Since relocating SF to Berlin, the summer has been one big discovery, this city has something new to see every day. Some things are easy to access and some are a little harder, one of these is Hochbunker on Pallasstraße in Schönenberg.
The Hochbunker is not one of the well known Abandoned Berlin hotspots but for those few who have managed to get in to see it, it is certainly one of the most impressive. The bunker is only opened up to the public once a year and only to a limited number of people. Our tour guide confirmed that there have been 19 guided tours conducted over 19 years and no more than 40 people in each group, that makes the Hochbunker one of the hardest to visit landmarks in Berlin.
The building is on Pallasstraße, if you travel down the street you will see that there is a huge ugly concrete block set into everyday flats that stretch up over eight stories high, but you should look closer. This is one of the most beautiful sites in Berlin, the flats all have their own satellite dish fastened to the wall, but what creates such a striking scene is that every dish tells a story. Every dish has a sign or a tribute to the inhabitant’s own history and story. There are flags, pictures of babies and families, club crests from Galatasaray or Fenerbahce, or there are sunsets or just simple paintings. Each and every one brings a poignant insight to the everyday life of the.
These apartments were built in the 1970’s around the huge Hochbunker, without touching the original structure, due to a lack of space for housing in this part of Berlin. The bunker is now a part of the Sophie-Scholl-Schule and has a rather interesting history.
The bunker was built by prisoners and slaves that the Nazis had captured from across Europe, mostly made up of women and children, they were fed sparsely on just water and bread and sometimes a little sugar and expected to work long hours to create the bunker. These workers were housed in the former Augusta High School, which is now the Sophie-Scholl-Schule, named after a famous lady who opposed the Nazis and stood against them in the face of torture and punishment.
The bunker was not intended for humans to take shelter in but rather for machinery and supplies, this is reflected in the fact that the place is not very well ventilated, it was said that it has space for well over 150 people to stay in their comfortably but only for 24 hours as they would run out of oxygen.
Like every other outdoor space in Berlin, the walls are adorned with graffiti, messages and tags, but due to the fact that there is such limited access and only through a special guided tour, inside this piece of history there is no graffiti or tags or paste-ups.
You enter at ground level through gates and two huge and thick steel doors. The bunker is on four levels, each floor almost identical to the one above, huge white and cream walled rooms with unkind lighting and harsh finishes, the space would make an amazing gallery (shame about the damp) or a ridiculous venue for a rave (shame about the lack of oxygen). As it stands it is kept for limited viewings until a long term use can be found.
The building is all concrete, each external wall is 3 metres thick, there was talk of trying to knock it down after the war but this never happened, indeed the bunker was not finished before the war ended, but it must have been something of great importance to the Nazis as concrete in those days was expensive and hard to come by, so to set aside so much for the build of this bunker gives indication to it’s importance.
The space is sparse however there are two things to note, the school has used this space to create a small artistic installation, including a copper box with a rose inside, the lights shining through give the piece an eerie feel.
The most interesting part to the entire building was the escape route, on the 4th floor there is a door, but unlike any you might have seen before. This is the escape route to a bigger steel door behind in case of attack. The walled door is made up of 84 blocks which are 3 metres long each and have a steel handle on each block. In order to make it through to the exit door.
The tour is conducted by a professor who has lectured at the school and is a well of information, but ensure you take a German speaker as this is a visit conducted only in German. In order to book a place you have to show patience and determination to book a spot and wait for the date.