The GREE UK team will observing the 2-minute silence to remember those who gave their lives to protect the freedom of our great nation – they died that we might live. Lest we forget.
The Führerbunker was the last headquarters used by German leader Adolf Hitler towards the end of World War II. The elaborate air raid shelter was near the Reich Chancellery (the office of the Chancellor of Germany) in Berlin. Hitler took up his final residence there on 16th January 1945 until his death.
As part of the hidden world of the “Eagle’s Eyrie” (the Adlershorst), a sinister complex of bunkers where the Führer of the Third Reich plotted to take over Great Britain, the complex was built in two phases, between 1936 and 1944.
While British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill managed his military campaign from the War Rooms underneath Whitehall, Hitler hid himself away in the Führerbunker to plan strategies with his cohorts.
Britain had begun constructing the War Rooms after the First World War ended, as protection against a similar conflict in the future. Berlin’s Adlershorst bunker was built in 1936 as an air-raid shelter for Hitler, who was planning his campaign to dominate Europe long before World War II began in 1939.
As the war continued and Berlin was bombed numerous times, the complex was expanded. The Vorbunker, or “forward bunker”, comprised the upper chambers, while the Führerbunker was the last room to be added. It was built 2.5 metres lower than the Vorbunker and wasn’t completed until 1944.
Hitler and his Luftwaffe chief Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering first collaborated in the Adlershorst when the Third Reich was at the height of its power.
By the time Hitler installed himself in the Führerbunker in January 1945, the German onslaught was beginning to wane. His plans to bomb Britain into surrendering had been crushed by the bravery of the RAF. The British Hurricane and Spitfire pilots had secured an important victory over the Luftwaffe and the Adlershorst complex had been partly mothballed.
When Hitler made a last-gasp attempt to overpower the British and Americans in Belgium early in 1945, the Führerbunker served as the nerve centre for planning the Battle of the Bulge. His days of courting public opinion with mass rallies and public appearances had long gone.
He hadn’t visited any German cities after the Allied bombing and when his train passed through the stricken areas, the curtains had been closed, so he would not witness the distressing sight of the destroyed landscape.
He appeared to have become increasingly removed from the reality of the world and kept himself hidden away in the Führerbunker for the last few months of the war.
For the staff working in the underground bunkers, life wasn’t pleasant or healthy. The atmosphere was described as “oppressive” and although there was basic air conditioning, it was noisy and ineffective. Workers described the “sweating concrete walls” as they worked in the stifling heat. With no daylight, they were unable to distinguish between night and day.
Ironically, innovations in air conditioning had begun in the late 1930s, with new designs being displayed at the 1939 World Fair. Willis Carrier’s “igloo” system comprised ducts, fans and pipes, but the onslaught of World War II prevented mass production.
Many AC manufacturers converted their production from domestic to military use during the war. Department stores permitted their chillers to be removed and installed in military plants instead. These included walk-in coolers for the Navy to keep food fresh.
Modern innovations didn’t reach the staff in the Führerbunker, who lived in cramped conditions, with ineffective air con and only basic communications with the outside world. There was a one-person switchboard, one radio transmitter and a lone radiotelephone.
Hitler’s state of mind had deteriorated, but it was said his presence overwhelmed any attempt at sane judgment. Everyone lived together in the hothouse environment of the bunkers, with no-one daring to speak out against the Führer.
As the German war machine stalled, Hitler married Eva Braun in the Führerbunker on 29th April 1945. Less than 40 hours later, they had both committed suicide. For the staff at the Adlershorst, Hitler’s demise and the subsequent end of the war meant their days of living underground in the unhealthy atmosphere had finished.
The US Army finally captured the bunker complex. Parts of it were used for the post-war internment of high-ranking Nazis, including its original designer, the architect Albert Speer.
Today, the bunker has been abandoned and is said to be riddled with damp. The government said there had been some interest in buying it, but no firm offers. An owner is sought who doesn’t support Hitler and who has plenty of money to pay for it.
It is marketed as a possible wine warehouse, or a data storage centre, due to the constant temperature below ground. Plans to convert it into a museum (featuring the old rooms complete with their historic air conditioning system) failed because there wasn’t enough money to get the project up and running.
Gatekeeper and caretaker, Dieter Petzinger, keeps an eye on the property. From the air, it has been disguised as a series of rustic chalets in the woodland.
Services to commemorate the brave men and women who lost their lives in World War II and other conflicts will take place on Remembrance Sunday, 10th November, at cenotaphs and churches all over the world. We will remember them.