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Spreepark: When a Fairy Tale Turns Into a Nightmare

The Spreepark amusement park has been gathering dust since 2001. To avoid bankruptcy, the owner moved some attractions to Peru to start with a clean slate. In vain, as it now appears.

After the move in 2001, the debts continued to pile up, and Spreepark's owner, Norbert Witte, tried to clean things up by concluding a drug deal. It ended disastrously for his son.

GDR amusement park

The amusement park was created following the festivities for the twentieth anniversary of the GDR, the former German Democratic Republic. To mark that anniversary, the communist government opened the VEB Kulturpark Berlin north of Plänterwald on October 4, 1969.

The government built the park in seven months and imported attractions from Western countries. The park attracts more than one and a half million visitors every year.

For the 40th anniversary of the GDR in 1989, the government installed a brand new 45-meter-high Ferris wheel.

The park temporarily closed its doors after the Wall came down in 1989. Ultimately, Norbert Witte was given the green light to operate the Spreepark.

Witte had made a name for himself in the Hamburg fairground environment and operated eight attractions. On the night of August 14, 1981, things went seriously wrong for the first time in the Wittes' lives.

Hamburg fair

On one of his attractions, seven people were killed and fifteen passengers seriously injured when the gondolas of a wheel collided with a crane that Witte had called in to repair a broken roller coaster. Although Witte was no longer present at the time of the accident, he was sentenced to a year in prison for ordering the repair work.


After the accident, Witte moved with his family to Italy and the former Yugoslavia. After much wandering, the Wittes ended up in Berlin. After a significant expansion, they reopened the Spreepark in 1992. Witte built several roller coasters, including Spreeblitz.

The park also added the Grand Canyon log flume, an investment worth millions.


But the visitors didn't come. According to Witte, Berlin chased away visitors by providing too few parking spaces near the amusement park and mercilessly fined illegal parkers. According to Berlin itself, Plänterwald is protected, and creating parking was not an option.

Critics pointed to Witte's overly enthusiastic investments. Due to the disappointing visitor figures, Witte had no choice but to increase the ticket prices further, resulting in even fewer visitors visiting Spreepark.

By 2001, the debt pot had risen to 11 million euros. Spreepark seemed to be heading for bankruptcy, but Witte devised a plan B.


He wanted to build a new amusement park in the Peruvian capital, Lima: Lunapark. In January 2002, Witte left for Peru with his family in a hurry, with twenty containers packed with attractions from Spreepark in his wake, including the flying carpet and a complete roller coaster.

The attractions remained blocked in the Peruvian port for nine months. Not only was it harmful to the attractions, but one part after another disappeared.

Witte's Peruvian acquaintances, who sold him one loan after another, turned out to come from the drug environment. The Witte family returned to Germany disappointed. Only father and son Witte remained in Peru.

Flying carpet

To repay his debts, the Mafiosi offered Witte a deal: if he smuggled 181 kilograms of cocaine, with a market value of around 15 million euros, to Europe, all debts would be canceled. The stuff was hidden in the 12-meter-long mast of the flying carpet, and it set sail for the Netherlands by ship.

The stress surrounding the deal did not do Father Witte's heart any good: he flew back to Germany to be treated, and his son Marcel Witte, who had nothing to do with the deal, must remain in Peru as a safegaurd. Witte did not know that a Peruvian secret agent was involved in the plot.

In November 2003, the plan derailed: the drugs were intercepted in the port of Lima, and Witte's 23-year-old son was arrested. Father Witte disappeared behind bars for a few years, albeit in Germany. Witte's son had to suffer: he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2006. In Peru.

Divorce and decay

According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, Europeans who want to survive there must 'buy' a cell for 715 euros and pay 180 euros monthly rent, which mother Pia coughs up. Norbert's wife could not forgive her husband and filed for divorce.

Small-scale leisure park

Meanwhile, decay struck the Spreepark. The park had not been open to visitors since 2002 and was declared bankrupt in August. The cars on the Altberliner Oldtimerfahrt will never run again.

Since 2014, the city of Berlin has owned the park, which was auctioned for around € 2 million. Grün Berlin is hatching plans to restore the amusement park into a park emphasizing art, culture, and nature. In the coming years, the park is scheduled to reopen. The reconstruction of the Ferris wheel, which was dismantled at the beginning of 2021, will follow.

Movies and comics

The park became a popular place for filming video clips and films. For example, fragments of the film Hanna took place in the park.

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