Brilliant Images of the Enormous German Flak Towers

Ausgarten Flak tower in Vienna

Flak Towers were a major construct by the Germans during WWII. The Third Reich was renowned for its vast bunker construction during its time in power, setting the standard in defensive protective shelter designs for the future. They were no strangers to large scale structures that needed thousands of tons of raw materials to complete, but none more so than these enormous towers dotted around European cities.

These towers were designed to provide cities with a higher level of defence against air attacks from Allied bombers. Hitler ordered the construction of three of these monstrosities in Berlin after the RAF raid on the city in 1940. He had such personal involvement with their designs that he even produced sketches of them himself.

Major emphasis was placed on erecting them as fast as possible, going as far as disrupting the German national rail service so the raw materials could be delivered. This effort enabled the towers to be completed in just six months.

Building a flak tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J16840 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Building a flak tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J16840 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
The towers were incredibly well armed and protected, with 3.5 meter thick walls that were resistant to all Allied ordnance available at the time. They even featured retractable radar dishes! The towers used a multi-level and multi-caliber arrangement of guns that could throw out 8,000 rounds per minute, although most of these were smaller 20 mm rounds. The guns could fire in a 360 degree arc, and many were even able to fire onto the ground below.

The most potent weapons on the flak towers were the suitably large 128 mm Flak 40 guns, which could easily reach the Allied bombers tens of thousands of feet above. Berlin’s three towers were placed in a triangular arrangement that provided the maximum protection of the city.

While their primary purpose was to provide a shield of anti-aircraft fire, they were also designed to act as a air-raid shelter for civilians. There was accommodation for 10,000 people, with stocks of food, water and other supplies, as well as a hospital. However, in practise the towers would provide protection for many more people, with up to 30,000 seeking refuge in one tower during the Battle of Berlin.

During this battle, the towers, which had already survived the relentless Allied bombing, were some of the last places to fall. The Soviets tried and failed to attack the towers with force, with even their largest 203 mm howitzers failing to bring them down. The guns on these towers were depressed to attack the Soviet forces below. The ‘Zoo Tower’ in Berlin provided brutal anti-tank fire against Soviet armor, covering the approach to the Reichstag building two kilometres away with its 128 mm guns.

Unable to destroy these structures, the Soviets eventually negotiated their surrender instead of a head on assault.

Two towers were built in Hamburg, with another three in Vienna.

After the war attempts were made to demolish the towers, but their incredible durability often made demolition unfeasible, and resulted in many being left, surviving to this day. Some were able to be destroyed successfully.

 

 

East Side of flak tower VI in Willemsborg
East Side of flak tower VI in Willemsborg

 

Flak tower Heiligengeistfeld in Hamburg
Flak tower Heiligengeistfeld in Hamburg

 

12,8-cm-Flak on a Flak tower.
12,8-cm-Flak on a Flak tower.

 

Flak tower Humboldthain in Berlin
Flak tower Humboldthain in Berlin

 

Flak tower Humboldthain, Berlin
Flak tower Humboldthain, Berlin

 

Flak Tower In Ausgarten Vienna
Flak Tower In Ausgarten Vienna

 

Flak tower in Hamburg
Flak tower in Hamburg

 

Flak tower in Vienna
Flak tower in Vienna

 

Flak Tower IV Hamburg Aerial photo 1945
Flak Tower IV Hamburg Aerial photo 1945

 

Flak Tower IV in Hamburg
Flak Tower IV in Hamburg

 

Flak Tower VI in Hamburg, Wilhelmsburg
Flak Tower VI in Hamburg, Wilhelmsburg

 

Loading a Flak gun on top of a tower
Loading a Flak gun on top of a tower

 

The Berlin Zoo tower in May 1945
The Berlin Zoo tower in May 1945

 

The L & G-Towers in Augarten, Vienna
The L & G-Towers in Augarten, Vienna

 

Vienna tower
Vienna tower

 

Vienna, flak bunker
Vienna, flak bunker

 

West Side of tower VI in Willemsborg
West Side of tower VI in Willemsborg

 

Willemsborg cafe on top of the flak bunker
Willemsborg cafe on top of the flak bunker

 

Aerial shot of the Ausgarten tower in Vienna
Aerial shot of the Ausgarten tower in Vienna

 

Alarm practice on a tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-675-7942-02 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Alarm practice on a tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-675-7942-02 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Arenberg
Arenberg

 

Augarten Flaktower Vienna, 1985
Augarten Flaktower Vienna, 1985

 

Augarten Flaktower
Augarten Flaktower

 

Ausgarten tower in Vienna, picture taken in 2008
Ausgarten tower in Vienna, picture taken in 2008

 

Ausgarten tower in Vienna
Ausgarten tower in Vienna

 

Berlin tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1992-0513-502 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1992-0513-502 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin tower with quad 20 mm FLAK guns [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-649-5387-09A CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin tower with quad 20 mm FLAK guns [Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-649-5387-09A CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin Tiergarten (Zoo) tower in use as a hospital [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1997-0923-505 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin Tiergarten (Zoo) tower in use as a hospital [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1997-0923-505 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, blowing up the Zoo Tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S76934 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, blowing up the Zoo Tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S76934 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, blowing up the Zoo Tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S76934 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, blowing up the Zoo Tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S76934 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, blowing up the Zoo Tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S76936 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, blowing up the Zoo Tower [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S76936 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, demolished tower at Friedrichshain [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-M1203-316 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, demolished tower at Friedrichshain [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-M1203-316 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, Flak guns on the Zoobunker [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0508-502 CC-BY-SA 3.0]
Berlin, Flak guns on the Zoobunker [Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1987-0508-502 CC-BY-SA 3.0]

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Berlin, Flak guns on the Zoobunker
Berlin, Flak guns on the Zoobunker