East German nuclear bunker could become tourist attraction

Fri Nov 7, 2014 11:14am EST
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By Emma Anderson

PRENDEN Germany (Reuters) - Hidden away in a forest near Berlin lies a huge abandoned Cold War-era bunker, built to withstand a nuclear attack, that enthusiasts hope can become a new magnet for tourists visiting the former East Germany.

The 7,750-square meter (83,000 sq feet), three-storey structure is known as 'Honecker's Bunker' after Communist leader Erich Honecker, whom it was built to protect in the event of a nuclear war between the Soviet bloc and the West.

Now, as Germans mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the end of East Germany, some Berliners are looking to turn the bunker into a museum, tapping into a wave of nostalgia - or 'Ostalgie', from the German word 'Osten' for East - for the communist past.

"When you get inside and you know what it was for, or what they planned to withstand or what they were afraid of, you really get a feeling of how seriously worried they were," said Hannes Hensel, leader of the efforts to reopen the bunker.

The site, located about 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Berlin and built to accommodate up to 400 of the Communist Party's political and military leadership, was abandoned and shut after the end of the Cold War.

Hensel helped to get it re-opened to the public for a brief three-month period in 2008 when it drew some 20,000 visitors.

A similar bunker built near Bonn to protect West German leaders has stayed open since 2008 and attracts about 80,000 visitors every year.

Hensel is looking for investors to raise an estimated 1.5 million euros ($1.86 million) to open the museum. He hopes to organise tours and perhaps also to open a restaurant and hotel at the site.   Continued...

People walk under stands with balloons placed along the former Berlin Wall location at East Side Gallery, which will be used in the installation 'Lichtgrenze' (Border of Light) in Berlin November 7, 2014. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke