As part of the war in World War II, a bunker called Valentin was built on the Weser river in the Bremen suburbs of Bremen.
Was meant to make German submarines, but no U-boat was ever made in the place where it was supposed to be made. Today, it is a place to remember the war and the crimes that the Nazis did.
By 1943, the Allied Forces had the air, and it was becoming more and more difficult to build ships in German shipyards without attracting the attention of the enemy.
In this way, there was a need for sub-ship factories that were hidden from view, and that’s where the Valentin bunker came from.
Building the huge bunker began in 1943 and lasted until 1945. The Valentin bunker was the largest free-standing bunker in Germany and the second-largest in Europe. It was 35,000 square meters (41,860 square feet) in size.
Inside the shipyard, there were 13 assembly bays that could be used. In order to keep the assembly lines safe, the walls and ceilings were between 15 and 23 feet high. At the end, 500,000 cubic meters (650,000 cubic yards) of concrete were used to build things.
This is how it worked: A small canal ran through part of the bunker, which led to the Weser river. People could leave the submarines here, or parts of the submarines could be transferred to barges so they could be taken to other shipyards for assembly.
During World War II, prisoners of war and civilians were used to do all of the work. People in concentration camps were also used. As many as 10,000-12,000 people are thought to have worked on this project, but the exact number is unknown.
The workers lived in seven separate camps, each about 3 to 8 kilometers (10 to 26 feet) away from the bunker, where they worked.
Inmates who were underfed worked 12-hour shifts to build the bunker around the clock, and they worked around the clock.
It was extremely dangerous to work on this project, and records show that there were approximately 1,750 fatalities during construction due to hunger, strenuous work, illnesses caused by unsanitary living conditions, and other more brutal reasons. Unfortunately, only the names of 553-1,144 victims are known.
The construction of this shipyard was one of Nazi Germany’s largest military projects. Organization Todt was in charge of both the design and the supervision, with Marieneoberbaurat Edo Meiners in charge. Erich Lackner, the supervising engineer, went on to become one of Germany’s most prominent civil engineers.
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Work on the bunker was halted in March 1945 due to severe damage caused by a British air raid, which destroyed an unfinished section of the bunker.
By then, roughly 90% of the facility had been completed, and submarine production was set to begin in May of that year. However, construction work was not resumed following the attack.
As a result, no submarines were built at the Valentin bunker, and a site that was supposed to deliver at least 14 boats per month was shut down.
Furthermore, a second bunker codenamed Valentin II was planned for construction but never got off the ground.
Following the cessation of all construction work, the decision was made to send the labor force to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
To that end, the prisoners were transported to a seaport and loaded onto three ships. Sadly, Allied bombers attacked and sank two of the ships. Only 458 prisoners from those two ships survived in the end.
After the war, there was much discussion about what to do with this structure. After all, it had been built with slave labor.
There were suggestions that it be demolished, but doing so would have caused significant damage to the surrounding area. Instead, the Allies used it for target practice and munition experiments, and later as a children’s adventure playground.
The German Army used it as a training ground in the 1950s, and the German Navy used it as a storage depot in the 1960s.
U-boat bunker Valentin in Bremen
The Valentin bunker was put up for sale in 2008 after the cost of maintenance became prohibitively expensive for the Navy. The shipyard was given new life when the Senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen took over in 2010.
The grounds were remodeled over a five-year period by the Regional Agency for Civic Education, and they reopened to the public in 2015 as the Denkort Bunker Valentin memorial site.
Today, there is a visitor center on the site with an exhibition about the bunker’s history. There is also a 25-station information trail that tells the history of the Valentin bunker through photos, eyewitness accounts, and explanatory text.
Audio tours can be taken at any time. Guided tours take place on Sundays between 11 am and 1:45 pm. It also comes with extra information about each of the stations that make up the trail. People can come into the museum for free, but they have to pay to go on a tour. On Monday, the site is closed.
Sunday guided tours are available between 11 a.m. and 1.30 p.m., while audio tours are available at any time.
There is also a multimedia guide available that provides additional information on the trail’s stations. Admission is free, but tours are charged. On Mondays, the site is closed.
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