Germany Plans to Build New War Bunkers: '200,000 Modern Warfare Bunkers Needed'

Amid escalating security concerns, Germany is preparing to address the need for 200,000 modern bunkers to protect its population

by Sededin Dedovic
Germany Plans to Build New War Bunkers: '200,000 Modern Warfare Bunkers Needed'
© Steffi Loos / Getty Images

German cities are advocating for the construction of bunkers to protect the population in case of war. However, the question is how effective they would be, considering the destructive power of modern weapons and the potential for nuclear warfare or simmilar threats.

Perhaps there's no better way to gauge the level of fear in a country than to look at companies that build private bunkers. For example, BSSD Defense, a company based in Berlin that constructs "protective room systems" for private, business, and military use, has seen a boom in business lately.

Besides various home security equipment, the company offers everything from "temporary shelter and protection rooms" for around 20,000 euros to full-fledged bunkers costing nearly 200,000 euros. BSSD's Technical Director, Mario Piejde, says they have seen an increased number of calls from private individuals, fire services, and local authorities in recent years.

Interest in bunkers in Germany began to rise during the COVID pandemic and surged again in 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. "There is active demand and interest because there are not many companies engaged in this. No one could have expected that conventional war would return to Europe, but unfortunately, history repeats itself.

People who had considered this before are now implementing their plans," Piei de told DW.

No Functional Bunkers in Germany

It seems similar in political circles: at the beginning of June, at the Conference of Interior Ministers in Potsdam, the Federal Ministry of the Interior presented its state colleagues with a "report on the state of development of a modern shelter concept" for the German population.

This report came three months after the German Association of Cities and Municipalities, representing 14,000 local authorities, called on the federal government to invest 10 billion euros in civil protection over the next ten years and use it to upgrade 2,000 Cold War-era bunkers.

Germany Would Need More Than 200,000 Bunkers

This is no small task. The Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) tells DW that only 579 of these bunkers are still designated as public shelters, accommodating about 478,000 people (or 0.56 percent of Germany's population).

Even those bunkers are "neither functional nor ready for use" since the previous shelter system was abandoned in 2007. A new bunker concept is in the planning stage, says the BBK, but a federal government report leaked to various German media states that protecting the entire population would require building around 210,100 bunkers, taking 25 years and costing 140.2 billion euros.

The Cold War-era former West German government bunker pictured on May 03, 2023 near Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany. The bunker,© Thomas Lohnes / getty Images

"Building facilities to protect the population has certainly been neglected over the last 35 years," Piejde said, but reviving such shelters should be feasible: "Not much has changed in construction over the past 50 years.

There is a certain wall strength, wall thickness, and filter systems. The only things that have changed are power supplies and battery efficiency."

What Is the Use of Bunkers Anyway?

Hans-Valter Boris, director of the Institute for Economic and Security Studies FIRMITAS at the University of Witten, agrees that the issue of population protection has been highly neglected.

But he questions how useful bunkers would be, considering military power in a war between NATO and Russia (if that is indeed the scenario being prepared for): for instance, Russia has hypersonic missiles that could reach practically any European city from Kaliningrad in two to five minutes.

"It's not like in World War II, when warnings from bombers flying over Hanover to Berlin gave people 15 or 20 minutes to find a bunker. Given the current durations and reaction times, there is no way to warn the population," Boris, who is also a Bundeswehr colonel in reserve, told DW.

The German government is aware of this problem. In the event of war, says the government report, large central bunkers would be much less useful than decentralized protected spaces within residential buildings. For this reason, the government plans to recommend that citizens acquire cheap and easily accessible construction materials to build safe rooms in their basements.

Boris is not convinced by this concept, especially given that such a conflict could quickly escalate into a nuclear war, and nuclear weapons are now incomparably more destructive than those used by the US at the end of World War II.

"The consequences are no longer comparable to Hiroshima or Nagasaki. With modern weapons, the whole of Germany could be wiped out with nine to twelve missiles," he said. Bunkers that could withstand such an attack would have to be buried thousands of meters deep in the Swiss Alps.

"And after that, you wouldn't want to go outside at all," this expert told DW.