Berlin's Bunkers - Part 2

Flakturm und Luftschutz Bunkers

Flakturm IVIn this continuing article on berlins bunkers, I feel we should quickly cover Flak tower bunkers built in other parts of the German Reich as there construction is directly related to that of berlins own history.

As already discussed in part 1, Berlin had three pairs of Flak towers providing air defensive protection for the Reich capital. All three were built to the same design specification with designates; Flakturm I for the Tiergarten, Friedrichstain in the east was designated as Flakturm II and in the Hunboldthain area to the north designated as Flakturm III. Of interest to us is that another pair of Flakturm was built and designated Flakturm IV.

Hitler decided that other important cities within the greater Reich should also be protected by these massive concrete giants such cities included Hamburg and Vienna. It is in Hamburg that we can find Flakturm IV in the Altona district built to exactly the same specifications as the Berlin trio, but more importantly to us is that the Gun-tower remains untouched by any demolition teams to this day, standing in perfect condition as if built only yesterday! This of course gives us a wonderful opportunity to examine the interior as this flak tower is now resident to art and student related business and open to public access, once inside you can easily imagine what the Berlin Flakturm were once like.

Of course being built by Germans the design like the other trio in Berlin was altered in the course of construction with the usual small tinkering type changes that affected the other ones. The most obvious modification again affected the lower gallery and concerned the position of the swallows nests in this case they are positioned mid way along each tower side. Unfortunately 1973 saw the demolition of the adjoining Command tower to make way for the Deutsch telecom headquarter office block.

These four Flakturm are what is considered to be first generation designed flak towers, whilst in the Wilhelmsburg district of Hamburg and the Arenberg Park located in Vienna, can be found the second generation design quite a departure from the original concept and based on lessons learned from the first generation of Flakturm. The main lesson learned from the first generation towers regarded the level of protection given to the working gun crews as the problem concerned the many casualties caused by shrapnel during bombing raids. In the second generation an effort was made to help eliminate this problem by enclosing the 128mm Flak guns as much a possible and inclosing the exterior upper stair case. This gave each tower the distinctive four circular covered towers on top of each corner over the main square sided tower, in all the structure measured 57 x 57meters and 41.6 meters in height. Today only the Gun-tower remains and unfortunately the British blew up the interior floors so access is not possible, the Command tower was completely demolished shortly after the war.

In the continuing evolution of Flakturm design a third and final generation of towers was constructed in the city of Vienna, giving the city three pairs of Flakturm, one-second generation located in the Arenberg Park and two third generation designed towers. These third generation towers are even more radical in design than that of the second type. These towers look circular in design but in fact are made up from 16 flat sides or facets; however the Flak gun mounts and their circular concrete encasements are of still the same design as the second-generation towers. One pair of towers is located at the Stiftskaserne under Austrian military control and stands 45 meters high. While the other pair in the Augarten part of the city standing at around 54 meters high with a diameter of 43 meters, although there is a height difference between the two, the design remains exactly the same, landscape would seem to have been the determining factor.

All three pairs of Vienna Flakturm towers are still in existence and remain un-touched to this day, most saw combat in the closing stages of the war and survived if with few scars, 60 years of wind and rain has left them some what a little weathered!

ReichsLuftshutzbund posterLuftschutz (meaning: air protection) bunkers are another quirk of German civil engineering again these bunkers despite as there name suggests occupy most of there floor space above ground level with the intention of providing protection for the civilian population of Berlin during the frequent allied air raids on the Reich's capital. The ReichsLuftschutzbund organisation was Germany's equivalent of our own 'ARP' air raid warden service. And were charged with many duties including fire fighting, rescuing people from collapsed buildings, first-aid, defusing UXB's and authorising and organising shelters and support services for the population.

Luftshutz Helmet

The ReichsLuftschutzbund issued there own unique helmets to service personnel, this one is dated 1943 and still has the silver ReichsLuftschutzbund decal on the front, often these helmets are referred to as having a ˜Gladiator" style design.

Volkgasmaske VM40

The Government of the time also issued all civilians with there own personal gas mask called the 'Volksgasmaske' VM40, something which all Berliners carried with them into the shelters. Later models such as the VM44 were a cheaper war economy version.

There are many fine examples of these bunkers still in Berlin and most have escaped demolition for many varied reasons amongst which include close proximity of city amenities like water & sewer pipes or U-Bahn lines or just the difficulty of demolition due to the size of construction.

There were several types of air raid shelter protection available to the local Berliners, The first was nothing more than converted basements since many houses in Germany are constructed with a basement as the norm, and these made convenient ready made bunkers. Because a great deal of Berlins suburbs are filled with large block apartment buildings (to providing cheap housing to the large work force employed in Berlins long and illustrious industries), and as most had been built with basements it became a simple matter of adding Luftschutz first-aid stations, buckets of sand for fire fighting, basic digging equipment, water, lighting in the form of lamps or dynamo powered hand torches, seating etc to make them serviceable. With other types of adjoining houses an order went out to there occupants to knock through to next doors basement and then re-brick up the hole with a thin divide so in the event of fire the occupants a could knock down the divide and escape to the next house. This would be done along an entire street, each house having an escape route into next doors; of course this is something with which the invading Russians took full advantage of when assaulting the strongly defended streets of Berlin. U-bahn stations were of course ideally suited to offering protection and on many nights were packed with people seeking refuge from the allied raids just like the people of London did, using the underground during the blitz's.

Luftshutze first aid box
A typical first aid box found equipping most German home air raid shelters.

Another choice for the civilian Berliners was purpose built shelters, which came in many different shapes and size's, generally all were built with the same construction method’s as used on the Flak towers, with the exterior walls measuring some 2.5 meters thick and the roof being 3.5 meters thick. At least with some bunkers an effort was made to improve there exterior looks and help blend them in to the suburban background. Some where given features with the appearance of castles, or water towers and grain storage towers, others looked more like houses whilst with some no effort to conceal them was made at all and were nothing more than simple, massive oblong blocks of concrete! The interior of these bunkers was of a very crude nature, few toilets and lit with electrical bulkhead type lights since no sunlight could penetrate, in the event of power failure the Germans did have sense to paint horizontal lines on the walls using light emitting paint, once the lights went out, the walls emit a comforting green glow. The interior lay out was of a simple method designed to contain any bomb penetration by using many box rooms and short corridors to limit the migration of shrapnel with dividing walls measuring around 1 to 2 meters thick and ceilings approximately 2 meters thick, this same pattern would be repeated on each floor, totalling between 5 and 8 floors depending on the size of each bunker making for a very strong structure. Capacity for these shelters was envisaged at approximately 9,000 to 15,000 people, however often twice that many would be found seeking shelter and with such over crowding the meagre toilet facilities soon became unsanitary.

The Luftschutz bunker on ReinhardstrasseThe Luftschutz bunker on Reinhardstrasse, currently now being developed into residential
apartments complete with a penthouse and pool!

The actual construction method for these bunkers is exactly the same as for the Flakturm, concrete being poured into wooden plank mounds that contain a matrix of re-enforcing steel mesh. Close inspection of these bunkers walls will reveal the wooden plank indentations that were used to make the mounds. Only a few meters of concrete can be poured at any one time, since this needs time to cure before the next layer can be added. Pouring to much concrete to fast weakens the overall buildings structural strength and can lead to catastrophic failing when under load.

Of particular interest due to there state of preservation for any visitor of Berlin are the bunkers located near the Anhalter Bahnhof ruin called the 'Grusel-bunker' and in the underground U-bahn station on Hermannstrasse, illustrated below.

rThe Anhalter Bahnhof 'Grusel-bunker

The Grusel bunker is open most days to the public and is probably the best known bunker with the ground floor in a well preserved state, still with it's original luminescent painted walls and contains some small displays about life for it's occupants during the war. The upper floors are home to a 'house of horrors' themed tourist attraction.

Grusel bunkerNote the bomb damage to the upper right corner on the Grusel bunker, direct hits on these concrete bunkers with the average bomb dropped by the allies would have little effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grusel bunkerAn interior staircase deep inside the Grusel bunker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grusel bunkerAn Interior corridor showing the horizontal luminescent painted stripe, designed to help guide the occupants during black outs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grusel bunkerOne of the many concrete internal stairwells which lead to the basement level of the Grusel bunker; Note the luminescent paint used around the door way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grusel bunkerPart of the small museum display, in one of the many interior rooms inside the Grusel bunker. During the Allied air raids this room would have been packed with civilians escaping the vision of hell on the open streets outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Luftschutzbunker on PallasstrasseThe Luftschutzbunker on Pallasstrasse has an entire block of flats built over it! The exact reason for this is unknown, but no doubt the trouble associated with demolition was too great to justify taking on such a job. So instead a way was found to use the structure.

 

 

 

 


Here is a list containing other locations of Luftschutz bunkers in Berlin. It is not a complete list since new or rather forgotten bunkers are still being found!

Luftschutzbunker Am Sandwerder (Berlin;Wannsee;Zehlendorf)
Luftschutzbunker Am Wolffring (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Anhalter Bahnhof (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Anhalter Bahnhof/Schonenberger Straße;Gruselbunker (Berlin;Kreuzberg)
Luftschutzbunker Argentinische Allee (Berlin;Zehlendorf)
Luftschutzbunker Arkonaer Platz (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Arkonaer Platz/Swinemunder Straße (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Bahnbrucke uber die Potsdammer Chaussee (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Brunnenstraße (Berlin;Wedding)
Luftschutzbunker Bundesallee 160 (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Burchardstraße (Berlin;Tempelhof)
Luftschutzbunker Buschiner Platz, Biesdorf (Berlin;Biesdorf)
Luftschutzbunker Coppinplatz (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Dresdener Straße (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Eiswaldtstraße (Berlin;Steglitz)
Luftschutzbunker Fichtestraße;Fichte-Bunker (Berlin;Kreuzberg)
Luftschutzbunker Folderichstraße (Berlin;Spandau)
Luftschutzbunker Grundschule, Wedding (Berlin;Wedding)
Luftschutzbunker Heckeshorn (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Hermann Goering Straße (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Hildebrandstraße; Turkenbunker (Berlin;Tiergarten)
Luftschutzbunker Hotel Prinz Albert (SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt) (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Humboldthain (Berlin;Wedding)
Luftschutzbunker Kaserne Karlshorst (Berlin;Karlshorst)
Luftschutzbunker Kaserne Karlshorst (Berlin;Karlshorst)
Luftschutzbunker Kaserne Karlshorst (Berlin;Karlshorst)
Luftschutzbunker Komturstraße (Berlin;Tempelhof)
Luftschutzbunker Koppenplatz (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Lindenhof (Berlin; Kopenick)
Luftschutzbunker Littenstraße (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Pallasstrasse (Berlin;Schoneberg)
Luftschutzbunker Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Reichsministerium fur den bezatzten Ostgebiete (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Reichsministerium fur Rustung und Kriegsproduktion (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Reinhardtstraße/Albrechtstraße (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Sachtlebenstraße (Berlin;Zehlendorf)
Luftschutzbunker Schreiberring (Berlin;Tempelhof)
Luftschutzbunker Schweizer Botschaft (Berlin;Tiergarten)
Luftschutzbunker Sedanstraße (Berlin;Steglitz)
Luftschutzbunker Sellerstraße (Berlin;Wedding)
Luftschutzbunker Straßebahntunnel Stralau (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Stresemannstraße (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Sylter Straße (??) (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Teilestraße (Berlin;Tempelhof)
Luftschutzbunker Unionsplatz (Berlin;Moabit;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Wannsee , S-Bahnhof (Berlin;Wannsee;Zehlendorf)
Luftschutzbunker Weverstraße (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Wilhelmsplatz;Wilhelmsplatz (Luftschutzbunker) (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Wilhelmstraße 72 (ReichsministeriumLandwirtschaft);Wilhelmstraße 72 (Luftschutzbunker) (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Wilhelmstraße 79-80 (Reichsverkehrsministerium);Wilhelmstraße 79 (Luftschutzbunker);Wilhelmstraße 80 (Luftschutzbunker) (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker Wilhelmstraße/Leipziger Straße (Berlin;Mitte)
Luftschutzbunker Winterfeldtstraße (Berlin;Tempelhof)
Luftschutzbunker "Haus des Rundfunks" (Berlin)
Luftschutzbunker (Werkluftschutz) (Berlin;Tempelhof)

If you have Google-Earth (free to download) you can use these coordinates to locate the following Flakturm and Luftschutz bunkers in Berlin and Hamburg:

52degs 30' 09.83'N - 13degs 22' 48.95'E - Grusel bunker
52degs 31' 24.54'N - 13degs 23' 02.4'E - Reinhardstrasse bunker
52degs 32' 50.01'N - 13degs 23' 05.18'E - Flakturm III
52degs 31' 34.92'N - 13degs 25' 56.73'E - Flakturm II
52degs 30' 35.40'N - 13degs 20' 13.09' - E Zoo bunker
52degs 29' 38.63'N - 13degs 21'32.97 - E Pallsstrasse
53degs 30' 35.05'N - 09degs 59' 23.41' - E Flakturm V
53degs 33' 22.85'N - 09degs 58' 12.67'E - Flakturm IV

Article submitted by Simon Garner.

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