April 2011, it’s about time for a roadtrip. Germany has our attention and we have planned ourselves a beautifull route, which will lead us from our homes in Holland to Bergen Belsen (Lohheide), followed by a visit to Panzermuseum Munster and on to Flakturm type IV (st. Pauli) and Flakturm type VI (Wilhelmburg) both located in Hamburg.
Concentration camp Bergen-Belsen
In Bergen Belsen (After 1941: Stalag XI C/311) an estimated 50 to 70.000 people were killed or perished in the dreadful circumstances. Knowing that, you’ll expect to find an awfull place. But instead we found a beautiful green forest meadow, with only the green square mass graves marked with little text and a memorial wall to remember us of what happened here. People who expect to see terrible facts, will have to do with the extensive visitor centre, which has an excellent exhibition. The exhibit tells a very detailed story with lots of background information about the people that died or somehow survived here.
Deutsches Panzermuseum Munster
The Panzermuseum in Munster is very recommendable. The tanks and vehicles are out there to be freely walked around or touched. The collection is very complete and everything is in good shape. It shows the development of the German tank well because all the tanks and vehicles are exhibited in chronological order. Most of these tanks are unique in the world but most impressive are by far the Jagdpanther, the Köningstiger, and for the grand finale of WWII tanks the absolutely huge Sturmtiger a.k.a.Sturmmörser.
|Sturmtiger / Sturmpanzer VI in Munster|
|Panzerkampfwagen IV, Tiger II ausf. B in Munster|
Flakturm type IV, Heiligengeistfeld, St. Pauli, Hamburg
Flakturm type IV in st. Pauli is freely admissive. Nowadays the massive bunker houses a music school, shops and some offices. It also has a nightclub in the cellar and an excellent coffee stand at the entrance. The tower is fully adapted to the needs of today and therefore there is little of the original structure to be seen on the inside. You can see how thick the walls are, because the concrete blocks that were cut away to make room for windows, are used around the parking lot.
Would you like to enjoy the view from the roof of the flakturm? Find out about the opening hours of the caterer, which has a terrace on the roof! Another tip: take the elevator.
Flakturm type IV in St. Pauli, Hamburg
|A tower part of flakturm type IV in St. Pauli, Hamburg|
Flakturm type VI, Wilhelmsburg,Hamburg
Type VI G in Wilhelmsburg, Hamburg was being demolished or renovated. We hope that it was partly. The concrete interior was being removed when we were there, which is a waste as far as we are concerned. There was a large rectangular opening in the structure on the west side, which was made with a mechanical arm, and they were drilling away the concrete floors and pillars of the interior. The construction site gates were left open and Patrick took that liberty to shoot some close up pictures of it. When he showed up close to the opening in the wall, he was immediately approached and asked to leave. In an attempt to ask what would happen to the flakturm we got no clear answer (or maybe Patrick’s German isn’t that good ..).
On the other side of the bunker on the east side was a huge scaffolding that reached to the overhanging concrete collar. There were clear signs of decay of concrete and a lot of cracks at the corners of vast size could be seen, some marked with pink paint. The terrain around it was fenced off and there were warning signs for falling debris. In older photos on the internet you can see that the flakturm is covered with foilage, this has been removed in our pictures. Maybe this flakturm awaits the same fate as the one in St. Pauli? Keep us posted!
|Flakturm type VI Wilhelmsburg in Hamburg|
|View of the eastside with scaffolding|
|Signs of decay, cracks and rusted steel..|
|The enormous new ‘doorway’ cut in the side of the flakturm|
|A peek inside..|
|The thickness of the walls can clearly be seen|
|The opening from the park lawn at the westside of the flakturm|
|Waiting for demolition?|
Located a little further south of the flakturm in the park is a small bunker.
The bunker was lined with high fences and is presumably waiting to be demolished. Again, if you have more information about its fate, please let us know.
Air Raid Shelter Vorsetzen
In the evening we had dinner in a restaurant in Hamburg located in Air Raid Shelter Vorsetzen on the Elbe, one of the few air raid shelters with the plaque of an Reichsadler (Nazi Eagle) above the entrance (the swastika is removed) still intact. For us the atmosphere was complete.
|Air raid shelter Vorsetzen at the Elbe in Hamburg|
U-boat U995 Type VII C in Laboe, Germany
After Hamburg we arrived in Laboe where the submarine type VIIC U995 lies ashore. This U-boat was deployed from 1943 by the Kriegsmarine until the end of the war. Thereafter, the submarine was used by the Norwegian Navy until 1965 when it was given back to Germany. Since 1972, the boat is exhibited here in Laboe.
Because the boat is located on the beach, you can walk all the way around it and see many of the details. The torpedo hatches are covered for corrosion reasons, but you can still see where the openings have been. In the U-boat you get a vivid picture of life in this type of U-boat and if you get lucky and the boat is crowded with other curious visitors, you can experience it firsthand too.
|The engine room of U-boat U995|
|U995 – The torpedoes had to be hoisted from a hatch located under the bunkbeds|
|U995 – controls|
|U-boot U995 type VII C on the beach of Laboe, North Germany|
|Yep, even U-boats need an anchor..|
|Considering the guy in the picture.. this U-boat type is still quite large|
|U995 – The stern with the torpedo welded outlet visible|
|U995 type VII C stern|
|The U995 taken from the Marine Ehrenmal in Laboe|
The Marine Ehrenmal in Laboe
A little further down the boulevard of Laboe lies a memorial to honor the German Kriegsmarine (Navy), the Marine Ehrenmal. The original monument was erected to honour the fallen of the German Navy in World War I, but after 1945 the sailors lost in World War II were also added here. This website of the Deutscher Bund Navy can tell you more details and has 360 degree pictures of the impressive monument.
|The Marine Ehrenmal at Laboe|
|Marine Ehrenmal – the hall downstairs with an impressive relief|
|Taken 72 meters from the upper observation deck at the Marine Ehrenmal of the square|
Möltenort – German U-boat memorial
At Möltenort, the U-boat memorial shows us 30,000 names engraved in a memorial wall. These are all the lost crew members of each German U-boat lost in battle. It also states the (presumed) place and cause of it’s loss. It’s strange to read how many U-boats still haven’t been found. You get a good sense of the progress of the battle at sea throughout WWII and can clearly notice that the allies were getting better at locating and destroying German submarines after 1942. By the end of World War II the cause of the loss of the U-boats with 30 to 50 people on board is often just a single allied airplane.
Very interesting is a map outside the memorial, which shows where the U-boats sank, were last seen or where they had contact for the last time. There are many scattered across the worlds seas.
|30,000 names on the memorial wall in Möltenort|
Took the ferry across the Elbe near Glückstad about 3 times to find every restaurant on either side of the river closed….
U-boat Archive Museum Altenbruch
To AltenBruch, where there is a small privately owned U-boat Archive Museum with a uniform of Admiral Dönitz on display. Unfortunately, we came here to find the place closed, the owner of the museum was not at home. Next time we’ll make an appointment before heading here. Be advised.. The bakery on the corner of the town square has delicious fresh cakes daily. We highly recommend it!
U-boat ‘Wilhelm Bauer’ Type XXI in Bremerhafen
In Bremerhaven we visited the U-boat Wilhelm Bauer (U-2540), Type XXI.
This U-boat is much larger compared to type VIIC from Laboe and we recommend taking a look. It is said to be the last floating example of this type of submarine.
|U-Boat Wilhelm Bauer (U-2540) type XXI in the museum harbour at Bremerhafen|
|The Wilhelm Bauer looking alongside|
|A cross section of a 23 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo|
|Carbon dioxide (CO2) filters of the brand Dräger|
|The ‘large’ engine room of the Wilhelm Bauer (U-2540)|
The German Maritime Museum
Besides the U-boat in the harbor there is a maritime museum nearby, the “Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum”. It is forbidden to take pictures here and that was made quite clear to Pascal (pretending not to understand German did not work this time). But they have a small U-boat Type XXVII B “Seehund”, so here are the pictures made by Patrick 😉
A later model of this small U-boat, the S622 , is on display at Musée National de la Marine in Brest, France (outdoor site).
|Mini U-boat “Seehund” Type XXVII B|
|Mini U-boat “Seehund” Type XXVII B front|
|A predescessor of the sd.kfz 7 half-track used by the German Beachpatrol|
Surprise! A pre war life-guard version of the Sd.Kfz 7 (half-track) is also in the museum. Other then that, there isn’t much WWII related stuff in the museum.
U-boat bunker ‘Valentin’ in Bremen Farge
U-boat bunker Valentin itself, we could not enter, because we failed to schedule an appointment with the professor who arranges the only tours in this bunker. Although this year (2011) a transfer of ownership will take place of the part still in use by the German navy to a civilian institution, we were a little too early for this all to turn in our favour. By now the transfer will have taken place and we assume that enthousiasts today are able to plan a tour or find the bunker opened to the public. So our focus was on the outside, which is also very impressive. The building can be seen from far away.
|Monument to honour the people who lost their lives building U-boat bunker Valentin|
|View on Valentin from the monument|
|Guard bunkers on the eastside|
|The only place where you can get close and have a look inside|
|The opening towards the river (nowadays closed up)|
|Inside the dock where the U-boats where to be lifted from or into the water|
|Valentin. Yes, it’s really this big.|
|Valentin is of enormous proportions. And we were regretfull that we couldn’t see the interior.|
|A path has formed alongside the fence|
|The part which was still in use by the German Navy when we were there|
Right opposite of the front of the Valentin bunker, across the dirtroad, is a type of power house in the garden of a farmer. If you decide to take a look, be good and keep this site clean so others are also welcome.
|A bunker opposite of Valentin.|
|Another view of the bunker opposite of the Valentin U-boat bunker|
A bit further is a learning trail which leads you through the former camp site of the workers who constructed Valentin, you can see more buildings and it provides a beautiful walk through the forest.
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