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Hitler's secret bunker is under this parking lot

Illustration for article titled Hitlers secret bunker is under this parking lot

Protected by 13 feet of concrete, the Führerbunker was a multi-story underground complex in Berlin that became the central nervous system for the last five months of Hitler's murderous Nazi regime. Now it's a parking lot. And until recently, you'd never even know it was once there. Here's how to find it.

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The subterranean bunker complex, bearing a name that quite literally means "the Führer's bunker," was constructed below Hitler's New Reich Chancellery initially as a temporary air-raid shelter for the maniacal German leader. But with the Allies increasing their bombing of Berlin, the bunker complex was expanded into an improvised permanent shelter.

The elaborate complex consisted of two separate levels, a Vorbunker (the upper bunker), or "forward bunker," which was constructed in 1936, and a newer Führerbunker, constructed in 1943, located one level below. In total, the complex was able to sustain Hitler and two or three dozen support, medical and administrative staff for almost five months from when they moved into the bunker in January of 1945.

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Illustration for article titled Hitlers secret bunker is under this parking lot

Early in the morning on May 2nd, 1945, the Soviets stormed the Reich Chancellery, the last remaining generals under their now-dead Führer left the Führerbunker and surrendered.

Soviet intelligence operatives investigating the complex found more than a dozen bodies belonging to Nazi staff and their families who had apparently committed suicide, mixed in with the cinders of burned papers and documents.

Although the ruins of both the old and new Chancellery buildings were leveled by the Soviets starting in 1945, the bunker largely survived.

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Illustration for article titled Hitlers secret bunker is under this parking lot

The Führerbunker sat untouched until 1959 when another attempt was made to blow up the bunker, this time by the East German government. But, like much done by the East German government, this attempt apparently went without much effect.

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Since it fell in the no-mans-land close to the Berlin Wall, the site went undeveloped and neglected until after reunification. During the construction of residential housing and other buildings on the site in 1988–89 several underground sections of the old bunker were uncovered by work crews and were for the most part destroyed.

But some say that there are still some small coveys and rooms that likely remain.

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For years, if you wanted to know where the bunker had been, you'd be completely out of luck. It never showed up in any official travel guides of the city. As you'd expect, government authorities were concerned about the site of the bunker evolving into a Neo-Nazi shrine.

That changed in June of 2006, when, just one day before the opening of the World Cup in Germany, the Berlin state government decided finally to oust the last Nazi-era taboo and officially recognize the place where Hitler killed himself. An information panel was finally unveiled by a Berlin-based historical society to demystify the history of the bunker and dispel some of the rumors.

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As I'm here in Berlin for the first time to drive the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle, I decided to visit the site earlier today. It was the coldest, drabbest and dreariest July morning Berlin has apparently seen in quite a while. How fitting. What I found was the most nondescript parking lot — in front of the most nondescript, boring apartment buildings — on the face of Earth.

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It was hard for me to imagine that this was the spot where Hitler spent his last months on this Earth. I shuddered thinking about it. Or maybe it was from the cold air. I'm still not sure.

Illustration for article titled Hitlers secret bunker is under this parking lot
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Now, you too can find the private parking lot — and the small informational panel erected only five years ago. It's at the corner of In den Ministergärten and Gertrud-Kolmar-Straße, two tiny streets about three minutes' walk from Potsdamer Platz.

It's worth it just to spit on the cursed ground where the most evil man on Earth finally met his end.

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Sources: At Home In The Wasteland, Wikipedia, Der Spiegel, Den-Ujil, Gimmelwald

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DISCUSSION

Sir_Halffast
Sir Halffast

There's a lot of talk about pissing and spitting and shitting, which is per usual, I suppose. I'd like to propose something else however. If you ever go to this place, just stand and think. Take it all in like you would in Auschwitz or Birkenau or the National Holocaust Museum in DC. Or for that matter, Stalin's birthplace or Lenin's Mausoleum or any other place that is synonymous with terror and tyranny. I'm glad the Germans have put up a plaque and I honestly wish they'd done more for a very good, very real reason. Humanity needs to remember what happened there. Our first reaction to horror is to wash it out and sweep it away, thinking that we can start clean and fresh, but this is fallacy. We, as a race need to remember. Not just to remember how bad or terrible a certain place or person was, but to remember that they were human. Hitler was the personification of evil no doubt, the absolute incarnation of humanity's most base and terrible instincts. So were Stalin and Pol Pot. So are Qaddaffi, Assad, and others that exist even today. I think though, that we do ourselves a disservice when we try to erase their memory and confine them to the status of a historical bogeyman. We need to stand where they stood and see their beds and desks and dining tables and bathrooms. We need to see their places of birth, which are frequently lowly and often like to where we would have been born in other circumstances. We need to be made to think about what it was that turned them and made them different. We need to leave these horrible places, shake our heads and say "there, but for the grace of God go I." Is there a risk of these places becoming shrines? Perhaps. But only for an already marginalized sliver of society. For the rest, it should be about remembrance and acknowledging man's inhumanity to man.

If we don't do this, we run the risk of becoming the very same who allowed Hitler to stay in power during his early years, or who have allowed Qaddaffi to conduct a reign of terror in Libya for decades. They're the same people. You know them, they sit at the table and make excuses. "It's not so bad, he must control his country." "He's just misunderstood." "What does this internal matter have to do with our interests?" And the river washes around yet another, eerily similar bend.

Spitting and pissing on the grave is nothing but false machismo. We need to buck up, swallow the bitter pill of unpleasant history, experience the emotion and turmoil that comes from such dark places, and having faced it down, walk out with the desire to always do better.