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Air raid shelter Hamburg flak towers
Bunkered artillery positions of the Swiss fortress Euschels in a rock wall
Albanian bunker on the Adriatic (converted into a restaurant)

As Bunker protective be Structures referred to the preserve the occupant or the environment from direct hazard. This includes the direct action of weapons , the protection of people from hazardous substances and the containment of hazardous substances.

The purpose of military bunkers is to consolidate one's own positions and make an attack by the enemy more difficult. They can serve as a defense system, shelter for war equipment ( submarines , aircraft ) or as a command center. Civilian bunkers, on the other hand, are supposed to protect the population.

Bunkers are usually made of concrete and steel , in many cases also covered with soil, but the term is also used for tunnels driven into natural rock .

Civil structures that serve civil defense usually fulfill other functions and are therefore not referred to as bunkers. Often they are used civilly as underground car parks , underground stations, etc. and prepared as a shelter in the event of a defense .

General construction

The bunker construction is basically derived from the fortress construction of the 18th and 19th centuries. First, massive stones were used, which were built into meter-thick walls. With the advent of explosive shells , rapid fire guns and the air raids that began during the First World War , more robust materials were required in the first half of the 20th century. Reinforced concrete , which was still quite new at the time, turned out to be the ideal material for this. With reinforced concrete, the walls of bunkers could be constructed more compactly without losing their protective effect. The quality of concrete and steel has been continuously improved through constant research and development . How durable some of these materials are is clearly shown by some of the flak towers that are still preserved . After the Second World War, all attempts to blow up these structures failed .

Historical development

Log houses were originally made of wood. Hardwoods were mainly used . Since this type of bunker was more of a temporary nature, in contrast to other bunkers, no particular emphasis was placed on massive protection. These log houses were reinforced by sandbags . Through the use of reinforced concrete , the pillbox was developed from this in the First World War . Like the log house, this had loopholes and in particular offered protection for machine gun shooters . The German equivalent was called Mebu (machine-gun reinforced concrete shelter ).

Also in the trench warfare of World War emerged shelters as a makeshift bunker within a battle line ( the trenches ). They served as shelter for the troops and offered only minimal protection. The protective effect was mostly limited to protection against splinters, shrapnel and infantry fire . They were mostly driven into the ground and often only secured against the ground by wood, the simplest precast concrete parts or corrugated sheets.

In the interwar period in particular, instead of the previously usual fortifications and belts placed around strategic points in a ring-like manner, continuous border fortifications consisting of combat bunkers, small combat stalls and intervening anti-tank barriers were used to defend a country near the border. Here, standardized designs were often used (see standard construction ). In the German Empire, for example, the east and west walls were built, in France the Maginot line and in Italy the alpine wall, also known as Vallo Alpino del Littorio . Today, Switzerland is one of the countries with a large number of bunkers in the Alps, which were built for defense and civil protection.

In addition, bunkers were often built during this period to strengthen catchment positions and important transit points such as river crossings. The Atlantic Wall , which was built during the Second World War and reinforced with numerous bunkers, was intended to protect the coasts of German-occupied Western Europe from an Allied invasion.

After the end of the Cold War , many bunkers in Europe were classified as dispensable and their maintenance / repairs ended. However, it is very difficult to remove the extremely massive concrete structures, especially if blasting is out of the question because of neighboring buildings. Due to the extreme wall thicknesses, which greatly reduce the usable interior space, and the naturally missing window openings , use for residential purposes, for example, is usually impossible or at least not possible with reasonable effort. Therefore, a new use for bunker constructions is usually searched in vain. On the other hand, it is also a concern of the preservation authorities to preserve historical bunkers as historical evidence as far as possible.


Bunker disguised as a residential building in Switzerland
Splinter protection cell : bunker for one person in Police (Poland)
tower in Gießen (cone bunker)
Atomic shelter in Oberreichenbach
Flak system in Volkspark Humboldthain (Berlin)
Belsize Park underground bunker, upper level
High bunker in Remscheid-Lennep

Bunkers are mainly divided into two types, the high bunker and the deep bunker . The infrastructure is usually decisive for the respective bunker type. High bunkers are mainly built in urban areas, while deep bunkers are primarily built in rural areas. The high bunker does not interfere with the sewage or transport systems. In addition, the surrounding area can be observed from a high bunker and opponents can be fought there if necessary. They can also serve as a base for anti-aircraft or other gun emplacements. The best-known examples of high-rise bunkers are the flak towers in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna or the submarine bunkers in Lorient , La Rochelle or St. Nazaire in France.

Deep bunkers are often built to provide a command center or other sensitive facilities with the highest possible protection (strategic command bunker ). Well-known examples are:

air-raid shelter

One-man bunker

Air raid shelters were mainly built during the Second World War . Both high and deep bunkers were common. A special form are the flak towers built in several large cities in the German Reich, which combined protective function and active defense through anti-aircraft guns . Further examples of high bunkers are the so-called angle towers , named after their inventor Leo Winkel .

In London, during the Second World War, a number of London Underground stations were converted into air raid shelters to protect against German air raids, most of which were put into service in 1942. The tunnels were to provide protection for 8,000 people on two levels. In fact, five of these underground bunkers were opened to the population in 1944: Stockwell , Clapham North , Camden Town , Belsize Park, and Clapham South . The Goodge Street bunker was used as a command bunker for General Eisenhower's headquarters and the Chancery Lane bunker as a telecommunications center. After the war, this tunnel continued to serve as an atomic bomb-proof government bunker.

Also mainly to protect against air raids, the Cabinet War Rooms were built for the British government in the late 1930s.

Nuclear shelter

Due to the increasing spread of nuclear weapons since the end of the Second World War, the demands on bunkers have increased considerably. Bunker systems, which serve civil protection, the protection of governments and critical parts of the military and its infrastructure, have to withstand the massively increased loads caused by these weapons. It is not only the considerably higher pressure forces, but also the additional protection against radioactive fallout that must be taken into account during the construction. In order to counter the very high compressive forces of a nuclear strike, nuclear-safe facilities are installed underground or in mountains. A double-shell construction is often used in large or very important systems. The outer shell is a very heavily armored, mostly cuboid, hollow body. This building should both absorb the immense pressure wave and, depending on the construction, repel direct attacks with bunker-breaking weapons. The outer shell also serves as the first barrier against fallout and other threats from CBRN weapons . The actual facilities of the bunker, infrastructure, fighting stalls, living areas etc. are installed in one or more independent containers. Inside the outer shell, these cells are installed so that they can vibrate using spring / damper systems. This decouples the container from movements and deformations of the outer shell. The decoupling can significantly increase the resistance to atomic impacts. The individual cells are also inherently CBRN-safe. Unlike bunkers, which are only designed for conventional warfare, nuclear bunkers are intended to provide protection for a longer, defined period of time. Conventional bunkers only serve as shelter during a direct attack and are abandoned after a short time. Nuclear shelters, on the other hand, have to be completely self-sufficient for a long time due to the peculiarities of nuclear warfare. In particular because of the radioactive contamination of the surrounding area, it makes sense for such a facility to allow survival for a few weeks. This primarily includes the CBRN-safe supply of water, energy and breathing air. Furthermore, the supply of food and medical care must be provided over a long period of time. If the system is to take over tactical or strategic tasks, these must also be guaranteed over the planned period of use.

Aircraft bunker

To protect combat aircraft on the ground, concrete or steel and partly earth-covered aircraft shelters, arched covers (e.g., AU-xx), closed covers for aircraft (GDF), aircraft caverns and hardened aircraft shelters were used under various names during and after the Second World War used as special bunker forms.

Submarine bunker

Submarine bunkers are mostly fully covered and bomb-proof submarine port / submarine docking facilities. Submarine bunkers are / were used to assemble, equip, repair and accommodate submarines. To protect against enemy fire / bombardment, the systems are often very strongly fortified bunkers or underground caverns. In order to do justice to their tasks, many facilities have wet / dry docks, various workshops and storage rooms. Barracks and hospital rooms are often housed in the bunker to accommodate crews and shipyard personnel. A submarine bunker in the narrower sense is the term used to describe facilities that have been built by the German Navy since the second half of 1940. These very large raised bunkers were built in various German port cities and on the occupied French Atlantic coast. However, submarine bunkers were also set up in other occupied countries such as Norway. The actual construction took place under the direction of the Todt Organization . The systems should provide protection for several submarines against all known calibers and bomb types. You should protect the sensitive boats from air raids during equipment and repairs. Because of the qualitative and quantitative increase in allied attacks, the bunker ceilings in particular were reinforced and improved during the war. Over the course of time, ceiling constructions were created that reached a total thickness of up to 10 meters. In order to fight the bunker systems, the Allies used extremely heavy, bunker-breaking bomb types such as the Tallboy or the Grand Slam with success. Towards the end of the war, the bunkers were also used as shipyards. From 1944 on, the final assembly of the submarine type XXI in the remaining German bunkers was pushed ahead. Most of the facilities in Germany have been blown up and dismantled, while in France many are still intact.


The construction of bunkers has made considerable progress since the fortress was built, as has the control of such systems. Bunker-breaking weapons are usually made of specially hardened steel and are therefore able to penetrate deeper into the ground or concrete. The delayed explosion of the warhead then tears the bunker wall apart. Atomic warheads that are intended for such a use are protected by an upstream penetrator. This penetrates the earth in front of the warhead and thus prepares the way for the blast at some depth. The effect of the explosion is naturally much more serious than with a conventional warhead.

Non-military bunkers

Bunkers in the sense described above as massive explosion-protected structures are also built for non-military applications, for example for explosive tests, as a control stand for launching rockets ( control bunker ) and as a control stand or place of execution for technical experiments with a high potential for destruction. The containment of nuclear power plants is also a bunker. Buildings in which highly radioactive substances are stored and processed are generally designed as bunker structures.

A so-called centrifugal bunker is used in turbine and generator production to test the finished products for their stability during rotation. It is designed to protect the environment from falling turbine blades or burst waves in the event of material failure.


The philosopher Paul Virilio researched bunkers and fortifications for their effect and function and published the results in 1975 in his book Bunker archeology .

In Albania , Enver Hoxha declared the construction of around 700,000 bunkers at strategically important points as a goal in order to secure the country's independence. The coast has been crisscrossed with larger bunkers for guns and smaller ones for people.

Members of the Bundeswehr receive bunker money when they are on duty in bunkers. The prerequisites are that the bunkers do not have access to natural light or outside air. The room height must be below the normal. The Armed Forces Office is responsible for deciding whether a bunker meets these requirements .

Bunker museums

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Bunker  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Bunker  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Deep level shelters in London. In: Subterranea Britannica. April 14, 2003, accessed October 19, 2008 .
  2. Judgment of the VG Koblenz from April 26, 2017 - 2 K 1352 / 16.KO, accessed on May 21, 2017
  3. ^ Government bunker documentation center. Retrieved February 12, 2020 .
  4. ^ Bundesbank bunker. Retrieved February 12, 2020 .