The city of Emden has a rich history. During the middle ages, it was a wealthy port until a catastrophic flood diverted the Ems River outside of town. As far as the museums go not much happened here again until the second world war.
During WWII Emden was in the path of the bombers from England trying to take out the shipyards in this area. Because of this, they build more than 31 bunkers around the city.
During air raids the bunkers would fill up. I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered how that actually worked. Was there enough room for everyone in the bunkers? Was anyone left outside? How long was an air raid? Did they have picnics while they waited for the planes to pass? How much did the people in the air raid shelter understand about the war? Did they know what we knew?
After a heavy attack on September 6, 1944 much of downtown Emden was destroyed. I visited the Bunker Museum in Emden to see if we could get any answers to my questions. The museum is in a bunker in the center of town and although most of the information was in German, a lot of it was easy to understand. I also had a great translator with me for the text-laden posters.
The museum curator barked at us to go to the top floor and work our way down. It was difficult to see the logic in the layout of the museum as the years hopped up and down. During the Nazi rule, after the bombing of Emden and back and forth. There was an entire room with information about concentration camps and the persecution of Jews.
A chill went up my spine when I saw the next poster. The village we had lived in for two years was a hot spot for Nazi propaganda. No wonder I never liked that place.
The rest of the bunker showed how the bunker was used after the bombing in 1944. The people of Emden lived in the bunkers during the rebuilding of the city. Some families had a series of rooms in the bunker with roomy bedrooms and dining rooms with their fine china stored in their fine buffetschränke. Other families had to share rooms no bigger than a broom closet with three bunks taking up most of the floor space.
I would love to know how they sorted out who got what and who made that decision. The museum curator was ready to take her siesta so she really didn’t want to answer any questions from tourists in gebrochen german. I may never find out how they sorted out all the banalities but no one can stop me from imagining.
They have been jackhammering holes in these walls since I arrived in Emden three years ago. Looks like another three years at least until they are finished.