World War II History

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Flak Towers of the Reich

September 1, 2010 Charles McCain 4 Comments

[Crossposted from]

This is one of the surviving towers in Vienna. You can clearly see how massive these buildings were.

The main function of the towers was less shooting down Allied bombers, although that was important, but more to put up such a mass of anti-aircraft fire as to hinder bombing attacks on the area immediately around them. Flak, a word used by both sides, is the abbreviation of the German word “Fliegerabwehrkanone,” which translates as “air defense cannon”.

Exterior of flak tower in Vienna now used as a climbing wall.

Three such towers were built in Berlin, three in Vienna, and two in Hamburg. Each tower actually consisted of two towers: the very large gun tower known as the ‘G-Tower’ and a smaller fire-control tower located nearby known as the ‘L Tower’. The fire control tower transmitted the targeting values to the gun tower by wire – that is telephone/telegraph wire – that was buried deep below ground in a concrete tunnel to protect the wires from being severed.

Another of the surviving towers in Vienna.

In addition to serving as platforms for anti-aircraft guns, each G Tower had a large bomb shelter for civilians. These shelters were designed to accommodate thousands of civilians, a hospital, workshops of various sorts, and Wehrmacht command posts. Each tower had an independent supply of electricity and water as well as barracks and offices for the Luftwaffe personnel who operated the tower and the guns. In the Third Reich, all anti-aircraft defense was the responsibility of the Luftwaffe.


The towers were almost indestructible with the walls on each tower being 2.5 meters thick or 8 1/2 feet of solid concrete. The towers could – and often did – survive direct hits by Allied bombs. Because these were such massive structures, many of them remain since no one can figure out how to dismantle them without wrecking an entire neighborhood. I think the surviving towers are an important part of the history of WW Two and should be preserved.


The best, and to my knowledge, the only book devoted to the towers is The Flak Towers: In Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna 1940-1950 by Michael Foedrowitz. The book was translated from the original German. The research is impeccable. The author worked almost exclusively from primary sources as well as interviewing the leading expert on the towers. Four stars.

#Berlin#Bombers#Charles McCain#Flak Towers#Germany#Hamburg#History#Luftwaffe#Vienna#WWarII#WWII

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  1. Daniel De Groot
    September 18, 2010 - 6:51 am

    When I was in Vienna, I found it actually quite difficult to even see the exterior of these towers, as I recall, a couple of them are now in private areas with no public access. The only one we were able to get in to see had been converted into a fish and reptile museum/aquarium. Amazingly, nothing inside even refers to the history of the building. Reading a quick item through google, this is the same tower as the one with the climbing wall pictured above.

    I was told that Austrians are still ashamed of their role in WWII and not very keen on the flak towers so there’s little interest in turning one into a proper museum in its own right. Pity.

  2. Charles McCain
    September 23, 2010 - 1:34 pm

    It really is a pity. These towers are part of the history of Austria. They can pretend they didn’t play an immense role in World War Two as part of the Third Reich but the facts of history speak for themselves. Hiding something only makes people MORE curious.

  3. Sean
    September 30, 2010 - 5:44 pm

    These are monuments of World War II and should made into museums. If we preserve these and anything built during the war for the purpose of fighting, it will easier to show future generations that all of it happened and it is real. It is not just words and pictures in a history book. It almost seems that that is what has happened to a lot of human history. It has just become words in book to us. Thankfully some has survived and we should work to keep these around, not hide or destroy them.

  4. CWOliver
    August 25, 2011 - 4:17 pm

    Interesting fortifications. It’s OK if the Austrians and others don’t remember. Those of us who lost family and loved-ones to liberate Europe will never forget.

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