Geoff Walden


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Schweinfurt, Part 4

Air Defense Shelters

 

   Several concrete bunkers were built in various parts of the city of Schweinfurt, to provide protection for the inhabitants against bombing attacks. The ten public Luftschutzbunker shelters were numbered A1 - A10 (including one with no number designation), as follows:

A1 - at Nutzweg 8 in the Bergl district - built in 1942 to protect 350 people
A2 - at Nutzweg 36 in the Bergl district - built in 1942 to protect 500 people
A3 - at Am Wasserturm 10-12 in the Bergl district - built in 1942 to protect 350 people
A4 - the Goethebunker - at St. Killian Straße 18 (on Degnerstraße) - built in 1941 to protect 1000 people
A5 - at Kleinflürleinsweg 21-25 in the Gartenstadt district - built in 1941 to protect 350 people
A6 - at Gartenstadtstraße 77 (on Blaue Leite) in the Gartenstadt district - built in 1941 for 830 people
A7 - the Gartenstadtbunker - at Galgenleite 76½ in the Gartenstadt district - built in 1941 for 600 people
A8 - at Ernst Sachs Straße 73 - built in 1941 for 1020 people
(there was no shelter numbered A9)
A10 - the Kirdorfbunker - at Wohlfahrtstraße 10 - built in 1942 for 1400 people
Spitalseebunker - on the Spitalseeplatz - built in 1943 for 1640 people

 

All of these bunker shelters still exist in the city. This is Bunker A1 in Bergl. The shelter was built in 1942 with walls of concrete slightly over one meter thick.

 

Bunker A2, also on Nutzweg in Bergl, was similar in construction to Bunker A1, although slightly larger. These two bunkers were in a city section that mainly housed factory workers.

 

Bunker A3 was the third shelter in Bergl, similar to the other two. In the mid-1990s this bunker was converted to an apartment house, by cutting windows and balconies into the 3.5 feet thick concrete walls. The famous Bergl water tower, a Schweinfurt landmark, can be seen in the photo on the right.

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Bunker A4 on Degnerstraße was commonly called the "Goethebunker," due to its location adjacent to the Goethe School. It was one of the first air defense shelters built in Schweinfurt, during the period when there was an attempt to camouflage these structures from aerial recognition. Accordingly, these bunkers were given tile roofs and fake windows. The walls of this large bunker were two meters (6.5 feet) thick. This shelter was intended mostly for workers at the nearby Kugelfischer factory.

 

One of the doorways into Bunker A4 features an ornate iron grill with a stylized version of the insignia for the Luftschutz Service (seen below).

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The Goethe-Schule and the Goethebunker itself were used as a final command post by the Nazi leadership of Schweinfurt at the end of the war - the original buildings of the Goethe-Schule can be seen behind the shelter. When the U.S. Army captured Schweinfurt in early April 1945, they apparently took over this area for their command post. This area was used as a processing and detention area by the U.S. military authorities, who commanded all male Schweinfurt citizens to assemble near the Goethebunker for registration. The photo above is a U.S. Army photo taken on 11 April 1945. The photo below was taken by the famous Life Magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White (see Margaret Bourke-White, "Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly" (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1946).  (above - U.S. National Archives, RG111SC, courtesy Mike Haines; below - TimePics collection)  

 

Bunker A5 was built in 1941 on a hilltop in the Gartenstadt section. Similar to the
Goethe-Bunker, it also had a steeply sloping roof with red tiles and fake windows in the walls.

 

Bunker A6 was another of the 1941 bunkers built to resemble a civilian building, complete with steep red-tiled roof and fake windows. The shelter is located on Blaue Leite at Fritz-Soldman-Straße and Gartenstadtstraße. It was similar to the Goethebunker (A4), a larger bunker with 2-meter-thick concrete walls.

 

Bunker A7 - the Gartenstadtbunker - was the most ornate air defense shelter built in Schweinfurt, complete with an attached tower, civilian-style roof, and stone casings around the doorways and fake windows. The families of many of the industrial workers lived in this area, and took shelter here during the bombing attacks.

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Bunker A8, built in 1941 on Ernst-Sachs-Straße, and was intended for workers at the nearby Fichtel & Sachs and VKF bearing factories. It was a large shelter, built to protect 1020 people, and was clad on the outside with brickwork to disguise it as a civilian structure. On the left below is a 1945 photo from the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, showing the ruins of the VKF-Werk II factory in the foreground, with the Fichtel & Sachs facilities across the street. Bunker A8 can be seen in the distance. The staircase seen on the right below may lead to an underground entrance to the bunker.  (below left - U.S. National Archives)

 

Bunker A10, also called the Kirdorfbunker, is located across the street from the Hauptbahnhof, on Wohlfahrtstraße. It was built in 1942 to protect railway workers at the main city train station, as well as workers from the nearby Kugelfischer bearing factory, a total of 1400-1500 personnel. (My thanks to Mike Haines for pointing out the location of this bunker to me.)

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The largest air raid shelter in Schweinfurt was this five-story concrete bunker at the Spitalsee Platz, built in 1943 to protect 1500 people, particularly those living in the inner part of the city. The concrete walls were two meters (6.5 feet) thick and the roof was 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) thick. The roof was hit by bombs several times during the war, but was never penetrated. According to Schweinfurt sources, this type of bunker was found only here and in Berlin. A display in the shelter commemorated the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in 1995.

 

During the war, the shelter rooms would have been crowded with wooden benches. The entrances lead to right-angle anterooms with steel blast doors closing off the interior corridors, all of which was designed to keep bomb blasts or direct fire from penetrating through the outside doorway directly to the interior of the bunker. Metal shields were installed over the air intake vents on the outside of the bunker (below left), for the same purpose. (Although these metal shields may have been installed postwar ... many of the Schweinfurt bunkers were reconditioned for possible use during the Cold War (such as the fluorescent ceiling lights now found in the Spitalseebunker), and the ventilation systems were also upgraded.) In 1998 a coalition of U.S. bomber crew veterans and local flak crew veterans installed a joint monument adjacent to the Spitalseebunker (see here).

 

The aerial views above contrast the area around the Spitalsee Bunker at the end of the war (left) and 1971 (right). The widespread destruction in the inner city area is also seen in the 1945 photo below (the bunker is at the left rear).  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

 

In addition to the government built Luftschutz bunkers, many of the industrial sites had underground air-defense shelters, and some privately built underground cellars and shelters existed in the city. This is believed to be the entrance to one such underground shelter near the downtown area. It has a steel door of the type commonly found in bunkers, and the entrance of brick and concrete covers a stairway leading directly underground. (Thanks to my friend Tom for pointing this site out to me.)

 

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey found these bomb shelters in the bearing factories in 1945. On the left, a concrete roof over an underground shelter. On the right, ground story walls of a building in the VKF-Werk I factory were reinforced with added bricks and concrete.  (U.S. National Archives, RG 111SC)

 

Citizens hurry through the Schillerplatz toward an air-raid shelter during an alarm. The large building is the 1905 Justizgebäude (Justice Building). The person at the left is probably a member of the Hitler Youth, perhaps serving as a Luftschutz warden, directing the civilians to shelter.  (Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt)

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The air raid wardens were members of the Reichs Luftschutz Bund, which also recruited women and Hitler Youth members. In addition to guiding civilians to shelter, the Hitler Youth members were often assigned to rooftops to attempt to extinguish incendiary bombs, or minimize the damage from fires.  (Gerd Rühle, ed., "Das Dritte Reich," Berlin, 1938 ed.)

 

Above left - pin insignia of the RLB Reichs Luftschutz Bund; center - service book of an RLB member; right - a sticker that warned children of the dangers of dud bombs (Blindgänger).  (author's collection)

 

Click here to see air-raid shelters in Fürth, near Nürnberg.

I wish to acknowledge the kind assistance of the staff of the Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt provided during my photo research there.


Tour Guide service is available to the Third Reich and WW2 sites in Schweinfurt - see the Tour Guide page.


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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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