Underground Germany: Berlin Bunkers

By Cam Jeffery /

No, it’s not the new punk scene – it’s the vast underground network of Germany where Hitler’s ghost roams still.

In the Berlin underground train station, Gesundbrunnen, there is a green door which thousands of people pass everyday, completely ignorant to the treasures that lie on the other side.

The lights are out, but with special luminous paint, now over sixty years old, still glowing in the faint darkness, marking the exits, a sign can be made out: Room 14 – 38 persons. In other rooms, there are old toilets, triple-bunk beds, exposed pipes, old egg-shaped lights with steel frames, and even a Wehenzimmer (labour room) for pregnant women. The images of people shuffling in with battered suitcases, pots for helmets and a small stool to sit on are clear. And the earth thumps and groans with the rhythm of the bombs.

The rooms are dank and claustrophobic, with low ceilings and thin air. A hand-powered ventilator from WWI is still in working order; it was used to thwart the lethal gases used in that war. The old word for toilet, Abort, is used because Toilette sounded too French. There are old tubes from the pneumatic dispatch system, remnants from underground breweries, and a railway cart that was used by the Trümmerfrauen (rubble women) to move debris to special rubbish hills after WWII. Berlin, a flat city set along the River Spree, has many hills.

The obscure door in Gesundbrunnen leads to an extensive network of underground bunkers which the Berliner Unterwelten society has successfully prepared for exploration. Every Saturday, they conduct informative tours, with each of the three bunkers set up to explain a different section of history: from WWI through to the Cold War. Also interesting is how the bunkers were modified and updated to cope with modern war technology, and how the underground train system was used as an air ventilator and later as a means of escape by East Germans.

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