built in the 19th century and remained an important production site in this small farming town on the Peene River right up into the twentieth century. As far back as the beginning of the 15th century, there was a water mill at the present site. Alongside fishing and carpentry, milling was an important industry in this small agricultural town. The millers produced flour, meal, and bran, supplying them to the town’s bakeries. The mill was operated by water power until 1930, then by diesel and eventually electric motors. From 1976, the building was only used as a warehouse for the town, although the mill’s mechanical equipment remained. Today, these mechanisms form the core of the Lassan Mill and Local History Museum founded in 1988. It originated from a citizens’ initiative and remains the town’s cultural and technical historical repository.
"Stralsund" Railroad Steam Ferry, Wolgast
The "Stralsund" is the oldest surviving railroad steam ferry in the world. Built at the Schichau shipyard in Elbing, she was put into service on October 26, 1890, to transport railroads from Stralsund to Altefähr on the island of Rügen. During the crossing, passengers took seats below deck in two cabins. Passengers in the first and second class were seated in the forecastle on red plush furniture, whereas the wooden railroad compartment-style cabins for the third and fourth class were located in the stern. Soon, however, larger ferries were needed to meet the growing demand for passenger and freight traffic. The Stralsund was transferred to Świnoujście in 1901 and operated between the mainland and the island of Wollin. It was also used to keep the so-called "Kaiserfahrt" ("Emperor’s Passage") between the Swina and the Szczecin Lagoon free of ice.
From 1920 to 1945, the Stralsund was in the service of the Deutsche Reichsbahn (state railroad operator). In the 1930s, it transported construction materials to the Peenemünde Army Research Center, and in December 1937, it carried A3 rockets from Peenemünde to the Baltic island of Oie. The Soviet Military Administration in Germany used the ferry in the post-war period to transport rocket parts to Świnoujście and Szczecin. From December 1945 until 1990, the ferryboat was once again used for its original purpose, transporting passengers and goods from Wolgast to the island of Usedom. At the end of 1991, the Stralsund was decommissioned and has been a monument to German 19th-century shipbuilding in the port of Wolgast since June 1997.
Stralsund Railroad Steam Ferry Association e.V. (in German): https://www.dampffaehrschiff-wolgast.org/
Peenemünde – Power Plant
Peenemünde is only 50 kilometers away from the birthplace of aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal. From 1936 to 1945, the largest military armament and research center in Europe, the "Versuchsanstalten des Heeres und der Luftwaffe", was located here. Lilienthal saw the development of his flying machines as the way to international understanding and peace. The National Socialists developed rockets at Peenemünde as weapons for terrorizing the civilian population, using the "retaliatory weapons", most of which were made by forced laborers, in the Second World War.
Of the extensive plant facilities on the 25 km² site of the research station, the coal-fired power plant has been preserved. It served as an energy center for serial production of the rockets and was built between 1939 and 1942 by Siemens-Schuckert AG as a clinker-brick reinforced concrete skeleton structure. The coal was delivered by ship via the Peene River directly to the port next to the power plant. A 200-meter-long crane runway was used to transport the coal to the crusher house for crushing, after which it was transferred to the coal bunkers via an inclined elevator.
In the post-war period, the armament facilities at the research station site were dismantled and blown up. The power plant continued to be used to ensure the region’s energy supply. Today, as the largest industrial monument in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, it houses the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum.
For more on the history of Peenemünde and the Peenemünde Research Stations, see the Historical Technical Museum’s website (in German):
For the Peenemünde monument landscape as an app:
Pudagla – Post Mill
Post mills are among the oldest types of windmills in Europe. They were used as early as the 12th century in France and were the first mills that could be turned into the wind. A post mill consists of a base and rotating mill house. A wooden frame together with the post standing vertically on it form what is known as the trestle. Around it hangs the mill house with the wooden drive technology for the millstone. The mill house can be rotated around the post with a long lever, the tail beam, to align the mill blades with the wind.
The post mill has been standing at its location in Pudagla since 1693, with the Schmidt family of millers taking ownership in 1779. The family’s first mill operator enjoyed a monopoly position until 1810, since the Pomeranian Demesne Chamber had decreed compulsory milling. All the grain from the surrounding area thus had to be ground in the post mill. With the abolition of compulsory milling, the post mill then entered into competition with the other mills in the area. In 1936, the miller ceased operations. The building was then used as a vacation home and finally handed over to the municipality of Pudagla in 1996. The Friends of the Pudalga Windmill Association has been working to preserve the building since 2001.
Friends of the Pudagla Windmill e. V. (in German):
Benz – Dutch Windmill
Dutch windmills were developed in the 16th century in the Netherlands. There they served as pumps for drainage in flood areas. In northern Germany, they were used as grain mills. The massive substructure can accommodate living quarters in addition to the actual work and storage rooms. The sails are attached to the moveable wooden cap via a shaft. A rotating assembly allows the cap to be turned, aligning the sails in the wind. By using a smaller auxiliary windmill, called a fantail, this turning process could be made automatic.
The Dutch windmill in Benz is known as an "Erdholländer" ("Dutch ground windmill") because the body sits directly on the ground. These kinds of windmills are built on mounds so that their wings reach almost to the ground. The Benz mill operated from 1823 to 1972. In 1920, it was converted to electric operation, so the sails were no longer needed. The mill owes its good state of preservation to the painter Otto Niemeyer-Holstein (1896–1984), who bought and renovated the structure. Today, the Kulturmühle Benz Association is dedicated to its preservation. Visitors can follow the journey from grain to flour using the old machines and stop for a bite to eat in at the bakehouse.
Kulturmühle Benz (in German):
Museum Atelier Otto Niemeyer-Holstein (bilingual homepage):
Lyonel Feininger tour of the island of Usedom (German):
The history of today's Heringsdorf Airport begins with the "Swinemünde Land Airfield" in 1919. The airfield between the villages of Zirchow and Garz on the shore of the Szczecin Lagoon was used for civil aviation, with glider pilots also training here in the 1930s. In 1935, the Wehrmacht took over the airfield and developed it into an airbase with land- and seaplane capacity. From October 1936, Garz was a base for Coastal Fighter Squadron 136 and was equipped with light fighter aircrafts. After the invasion of Poland by the Wehrmacht, Garz Airbase was retrofitted. Destroyers such as the Messerschmitt Bf 110 were also stationed here, and various Luftwaffe units used Garz, which was outside the reconnaissance range of future wartime enemies, to refit and test new weapons. At the beginning of May 1945, Garz Airbase was evacuated and the undamaged facilities were taken over by the Red Army. From 1960 to 1990, the airfield was used by the GDR National People's Army (NVA). Since 1962, it has also served civil aviation as "Heringsdorf Airport".
Hangar 10 experience:
Pier and Clock, Ahlbeck
Heringsdorf, Bansin and Ahlbeck are popular vacation destinations on the island of Usedom. Once small fishing villages, their connection to the railroad in the 19th century saw them develop into sophisticated seaside resorts. Europe’s longest beach promenade links them to their "older sister", the Baltic resort in Swinemünde, founded previously in 1820. The aristocracy and bourgeoisie shaped the architecture of these places with their summer residences, with Usedom being a favorite vacation spot not only for artists and intellectuals, but also Kaiser Wilhelm II.
The pier in Ahlbeck is the oldest surviving structure of its kind. From 1892, the addition of a steamboat landing stage attracted guests to the 70-meter-wide, gently-sloping sandy beach. The following years saw the wide platform completed in its current form with four corner buildings and a music pavilion.
One of the other landmarks of the Ahlbeck Baltic resort is the three-meter-high art nouveau clock donated in 1911 by a visitor from Berlin and built by Berlin-based company Rochlitz. It consists of a cast-iron rod-shaped base together with the clock case for the mechanical gear. It is crowned with a weather vane in the shape of a medieval cog ship. Until its restoration in 1990, it had to be wound by hand every week.
Świnoujście, Fort Gerhard
Alongside the lighthouse, Świnoujście’s other highlights include Gerhard Fort, located in the city’s immediate vicinity. The name of the fort goes back to Prussian fortress builder Gerhard Cornelius de Walrawe (1692–1773). The so-called Eastern Battery forms part of the Fortress of Świnoujście, built by Franz von Kleist (1806–1882) from 1848–1859 to protect the entrance to the port. Next to it, the pentagonal fort is located, which was designed to protect the fortress from attacks from land. Due to the subsequent rapid development of military technology, the Prussian army expanded the fortress in the 1870s. An ammunition bunker, powder magazine, barracks buildings and tank casemates were built, among other things.
After World War I, the fort was partially disarmed and used as a camp by the German navy. After 1945 the fortress was taken over by the Soviet Army, and in 1962, it was handed over to the city of Świnoujście. When the latter no longer had any use for the structures, they began to fall into disrepair.
Since 2001, the fortifications have been open to visitors, with the Muzeum Obrony Wybrzeża (Świnoujście Museum of Coastal Defense) hosting an exhibition of military history here since 2010.
After paying a visit to Świnoujście, it’s worth looking in on another equally fascinating location in military history – the "Vineta Battery" on the island of Wollin. Here, just a few kilometers from Gerhard Fort, you’ll encounter a network of underground bunkers. They were built by the German navy and continued to be used by the Polish People's Army during the Cold War.
Lubin, Turquoise Lake
The Turquoise Lake isn’t a natural body of water. It’s a flooded chalk pit that belonged to the Portland cement factory in nearby Lubin owned by Szczecin entrepreneur Johannes Quistorp (1822–1899). The factory was for a while the largest of its kind in Europe, employing around 400 people. The chalk quarried here was transported from the mine by an aerial ropeway and a narrow-gauge railroad to the nearby port of the Wapnica factory (lime kiln). From there it was loaded onto barges.
The mine was in operation until the end of the Second World War. On May 5, 1945, the Red Army dismantled the cement plant’s facilities. As a result, the 21-meter-deep pit gradually filled with groundwater. The resulting lake was first called the "Left-Over Hole" by residents, then the Emerald Lake. Today, the shimmering blue-green water is known as the Turquoise Lake and is considered a popular destination within the Wollin National Park. On the southern shore of the 6.74-hectare lake sitsPiaskowa Góra (Sand Mountain). The lookout offers an unobstructed panoramic view of the lake, the village of Wapnica, and the Lebbin-Kalkofen hill. The Turquoise Lake is a waypoint on the blue hiking route along the Baltic Coast and Szczecin Lagoon.
A site similar to the Turquoise Lake can be found in the Zdroje district of Szczecin. In 1862, a chalk pit was built on the site of the emerald lake there, which was known as Lake Herta until 1945. It was flooded on July 16, 1925, when a pit wall was accidentally holed during construction work. Fortunately, no one was killed in the sudden inrush of water, but remnants of the mining machinery can be found on the lake floor to this day. A small concrete bridge near the shore is a reminder of the narrow-gauge railroad that was once used to transport chalk here.
Szczecin, Rolling Lift Bridge
The Szczecin rolling lift bridge is the only remaining railroad bascule bridge with a mechanical drive in Europe. The bridge was built in 1877 in parallel with the construction of the Wroclaw-Szczecin railroad line. Originally, a swing bridge was installed on the fifth pier. Higher traffic loads and increasing shipping traffic made it necessary to build a double-track bascule bridge in 1936. As with the rolling lift bridge in Anklam, the patent belonging to American engineer William Scherzer (1858–1893) was used. Each track has an independent movable superstructure that can be raised mechanically – or by hand in an emergency. The steel bridge is 261.8 meters long. It consists of three steel leaves, each with a span of 73.8 meters, a plate with a span of 17.35 meters and a 16-meter-high plate girder. The plate weighs 163 metric tons. The folding mechanism, which is over 70 years old, still functions reliably today. The electric motor, which dates from 1935, opens and closes the flap within two to four minutes. A counterweight of over 100 tons is mounted above the track on the bridge’s north side. This allows the full weight of the entire bridge structure to be lifted despite the motor’s low power of 27 kW. The flap is opened and closed with two gearwheels.
Szczecin Underworlds – a tour of the air-raid shelters
Deep under Szczecin Central Station is the largest civil defense facility in Poland. It was built during the Second World War and made use of underground parts of existing fortifications from the 18th century. The entire complex consists of a subterranean labyrinth of corridors spread over several levels. The longest is about 100 meters long, with the entire bunker complex covering 3,000 square meters.
Until the end of the war, the facility served to protect the civilian population of Szczecin and was known as Szczecin HBF-Kirchplatz. After 1945, it was converted into a nuclear shelter, where civil defense training courses were still held in the 1990s.
Up to 5,000 people were supposed to find shelter here during the bombing raids. The air-raid shelter is located about five floors below ground; its reinforced concrete walls and ceiling are almost three meters thick.
Parts of the bunker complex – including the staircase leading underground to the bunker – were designed by German civil engineer Ulrich Finsterwalder (1897–1988). It is also known in the region for its concrete ships from the World War II era.
You can enter the Szczecin Underworlds via two entrances: directly by the tracks on the station side and on the side facing the city at Zawisza Czarny Square. Two themed tours are available for interested visitors: The "World War II" tour vividly illuminates life in the bunker during the bombing raids and describes the building’s structure and engineering. The "Cold War" tour conveys the history of the bunker in the post-war period.
Szczecin technical monuments in the port
Boat tours provide a particularly good view of the technical monuments in Szczecin harbor. They take in the "cranosaurs" standing on the Łasztownia quay, the former Vulcan shipbuilding yard, the Ewa granary and finally the hull of the concrete ship resting on a sandbank in Lake Dąbie.
Szczecin, Harbour cranes
The people of Szczecin call the harbor-side cranes standing on the quay "cranosaurs". They were made of steel by the Krupp company in 1929 and used at Szczecin port in the interwar period. At that time, their cabins were still made of wood. It’s worth continuing along the shore towards the former free port to visit the historic port warehouses from the 1920s and 1930s.
Szczecin, Grain Elevator "Ewa"
The "Ewa" granary in the harbor was built in 1935 as the largest modern reinforced concrete granary in Europe at the time. It consists of three independently erected structures: the “tower”, which houses the 60-meter-high engine room, and two lower storage rooms, with a height of 50 meters. Three of the granary’s floors are located below the level of the Oder.
The Ewa granary is a well-preserved example of the modern architecture of the 1920/40s. Due to its size and exposed location, it became a popular motif on postcards, photographs, posters and in landscape painting.
Vulcan Shipyard and Stettiner Oderwerke
On the other bank sit the former "Vulcan" shipbuilding yard, the Stettiner Oderwerke (from 1945, the A. Warski Szczecin Shipyard) and the Gryfia shipyard. The Szczecin Shipyard was established in 1948 on the site that had been used by the Vulcan shipyard since 1857. World-famous passenger steamers, liners, armored fighting ships and cruisers for the navy were produced here, as were steam locomotives. The boat tour to the shipyards in Szczecin harbor leads past the well-preserved clock tower from the 1920s, huge gantry cranes, slipways and the gigantic gantry crane standing at the “Vulkan” slipway with a lifting capacity of 450 metric tons and a span of 98.5 meters.
Concrete Ship "Ulrich Finsterwalder" on Lake Dąbie
The concrete ship’s 90-meter-long hull lies near Inoujście on Lake Dąbie. The freighter was intended for maritime shipping and is now moored on a sandbank.
During the Second World War, ships were made of concrete as there was a shortage of steel. On the Szczecin Lagoon they were used to transport synthetic fuels, including those from the Hydrierwerke Pölitz hydrogenation plants. Six ships of this type were probably built at the time, but the exact number is unknown. German civil engineer Ulrich Finsterwalder designed the ship with concrete shell construction. It was built in a shipyard in Darłówek, a district of Darłowo. Concrete ships were built keel-up so that the lightweight concrete and the reinforcement of wire mesh around four millimeters thick could be brought onto the formwork properly. The exterior coating consisted of smoothly ground hard concrete. A crane then turned the hull and lifted it into the water. Other ships of this type which may still be familiar to readers today are moored in the Wismar Bay and on the Rostock Warnow shore.
Hydration Plants, Police
Mysterious ruins in the city of Police, near Szczecin, have attracted history buffs for decades. Mysterious ruins in the city of Police, near Szczecin, have attracted history buffs for decades. Hidden in a thicket of bushes and trees, the former production halls, technical facilities and submerged underground passages once formed part of Hydrierwerke Pölitz A.G. The synthetic gasoline factory was one of 12 factories built by IG Farben. During the war, Pölitz (now Police) produced around 20 percent of Germany's total synthetic fuel consumption. The highest quality fuel was for the air force, the very good quality for submarines, and the gasoline grades of somewhat inferior quality for the navy ships. Heavy fuel, oils and lubricants were consumed by the army’s tanks and vehicles. Byproducts such as tar, soot and waste were processed by the pharmaceutical industry.
Construction of the works began in 1937. Over a vast area between Pölitz and Jasenitz (Jasienica) there stretched a complex industrial plant. The 150-hectare site consisted of distillation towers, production halls, several huge tanks, water basins, countless air-raid shelters, underground channels for pipelines, underground and overground pipelines, silos and wells, together with the railroad station and its platforms. The factories employed about 15,000 workers. During the war period, 20,000 prisoners of war and forced laborers also worked here. They were housed in several labor camps, including a penal company for 100 Polish workers on the "Wohnschiff Bremerhaven". From June 1944, prisoners from the Stutthof concentration camp were also used in Pölitz.
The hydrogenation plants had been the target of heavy Allied air-raids since September 1940. Nevertheless, production was not stopped until March 8, 1945. After the end of the war, the intact facilities were dismantled by the Soviet Army. Today, the site is maintained by the Friends of Police Association (Stowarzyszenie Przyjaciół Ziemi Polickiej, SKARB), which offers guided tours of the ruins of the former works.
Locomotive shed, Pasewalk
With construction of the Berlin to Stralsund railroad and Szczecin branch in 1863, the small Pomeranian town of Pasewalk gained its connection to the network. The military was the decisive factor for the connection, but it simultaneously favored the development of the agrarian town into a commercial and industrial city during the “Founder’s period” of the German Empire. In Pasewalk, the railroad lines crossed in the north-south and east-west directions.
The year the line was opened saw the construction of the station building, as well as a rectangular locomotive shed with three entrances and a railway turntable in front. With the growing importance of the station, the operational buildings were expanded. The first locomotive shed was replaced in 1896 by a roundhouse with 12 stands. By 1925, the semicircle had been expanded to 28 stands. They served as operating and repair workshops for steam locomotives.
The station area was largely spared during the destruction of Pasewalk during World War II, but the branch line to Szczecin lost its importance due to the new border with Poland. In the GDR, the line from Berlin to Stralsund was double-tracked, and Pasewalk remained an important marshaling yard. In 1997, Deutsche Bahn took the Pasewalk depot out of service. Since 2003, the Pomerania Locomotive Shed Association has been running the railroad experience center here.
Building with bricks made of clay and loam is one of the oldest cultural technologies on Earth. In the 12th century, monks spread the knowledge of brickmaking across northern Germany, in the late Middle Ages a distinct architectural style, brick Gothic, emerges among the Hanseatic cities on the North and Baltic Seas. The geological conditions for brick production were favorable on the Szczecin Lagoon. The abundance of clay and the proximity to water transport routes led to a sudden increase in brickworks, and in the second half of the 19th century, industrial mass production began here in modern brick factories. Key factors were the brick press introduced in 1854 by Carl Schlickeysen (1824–1909) and the invention of the ring kiln by Friedrich Eduard Hoffmann (1818–1900) in 1858.
One center of brick production was located in Uckermünde. Around the year 1900, there were 30 brickworks in the town’s territory on the Szczecin Lagoon, and others were located in the immediate vicinity in Liepgarten, Bellin and Berndshof. They profited from the increased demand during the Gründerjahre and exported bricks – red bricks fired west of the Uecker River, yellow bricks on the other side – to other areas of Pomerania and to Berlin. The most economically successful year of this brick-production stronghold was 1927. In that year, the Ueckermünde brickworks posted a never-to-be-surpassed record of more than 88 million bricks manufactured. Roughly 1,000 people made a living from the trade.
The brickworks near Ducherow, built around 1890, also belong to the broader Ueckermünde brickworks conglomeration. Clay from the Heidberg mine was fired here in a Hoffmann ring kiln. The clay was extracted and transported to the kiln by horse-drawn railway. Around 1900, a narrow-gauge railroad was laid to the Ducherow light railroad station to transport the finished bricks away. In the GDR, the brickworks in the area were merged to form VEB Ziegelwerk Ducherow, and the plant was modernized along with the transport railroad. The last bricks were fired in Ducherow in October 1992.
Railroad Lift Bridge, Karnin
Starting in 1876, and continuing until 1945, the island of Usedom was connected to the mainland by a railroad bridge. Usedom developed into a popular vacation resort during the time of the German Empire. At the time, Berliners could travel to Świnoujście (then Swinemünde) via Angermünde and the Ducherow station, and from there reach the Baltic resorts in Ahlbeck or Heringsdorf. Today, this railroad connection is commemorated by the technical monument of the Karnin Bridge in the middle of the Peene River. Completed in 1934, the lift bridge was the largest and most modern structure of its kind at the time. It replaced a swing bridge and worked on the same principle as an elevator. To allow ships to pass through, a motor pulled the bridge’s movable center section upward with the help of counterweights suspended from ropes. On April 29, 1945, troops of the German Wehrmacht opened the bridge and blew up its fixed parts to slow down the advance of the Red Army. The lifting section remained largely undamaged.
The bridge was of great importance for the tourist development of the island. Usedom also became an important military base in the 1930s. Today, the route from Berlin to Usedom runs across the Peene Bridge near Wolgast. Rebuilding the Karnin Bridge would reduce rail travel times from four hours to two.