Photo Gallery Sneaking into Hitler's Bunker

Starting in 1987, Robert Conrad risked his freedom to secretly photograph Adolf Hitler's decaying bunker in what was then East Berlin. Disguised as a construction worker, he snuck inside some 30 times, and has now finally revealed his work.
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In 1986, the East German government made plans to erect a large apartment complex on the corner of Vossstrasse and Otto Grotewohl Strasse, now known as Wilhelmstrasse. In order for those Socialist blocks to go up, concrete from a darker past had to be demolished first. The ground under the construction site turned out to contain not only Adolf Hitler's former bunker, but also the remains of an air raid shelter used by the Neue Reichskanzlei, or New Reich Chancellery, and the foreign ministry. Starting in 1987, Robert Conrad risked his freedom to secretly photograph this site.

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Disguised as a construction worker, he snuck inside some 30 times, and has now finally revealed his work. This image, taken in 1987, shows the tiles falling from the wall in the bunker of the Neue Reichskanzlei, or New Reich Chancellery.

Foto: Robert Conrad/ Lumabytes
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The air raid shelter in the New Reich Chancellery was flooded, with sediment marks on the walls showing different water levels. On the left, an overturned steel cabinet can be seen.

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The photographer, Robert Conrad, in a 1988 self-portrait he took in front of the "Führer's bunker," where Hitler shot himself in April 1945. He disguised himself as a construction worker to sneak into the site, which was being demolished.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Here, the New Reich Chancellery underground bunker after it was uncovered by demolition work to make way for a new apartment complex in 1987. In 1938, Hitler commissioned Albert Speer with the construction of the building, because the old Reich Chancellery had been outgrown.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Conrad shot these rusting metal safes at the New Reich Chancellery in 1988.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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"Of course there was nothing in the newspapers about the Nazi bunkers. That was very much a taboo subject, as was everything about the Nazi period," Conrad explains. "Officially, they were just constructing a new residential neighborhood." Here, a bunker room in the New Reich Chancellery.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Steel safes rust in standing water inside the New Reich Chancellery bunker.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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This image was also captured inside the New Reich Chancellery bunker. "I didn't go to the bunkers hunting for relics or out of some secret admiration for the Nazi regime," Conrad says. Instead, he says he was interested in documenting the architecture.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Here, the interior of the flooded "Führer's bunker," shot by Conrad in 1988. To the left is the entrance to the staircases that connected an older part of the structure to a new main area completed in 1944. On the right, debris from the badly damaged bunker can be seen.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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A view from the construction site on Otto Grotewohl Strasse (now Wilhelmstrasse) of buildings from the former Nazi Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda that survived the war. In the final weeks of WWII, ministry head Joseph Goebbels retreated with his family into Hitler's neighboring bunker, where they later committed suicide.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Remnants of the electrical system in the New Reich Chancellery bunker. Afraid of being caught, Conrad says he didn't use his best technique while photographing the bunkers.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Conrad also snapped photos of the demolition work at the site from the outside. Here, clouds of smoke arise after explosions used to clear it for new construction.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Another view of the bunker demolition site. "My greatest fear was that they would assume I was trying to escape," Conrad says. The concern wasn't an unreasonable one, since the site was located in direct proximity to the border with West Berlin. "As far as I knew, parts of the labyrinth of bunkers ran along under the Wall and even extended into the death strip."

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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This image shows the demolition of Hitler's bunker. The hole is the stair shaft leading from its western exit.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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These exposed parts of the bunkers are framed by the former Nazi Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and an East German state publishing house in another building formerly used by the Nazis.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Conrad took this photo in 1988. Parts of the bunkers are visible in the foreground, while the temporary construction buildings can be seen in front of the Berlin Wall.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Conrad was caught five times and had a dozen rolls of film confiscated on his secret visits to the site.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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The demolition work at the site in the late 1980s brought the Nazi bunkers to the surface and sparked Conrad's curiosity.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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The demolition of an early part of Hitler's bunker revealed significantly thinner concrete than later parts of the construction. A spotlight above shows that the demolition work was underway at night, too.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes
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Here, a staircase at the former foreign ministry, which was also at the construction site visited so frequently by Conrad. Additional images from Robert Conrad can be seen on the website of the Lumabytes  photo agency.

Foto: Robert Conrad/Lumabytes