The aura of this building, its sheer monumentality, is overwhelming. The
bunker is more than 400 metres long, more than 30 metres high, and almost
100 metres wide at its western end. It is the second biggest facility of
its kind ever built above ground in Europe. Today its walls of black-stained
concrete, partly overgrown with creepers, purvey a morbid atmosphere – a
ruin, created as if for eternity.
But this concrete monster and its surroundings were once places of
terror. The construction of Bunker Valentin cost more than 1200 human
lives. It was built by the National Socialists towards the end of the Second
World War, between 1943 and 1945, using for the most part forced labour,
including concentration camp prisoners and POWs. Conceived as an indestructible
factory for submarines, its concrete walls and roof were several
metres thick to protect it from Allied bombs. The submarines it would
launch onto the River Weser would – at least that was the strategic plan –
harass Allied shipping in the North Atlantic and bring about a late turn
of fortune in the war.
Copied from the Detroit assembly line, the planned production methods
were state-of-the-art, envisioning a conveyor belt system with rapid
turnaround, but the means taken to achieve that end were brutal and
archaic. As in so many other settings of the self-designated Third Reich,
the workers on the construction site were tormented without mercy and
driven to exhaustion.