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Not just phallic symbols of power;
they actually served a practical purpose.

These concrete towers were unique AIR RAID SHELTERS of Nazi Germany, built to withstand the destructive power of WWII bombs and heavy artillery. Their cone shape caused bombs to slide down the walls and detonate only at a heavily fortified base.

Cheaper to build above ground than to dig bunkers, they were quite effective, as it was possible to cram as many as 500 people inside. Plus the "footprint" of such tower was very small when observed from the air, so it was very hard for the bombers to ensure a direct hit.

(photo credit: Ivo Schenk. This tower you can even visit)

First appearing in 1936, they were quickly dubbed "cigarette stubbs" or "sugar beet heads". Officially they were called Winkeltürme (Winkel Towers)- after their architect Leo Winkel of Duisburg. Winkel patented his design in 1934, and in the following years Germany built 98 Winkeltürme of five different types.

(photo credit: Norbert Hämmerling)

Hitler was quite impressed by Winkel's concept and blueprints, and ordered full engineering and production support. They were meant to be shelters for factory workers and railroad personnel, to be placed mostly in heavily industrial areas, such as Giessen.
Here is a cut-away view:

(image credit: Michael Grube, Lost Places.De)

Some towers could accommodate as many as 500 people, and consisted of several floors, twisted in a spiral:

(images credit: M. Niehues)

Every floor had some simple furniture:
(interior photos courtesy Michael Grube, Lost Places.De)

Entry was through a hatch door:

The shelter was secured with a heavy lock:

"The Winkelturm in Stuttgart, a Type 2, is in the Feuerbach rail area. The cone shape was designed to defeat bombing attacks by deflecting bombs off the top and sides, toward a reinforced area around the base. However, a Winkelturm of this type in Bremen suffered a direct hit by U.S. bomb in October 1944, which exploded through the roof and killed five people inside."

(images credit: A. Glasner)

Focke Wulf and even Daimler Benz factories got some towers, more than 34 were built around steel plants and rail centers, and quite a few were designated for the German Command itself.

(images credit: A. Glasner)

Cone shaped towers were complimented by the "Dieter" towers, hexagonal or somewhat mushroom-shaped:

Some towers had a flat roof, which was used as a platform for anti-aircraft guns and powerful searchlights.

Today these towers are often considered an eyesore, so the locals turn them into town museums, or even bus stops:

or they try to paint them into something cheerful:

I personally think that their weird and haunted look (combined with a bizarre monumental nature) make them good, though ghastly, reminders of the WWII past.

Sources and further reading: Third Reich Ruins, Luftschutz Bunker, Michael Grube, Lost Places.De
Photography by
- "Fernaufklärer", Fotos Darmstadt
- Alexander Gläsner, Fotos Duisburg-Wedau
- Michael Foedrowitz, Berlin
- Thomas K., Berlin, Fotos Zossen-Wünsdorf

Permanent Link...
Category: Architecture,History
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Anonymous Charles Betz said...

Strange, architecture reminds me somewhat of the anthroposophical buildings like the Goetheanum...

Blogger Peter Haslam said...

As always interesting finds

Anonymous Richard said...

Among your pictures is a tower in Vienna I live quite near by. I've always liked it for its gloomy, threatening look, and in summer it always gave nice shade to the people hanging out in the park it's in. Unfortunately, time has worn it down, and last year it threatened to collapse. While there had been plans by a company to turn it into a data-center, I don't think it'll last that long. Right now they are just trying to stop it from collapsing.

Blogger Maat C said...

Check out this one. One huge ugly block. http://www.technik-kultur.de/wiki/index.php?title=Bunker_-_zweckentfremdet
It held 18.000 people and is still maintained as an emergency shelter.
It is across the street from where I live. It is now called the Mediabunker and is used by Photostudios, a music shop and bands for practice rooms. It also has a club at the top.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone should have put these towers up hitler's ass.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I am surprised someone hasn't turned one into a house of some kind.

Blogger 1jonboy said...

Dude great blog that architect Leo Winkel should of designed the World trade Center. I hope you can visit my website ONLINE SHOPPING MALL
best regards John

Anonymous NTS said...

As a child i was always interested by the german bunkers in the channel islands such as these


cheers for the post



Anonymous IgorD2 said...

We have couple of those towers in Sarajevo too, I know about them since I was a child but newer know the purpose of those old buildings. Looks exactly the same as those on pictures.

Anonymous Stickman said...

I recall seeing these in the railyards near Kaiserslautern too. I also remember seeing one in Vienna - I'm not sure if it is the one you posted, but it had building built around it. It was almost like they were mushrooms that had grown up around a tree or something

Anonymous fragforfun said...

Hehe, the one they turned into a bus stop (with the Loto-Sign in front of it) is actually located in my hometown of Stuttgart in Germany (Stuttgart-Feuerbach). My father always told me how he had to hide there and in other shelters when the bomb alarm went off during the last months of war...

Anonymous Michael W said...

A tower that is used for antiaircrfat guns and searchlights would not seem to be a safe refuge in an air raid...

Blogger major said...

They look like rocket ships skyward pointed, poised to lift off. But they are the opposite; heavy, not light, built to stay, not go.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

I like the analogy...

Blogger Andy said...

I often went passed the one in Feuerbach, but I never could figure what it was. I'll have to go and look again... Thanks!

Anonymous Motorcycle Guy said...

Wow those things are interesting. That is definitely a fun bit of useless knowledge.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Useless knowledge? I find them to be a facinating and somewhat hidden aspect of the war. We all know about Londoners hiding in the tubes during the Blitz, but no one seems to remember how badly Germany was bombed. This goes to show Germany's way of protecting it's people.

Blogger discreto said...

i wonder if there was any specifical order in the position asignated to people. i mean, upper floors seems much more dangerous than base. and taking in account that if u come first, the latest people entering the tower would push you up, its a potetial crisis. what u think? anybody knows about behavior in shelters in WWII?

Anonymous Cora said...

A tower of this type (locally known as "Spitzbunker") survives to this day in Bremen. It is located next to what used to be a car and truck factory up to the 1960s, so I suspect it was intended for the workers. Nowadays, it sports advertising for an oil company.

I have always liked this bunker, because it looks like a rocketship. Whereas the enormous concrete cubes scattered throughout the city are just ugly, even if they commission artists to paint the walls.

Most municipal authorities are not exactly happy about huge slabs of concrete occupying real estate that could be used for better purposes. But those bunkers were built to withstand bomb hits and often did, so they are very difficult to demolish.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent! Could we also see the existing Fascist architecture that was built in Italy by the Fascists?

Did Franco build any in Spain?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So strange. I traveled all over Germany for five years while I was stationed there in the US Air Force during the 90's and I never saw a WinkelTurm. I never even knew they existed.

Anonymous Anonymous said...



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