Ahrweiler/Marienthal It’s the most secretive building of the federal Republic of Germany and it is located just outside of Bonn in the Ahr valley. The underground government bunker is now a museum which has received a huge response from visitors - who may soon get to see even more of the underground complex.
It is one of the most visited museums in Rhineland-Palatinate: The Government Bunker in the Ahr valley. Every year, around 80,000 people enter the long corridors of this underground world carved into rock. It was subject to the utmost secrecy during the Cold War. The successful transition from bunker to museum will now be taken a step further. The museum has been open to the public since 2008 and now there are concrete ideas about how to open more parts of the underground bunker to those interested.
"Our ideas are already well advanced," confirms Heike Hollunder, head of the museum and documentation center. And the federal government has already given a go ahead to the Institute for Federal Real Estate. Currently, work is underway on a suitable emergency power supply. After all, the bunker is located under 110 meters of rock.
There are plans to open up parts of the underground system of pathways all the way to Marienthal. That would be a distance of at least 1.2 kilometers. At present, only 200 meters of the former complex are open to visitors. And this area alone is already getting a tremendous response from visitors. Hollunder now wants to open up more rooms and pathways so those who come to the underground museum will have even more to see.
Until now, guided tours have ended in front of a gigantic gate - after visitors pass through rolling gates, some of which weigh 25 tons, and armored doors 1.20 meters thick. Inside, visitors can see the rooms intended for the Chancellor and his cabinet, including a hair salon and dentist, a TV studio and a telex. When it was completed in 1971, the government bunker stretched over more than 17 kilometers and contained 936 bedrooms and 897 offices.
If everything goes according to plan, those who operate the museum and Heike Hollunder with her team of 60 want to be able to show visitors the plenary assembly hall on the way to Marienthal, the cabinet room, the rooms reserved for the Federal President, emergency exits for VIPs and other rooms.
"It should be an adventurous and thrilling tour which unveils secrets, with visitors being led on the tour by one of our 40 guides," says the museum director. Equipped with flashlights and rubber boots, visitors will soon be able to embark on a captivating and breathtaking journey through time.
The outdoor facilities, such as the former entrance to Marienthal, the "Rebstock Warehouse" memorial and the ventilation towers leading into the tunnels, will then also be included in the guided tours. Heike Hollunder reckons that such a tour will last about two hours. "Visitors will get an even better impression of the entire site," she is convinced.
Since the opening of the museum in 2008, almost one million people have visited the Government Bunker, which is classified "top secret". There is no question that the bunker complex in the Ahr valley was the most secret structure in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its planning dates back to 1950, and work began in 1962 on the "alternative seat of the constitutional bodies" - which one must assume, was well known in the Warsaw Pact.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bunker had served its time. The facility, which had been built at enormous expense and camouflaged from above, was dismantled. In 2008, a small part became the museum.
Guided tours are available in German, English, French, Dutch, Spanish. For more information about booking a tour, prices and opening hours, please visit the English-language website: Dokumentationsstätte Regierungsbunker
Orig. text: Victor Francke Translation: Carol Kloeppel