Cochem is a pretty, medium seized town located in the Moselle valley and a very popular city for tourists from all over the world. But in this post, I don't want to intoduce you to Cochem - I want to let you in on one of the former German state secrets, the bunker of German's Centralbank.
Imagine we are in the early 1960s. Dr.Dreesen is retired, planning to move to warmer regions, maybe to Rimini or Capri in Bella Italia, but first his house, including medical center, has to be sold. His house is located in a residential area of Cochem, where tourists are rarely. Fortunately a very solvent prospective buyer contacts him, the German Central Bank (Bundesbank) located in Frankfurt/M. The Bundesbank plans to setup a training- and recreation centre for it's staff in the former doctor's home. One quickly agrees and the Bank buys the house as well as the surrounding property (9000 m²/approx 10764 square yd) on the slope.
Shortly after the contract is signed, trucks with heavy implements appear. From 1962 until 1964, heavy constuction works take place on the property, even blasting operations are accomplished by means of explosives and detonators. Of course, that does not go unnoticed by the neighborhood and shortly after construction started, the neighbors complain to the police about the daily noise. They agree, this unbearable noise can't come only from the construction of the training centre building.
The complaints of the neighbors quickly reach the President of the Bundesbank in Frankfurt/M. and in order to avoid too much attention, an information-meeting between bank and neighbors is organized. Here the enraged neighbors learn, that in addition to the training centre, a nuclear fall-out bunker is built in 30 meters (100 feet) underground and in case of a nuclear war, the neighbors can be accomodated there, in addition to the present Bundesbank-staff of the training centre. Surprisingly the neighbors are satisfied with this statement and patiently endure the construction noise for the next 2 years. What they didn't know, this was only half of the truth...
Remember we are in the early 60s, in the hot period of the cold war. Germany was a divided and occupied country, in the west by Western Allies, in the east by the Soviets, - and the conflict between the capitalist West and the communist East was nearer than ever to escalate. Building civil nuclear bunkers was nothing unusual at that time in Germany. But the bunker in Cochem was less build to protect people, but to maintain Germany's economy. At that time, the German government feared, in the event of war, the country would be flooded with counterfeit money from the East, in order to devalue the German currency, and thus to destroy the economy. (You see, it's always about money...).
For this reason a substitute currency (almost a 2nd edition of the DM) was created, called BBKII.
(DM =Deutsche Mark/German currency until introduction of the euro in 2002.)
Of course, it would be too late to start printing the substitute currency after the beginning of a war , so around 50 billion DM BBKII were printed by the Bundesbank during the 60s. This of course blew up the capacity of their vault in Frankfurt, imagine what a mass of bank notes it is. So, the real reason for the construction of the bunker in Cochem was, to store about 15 billion of this substitute currency and to distribute it throughout the German Republic in event of a war. At first instance, this bunker was a big safe. And only a very, very few people knew about this fact. The motto was : Money nobody knows - no one can fake.
175 people could have survived inside the bunker for 14 days. In event of war it was planed, to send staff from Frankfurt to Cochem, to maintain the Bank's work from there and above all, to coordinate the distribution of the new money. For this purpose, fully equipped office space has been created inside the bunker. Telephone, teletypers, copier, PC's - hehehe little joke 😁 of course no PC's in the 60s... - ...I meant typewriters, were installed in the bunker-offices.
There were a few sleeping rooms, a bath, a kitchen, a social room, a medical room, a technic room, the decontamination station and also a mortuary...and of course the vault, where bags and parcels of money were stored in huge cages. Numerous diesel-engines and a substation should provide the energy supply and the drink-water supply ran through it's own deep well.
Of course there was also an emergency exit, a spiral staircase ending up in the garden of the property.
The security measures were high. In Cochem only the so called 'Head of the training-centre' knew about the money, but he couldn't access the vault. The main key for the vault door was located in Frankfurt. Inside the vault, a kind of motion detector was installed, that reacted on vibration and noise. Every few month some officials came from Frankfurt, for a money inspection. They counted the moneybags and parcels.
The bunker was abandoned and cleared by the Bundesbank in 1988, before the official end of the Cold War. When it shut, lorries came and transported boxes of money back to Frankfurt, where it was shredded, except some notes for the museum of the Bundesbank.
The Bundesbank continued to run its training & recreation centre until 1994, than the property, inclusive the former residence of Dr. Dreesen and the building of the trainingcentre (the entrance to the bunker itself), was sold to the regional Volksbank Cochem, which used only a very little part of the vault for customer lockboxes, but most of the complex remained untouched.
Historians tried to find out, if the Stasi - the Secret Police of 'East-Germany' the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) may have known about the bunkered money, but they didn't find any hint about it, what's remarkable, because the Stasi usually was quite well informed about West-Germany's "secrets".
In 2014, the whole complex was again sold, this time to the private entrepreneur-couple Petra and Manfred Reuter. They first renovated the bunker and thereafter the former residencial building of Dr. Dreesen was converted into a Vintage Hotel.
Since 2016 official tours through the bunker are offered. If you ever come to Cochem, don't miss a tour, it's informative, fascinating and thrilling - I highly recommend it!
...Crazy, since I know this story, I often look down to my feet and ask myself, what might be under them, deep down in the underground...
Puh...what a long post. Sorry guys, but some stories can't be told in 3 sentences.
And believe me, if I had written in German, this post would have been 3 times as long as this one in English. There are so many other little details to report...however, thanks to everyone, who read until the end!