World War Two Vienna flak tower converted into aquarium attraction

A World War Two flak tower in Vienna has been transformed into a tropical fish aquarium.

Flak towers were built by the Nazis during World War Two in Berlin and Hamburg in Germany and Vienna in Austria. Many of the towers still stand today. They are huge towers made of concrete and steel, dominating the cities’ skylines.

Their purpose was to defend against Allied air raid bombings. They would house the latest in anti-aircraft weaponry and be able to counter-attack incoming Allied aircraft sent to bomb the Nazis’ key war-time cities.

All of the towers were built during a six-month period, but regardless of their swift construction, they are sturdy and durable buildings with walls 3.5 metres thick. They could also double as air raid shelters.

Stuttgart and Frankfurt also used flak towers and smaller versions were constructed at other locations vital to the German war strategy, including Angers, France, and Helgoland.

When the Royal Air Force began conducting bombing raids on Berlin, Hitler ordered the construction of the flak towers to improve their air defence. Each tower had radar equipment installed, as well as a radar dish. Hitler even took part in their design and produced some sketches for architects to incorporate into their build.

Their construction was put on top priority and even the national railway had to alter its schedule to ensure that deliveries of concrete, steel and wood would arrive in time for their construction. The three towers in Berlin formed a triangle that protected the centre of the city, the Inhabitat reports.

Each tower could actually hold around 10,000 civilians and medical facilities. Towards the end of the war, many locals used the towers as temporary housing while the battle for Berlin took place. They were some of the last locations in Berlin that would surrender to the Soviet troops, but only because they had run low on supplies.

Now in Vienna, the local authorities and a private company have come together to make novel use of the Haus des Meeres flak tower in Esterházy Park. The location gives great views across Vienna city, and inside has been converted into a tropical fish aquarium with five storeys of displays.

On the exterior of the tower a greenhouse has been constructed, with multi-storey walkways made of wood and rope, housing tropical plants and vegetation, as well as water features that really bring about a tropical forest experience.

The aquarium features tropical fish, sharks, turtles, birds and small marmoset monkeys. All the birds and monkeys have free rein within the tower and wander amongst the exhibits and visitors. An ecosystem display also features reptiles such as snakes, lizards and crocodiles.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE