Photo © Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
- Also Known As:Underground Bunkers of Berlin
- Location Genre:Bunker / Fortification
- Demo / Renovated:N/A
- Decaying for:69 years
- Last Known Status:Preserved
In the interest of protecting both civilian and military personnel during World War II, the ground underneath the city of Berlin became rife with secret tunnels and chambers to protect people from air strike weaponry and gas warfare. These underground bunkers were connected to the street level only by small ventilation shafts and a minimal number of staircases or ladders. They ranged from small, cramped spaces to multi-level command centers connected by tunnels - one was even drivable by car. By 1945 there were over 1,000 bunkers in Berlin both above and below ground; many of these fortifications were constructed by the Hochtief company who also worked on constructing the Zollverein colliery.
The famous Führerbunker - the place of Hitler's last resort and ultimately his death - was located within a complex underneath the old Reich Chancellery building. Attempts to destroy the bunker were made by the Soviets after the war, and again by the East German government in the late 1950s, but only minor damage occurred to the heavily fortified structure. The Führerbunker was finally excavated in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall - personal effects, Nazi paintings, and furniture were still preserved in their original spaces, truly an amazing find for historians. The German government, fearful of the site becoming a Neo-Nazi shrine, let the underground rooms become filled in or destroyed during building construction in the late 1980s-1990. There are no empty spaces left underneath the buildings that now stand on top of the site.
During the Cold War era, West Berlin had retrofitted a few of these underground bunkers for use as nuclear fallout shelters. The shelter at Pankstraße was capable of holding thousands of civilians in case of such an attack, and it again remains unused.
There about 100 remaining bunkers in Berlin, however many are privately owned and inaccessible. Luckily Berliner Unterwelten e.V. sought to find, research, and preserve these places that were once a taboo subject. Through copious amounts of time, effort and money, they were able to map, explore, and whenever possible, preserve these spaces underneath the city more than any other organization. It is through them that these photographs are possible, and I thank them with much gratitude.