Eisenhüttenstadt - Time Travel to a Socialist Planned City

Eisenhüttenstadt sozialistische Planstadt
Eisenhüttenstadt - Time Travel to a Socialist Planned City

Planned according to the socialist model, the planned city of Stalinstadt was built in the GDR in the 1950s. It was designed on the drawing board as a residential town for the Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost (EKO). It was then built directly adjacent to the steel mill. In the course of de-stalinisation, Stalinstadt was renamed Eisenhüttenstadt in 1961. Today Eisenhüttenstadt is an insider tip for excursions around Berlin. Or rather for a trip back in time to the socialist past. The atmosphere of the GDR can still be felt in the residential complexes. Much of what the socialist planned city of Eisenhüttenstadt had in mind is still preserved here. In my following article you will learn what makes Eisenhüttenstadt so special and what you can see here. With my photos I would like to try to stop the disappearance of the architectural testimonies of the past and to save them from oblivion.

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What to expect in the following Article

Directions and Tour Tip
Eisenhüttenstadt as the Figurehead of Socialism
Stalinstadt - a planned City according to socialist Principles
The turning Point - a City is shrinking
Impressions from the socialist planned City Eisenhüttenstadt

Directions and Tour Tip

Eisenhüttenstadt is about 25 kilometres south of Frankfurt (Oder) and 110 kilometres from Berlin. From Berlin Mitte it takes about one hour and thirty minutes by car. The best way to travel by train is by RE1 from Berlin to Frankfurt (Oder) and then by RE11 to Eisenhüttenstadt. The town hall in the city centre can then be reached in about 30 minutes on foot or by bus.

I had organized a guided tour with Berlins Taiga for our small group to explore Eisenhüttenstadt. Berlin's Taiga offers private guided tours, but also tours on fixed dates. The tour was very informative and very recommendable. Our guide Martin Maleschka is a passionate guide and showed us his birthplace with a lot of enthusiasm.

Kulturzentrum der sozialistischen Planstadt Eisenhüttenstadt
Autumn atmosphere in front of the cultural centre

Eisenhüttenstadt as the Figurehead of Socialism

In July 1950 the SED decided at its party conference to build the Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost (EKO). For this purpose, an adjoining residential town was to be built. An area to the west of Fürstenberg (Oder) was chosen as the location for this completely new city. The proximity of the Oder River on the one hand and the existing railway line on the other spoke in favour of this location.

Wohnblocks in Eisenhüttenstadt
The space between the apartment blocks is used sensibly.

The newly founded town was supposed to be named after Karl Marx. However, Stalin's death on 05 March 1953 led to the name "Stalinstadt". With Stalinstadt, a model city was created, quasi a flagship for socialism. Everyone who could work and live here for a good salary was proud of it. From this reason thousands of young families move to the planned city. Because here one lived better than in many other places in the GDR. By the end of 1953 the young city already had 2,400 inhabitants, in 1960 it was ten times as many. Eisenhüttenstadt's highest population finally reached 53,000 in 1988.

sozialistische Planstadt Eisenhüttenstadt
Bar opposite the former Juri Gagarin High School

Stalinstadt - a planned City according to socialist Principles

Stalinstadt was planned and built as a socialisitic planned city according to the "16 principles of urban development" . These principles were the guiding principles for urban development in the GDR for about five years from 1950 onwards. They were shaped by the ideals of the "socialist city". The planning was also based on models of the socialist neoclassicism of the Stalin era and Prussian-German architecture. Stalinstadt was initially designed for 25,000 inhabitants.

Stadtwappen von Eisenhüttenstadt
The city coat of arms of Eisenhüttenstadt: a high-rise building, the steelworks and the peace dove

Berliners will discover similarities with Karl-Marx-Allee (formerly Stalinallee) during a walk through the socialist planned city of Eisenhüttenstadt. The development of this street was built at the same time as Stalinstadt. In the course of the de-stalinisation, however, both names were no longer desired. For this reason they were renamed in 1961: Stalinallee became Karl-Marx-Allee and Stalinstadt became Eisenhüttenstadt.

Wandbild in Eisenhüttenstadt
Wall painting in Eisenhüttenstadt shows the socialist society

The turning Point - a City is shrinking

Almost 70 years have passed since the decision to build Stalinstadt. The city grew for about 40 years and also offered many people prospects for the future. But with the reunification about 30 years ago life changed here. As everywhere in the former GDR, jobs were cut, unemployment and emigration followed. Meanwhile, the population dropped by half to about 24,000 today.

Cosmetics next to the City Hotel Lunik - the old promotional literature has been preserved

Many apartments were now empty. The city reacted with an urban redevelopment programme. Balconies and elevators were added, apartments were folded and renovated. The entire residential complex VII - the one with the lowest rents - was demolished. However, only individual buildings were removed from the remaining residential complexes. As a result, the centre was largely preserved as such.

Today, the "residential town of the iron and steel works", with residential complexes I, II and III, is Germany's largest landmark under protection. In addition, further individual buildings are listed as historical monuments. However, residential complex IV has lost its monument status because too many residential blocks have been removed.

Springbrunnen Eisenhüttenstadt
Fountains and paddling pools in winter dormancy

Impressions from the socialist planned City Eisenhüttenstadt

Some elements of the socialist planned city Eisenhüttenstadt that you can still see today are:

  • Residential complex I to VI
  • the central square with the town hall
  • the slightly curved Magistrale Lindenallee (formerly Leninallee) with several striking buildings
  • several mosaics on the buildings
  • Soviet Memorial
  • The Restaurant Activist

The Residential Complexes I to VII

The urban development lies south of the steelworks and is fan-shaped. The buildings are divided into so-called residential complexes. The core residential complexes I to IV were built between 1959 and 1964. They were brick buildings, not prefabricated buildings. The first buildings from 1951 were simple and unadorned, the apartments were also small and intended only for the workers. About 25,000 inhabitants were to find their home in Stalinstadt at that time. You will find the first houses in Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße.

Wohnblocks des Wohnkomplex I als Teil der sozialistischen Planstadt Eisenhüttenstadt
Residential blocks of the residential complex I - Rosa-Luxemburg Street

In the years 1952/53 the flats were planned larger, so that the families found place in them. The buildings became architecturally more attractive. For example, parts of the building were set off or highlighted and the entrances were upgraded with small staircases and canopies. The Wohnkomplex II, south of the Strasse der Republik, is already much more beautifully built than the first one.

Wohnblocks im Wohnkomplex II als Teil der sozialistischen Planstadt Eisenhüttenstadt
Residential blocks in residential complex II in Eisenhüttenstadt

When the living space was not sufficient, residential complex V and VI were added until 1965. They were built as large blocks and had hot water and heating. The residential complex VII alone is built in the prefabricated construction method typical for the GDR.

Each residential complex was self-sufficient. This means that there was a kindergarten, a school and also a shop. These were also provided with numbers: So there was also school number II and department store number II in residential complex II. In 1956 the first self-service department store opened in residential complex VII. At the moment it is empty but there are already plans for a future use.

ehemalige Kaufhalle als Teil der sozialistischen Planstadt Eisenhüttenstadt
The first self-service department store in Eisenhüttenstadt

What was striking for me as a Berlin city dweller was the peace and quiet that surrounds you within the residential complexes. Well, the streets were not so busy now. But surely this silence can also be attributed to urban planning.

Central Square

Opposite the town hall opens the central square. Its name suggests that something bigger was planned here once. But resources in the GDR were scarce. Therefore, the planned monumental buildings around the square could not be realized as planned. So it came that at that time only the present town hall was completed. The town hall of Eisenhüttenstadt (see title photo) was formerly called "House of the Party and Mass Organization".

Magistral of Eisenhüttenstadt

The Lindenallee (formerly Leninallee) was at that time the Magistrale and stretches slightly arched from Zentrales Platz to the steelworks. Today, however, it appears somewhat oversized. At that time, however, like the Central Square, it was intended for marches and parades. To the left and right of the Magistralen, striking buildings line up: for example, the former Magnet department store and the City Hotel Lunik, the former IFA car pavilion, the Friedrich-Wolf-Theater and numerous shops. Some of the old advertising lettering has survived.

City Hotel Lunik Eisenhüttenstadt, ein Beispiel für sozialistische Architektur
The former City Hotel Lunik on the street of the Republic is an example of socialist architecture.
The Friedrich-Wolf-Theater on Lindenallee, built in 1955
Eisenhüttenstadt sozialistische Architektur am IFA-Pavillon
The former IFA Pavilion. In former times cars were exhibited here, today it stands empty.
Kleine Bühne Eisenhüttenstadt
The small stage next to the Friedrich-Wolf-Theater
Fotogeschäft in der Lindenallee
Photo shop in the Lindenallee
Möbelgeschäft in der Lindenallee
Furniture shop in the Lindenallee


At the old department store Magnet (Lindenallee / Ecke Straße der Republik) you can see the mural "German-Polish-Soviet Friendship" (1964) by Walter Womaka. In the lower part of the glass stone mosaic, the iron processing is depicted. The hand is surrounded by a blast furnace. From the worker's hand the peace dove flies towards the sun and the flags of the GDR, Poland and the Soviet Union.

Wandbild "deutsch-polnisch-sowjetische Freundschaft" von Walter Womaka
Wandbild “deutsch-polnisch-sowjetische Freundschaft” von Walter Womaka

A block of flats in the Wohnkomplex I also bears a beautiful Meissner porcelain mural from 1954, depicting the symbols typical of the GDR: the dove of peace, a sun and a happy family. You will find the mural at the intersection Rosa-Luxemburgstraße / Alte Ladenstraße.

Wandbild im Wohnkomplex I
Mural in the residential complex I

The Juri Gagarin high school in the Ludmilla-Hypius-Weg has been empty for about five years. Its façade is decorated with a large mural. It tells the story of the development of socialism from hunters with bows and arrows to space travel. Behind the school there are also two gymnasiums and a teaching swimming pool. Opposite the school are the buildings of the former department store and a restaurant. The design of the floor with slabs of different colours and structures is striking.

Die ehemalige Juri Gagarin Oberschule als Teil der sozialistischen Planstadt Eisenhüttenstadt
The former Juri Gagarin high school

Soviet Memorial

A Soviet memorial commemorates 4,109 prisoners of war buried here at the Place of Remembrance, in residential complex I.

Sowjetisches Ehrenmal Eisenhüttenstadt
Soviet Memorial at the Place of Remembrance

The Restaurant Activist

The large Aktivist restaurant was built in 1953 in the style of socialist classicism. After the fall of communism, the building was restored for around five million euros and is now a listed building. Today, however, the restaurant is somewhat smaller and can accommodate around 100 people. However, the name "activist" has remained. The remaining area was converted into offices.

Großgaststätte Aktivist
The large restaurant Aktivist invites to a rest

Tip: End your day in the restaurant Aktivist. The menu offers variety for the big and the small hunger.

The Steel Mill of Eisenhüttenstadt

The first blast furnace of the Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost (EKO) went into operation in September 1951. Five more blast furnaces were added in the following four years. At that time, the plant provided work for up to 16,000 people. Today, however, only one blast furnace is still in operation and there are only 3,000 jobs left.

Nevertheless, the steel mill still dominates the economy in Eisenhüttenstadt today. This is now called ArcelorMittal Eisenhüttenstadt GmbH. It emerged from the VEB Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost or the EKO Stahl GmbH. ArcelorMittal is the world's largest steel group with 60 plants in more than two dozen countries.

The steel mill is located in the immediate vicinity of the city centre. You can even see individual plants from Lindenallee. If you have more time, it's also worth taking a walk to the plant. However, you can only see it from the outside. Factory tours are currently only offered for open days or for educational purposes. The open day is usually at the end of August during the city festival.

Tip: Add to your city tour in Eisenhüttenstadt with a visit to the Documentation Centre for Everyday Culture of the GDR in Wohnkomplex II. Here you can immerse yourself in the everyday world of bygone times and also learn more about the history of the socialist planned city of Eisenhüttenstadt.

Eisenhüttenstadt sozialistische Planstadt
Polar bears and penguins take over world domination in front of the former kindergarten (today a documentation centre for everyday culture in the GDR).

Book Recommendations for Lovers of socialist Architecture

Have you ever been on a discovery tour in Eisenhüttenstadt yourself? How did you like it? Do you have any questions about my article or suggestions? If so, please write me a comment!

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  1. Vielen Dank für deinen schönen Artikel. Morgen fahre ich nach EHS und bin besser vorbereitet. 🙏🙃🤗

    • Hallo Grazia, lieben Dank! Freut mich, dass Dir mein Artikel gefällt. Ich wünschte Dir eine schöne Entdeckungstour in EHS. Ist ein faszinierender Ort 🙂

  2. Sehr interessanter Artikel.

    Architektonisch erinnert mich da nicht nur viel an die Berliner Karl-Marx-Allee, sondern auch an den (ursprünglich als eigene Stadt geplanten) Stadtteil Nowa Huta von Krakow.

    Das dortige, nach Tadeusz Sendzimir benannte, Stahlwerk gehört heute interessanterweise zur selben Firma wie das ehemalige EKO in Eisenhüttenstadt.

    • Hallo Fatabbot!
      Danke für dein Feedback, ich freu mich, dass dir mein Artikel gefällt. Und auch herzlichen Dank für den Tipp mit Krakau. Ich wollte schon immer mal die Stadt besuchen, den Stadtteil werd ich mir auf jeden Fall auch anschauen.
      Liebe Grüße und hab ein tolles Jahr 2021, Mareike

  3. Ich suche das ehemalige Tanzlokal Kosmos in Eisenhüttenstadt. Wüsste aus privaten Gründen gern ob es das Gebäude noch gibt.
    Vielen Dank

    • Hallo Monika, da kann ich Dir leider nicht helfen. Vielleicht wissen die Angestellten aus dem lokalen Museum in Eisenhüttenstadt mehr. Viele Grüße, Mareike


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