Armies spend millions of dollars on bases, bunkers, and forts. But when a station is abandoned, all that money goes down the drain. The military will decommission a fortress when they no longer need it, and often these shelters remain abandoned as a haunting reminder of the wars they survived.
From America to Russia, military bases are left to rot. Some were battle locations, while others were used for training or testing weapons. For one reason or another, they were abandoned. Check out these haunting photos of forgotten army forts along with their stories.
The Maginot Line, France
In the 1930s, the French military built a series of bunkers along the French-German line. If the Germans ever attacked, France's Maginot Line would withstand troops, bombs, and tanks. But in 1940, the Germans didn't attack the border; they invaded through Belgium, entirely surpassing the Maginot Line.
After World War II, the Maginot Line was abandoned because it was too expensive to maintain. Its tunnels, shelters, and forts still stand today. The Maginot Line stretches 450 miles (720 km) without a single soul inside.
Johnston Atoll Military Base, Pacific Ocean
Johnston Island, 825 miles (1,328 km) southwest of Hawaii, stored deadly chemicals for over 30 years. The uninhabited island was taken over by the US Navy in 1934, and they built the station Johnston Atoll in 1941. It became a fuel station for aircraft, chemical weapons storage, and site to tests atomic bombs.
While the Army occupied Johnston Atoll, they created two artificial islands, which resulted in a ring of four small islands. The last soldier left in 2001, and only some contract civilians remain. Johnston Island is also a sanctuary for hundreds of native fish, coral, and migratory birds.
Maunsell Forts, North Sea
Offshore of Kent, England, a group of Star Wars-looking buildings stand above the water. They are the Maunsell Army Sea Forts, and they were built to protect the shore in 1942. The buildings contained radio stations that warned London citizens of oncoming airstrikes.
After the Maunsell Forts were decommissioned in the '50s, pirates took advantage of their radio to communicate with each other. Today, these buildings lay abandoned and decaying. Visitors can see them if they take an eight-mile (12 km) boat ride to the facilities.
Duga Radar, Russia
You would have to explore the dense forests around Chernobyl, Russia, to find Duga Radar military base. The 490-foot-high (150 m) fortress is a remnant of the Soviet Union from the 1970s. Duga Radar acted as a warning system for missile strikes, and it was top-secret at the time. The government disguised it as a children's camp.
Duga's radio signals weakened during the 1980s, and in 1989, they disappeared altogether. To this day, the reasons behind Duga Rada's closure have not been revealed to the public. It remains abandoned near the worst nuclear accident in history.
Teufelsberg Listening Station, Germany
In the forests outside of Berlin, Germany, a former NSA spy station remains abandoned. Teufelsberg Listening Station sits on top of a 260-foot (80 m) hill called "Devil's Mountain". The site was originally a Nazi military-technical college, but during the Cold War, the US repurposed it to spy on the Soviets.
Teufelsberg wasn't chosen randomly. Every year, a local festival would set-up a Ferris wheel that improved what the NSA heard through radio waves. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Teufelsberg Listening Station was abandoned. All that's left are wild boars and graffiti-covered walls.
Switzerland's Secret Military Bunkers
Switzerland hasn't participated in a war for almost 200 years, but this country still has military bunkers. If you know where to look along the Alps, you can find several camouflaged bunkers. Many buildings look like giant rocks, but if you look inside, you'll discover nuclear shelters, cannons, tunnels, and railway systems.
At least 20,000 military bunkers have been discovered throughout Switzerland, although the exact amount is not known. The Swiss army began building these bunkers in the 1880s, and construction continued through the twentieth century. Some look like cabins, while others were built into the side of a mountain.
Plokštinė Missile Base, Lithuania
If you want to visit Plokštinė Missile Base in Lithuania, you'll have to head underground. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union discovered that the US was constructing underground bases. To catch up, they began rapidly building their own hidden base in Plokščiai.
Plokštinė Missile Base was the first nuclear missile site in the Soviet Union. However, the US never learned about it until 1978. No missiles were ever launched there, even for tests. After the Cold War, Plokštinė Missile Base became obsolete and was abandoned. A history museum opened there in 2012.
Wolf's Lair, Poland
The abandoned bunker in Ketrzyn, Poland, holds disturbing memories of the Nazi regime. Wolf's Lair, as it's called, was one of Adolf Hitler's headquarters during World War II. Hitler spent around 800 hours there and even survived assassination attempts.
In 1944, one of Hitler's colonels brought a suitcase with a bomb inside to a meeting. Miraculously, Hitler survived the blast with few injuries. When the war ended, Wolf's Lair was forgotten. It is now covered in moss and plants from the surrounding Polish forest.
Kaunas Fortress, Lithuania
In 1882, the Russian Empire aimed to build nine fortresses across Lithuania. The final base, Kaunas Fortress, was finished just before World War I. Kaunas entered the war when the German forces attacked in 1915. After World War I ended, Kaunas Fortress was abandoned.
However, the fort received attention when Nazi Germany overtook Lithuania during World War II. They used Kaunas Fortress to detain, interrogate, and execute tens of thousands of Holocaust victims. The fort remains as an eerie, grass-covered reminder of the tragedy.
The Nekoma Pyramid, North Dakota, USA
If you head to Nekoma, North Dakota, which has a population of 24 people, you'd see a futuristic-looking pyramid in the distance. This is the Nekoma Pyramid that was built during the height of the Cold War. The pyramid shape functioned as a radar system and missile silo.
Because the fort risked setting off bombs over Canada, the government left the Nekoma Pyramid in the '60s. Today, the base still stands in the middle of nowhere and is the subject of several conspiracy theories.
Imari Kawanami Shipyard, Japan
Imari Kawanami Shipyard is one of the most famous abandoned sites in Japan. Located on the desolate Kyushu Island, the shipyard was built in 1851 to store boats and torpedos. During World War II, Imari Kawanami contained the infamous kaiten, also known as "human torpedos."
Human torpedos were secret naval weapons in which pilots rammed the vehicle directly into their target. During the war, Imari Kawanami housed around 2,500 soldiers, but it closed down in 1952. The shipyard was demolished in 2011, but photos of the old structure remain online.
Barnton Quarry Nuclear Bunker, Scotland
Barnton Quarry once produced stones for building near Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1952, the Scottish government transformed the quarry into a top-secret military bunker. There, they prepared for a nuclear bombing that never came.
Barnton Quarry was built to shelter the Queen should a nuclear war break out. The battle never happened and thus, the bunker was abandoned. In 2005, a private owner bought Barnton Quarry and converted it into a museum. The bunker's broadcast room, tunnels, and stone walls are still intact.
Devil's Slide Bunker, California, USA
In San Mateo County, California, an abandoned military base sits on top of a dangerous cliff. The bunker, called Devil's Peak, got its name from the 30 to 50-degree inclines of the coastal cliffs that surround it. Devil's Peak was designed to shoot down enemy aircraft during World War II.
Soldiers in Devil's Peak kept a lookout for Japanese ships with their advanced radio tower. During the Cold War, a private owner bought Devil's Peak, and he planned a project for it that wasn't completed. Nobody inhabits the bunker today, as it is hard to even get to.
RAF Stenigot, England
Between 1938 and 1955, the British Army constructed the Royal Air Force Radar Station (or RAF Stenigot.) At first, the fort was created to detect and intercept German air raids during World War II. After the war ended, NATO took over the base and redesigned it to warn against Soviet attacks.
During this time, NATO built 60-foot-wide (18 m) dishes to detect Soviet frequencies. After it was abandoned, three of the four dishes were scrapped. You can still visit the remaining dish in Stenigot, near Lancashire.
Wünsdorf Soviet Camp, Germany
What was once known as "Little Moscow" now lies in ruins. Wünsdorf Soviet Camp was a small town south of Berlin that housed Soviet soldiers and their families. With 75,000 people living there, Wünsdorf was the largest Soviet camp at the time. Along with storing ammunition, the town had schools, trains, and hospitals.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, residents were forced to leave. Thousands of people rushed to return to Russia, leaving many belongings behind. Today, Wünsdorf Soviet Camp remains abandoned as a grim reminder of the Soviet Union.
Željava Air Base, Bosnia
In the 1940s, communist Yugoslavia launched the project Objekat 505 to increase the country's defense. Over two decades, they spent $6 billion on Objekat 505, more than Croatia's and Serbia's budgets combined. The result? A massive underground airport.
The Željava Air Base could survive a nuclear airhead and house over 1,000 soldiers. In the 1990s, pilots began defecting from the military there. To prevent further uprisings, the government bombed part of Željava. Today, the base survives, but it lies in ruins. It's also tricky to find along the border of Croatia and Bosnia.
Saint Nazaire Submarine Base, France
While the Germans occupied France in World War II, they built four military bases. The largest was the Saint Nazaire Submarine Base off the coast of Brittany. The concrete base is 985 feet long (300 m), 426 feet wide (130 m), and 60 feet tall (18 m).
Saint Nazaire was built to protect submarines and "Unterseeboots," Germany's most threatening weapon at the time. When the Allies liberated France in 1945, Saint Nazaire was abandoned. The government restored the base in 1994 for tourists and history buffs.
Cape May Bunker, New Jersey, USA
Beach-goers who walk along Cape May, New Jersey, could run into a giant moss-covered fortress. This bunker was built during World War II with turrets of heavy artillery. It became useless after the war and was abandoned.
During the bunker's construction in 1942, it was 900 feet (275 m) from the water. Over time, the tide has risen so that visitors can't walk around it without stepping in the ocean. Because the bunker hasn't functioned in many battles, it has remained relatively intact.
The USS Oriskany Was Turned Into A Reef
The USS Oriskany was an aircraft carrier that sailed the seas mainly during the 1970s and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. During her time, the USS Oriskany earned seven battle stars for its service.
After it was decommissioned in 1976, it was decided the once proud aircraft carrier would be sunk off the Florida Gulf Coast to create an artificial reef. It is now resting 212 feet below the Gulf of Mexico.
Humboldthain Flak Tower, Germany
During World War II, Nazi Germany built eight flak towers, which were military towers designed to shoot down fighter planes. The Humboldthain Flak Tower in Berlin also sheltered civilians during air raids, but today, it only houses bats in the winter.
The army destroyed part of a large park in northern Berlin to make room for Humboldthain. After the war ended, the military had no need for these flaks anymore. Today, visitors can explore Humboldthain Flak Tower if they're willing to climb the five stories to the top.
Olavsvern Naval Base, Norway
The US and Russia weren't the only countries building secret bases during the Cold War. In Tromsø, Norway, the Norweigan army built their own secret naval base in the Arctic Circle. Olavsvern Base cost over four billion Kroner to build, but it was never needed to counter nuclear war.
In 2008, the Norweigan government decided to commission Olavsvern by selling it. Ironically, the new owners rented the site to Russian research vessels. Many people suspect that Russian military activity still occurs there in secret, but we don't know for sure.
Balaklava Submarine Base, Russia
Today, you can board a white yacht to travel to an abandoned base in Balaklava Bay, Russia. During the Cold War, it was a top-secret submarine base built to repair submarines and the Soviet's Black Sea Fleet. Secretly, it could also withstand nuclear bombs... and retaliate.
In theory, the base could withstand an explosion ten times stronger than the one that dropped on Hiroshima. It also held nuclear warheads that were ready to fire at any time. By the early 2000s, Balaklava Base fell into disrepair. The abandoned structure now functions as a museum.
Askold Island, Sea Of Japan
At one time, Askold Island held valuable goldmines. In the nineteenth century, the Japanese and Russians competed over ownership of the island, and Russia eventually won. By the early 20th century, Russia had integrated Askold Island into a vast system of fortresses.
The military base on Askold allowed the Russians to spy on the Japanese and build mines that would protect their maritime routes. Today, nobody lives on the island, although it is open for tourists. According to rumors, dozens of gold deposits still lay undiscovered on Askold.
Greenbrier Bunker, West Virginia, USA
In 2010, reporters revealed 33 government buildings that went undiscovered for decades. One of them was the Greenbrier Bunker in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. In the 1950s, Greenbrier was a nuclear shelter for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Oddly enough, Greenbrier was converted into a luxury resort. The concrete add-on building had a complex air filter, 1,100 beds, and many restrooms (mostly men's). Today, Greenbrier offers tours of the bunker that was likely never used throughout its history.
Monte Moro Bunker, Italy
The history behind Monte Moro Bunker in Genova, Italy, is shrouded in mystery. Like many abandoned bunkers, Monte Moro was leftover from World War II. When Italy declared war on France, Genova received the first hit. This fort provided ammunition for the soldiers stationed there.
It's unknown when the army abandoned Monte Moro Bunker. But today, nobody uses the fort. It has three batteries, one of which can be reached by car, and the rest has been built into the hillside. Graffiti covers the concrete walls that once held ammunition.
RAF Hethel, England
The Royal Air Force Hethel (often called the RAF Hethel) lies forgotten north of London, England. During the Second World War, the British and Americans used the airfield as a base. After the war ended, Polish citizens used the base as a camp. As a result, there are several gravestones outside the airfield.
In the 1960s, a British racecar manufacturer called Lotus Cars used the airfield for test runs. The base now has a combination of older and newer buildings. Although few full buildings remain, the gym, chapel, and engineering sites still remain.
Pointe Du Hoc, France
Pointe du Hoc Base, which lies on a cliff overlooking the English Channel, was a turning point during the Battle of D-Day. The Germans fortified Pointe du Hoc in 1943, but in June 1944, American forces scaled the 100-foot-tall (30 m) cliffs to reclaim the base.
Today, the Pointe du Honte Base is an American battle monument. A tablet, with inscriptions in French and English, was installed on a German bunker in 1979. Visitors can still visit the abandoned concrete bunkers today.
Palmerston Forts, Portsea Island, England
In 1859, England believed that the French would invade at any moment. To prepare, the Royal Commission built several forts along Portsea Island called the Palmerston Forts. These bases stretched 200 feet (60 m) across and held 49 cannons.
Although the Palmerston Forts never fought the French, they did see some action in both world wars. In the 1950s, the forts were decommissioned. One of the forts, called No Man's Land, opened as a luxury hotel in the 1960s before it closed once again. Now, the Palmerston Forts remain abandoned.
Fort Terry, New York, USA
In 1897, Fort Terry was built on Plum Island outside of New York. It was initially made to monitor trade, but when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Fort Terry quickly turned into a military base. It worked as an ammunition supplier throughout both world wars.
In 1952, the US Army Chemical Corps had another idea for Fort Terry. The fort became a center of animal disease research and biological warfare. During the 2000s, Fort Terry transferred ownership a few times before finally being abandoned. The building still stands on that forgotten island.
RAF Upper Heyford, England
Five miles (eight km) north of Bicester, England, an old air force base is slowly consumed by nature. The Royal Air Force Upper Heyford Base sheltered aircraft from both the US and Britain during the Cold War. Strategic bombers and strike aircraft were stored there.
When the Cold War ended, the Royal Air Force had no more use for Upper Heyford. It gradually decayed into the abandoned base it is today. Native birds build nests in the buildings, which make the area an ideal site for bird watchers.
Hashima Island, Japan
If you sail nine miles from Nagasaki, Japan, you may find an eerie coal mining town that has been abandoned since 1974. Hashima Island, also called Battleship Island, because a popular city after coal was discovered there in the nineteenth century. During the 1930s, however, the Japanese army used the island for forced labor.
Under Japanese wartime policies, thousands of Korean and Chinese prisoners were forced to work on army supplies. Around 1,300 died during their labor. With the rise in petroleum, workers on Hashima Island gradually left, and the city remains as a solemn reminder of Japan's dark history.
Fort Tilden, New York, USA
On the outskirts of Queens, New York, there's a hundred-year-old army base. Built in 1917, Fort Tilden protected the entrance to New York Harbor. A few new buildings were added in the 1930s. During both world wars, soldiers tracked enemies, stored supplies, and defended the shore in Fort Tilden.
After World War II ended, the Coast Artillery Corps--who ran Fort Tilden--was abolished. The Army converted the fort into apartments for veterans and their families. However, the Army reclaimed Fort Tilden during America's war with Korea. Afterward, it was abandoned.
Fort Ord, California, USA
Fort Ord, near Monterey Bay, California, was once considered America's most beautiful military base. The coastal site was founded in 1917 as a target range for field artillery. However, it wasn't designated as a fort until 1940. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, over 50,000 soldiers were stationed at Fort Ord.
Many soldiers wanted to stay at Ford Ord for its beautiful and well-provided facilities. However, the base closed in 1994 after several training areas deactivated. Fort Ord has become a protected environmental site for the rare native species living there.
Fuchū Air Base, Japan
Fuchū Air Base in Tokyo began as a Japanese Airbase in 1940. After Japan surrendered in 1945, the United States came in and took over Fuchū Air Base. From 1957 to 1974, American operated the base as its first and main headquarters in post-war Japan.
Fuchū hosted Air Weather Service and Air Traffic Control service groups. Although soldiers left the base in the '70s, you can still see the giant eroding disks and communication towers. Two jet fighters, a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and Mitsubishi F-1, are on display at the entrance.
Vieques Island Bunkers, Puerto Rico
In 1941, the American Navy overtook the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques. They built a series of secret concrete bunkers that stored ammunition during World War II. The Vieques Bunkers also became a testing ground for weapons, since hills completely obscured the structure.
By 2003, residents had, had enough of the military occupation. Repeated protests forced the Army to withdraw from Vieques, leaving the bunkers untouched. Today, the US Fish & Wildlife Services are working to clean up the remaining ammunition. But otherwise, the buildings remain abandoned.
Carlstrom Field, Florida, USA
Six miles (ten km) south of Arcadia, Florida, there's an airfield that survived World War I. Carlstrom Field was built in 1917 to house several Air Force squadrons. After the war, Carlstrom Field became a testing area for aircraft. It closed in 1926 but reopened in 1941 to train the Allied Forces.
After World War II, Carlstrom Field turned into the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital. The psychiatric hospital closed in 2002, and the buildings remain untouched. The site still has several wells, runways, hangars, and hospital machinery.
Forward Operating Base Shank, Afghanistan
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, the United States government spent millions of dollars strengthening Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar, Afghanistan. Now, it's called "Zombieland." The American forces initially used the fort as a strategic hub while fighting the Taliban.
In 2014, soldiers were ordered to rush out of Afghanistan. In their haste, they tore apart over 500 bases, one of which was Forward Operating Base Shank. Today, the base is unrecognizable, and its only residents are feral dogs who use the wasteland as shelter.
The Explorer Who Found Hitler's Bunker
Urban explorer and photographer Marc Askat braved the hunting season to walk through the thick wooded countryside in northern France. He was searching for a new subject for photographs and stumbled upon what is believed to be one of Adolf Hitler's last bunkers— a place where the Nazi leader plotted the invasion of Britain.
The eerie underground stronghold is filled with stories from one of the most devastating wars in human history, but despite finding and photographing the bunker, Askat won't reveal its exact location. It turns out he has a very good reason for keeping Hitler’s underground bunker location a secret from the public.
The History Buff
This isn't the first time Parisian photographer Marc Askat has uncovered an intriguing World War II history site and photographed it. He’s also used soldier’s journals to uncover an underground World War II hospital and numerous wartime relics.
However, his latest adventure to uncover Hitler’s last bunker was more difficult. From the looks of this photo, this bunker was located off the radar pretty well deep in the forest. Most people know that Hitler fled to a bunker in German territory in a failed attempt to salvage his ailing war efforts, but that wasn’t the only bunker Hitler used. Askat uncovered a different bunker in France that was used to plan the invasion of Britain. You won’t believe what’s inside.
After making his way through the dense forest during a dangerous time—hunting season—Askat saw a crumbling concrete building that was being enveloped by undergrowth and reclaimed by nature. He wasn't entirely sure what he would find inside, but he pulled out his camera to document the experience.
Outside he found an enormous swimming pool. He researched and learned that a giant tarpaulin once hung above the pool to camouflage German officers as they swam. The empty pool was now covered in moss, but the grand scale of this Nazi bunker in the now peaceful French countryside seemed eerie.
A Way In
Now that Askat had located the bunker, he had to find a way in. The doors and windows were covered with rusty shutters—designed to keep intruders out. The entrance looks like something out of an Indian Jones film and for you to get in there is probably some complex way. Eventually, the urban explorer and photographer was able to find an opening.
The bunker Askat discovered was far from the only bunker Hitler had in France. The ruins of Nazi bunkers still exist throughout northern France, including the battle-ready bunker Batterie Todt near Normandy, and a rocket launching bunker that was never completed called Le Blockhaus. The Nazis occupied France for several years in World War II, ending with the Liberation of Paris in 1944.
Inside The Bunker
Askat entered the bunker and began exploring a massive network of tunnels and rooms that sprawled beneath the surface of the earth for six miles. At its deepest point, the underground bunker is close to 100 feet below the ground. Long hallways with different rooms on both sides spell for a ton of exploring. The windows were probably covered with something and we're bare like in the photo above.
Inside he discovered crumbling ceilings, dark echoing hallways, and moss-covered military phrases stamped on the chipped walls. The bunker is scary on its own, but knowing that it was once inhabited by the evilest man in the world makes the journey through the darkness even more chilling. During the occupation of France, Nazi’s brought terror and genocide to the country.
Beyond the bunker's staggering size, the underground stronghold Askat photographed has a significant historical importance. It was believed to be Hitler’s final headquarters outside of Germany. From this photograph, it is hard to distinguish what exactly is pictured but it resembles a labyrinth. At the time the bunker was built, Hitler planned to invade Britain—which didn’t work out.
He later planned to burn the city of Paris to the ground if the Allies captured the city; they did, but Hitler was holed up in his German bunker, support for the Nazis was waning, and he was unable to execute a military strategy at that point. The bunker Askat photographed may have been the site of major military decisions that resulted in massive death and destruction.
Who Lived There?
The name of the bunker Marc Askat found wasFührerhauptquartier Wolfsschlucht II, and Adolf Hitler wasn't the only terrifying figure who resided there. Here you see the floorboards fell away and rusted pipes beneath. This wasn’t in every location of the bunker. The bunker served as the Nazis’ Western Front military command center and housed dozens of German officers and their staff.
The maze of passageways and rooms would’ve been full of Nazis plotting the expansion of their fascist regime. What makes this bunker all the more terrifying is that it was just one of ten similar sites used by Hitler during the war—which gives you an idea of just how vast their influence was. In a bunker like this one, it was difficult for Allied forces to find and attack Hitler.
A Bloody War
In this room you can see the ceiling is ripping off and more rust stains located on the wall underneath what appears to be a shelf. What that shelf held, we are unsure but it probably helped contribute to the gore of WWII. World War II was one of the bloodiest wars in history. The unprovoked German attack on Poland in 1939 set the war in motion, and it raged for six years until the Nazis were defeated in 1945. It was a brutal six years, with more than 50 million soldiers and civilians killed in the war.
A large portion of the death toll was due to the genocide of six million European Jews killed by Hitler's directives. Death camps and concentration camps contributed one of the deadliest genocides in history. This genocide was carried out in stages, with the extermination camps eventually posed as "the Final Solution to the Jewish Question." The bunker is a reminder of this horrifying chapter in history.
The Spread Of Antisemitism
This room looks particularly interesting. There are tanks along the wall and something that resembles a long horizontal medicine cabinet. What on earth was kept in here? More rust and mold on the ceiling can be seen as well. Antisemitism was not a new concept when Hitler rose to power—and he preyed on this fear of the other by scapegoating Jews for the economic problems and social unrest Germany was facing after World War I. The historian and scholar Eberhard Jackel wrote about why the Holocaust was so shocking to those who lived through it.
"Never before had a state with the authority of its responsible leader decided and announced that a specific human group, including its aged, its women, and its children and infants, would be killed as quickly as possible, and then carried through this resolution using every possible means of state power."
A Slow Build
Though many of us are unable to visit harrowing historical sites like this one, the photos remind us that state sanctioned violence on a scale as massive as the Holocaust didn't happen overnight. It took resources, supporters, and infrastructure. "Terrain militaire defense d’entrer," as you see on the wall, translates to “'Military ground, no entry.”
When the Third Reich was first established, they started ordering Jewish Germans by dividing the population into two categories: “national comrades” and “community aliens.” Nazis also further divided people by their perceived offenses: “racial” enemies (e.g. Jews and Romani), political enemies (e.g. Marxists and liberals), and moral enemies (e.g. gays and lesbians). The first step was propaganda that instilled fear about these groups and turned neighbors against them.
Inside the dark and dingy bunker, Askat found harrowing reminders of the past. Though many of the floorboards had fallen away to reveal rusty pipes underneath, there were still old canisters and decaying debris strewn around some rooms—a reminder that this space was lived in.
Before underground bunkers, the legal and social rights of Jews were slowly but steadily being restricted in Germany. Throughout the 1930s, several anti-Semitic laws were passed. In 1933, Jews and other "non-Aryans" were barred from civil service. Jews were also barred from owning farms. Jewish lawyers were abruptly disbarred, and judges were dragged from their courtrooms and beaten.
If Walls Could Talk
Inside the bunker, Askat photographed the winding concrete corridors deep underground. These gloomy passageways were reinforced with thick cement walls and metal doors to protect the Nazis plotting underground from Allied forces. This bunker was one that you had to get used to or else you would probably get lost by the looks of this photo. To get to this point, the Nazis stripped Jews of more and more rights until they had few ways to resist.
In 1933, a major eugenics law was also passed, and 400,000 people were sterilized against their will. The Nuremberg Laws, passed in 1935 by Hitler, also prohibited "Aryan" Germans from having relationships with Jews and later other “non-Aryan” groups. Many persecuted artists and intellectuals fled Germany before World War II.
The Secret Location
After finding and photographing the bunker, Askat was pleased and wanted to show off his historical find to the world. This is a good shot of the outside of bunker which might lead some to think this was it but they had no clue about the whole underground. He uploaded photographs of the complex to Facebook, but people quickly noticed a bit of important information was missing: the location of the underground bunker.
It turns out Askat had a very good reason for keeping the location a secret. He wasn't just trying to keep the location and all the great photos to himself. He was protecting something very important about the complex. It was still in use, and the reason for its use had changed a lot since its original purpose as Hitler’s bunker.
The Bunker Today
The bunker Marc Askat stumbled upon may have once served as an underground stronghold for Nazi forces and Hitler, but today it serves a much different purpose. From the looks of these doors, it would have taken a ton of man force to infiltrate through this bunker if all doors were shut and locked. The top-secret location is actually currently a training site for the French Foreign Legion.
Askat knew the importance of keeping the precise location a secret, even though he wanted to share his discovery with the world. Though the location of Hitler's French hideout is concealed from the rest of the world, Askat’s photos give us a glimpse into the past without compromising the location. The photos remind us of important history and serve as a warning to current and future generations.
The East Berlin Bunker
The secret bunker in France may have been eerie but Hitler's not so discreet bunker in East Berlin almost packed the same punch as far as being creepy goes. a man by the name of Robert Conrad took some risks when he disguised himself as a construction worker to take photos of this bunker. This photo here appears to be the opening of one of the entrances to the bunker. Taken from an obscure angle, you can still see the intricacies to this bunker. He would sneak in 30 times before finally releasing the photos.
There were guards, dark tunnels, and explosions but he trekked on so he could be able to show the world these horrific truths. "I walked very slowly across the site, as if on eggshells, so no one would notice me," he recalls.
The Photographer Feared For His Life While Capturing These Photos
The photographer Robert Conrad risked his freedom 30 times just to get exclusive pictures of this bunker. He started his work in 1987 and only recently decided to reveal the photos. Maybe he feared his life would be in danger if he would have surfaced the pictures or his actions way back then. Who knows…but the pictures he got were chilling.
Starting off with this image, it depicts tiles falling from the wall in the bunker of the New Reich Chancellery. One can only imagine what it looked like when it was in full service and Hitler was walking the grounds.
When It Floods It Rusts
What we see here is an air raid shelter. If you are unaware, an air raid shelter is a structure designed to protect people from bombs being dropped. This specific shelter in the New Reich Chancellery had been flooded. You can notice the sediment markings along the walls which indicate different water levels.
And if you look to the left, you can see a steel cabinet that has been overturned. It looks like someone can fit perfectly in there if they crouched down if bombs were to be dropped on them. Let's see what we’ll learn on the next page.
Selfie In The Bunker
What we see here are two things. Let's talk about the first glaring recognition. That man is Robert Conrad, the person we can thank for all of these photos. You are probably wondering why he is taking a self-portrait at a time like that when he was supposed to be disguised as a construction worker. Well, wonder no more because what he is standing in front of is history.
What’s behind him is known as the "Führer’s bunker" and it is where Hitler shot himself way back in April 1945. Still wondering why he took the selfie at the spot?
From The Outside
Up until now, we have only seen what the inside looked like but what about the exterior? An apartment building was in the works of being built on the same position where the bunker was so construction workers had to do some demolition work before they could begin the process. This is what they had uncovered.
Hitler made a man by the name of Albert Speer commence the construction of this building because, at the time, the old Reich Chancellery had become outdated and too small. It was time to take things up a notch.
Nothing Is Safe
What is a bunker without the amenities that come with it? Secret rooms, trap doors, hiding spots and of course safes, just to name a few. Of course, we don't know for certain what a bunker comes detailed with.
This photo was taken in 1988 and what you see is a couple of rusting metal safes. We wonder what Hitler kept in the safes he owned. It couldn’t have been anything good for humankind wouldn’t you agree?
If You Read The News, You Are Misinformed
Pictured above is a bunker room. Photographer Robert Conrad shed some light on what it was like, as the public had major concerns over the bunkers being built. The newspapers wouldn't even call them bunkers, avoiding talking about it at all.
"Of course there was nothing in the newspapers about the Nazi bunkers. That was very much a taboo subject, as was everything about the Nazi period," Conrad explains. “Officially, they were just constructing a new residential neighborhood.” That is what the media fed and the public consumed it.
Not A Hunt
What we see here appears to be rusted water heaters. Who knows what it could be, but Robert Conrad wasn't in this just to do it or find some type of hidden artifacts. He was in it for something else that may have been meaningful for him.
"I didn’t go to the bunkers hunting for relics or out of some secret admiration for the Nazi regime," Conrad says. He says that he was more concerned with documenting the architecture that was found in the bunker. That could be of important use for others who may ever need to refer back to how things were built back then.
Floods On Floods
We brought up flooding earlier but you couldn't actually see the water. In this image you see the water and how high it is. This was shot in 1988 and to the left, you can see the entrance to the staircases that attached an older portion of the structure to a new area.
The black and white tone adds a dramatic effect to the photo as you can see debris from the damage the bunker took over on the right side. A photographer is going to do what he or she has to do to get the absolute best shot possible no matter the conditions.
The name of the construction site that Robert Conrad had snuck into was called Otto Grotewohl Strasse. It is now called Wilhelmstrasse and what you see in the picture are buildings from the former Nazi Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (that's not a tongue twister).
Hitler used to stand in the window to address the crowds but decided the building was inadequate for use. What you see is typical Nazi architecture.
What does this look like to you? Like something was ripped out of the wall that had wires? Or just some room in the New Reich Chancellery bunker where obscure things happened? Well, what it is exactly is the remnants of the electrical system. Hitler had to have lights, right?
Robert Conrad admitted that due to fear, he was not able to get in optimal positions so that he could take the best pictures because he did not want to get caught while in the bunker. Who can blame him? It took a huge act of courage to do what he did.
The Surrounding Area
Has anyone ever said anything to you and you didn't have a clue as to what he or she was talking about? Then they provide context and you start to understand what in the world they initially said to you. Well, this photograph is a bit similar as it provides context to the photo of the bunker.
Sure, you can vividly know what the bunker looked like thanks to the photographs Robert Conrad provided but wouldn’t you like to know what it looked liked around the bunker? Conrad took pictures after an explosion as you see the smoke from the construction area.
Here is more context for you piggybacking off the last slide. Here is another view but a closer look at the demolition site of the bunker. Even whilst outside the bunker, Conrad carried fear with him and for good reason. Wouldn't you feel even the slightest bit of anxiety while on a mission like this?
"My greatest fear was that they would assume I was trying to escape," Conrad says. “As far as I knew, parts of the labyrinth of bunkers ran along under the Wall and even extended into the death strip.” Just the word death strip brings fear.
Big Hole There
Of course, taking photographs on the outside must have been easier for Robert Conrad. Whether or not he was caught doesn't matter because what’s important is that he was able to share these pictures with the world.
What we see here is a huge hole of Hitler’s bunker. It is the stair shaft that led from the western exit. The bunker had its complex setup but Hitler most likely knew every part of like the back of his hand. Can’t say the same for anyone who might have gotten lost down there.
Take A Look
If you look to the right you can see the Nazi Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda building and if you look to the left you see an East German state publishing house.
The Nazis used to use that building to the left as well but what you see in the middle is, of course, the bunker. Now you know how far away the Nazi Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda was.
If you look closely you can see the Berlin Wall. This photo was taken in 1988 by Conrad and in the background, you are able to see the temporary construction buildings that are in front of the Berlin Wall.
Conrad only found out about the site by chance when he was an apprentice bus driver. One day on his route, he went past the Otto Grotewohl Strasse. "My seat in the bus was raised, so I could see over the fence into the construction site," he recalls. “Suddenly I saw this completely insane landscape with enormous concrete ruins that had buried for decades protruding out of the ground.”
They took a dozen rolls of film from him during his secret visits. That means Conrad could have possible had way better pictures to share on top of just simply having more. How do you think he was feeling each time he was caught?
Our guess is that his heart dropped.
Curiosity Killed The Cat
As we mentioned earlier, if it weren't for Robert Conrad’s bus route, he may not have found out about the bunker. Taking a step further, the construction is the reason why the bunker even made it to surface level. The bunker was underground so even with that bus route Conrad had taken, the demolition is what helped bring it to light.
On why he couldn’t stop from going down Conrad had this to say. "Being down there and hearing the echo of your own footsteps, discovering things from a completely distant chapter of history — it was that feeling of traveling back in time that fascinated me so much."
After being caught five times, your sense of trust and awareness is surely raised. You are likely moving about like a wolf in the night on the hunt for sheep. And mistrust is exactly what was going on the mind when Conrad ran into an unsuspecting individual.
"It was unbelievable," he says. “He was sitting there as calm as could be with a miner's lamp, drawing the gloomy scene on a small easel,” Conrad says. “We talked to each other, but the mistrust was too great,” he says. “He didn’t dare to ask me why I was there, and I didn’t dare to ask him either.”
What we see here is the staircase at the former foreign ministry. Conrad would frequent this spot often. Doesn't this image give you the slightest bit of chills? The rubble and debris everywhere with the rusted handrails just makes you want to wonder what could have taken place here.
Much to no avail, however, these images apparently did not do the site as much justice as Conrad might have imagined. What do we mean by that? Well, Conrad thought that a certain vibe would still be there but that was not the case. See the next page to uncover what he meant.
Robert Conrad, with all the fear he had,still felt disappointed by his findings. Sure, the pictures were compromised because he wasn't able to get the positioning he really wanted but the environment itself is what made him unsatisfied and he expressed exactly why.
The bunker did not have the "original setting of insanity" he wanted to witness. “Too many Allied soldiers and curious Berliners had already been through there in the first years after the war, and all of them took souvenirs,” he explains. That makes sense because he didn’t get there until later so he can’t have too much disappointment.
Though many history books and documentaries explore Hitler, few take a closer look at resistance by German Jews. Because they were persecuted slowly and for so long, the resistance wasn't as strong as one might expect. It was just like the old saying about putting a frog in a pot of lukewarm water: if you slowly turn it up to a boil one degree at a time, the frog won’t realize until it’s too late.
Peter Longerich, who studied the Polish ghettos, observed, "On the Jewish side there was practically no resistance." However, the Warsaw ghetto uprising was one of the most pivotal moments in resistance. After months of massive deportations, the remaining Jewish community, which was small, armed themselves and took to the streets.
The French Resistance
The bunker, which was found in France, needed to stay well concealed because there was an active guerrilla campaign against the Nazis and Vichy authorities called the French Resistance. The French Resistance aided Allied armies. Though Jews made up only one percent of the French population, they were 15 to 20 percent of the French Resistance.
Pieter Meerburg disputed the idea that there was little Jewish resistance during World War II. "Many people think Jews went to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter, and that's not true—it’s absolutely not true. I worked closely with many Jewish people in the Resistance, and I can tell you, they took much greater risks than I did."
Hitler's Defeat And Death
By 1944, Western Allies and the Red Army had advanced into Germany. Hitler spent his final days in a bunker very similar to the one Askat photographed—located in Germany and called the Führerbunker. He knew he would be trapped and have to face the atrocities he'd committed.
In the bunker, Hitler married Eva Braun. Then, a day later, he shot himself and Braun bit into a cyanide capsule. Their bodies were removed from the bunker and their corpses were burned. Bunkers were the site of some of the most important decisions in World War II, and Askat’s photographs are a gateway into that time.