Flaktürme: Denkmale des Nazi-Größenwahns by Johanna Lutteroth

Flaktürme: Denkmale des Nazi-Größenwahns by Johanna Lutteroth

Here is a rough translation in English:

Flak Towers: Monuments of Nazi Megalomania
The “miracle of defense” for military flop huge sums invested in the establishment of the Nazis flak bunkers, a powerful weapon to oppose the Allied air raids. But the Monsterbauten were soon overtaken technically – a typical case of Nazi hubris. By Johanna Lutteroth

Sounded cocky Hermann Goering shortly after the war began, “If a single English aircraft can break through our air defenses, if a single bomb falls on Berlin, then I want to be called Meier.” Just under a year later the commander of the Air Force was forced to admit sheepishly gaps in the defense. On the night of 26 August 1940 threw the Royal Air Force bombs on Berlin for the first time – in retaliation for the bombing of many Germans. Although the damage was limited, but the psychological impact was enormous. Berlin had put in fear of attack.

Hitler responded immediately and mimed to calm the population level: “We will eradicate their cities,” he drooled for days and left England bomb. He also ordered the construction of several “air defense towers” in the cities of Berlin and Hamburg. Four AA guns should find it place. The air defense promised, the fire would almost mow the enemy aircraft from the sky. To emphasize the valor and omnipotence of the “Third Reich”, the towers should look like medieval fortresses. The calculus: Everyone would understand this language of form.

The plans to designed by Berlin architect Friedrich Tamms, who had already made in the Kingdom as a bridge specialist a name. “The starting point was the demand of the air defense, an anti-aircraft battery set up so that it was higher than the surrounding roofs,” he recalled later. The designs thus saw a 40 meter high turret front, on which were the anti-aircraft guns, and a slightly lower Leitturm on which the fire control for the detection of enemy bombers should be accommodated.

The Nazi leadership was thrilled. She celebrated the towers as “wonders of the defense” and an “artillery maximum design”. A typical case of Nazi hubris. After only three years later, the anti-aircraft bunker as a military and economic would prove a flop.

Self-sufficient life world

It had all started so promising. Tamms basked in the success to have invented the turrets with a whole new type of building: a modern fortress of reinforced concrete. 75 meters long, 75 meters wide, 40 meters high. 2.5 meter thick walls and a 3.5 meter thick blanket were a hundred percent protection against the dreaded bombs expected. An encircling walkway at a dizzy height gave the building the required medieval fortress character. Thus, the anti-aircraft bunker could be put to good use after the war, they should obtain a representative facade made of fine natural stone.

Tamm was aware that the bunker had to be completely self-sufficient. Each tower would therefore have its own water supply, its own ventilation and an emergency generator. The size also offered enough space to house besides the soldiers and civilian air-raid shelters accommodation, a hospital, kitchens, a bakery and offices for government officials and authorities. Thousands of people could find shelter in these bunkers for weeks.

And everything seemed to run smoothly. Thousands of forced laborers began in October 1940 with the construction of the first air defense tower, the Zoo bunker in Berlin’s Tiergarten. 100,000 tons of concrete, 10,000 tons of steel and 45 million Reichsmark came to use – a procedure by which one could build bomb-proof bomb shelter places for 180,000 people. After only six months of combat and Leitturm were completed – a menacing-looking, giant gray concrete with a slightly smaller twin. Only for aufhübschende facade was no time. Nearly a year later, were in Frederick and in Humboldt grove two “shooting Dome” as Tamm liked to call the shelter because reminded him the gun fire of anti-aircraft guns at the Cathedral of Light, Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer was staged on the occasion of the Nuremberg Nazi Party in 1938.

Tamms have to manipulate the

In October 1942, was also in Hamburg, the first Flakturmpaar – but already during the construction became apparent that the bunkers were technically obsolete: the bombs of the Allies could now penetrate up to 3.5 meters thick concrete ceiling. Added to this was that the towers given their gigantic size provided a perfect attack surface and could be easily located. The anti-aircraft guns were exposed to enemy fire virtually unprotected, and the many windows at risk the stability of the side walls.

So Tamms improved by: He gave up window. With a side length of 47 meters, the new anti-aircraft bunker in Hamburg-William Castle was considerably narrower, more robust. Side effect: a Tamms saved more than 42,000 cubic meters of reinforced concrete.

The Allies were victorious in the meantime in North Africa, and it would be only a matter of time before they end up in Italy and its air strikes would fly from there. Therefore the end of 1942, Hitler ordered the construction of flak towers in Vienna. Similar to Berlin, they should be arranged in a triangle around the city center. In summer 1943, the first tower was finished in Arenberg Park. Two more – followed in the pin barracks and in the Augarten. The last could be put into operation in January 1945. To provide even less of a target, the Vienna model was further narrowed.

Military and planning bodies mingled less now working in Tamms a. This gave him the opportunity to give his Viennese architectural towers one last finishing touches – the construction program for the air defense anti-aircraft bunker apparently had no more absolute priority.

Completely ineffective

Indeed, the anti-aircraft bunker euphoria of the Nazi leadership had cooled noticeably in the summer of 1943. The reason: The once acclaimed air defense towers were nowhere near what you had promised them. Only occasionally they had brought bombers from the sky – and the Allies soon learned this: you no longer flew their attacks as the beginning of the war, flying low, but at an altitude of 8000 meters and more. The anti-aircraft guns had trouble to meet them at these altitudes. In addition, the pilots dropped from their attacks tons of tinfoil – called chaff – from which crippled the radars on the Leittürmen. The anti-aircraft guns had to blindly shoot. To get a machine from the sky, it took up to 3000 tests. Each firing, calculated as the historian Hans Brunswig, the Germans cost about 2.7 million Reichsmarks.

The result was this out of proportion. With the construction of the planned for Munich and Bremen bunker was therefore not even started. The existing anti-aircraft towers filled mainly one purpose: they served as a civilian bomb shelter – and to reassure the population.

After the war the Allies wanted to remove the symbolically charged strongholds of the city as quickly as possible. My command was: blasting and outwear. In Berlin he was also implemented. The Zoo Bunker were demolished or filled in Friedrichshain, in the Humboldt grove was only a part of the flak tower stand. In Hamburg, the demolition failed due to the tight construction. An explosion had damaged the surrounding houses, only the smaller Leittürme could be removed. The turrets in William Castle and the Holy Spirit are still there as gray box, monumental and menacing as ever.

The Viennese, however, hardly bothered by the towers and just let them be. It may have to do with the fact that the Austrians saw primarily as victims of National Socialism, not as an accomplice. For them, anti-aircraft bunker are rather a memorial of the German occupation as a private symbol of power. An interpretation that would have kept the Nazi henchmen so surely never imagined possible. Tamms “Shooting Dome” therefore characterize the city today.

Collaboration: Robert Kuhn

(Thank you Alina Kolar for showing me this article.)  A simple explanation and overview of Flakturm history.