In 1942 Adolf Hitler decided to build six flak towers to protect the historic city centre of the so-called Gauhauptstadt Vienna from destruction from Allied airstrikes. The existing towers in Berlin and Hamburg served as models for the architect Friedrich Tamms. All the flak towers are grouped in twos, with a Gefechtsturm (combat tower) and a Leitturm (lead tower) forming one pair. These pairs of towers are arranged in a triangle around the heart of Vienna’s historic centre, the Stephansdom. Originally, the Nazis planned to convert the flak towers into gigantic victory monuments to fallen German soldiers. After the war, the towers were to have been clad in white marble. Fortunately, history turned out differently.
After the defeat of the German Reich in May 1945, the flak towers stood empty for many years. Unlike in Berlin and Hamburg, the Allies did not attempt to destroy these giant grey blocks. One reason might have been Austria’s long-standing claim as a victim of Nazi aggression. As a result, the towers remain as concrete witnesses to the crimes committed by the Nazi dictatorship and as unforgettable reminders and warnings of Austria’s culpability. But until now there has never been an active historical reappraisal. After more than 70 years, the concrete towers are now an essential and integral part of the city of Vienna and its inhabitants.
The Arenbergpark Leitturm is the only flak tower owned by the City of Vienna. It was given to the city by the federal government of the Republic of Austria in 1991. The Leitturm is administered by the municipal department for facility management, the MA 34 Bau- und Gebäudemanagement. The municipal gardens department have used the ground floor as a storage facility since 1992. In 2002 an antenna system was installed on the roof. Many plans for the repurposing of the Leitturm have been drawn up over the last 70 years. The last one, for a data centre, was cancelled only in 2016, following citizens’ protests. Other proposals have included a multifunctional leisure facility, in 1979, and refurbishing as a hospital, in 1986.
The rectangular Arenbergpark Leitturm is 38 meters wide and 19 meters long. It is 39 meters high, has a basement, 9 storeys plus an added platform on top for the Funkmessgerät radar installation. Most of the outer walls are 2.5 meters thick and the uppermost ceiling is between 3.5 meters and 4 meters thick. Like every flak tower, this one also has an integrated natural climate system, which has remained almost intact. The whole of the technical infrastructure (electricity, water, gas, lift) has either been demolished or has not been preserved. The façade has a graffiti reminder of the war that reads: ‘historysteria WA(R)S YOU tie(d) world’.
Text by Joshua Koeb
1944Flak tower and air raid shelter
2018 Mixed: storage for the city gardens MA 42 (Wiener Stadtgärten) in the ground floor (since 1992), antenna system on top (since 2002)
1944 Deutsches Reich
2018 Stadt Wien
2018 MA 34 Bau- und Gebäudemanagement (facility management)
Form of government
2018 Parliamentary Republic
Spatial Planning Agency
1944 Organisation Todt and Wiener Stadtbauamt
Type of heritage and protection
2018 National Monument (BDA 5.4.2000 GZ 39.086/2/2000)
Interview with Magarete V.
Interview with Maria R.
Interview with Wolfgang F.