During my stay in Vienna I slept in appartment very close to Arenberg park, in 3rd district, very close to Landstrasse. It is a small park, usually crowded with parents with kids, small playground and two basketball courts right next to one of two bunkers. Yes. A bunkers. And not like any other bunker you have seen in movies about WWII. These two are known as Flaktürme, a Flak Towers and are some of rare remaining towers of that kind in Europe. In Vienna, there are 4 other ones, two in Augarten and another two in Stiftskaserne. Those two in Arenberg park are 42m and 39m tall, made of concrete walls thick about 2-3m.
All of three pairs of bunkers were made during 1942 -1943 to form a triangle for anti-aircraft protection of a city. The name, Flaktürme, comes from a word flak (acronym for Fliegerabwehrkanone, meaning anti-aircraft gun) and türme – tower. Each pair of towers consisted of a large, heavily gunned attack tower and a smaller communications tower. They were designed by city architect, professor Friedrich Tamms, already famous at the time for his contribution to Germany's concrete Autobahnen system. There is a story that construction of the towers used enough material to build an apartment for every citizen of Vienna!!! A roof of towers was meant to contain the heaviest artillery and lighter armaments installed on projecting balconies below. All the towers were self-contained with their own water and power supplies, military hospitals, and filtered air systems in case of gas attack. However, the towers only became operational towards the end of the war by which time they were already serving as air raid shelters for the local population.
After war, some of the towers in Germany were successfully destroyed (there were towers in Berlin and Hamburg), but those in Wienna remained, mostly because they were too close to surrounding buildings. However, Russian soldiers tried to demolish one in Augarten but they attempt failed, leaving only a crack on the top – towers seemed indestructable!!!
Since 1945. there were a lot of plans to make towers usable but they rarely moved out of drawing boards. Only in recent times, because of solid construction, communication tower in Esterházypark has been successfully converted into the fascinating House of the Sea (Haus des Meeres) and now houses many species (snakes, piranhas and crocodiles as well as sharks and giant turtles). Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to visit it. All other towers are closed. I can just imagine how many good photgraphs could be made from their balconies…
Just one more interesting story: "…anticipating victory, Hitler's architects had plans to clad the Flak towers with slabs of black marble on which the names of dead German soldiers would be chiselled in gold leaf. The towers would thus become both monuments to German triumph as well as memorials to those who died achieving it…"
What really happened later is a part of history.
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