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Marking the Spot of Hitler's Bunker

DW staff (jp)
June 10, 2006

Few know that Hitler's infamous bunker is tucked away below a Berlin car park, surrounded by high-rises built in the GDR. But a Berlin association has now erected a display board they say demystifies this sinister site.

Debunking myths: The information panel at the site of Hitler's bunkerImage: AP

There's little to suggest that the sandy parking lot in a somewhat characterless residential neighborhood of Berlin was once the scene of some of the most dramatic moments in World War II.

But however hard the city has tried to ignore the existence of Hitler's bunker, the site inevitably exerts a ghoulish fascination. Ever since the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the anonymous-looking street in the former East Germany has been regularly sought-out by a stream of curious visitors eager to see the place where the Führer breathed his last.

Führerbunker als Parkplatz in Berlin
History is buried in central BerlinImage: AP

Just a few hundred meters (yards) away from the city's Holocaust memorial, the bunker has long been shrouded in myth and legend. It was here that the doomed leader committed suicide on April 30, 1945. But the site remained unexcavated for decades for fear it might become a neo-Nazi shrine.

Preserving history

Post-war Germany's authorities never knew what to do with this oppressive Nazi legacy, and experts say that information on its precise whereabouts and architecture has always been disparate and conflicting.

Under the communist regime, repeated attempts were made to blow up the bunker. After German reunification, the historical significance of the area went largely ignored. In a deliberate bid to play down its significance, Berlin simply built over the site.

But in recent years there have been growing indications that Germany is coming to terms with the past. As it prepared to welcome thousands of visitors in town for the World Cup, a Berlin organization has now identified this notorious testimony to the Third Reich for the first time in over 60 years.

Exploring the historical underbelly

Führerbunker in Berlin
Parts of the bunker were opened the first time for the mediaImage: AP

The group behind the project is "Berliner Unterwelten" (or Berlin Underworlds'), which researches and offers tours through Berlin's subterranean urban history and architecture.

Its sign-posting of the site on Gertrud-Kolmar-Strasse marks an important step in documenting German history. Put together by staff from the group, the information board features architectural facts, archive photos and a chronology of the bunker's history.

"This is one of the most symbolic places in Berlin for the crimes the Nazis committed and we want to make sure people know the whole truth about it," Sven Felix Kellerhoff from the organization told BBC.


Flughafen Tempelhof
Tempelhof airport was built during the Nazi eraImage: dpa

But while many feel that objective documentation is the best way to deal with history, others fear that marking the location where Hitler died will inevitably invite right-wing extremists to pay tribute.

The country has frequently debated the need to preserve remnants from the Nazi era as necessary if uncomfortable memorials, with opinion divided among those who believe Germany must wear its historical wounds on its sleeve, and those who believe it's time the nation moved on.

Attended Thursday's unveiling of the information board was 88-year-old Rochus Misch, one of Hitler's former bodyguards and a telephone operator inside the bunker.

"People should be informed of history, even when it was the history of the devil," he told BBC.