I know they had a government bunker (AdVB) next to Bonn, mostly dismantled [but partly turned into a museum] after moving the capital.

And they probably inherited a number of air raid shelters for civilian use dating back to the Nazis/WW2. Some of these were above-ground, intentionally.

The German way of thinking was that above-ground construction was a lot simpler and faster, and if carried out on a sufficiently massive scale, would provide equally good protection. The number of surface bunkers that survived intact (or largely intact) bears out this notion.

Also claimed there:

Whereas London’s underground air raid shelters aimed to protect just 1 per cent of people at risk, in Germany a far more elaborate construction programme set out to provide shelter for 5 per cent of the population in 70 cities, using elaborate above-ground structures of massive proportions.

That piece suggests that some were even dismantled or converted for other purposes:

After the war these structures proved to be very difficult to demolish and for many new uses were found. Some were turned into residence blocks for students, while in Hamburg a huge bunker became the city’s first television studio centre.

So, I'm guessing that air raid shelters were no longer a priority, but possibly they thought that the above-ground ones were unwieldy in case of modern warfare, nuclear attack, etc.?

Anyhow, after WW2, did West Germany mandate or build their own air raid shelters or similar bunker facilities for ordinary civilians (possibly built to new standards)? Or did they essentially conclude they inherited [more than] enough that they just maintained [some of] those [for 'ordinary' civilians]?

  • 1
    The keyword you are looking for is "MZA"
    – Jan
    Nov 13, 2023 at 12:20
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    Trivially yes. (Gütersloh Daltropstraße, an underground car park that was prepared to hold 1600 people in case of nuclear war.)
    – DevSolar
    Nov 14, 2023 at 14:00

2 Answers 2


Yes, West Germany did build a number of large-ish air raid shelters, for several hundred to several thousand people each. Most were built underground, usually in connection to subterranean garages or metro stations (U-Bahn or S-Bahn). They also continued to use WWII-era shelters for that purpose.

A long-ish German article on the topic can be found here.

An somewhat well-known example from the 1970s is Berlin's Pankstraße subway station. (Note that Berlin's subway stations are just a few feet below surface level and most do not offer great protection against bombs).

An example for a reactivated (underground) WWII bunker is not that far away, at Blochplatz.

The large (overground) Humboldthain bunker just across the railway from Blochplatz was partly destroyed (blown up) after WWII and not reactivated.

There are, however, also examples of WWII-era overground shelters that were re-used during the Cold War era.

  • Interesting bit there "the Control Council Act No. 23 of April 10, 1946 also made “planning, design or construction of non-military [protective] structures of any kind” a criminal offense." The ban was lifted in '51-'52. After that there was a spurge in construction of shelters advertised to resist a nuclear attack. And the debates that ensued "The “hostage role” of an unprotected population leads to war being prevented under all circumstances, whereas a fully protected population can encourage the assumption that a nuclear war can be waged without excessive losses." Nov 13, 2023 at 12:59
  • "By the end of the Cold War, West Germany only achieved an average public shelter rate of around 3%." Nov 13, 2023 at 13:10
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    @Fizz in case of nuclear war we are talking about somewhat different kind of shelters than air raid shelters.
    – Roger V.
    Nov 13, 2023 at 16:15
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    As far as the population in Western Berlin was concerned, there was nothing at all. I worked, in the 1980's, on the same city block as the the Mehrzweckanlage Kudamm-Karree – Wikipedia and only learned after 1990 that a bunker existed there for around 3500 people since 1974. After taking a tour through it later, I thought that it was better not to know since after 3-4 months inside what would one then do/find when leaving/getting out? Nov 14, 2023 at 18:02
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    @Jan I based that statement on what was stated in the museum at the time, which was definitely not long enough for a radiation fallout to clear up. The source that wp uses states only: Isn't it better to be dead right away than to be locked up in a bunker prison for fourteen days? Other than that the 2010 article says nothing about the amount of fuel the bunker contained or how long the maximum duration was expected to be. Nov 15, 2023 at 12:45

A long comment rather than an answer.

The concept of bomb shelters and their use evolved since WW2 in at least two ways:

  • Developments of weapons made most of WW2 type structures obsolete - they are easily torn apart by weapons available to developed countries, whereas more solid ones are just too expensive to build on a massive scale. Note also that big munitions are carried by airplanes or long-range rockets, which allows advance warning to run for the nearest shelter.
  • In case of small munitions (like shoulder fired rockets or bullets) one dies not have much of advanced warning and the efficient defense is better organized on-site. One may be easily unaware of its existence - a reinforced room in an apartment (likely a bathroom or a windowless storage room), a staircase in concrete, or a modernist looking glass building with reinforced central block. Even the name of the relevant engineering field is obscure: Resistance of materials under extreme conditions or something of the kind.

I don't have information about West Germany, but these are apparently required and ubiquitous in Israel and Switzerland.

  • 4
    You're mostly correct, but Israel and especially Switzerland were big exceptions. Other nations, such as Germany and The Netherlands did build bunkers, but far fewer.
    – Jos
    Nov 13, 2023 at 12:24

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