Adlershof - Vicinity - History

Adlershof’s History: From the Pioneers of Aviation and Cinema to the Science and Technology Park

Adlershof has a 250 year history, and for over 100 years has attracted science and innovation. It bears the marks of its past, from the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, faschism, to the GDR and most recently, the vacation of the area in 1990 by GDR’s state television and the academy of science...

1909-1912 Germany’s first airfield for powered flight

An International Aviation Week inaugurated the Johannisthal airfield (today: Johannisthal/Adlershof), located outside the gates of Berlin. Hans Grade won the ‘Lanz-Preis der Lüfte’ for his monoplane, and the first successful German motor-driven flight. Johannisthal quickly developed into a centre for the German aircraft industry.

On 13th September 1911, her 25th birthday, Amelie Hedwig (Melli) Boutard-Beese was the first German woman to receive a pilot’s licence.

In April 1912 Graf Zeppelin initiates the founding of a German Research Institute for Aviation, DVL sited at Adlershof.

1914-1919: Growth in the First World War

Throughout the First World War, aircraft manufacture increased in Johannisthal. The largest manufacturer was ‘Albatros-Werke’, followed by ‘Rumpler’ and ‘LVG’. The site quickly became Germany’s most important centre for air armament. Almost every third military airplane was manufactured by the companies based in Johannisthal between 1914 and 1918.

1919-1933: Demise and new beginnings

In February 1919, the first passenger flight, destined for Weimar, took off from Johannisthal. Soon after, aviation research ceased under the weight of the conditions imposed by the Versailles Treaty. Research activity was not resumed until 1922, but even then was still subject to constrictions.
In the following years, until 1933, the site became an increasingly significant location for motion picture production. And in 1929, the first model of BMW’s legendary ‘Dixi’ car was produced at the site.

1933-1996: Development of Centre for Aviation Research

The National Socialist regime facilitated the development of a Centre for Aviation Research at Adlershof. A major wind tunnel was put into operation in 1934, and was one of the most advanced high-speed wind tunnels in the world. A supersonic wind tunnel was developed in 1936, the first of its kind.

1939-1945: Wartime economy

At the beginning of the Second World War, the DVL’s testing facilities were operating at maximum capacity. In 1944, it employed more than 2,100 people. Research and development staff for major companies such as ‘Junkers’, ‘Heinkel’, ‘Henschel’ and ‘Messerschmitt’ were based at Adlershof. Research extended to aerodynamics, on-board and navigation devices, earth and astro navigation, aircraft stability, gas dynamics, aeromedicine, aerial photography, measurement and control technology, thermodynamics, and engineering.

One of Berlin’s largest forced labour camps was in close proximity to DVL and the Johannisthal airfield. Prisoners of war and concentration camp detainees were involved in the building of shelters and the production of rocket parts, aircraft and airplane motors.

1945: The end of an era

On 29th April 1945, a Soviet panel of experts arrived to inspect the research institute. In the following weeks and months, the DVL became the main Soviet collection point for German aviation and rocket technology.  Found parts from engines, aircraft, armaments, and weaponry were tested there, and subsequently shipped to the USSR. The airline operations lost impact and ceased altogether in 1954.

1946-1952: New institutions

The German Academy of Science (formerly the Prussian Academy of Science) was reinstated by command of the Soviet occupation force. In the following years, Adlershof became home to a large scientific research centre for physics, chemistry, and materials, aviation, and cosmos research. In 1952, the East German state television broadcaster located to Adlershof. Barracks for the Ministry of State Security’s guard regiment were established on the former airfield in 1954 (since 1967 known as Guard Regiment ‘Feliks Dzierzynski’).

1967-1981: Participation in Intercosmos Programme

The German Democratic Republic began to participate in the Soviet Intercosmos Programme. In 1978, Sigmund Jähn was the first German to fly to space in the Soviet spacecraft Sojus 31. He was accompanied by a multispectral camera, which was made in Adlershof. The Institute for Cosmic Research (Institut für Kosmosforschung, IKF) was established in Adlershof in1981.

1989-1990: Upheaval and change

When the Berlin Wall fell, 5,600 people were working at Adlershof’s research facilities. Following Germany’s reunification in 1990, the Academy of Science, the GDR’s state broadcaster and the guard regiment were phased out.

On 20th April, 1990, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR)
and IFK agreed to join forces, enabling the preservation of the IFK’s specialist knowledge, and helping it adapt to the research landscape of a unified Germany. Eight of the GDR’s academic institutes based in Adlershof emerged as non-university research institutes, including the DLR’s institutes for space sensor technology and planetary exploration; the DLR (the former DVL’s successor), thus returning to its place of origin. Today, the DLR’s quarters at Adlershof focus research on space exploration and travel.

1991: The beginnings of a success story

The decision to develop an integrated landscape combining commerce and science was made on 12th March, 1991. Berlin’s federal state government established the development agency Adlershof GmbH (WISTA-MANAGEMENT GMBH since 1994) and commissioned a master plan for the area. In August 1993, the Johannisthal Adlershof Aufbaugesellschaft mbh (JAAG, later to become Berlin Adlershof Aufbaugesellschaft mbh, BAAG) was awarded fiduciary duty and appointed development agency for the project. The 420 hectare compound was declared an urban development zone.

2012: Jubilee

The German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) celebrated 100 years of the German Research Institute for Aviation (Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt, DVL). In the meantime, Adlershof had become Germany’s largest science and technology park. Alongside the DLR, numerous other aviation and aerospace businesses are located at Adlershof.


Dr. Peter Strunk
WISTA Management GmbH
Executive Manager PR / Communication / Marketing

+49 30 6392-2225
+49 30 6392-2236


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