During a recent trip to Berlin I went on a few tours with Berliner Unterwelten e.V, the Society for Exploration and Documentation of Subterranean Architecture. The society offers a number of tours of Berlin’s underground. They have tours of World War II bunkers, a Flak (anti aircraft) tower, Cold War installations, and the relics of Berlin’s pneumatic dispatch system.
The Flak Tower was covered by debris in the post war clean up effort and now constitutes the Humboldthain Park. Just walking in the park, you would have no idea of what is beneath you. In the last days of the war, thousands of civilians took refuge in the Flak tower. Our guide was one of them. He was a little kid back then.
After the war the Allies tried to destroy the tower with little success. However, most of the tower’s seven floors are covered with debris from the explosions.
In comparison to the massive concrete walls of the Flak tower, the construction of the nearby civilian bunkers in the Gesundbrunnen subway station seems rather flimsy and they would not have offered much protection. This is not a museum, it’s the real thing. This tour really make history come alive and you get an idea what it was like to be trapped in a bunker during an air raid.
In the basement of the Central Telegraph Office at Oranienburger Str. the remnants of Berlin’s Rohrpost (pneumatic dispatch system) can still be seen. The history of these systems is fascinating. Berlin’s Rohrpost was divided during the Cold War and East Berlin’s system remained in operation until 1976. Apparently, there is some evidence to suggest that a link between East and West Berlin remained intact throughout the Cold War and contraband was smuggled across (or rather below) the border. I was told, that the old postal workers who kept the system running covered the dispatch station with propaganda posters whenever communist party officials ventured into the basement. I have successfully used this strategy in my youth as well to cover up my mischief :-)
Luckily, I had my camera on with me on this tour. The old machinery is a great photographic subject.