THE ST. PAULI BUNKER

A gray concrete colossus rises from the Heiligengeistfeld zone, right in the heart of St. Pauli. What tends to irritate tourists at first glance is now an integral part of Hamburg’s cityscape: nestled between the Millerntor Stadium and the Karoviertel quarter, the almost 50-meter-high bunker in St. Pauli has long been a landmark for Hamburg’s younger crowd. Known as the “Media Bunker,” the “Bunker on Feldstrasse,” or more recently as the “Green Bunker,” this is Hamburg’s largest—and one of its few preserved—high-rise bunkers. It represents creativity, urban culture, and involvement.

What few people know about, however, is the story behind the almost eight-decade-old flak bunker: it’s a time that recalls the darkest chapter in German history. Built in 1942 in only 300 days by forced laborers, today the St. Pauli Bunker is a memorial to the victims of the Nazi regime and the Second World War. In the course of the reconstruction work, hidden traces from this period have constantly been appearing—directions or the designated entrance to the “Wehrmacht Hospital” are but a few.

To make the history of the bunker both experienceable and understandable as an integral part of the city and district’s culture, while also connecting it with the current needs of residents and occupants, non-profit association Hilldegarden e.V. created the AG Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Flakbunker IV. This is an investment project that combines a culture of remembrance with social and ecological involvement. For the first time, there will be a place in the St. Pauli Bunker where its history and the memory of the Nazi regime’s victims will be commemorated. The research and development for this exhibition concept is done in close cooperation with the office of gwf-ausstellungen – Konzept & Gestaltung, which previously carried out the planning, design, and curation for the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial.

Neighborhood initiative Hilldegarden e.V. is one of the driving forces behind the concept, the realization of further structural development, and use for the St. Pauli Bunker. It was established with the aim of creating a place of community, recreation, and a completely new style of urban nature. Prof. Dr. Thomas Matzen was immediately convinced when he saw the architects’ idea: an extraordinary city garden on the roof of the former high-rise bunker that combines the previous “media bunker” character and the residents’ desire for a natural oasis with self-managed urban gardening spaces. In addition, rooms for exhibitions and concerts as well as extraordinary accommodation for artists and creative types will be established according to the architecture firm’s plans.

The spectacular highlight of the expansion is the publicly accessible natural oasis. As a place for people to cross paths, it facilitates interaction and pleasure above the city skyline. The walk along the green “mountain path” around the outside of bunker is an outstanding experience in its own right. The evergreen park is the work of the Lorenz von Ehren nursery. It won’t be long before the first trees take root at a height of over 50 meters. Hilldegarden e.V. makes the interactive garden experience possible with raised beds and spaces for urban gardening.

This interplay of architecture, history, and active citizen participation is already arousing great curiosity both at home and abroad.

A visit at the tree nursery Lorenz von Ehren

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HISTORY

As one of the two “flak towers” in Hamburg, the history of the St. Pauli Bunker goes back to the time of National Socialism. Built in 1942 by forced laborers, the bunker was initially intended to be used mainly for air defense during the Second World War. The National Socialist regime also used the concrete fortress as a propaganda tool to demonstrate its own strength—and to prevent the population from becoming “war-weary.” Sources prove that during the bombing of Hamburg, up to 25,000 people sometimes found shelter in the bunker.

After the end of the war, the Allies planned to blow up the many high-rise bunkers in the city as part of the denazification initiative, including the high-rise bunker in Feldstrasse and today’s “energy bunker” in Wilhelmsburg. Due to the massive construction that included a wall or ceiling thickness of up to 3.8 meters on a surface area of 75 x 75 meters, however, the St. Pauli bunker was not blown up: to do so would have endangered the adjacent and even more distant residential areas. Due to the great housing shortage toward the end of the war, the former bunker also offered accommodation to many of the local bombed-out residents.

Blick vom Bunker St.Pauli aus 1945
Bunker St.Pauli Luftaufnahme 1945
Bunker Feldstraße St. Pauli - 1986_800_600

Soon, the St. Pauli Bunker—today a protected monument—found a new function in the quarter. By accommodating companies from the worlds of art and culture as well as music clubs and events, the wartime relic was to be transformed into a lively creative center.

The Hilldegarden association has founded the Arbeitsgruppe Gedenkstätte (“Memorial Working Group”) and more as part of a broad investment project. The memorial is intended to pay tribute to the bunker and make its history accessible to the public. Further information can be found on the Hilldegarden e.V. website.

Interview with a contemporary witness

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NEWS

Welcome to the home page of the St. Pauli Bunker! Under “News,” all Hamburg residents, neighbors, and the media will regularly be able to find out what’s new and worth knowing about the expansion of the bunker on Feldstrasse.

The visual highlight of this pioneering landscape architecture project is the spectacular public rooftop garden, which is likely unique to all of Germany. It has a fantastic panoramic view over Hamburg, is within eyeshot of the Elbphilharmonie, and has a planted “mountain path” that winds upwards around the outside of the bunker. For the first time, the bunker will also receive a memorial for the victims of the Nazi regime and the Second World War. Furthermore, rooms for local culture, exhibition areas, and a hall for sports and cultural events will be created.

About 180 people and 25 different trades are involved in this pioneering landscape architecture project. How is the work progressing? Which plant species are suitable for the city garden that sits high above Hamburg? And what are the plans for the memorial to the victims of the NS regime?

Anyone who would like to contribute to the memorial or other neighborhood projects such as urban gardening should contact www.hilldegarden.org. This non-profit residents’ initiative on the roof of the St. Pauli Bunker creates a place of community, recreation, and a completely new style of urban nature.

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