A Warm Grave in a Cold War

East German Nuclear Bunker Opens to Tourists – Published on Spiegel Online International /english, by Siegfried Wittenburg, August 26, 2011.

A massive bunker built in the late 1960s to house East German naval operations in the event of nuclear attack has opened to visitors for the first time this summer. The Cold War time capsule reveals volumes about how the communists planned for nuclear Armageddon … //

… Don’t Look at the Atomic Flash: 

  • The bunker was designed and built during the Cold War in Europe and an actual war in Vietnam. The Berlin Wall had been standing for just eight years when design and construction began in 1969. The facility went into operation on December 1, 1974. Construction cost 62 million East German marks, an amount equivalent to the average monthly salaries of 100,000 East Germans.
  • At the time, the Iron Curtain divided Europe from the North Atlantic down through the Baltic Sea and all the way to the Black Sea. The western part of the Baltic Sea was the theater of operations for People’s Army ships.
  • Germany, at the front line between the two military blocs of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, was seen as a strategic playing field for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. This is where the global powers faced off, threatening one another and employing entire armies and segments of their countries’ industries to do so. If it had come to a conflict or an inadvertent exchange of blows, all of Germany, east and west alike, would have been destroyed by nuclear weapons. Every person in the country would likely have fallen victim to the blast wave, the heat and the radioactivity.
  • For those many millions of people living in both East and West Germany, there were hardly any protective measures in place for cases of emergency. In the GDR, the laughably absurd instructions were, “Don’t look at the atomic flash, seek cover and lie down flat on the ground.”

First Kill, then Die: … //

… Decisions about Life and Death:

  • Massive amounts of air compressed into reservoirs, together with filtering and ventilation systems, provided a constant supply of oxygen for the bunker. In the case of radioactive contamination, a commander in charge of the air lock would decide whether a person died outside the bunker or inside — assuming that person was still able to knock at the door. If a nuclear weapon detonated with around 25 kilogram-force per square centimeter — equivalent to a five-ton shockwave directly to the skull — death would have come more quickly outside, while inside the bunker, the force would have thrown people against one another.
  • For the same reason, all technical equipment inside the bunker was suspended from springs. The floors between the nine long hallways have vibration-cushioning suspension, giving way when stepped on, with concrete walls up to 1.5 meters (five feet) thick between them.
  • The dispatcher at the technical control center, who was technically the head engineer for the bunker’s engine room, controlled all of the equipment from an armchair with a headrest. Water came from enormous storage tanks and from the bunker’s own well, which could draw water from a depth of 15 meters (50 feet), as long as it wasn’t contaminated. Three diesel engines saw to the electrical power supply, while also recharging batteries that served as backup for emergencies. The bunker’s galley provided food, with storage rooms full of meat, potatoes, bread and other ingredients, including spices. The sailors were familiar with such conditions. Sleeping quarters were cramped, with washrooms, showers, toilets, and mess halls for both officers and sailors. There was also a doctor on hand in an infirmary to treat both women and men.
  • This combat post existed to serve only one purpose: commanding the fleet, in coordination with the military leadership of the Warsaw Pact. In order to do so, the commanding officer and his staff needed information sent in over radio, cable and pneumatic tubes. All divisions worked to support the command center, a large room furnished with a carpet and a map of the western Baltic Sea as its centerpiece. This is where, if it came down to it, decisions would be reached about the life and death of millions of people in West Germany, East Germany and Denmark.

Nodding Off in Paradise: … (full long text).

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