New Use For An Old Tower

Haus des Meeres (House of the Sea) is an World War Two era flak fire control tower that has been converted to use as an aquarium and zoo. This angle shows the tropical house. The rooftop billboard is from an anti-war/fascism art installation and reads “Smashed to Pieces … In the Still of the Night.”

I have written about Germany’s Flak Towers previously and yesterday I wrote about the new role the city of Hamburg is planning for one of their flak towers. In a similar vein, Tad reminded me that the city of Vienna has put one of their flak towers to an unconventional use for over 50 years as an aquarium and zoo.

After the war, the fire control flak tower was initially used as hotel and then was converted to a fire station. Starting in 1957 with just a single floor, volunteers slowly took over the tower, expanding floor by floor removing debris and creating aquariums. Originally, the aquarium shared the tower with the firefighters but they vacated the same year the aquarium finished their sixth floor of exhibits. Now, the Haus des Meeres (House of the Sea) includes ten habitable above-ground floors full of exhibits and an open-air sightseeing roof deck with the space devoted to both terrariums and aquariums. The tenth floor is a special exhibit devoted to World War Two topics and a re-creation of the original flak tower control vault.

The Haus des Meeres website sports a variety of webcams including one from the roof showing the view overlooking Vienna. I encourage you to check them out.

[Image courtesy of Haus des Meeres.]

Interesting Excerpts from: Five Years, Four Fronts: the War Years of Georg Grossjohann

Now this is the type of no nonsense attitude one expects to hear from a German officer:

In a ‘man on man’ battle, (that is one without tanks or artillery or airpower on either side), one senses absolutely no fear, presumably because one finds oneself in a situation absolutely without mental distraction. I was not especially afraid of fire from infantry weapons, because in my experience, if one is hit, chances are that one will either recover or will die quickly.

During a hospital stay in Vienna where he had been sent from the Russian front to have one his mangled hands tended to, he became enamoured of a young seventeen year old girl whom he met at a public swimming pool. Since he was a wounded soldier, she invited him to her home on several occasions for tea and cake with her and her mother.

The seventeen year old was a little beauty….her mother was obviously very concerned about her purity, which, as far as I was concerned, was sacrosanct…

While traveling through Vienna on several occasions in the not distant future, the author would call on the woman and her beautiful daughter. The last time he called upon them, the girl’s mother told him:

…almost triumphantly, that another man had taken that which I, during my time with her, had disdained! This proved, she said, that I was a real gentleman. This was indeed honorable, but only a small consolation, considering what I had missed.

After capturing a Russian village and driving out a regimental or divisional headquarters:

…our only booty was an American Willys jeep that stood with running engine in front of a cottage. Maybe some high ranking Russian officer intended to use it to escape; instead, I used it for many weeks as my staff car.

There are many explanations for our loss in the East. To those of us at the front, it seemed as if the decision makers in the higher command had lost their senses.

In early November of 1944, Major Grossjohann, now commanding a regiment, was defending an important road junction SW of the French town of St. Die, near the Vosges Mountains.

…there was very heavy fighting with Japanese, who tenaciously attacked over and over again. Our landsers (slang for soldiers) were rather shocked and bitter. “The Japanese are our allies, aren’t they?” they asked. “Are they, too, fighting us now?”

This regiment of Germans discovered they were the fighting the Hawaiian-Japanese of the 442nd Infantry Regiment. All Japanese-American combat units were assigned to the European theater of operations and all of them fought with gallantry which surpassed almost all other American units.