20 March 2008

U-boat factory for sale

ZUI this article from The Times:
Dank and dark, built by slave labourers, the vast concrete complex known as Valentin on the north German coast is not exactly a des res.

Germany's notorious submarine factory is, however, up for sale to anyone interested in a building with 7m-thick walls, the largest surviving bunker from the Third Reich.

The asking price is vague but government officials say that they could be accommodating for any serious bidder. The place has become a millstone, its upkeep swallowing up to €800,000 (£630,000) a year from the Defence Ministry budget. “And that's just the absolutely essential investments needed to stop the place crumbling,” says commandant Wolfgang zu Putlitz, who is in charge of guarding and maintaining the site.


The factory, codenamed Valentin, was Hitler's last chance to stop the Allies ferrying supplies and reinforcements by sea. It was to be shielded from bombing raids by a bunker with a thick pre-stressed concrete roof.

The result was a silo with the dimensions of a cathedral: 426m (1,400ft) long, 97m wide, 25m high. At one end was a diving basin for the last tests on the U-boats before they would slide into the Weser river and head for the North Sea.

In the event, no submarine left the factory. By March 1945 the factory, begun 18 months earlier, was 80 per cent complete. Then a British Bomber Command raid succeeded in penetrating the roof. Barely a month later, before repairs were complete, the war was over.


“This bunker should not be sold,” the Mayor of Bremen, Jens Böhrnsen, says, “for both financial and moral reasons.” The new owner would have to commit himself to making at least part of the site into a memorial centre for Nazi slave labour. At least 12,000 concentration camp inmates, forced labourers and prisoners of war were involved in the almost pharaonic project: a million tonnes of gravel and sand had to be dug up and 1,232,000 tonnes of cement was mixed.

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