Honecker's nuclear bunker open to public


Visitors are flocking to the once top-secret bunker of Erich Honecker and other leaders of former East Germany after it opened to the public yesterday, almost 19 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The huge underground complex, northeast of Berlin, close to where Mr Honecker and the former ruling elite of communist East Germany used to live, will be open for three months and then closed off for good.

It was built between 1978 and 1983 at the height of the Cold War as a shelter and command centre for the East German National Defence Council in case of nuclear attack. Mr Honecker visited the bunker only once, for 15 minutes.

"Contemporary witnesses told us that Honecker was more or less frightened or shocked when he walked through here," said Sebastian Tenschert, one of the founders of the Berlin Bunker Network, which helped make the facility accessible. 

The complex covers an area slightly smaller than a soccer pitch and used up 85,000 tonnes of concrete in its construction.

The standard two-hour guided tour of the three-storey bunker takes visitors through heavy steel doors and gloomy, musty hallways past some 300 rooms. 

Tours are being booked up quickly, according to Tenschert.