Bring only one suitcase for all your valuables – no more!
You can wear your fur coats. Yes, even in summer when it is 35 degrees.
You may get very hot. The bunker may stink.
But you won’t be here long…
…because there is no ventilation in this bunker.
Candles will be lit when you enter the room. Notice the Maximum Capacity numbers on the wall.
The floor candle will go out when there is no more oxygen in the room.
When the candle goes out, exit immediately – no exceptions! Yes, even if bombs are still dropping.
Toilet are in these two rooms. After depositing your solid contributions, cover with one layer of peat moss. The peat moss bucket is next to the toilet.
If the lights go out, you will see where to walk. The walls are coated with glow-in-the-dark paint.
Could the official speaking in 1944 to the residents of this neighborhood have imagined that the war would some day end? That not everything would be destroyed? That a new Berlin would be born?
Or that seventy years later, visitors from many countries would be touring this bomb shelter?
And did the official know that the roof was too thin to withstand an actual bombing? (If so, he probably left that information out of the briefing.)
But Gesundbrunnen station was never hit, and the former bomb shelter has been transformed into a museum.
Our Berlin Underground guide had turned out the light. We could see for ourselves that the glowing effect of the paint lasts at least 70 years, though the paint is faded.
And thank goodness there is ventilation now! I neither want to faint, nor have to exit the shelter before this gripping tour of the bunker is over.
We take a look at the composting toilets. Peat moss to keep them odor free, and no plumbing needed. (A great invention, I note to myself.)
In the next room we sit on wooden benches, with faded leather suitcases hauntingly occupying space behind us.
One suitcase for all your valuables – cash, gold, jewelry, passports, photos.
We see the clinic, a room with glass cabinets to hold chloroform, medicine, bandages. The fire brigade’s room has spades and hoses stacked up in case we need them. In another room, wartime items on display have been converted for civilian use. I admire the brown metal helmet with holes punched in it that was transformed into a colander to rinse vegetables. We are also shown some Nazi propaganda; the museum is careful about what it shows to the public. The volunteers are preserving history, not encouraging neo-Nazism.
At the end of the tour we see the tubes of the pneumatic postal system, an ingenious mail system used in Germany and elsewhere to deliver packets of information by air pressure. It was in use until the 1970s. Hacker proof, hmmm. Maybe it’s time to revive this system, along with the composting toilets.
There are over 1,000 shelters, bunkers and tunnels in the Berlin underground, some only opened in recent times. Care to open a craft brewery? Invite the public to a concert? Inventive Berliners are doing it. Who knows what other creative uses will emerge as Berlin transforms its underground world.
Thanks to the curators of Berlin Unterwelten for preserving the bomb shelter, creating this museum, and providing a spellbinding tour!
What would you take to a bomb shelter? How fast could you gather all your valuables? Ever seen a pneumatic postal system or a creative use of old tunnels? Let me know in the comments!
See you in the road!