Former German State Secret: Bundesbank Bunker in Cochem

by Heike September. 03, 2019 2165 views

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.

The former house of Dr.Dreesen, later the accomodation for the centralbank staff, now a vintage hotel.

The former house of Dr.Dreesen, later the accomodation for the centralbank staff, now a vintage hotel.

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...

Passage into the bunker.

Passage into the bunker.

Lets call it 'Reception'

Lets call it 'Reception'

Decontamination station

Decontamination station

Door lock control system

Door lock control system

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.)

Left side: substitute currency notes BBK II - right side: main german currency notes BBK I

Left side: substitute currency notes BBK II - right side: main german currency notes BBK I

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.

Telephone switchboard

Telephone switchboard

Teleprinter/punched-tape telex machines

Teleprinter/punched-tape telex machines

Copier

Copier

Typewriter

Typewriter

Office

Office

Chef's office

Chef's office

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.

Medical room

Medical room

Sleeping room

Sleeping room

Kitchen

Kitchen

Bath-Restroom

Bath-Restroom

Technic room

Technic room

Supply room

Supply room

Of course there was also an emergency exit, a spiral staircase ending up in the garden of the property.

Emergency exit

Emergency exit

Emergency exit (edited with Analog Efex - Nik Collection.)

Emergency exit (edited with Analog Efex - Nik Collection.)

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 door to the vault.

The door to the vault.

Money cage

Money cage

One Million BBk II

One Million BBk II

Money bags

Money bags

More money bags

More money bags

Money inspection (Someone should tell this guy, that's not necessary anymore...) :-)

Money inspection (Someone should tell this guy, that's not necessary anymore...) :-)

DM Notes (seemed to be real ones) - Photo of a photo. Credits to the unknown photographer

DM Notes (seemed to be real ones) - Photo of a photo. Credits to the unknown photographer

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.

Moneybags in december 1988 / Photo of a photo - Credits to the unknown photographer.

Moneybags in december 1988 / Photo of a photo - Credits to the unknown photographer.

Loading the moneybags into the lori for being destroyed in Frankfurt.Credits to the unknown photographer.

Loading the moneybags into the lori for being destroyed in Frankfurt.Credits to the unknown photographer.

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.

Lockboxes

Lockboxes

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!

Sources:
http://archiv.ausweichsitz.de/content/view/46/39/index.html
https://mosel-zweinull.de/bunker-cochem/
https://www.spiegel.de/geschichte/vergessene-orte-der-geheime-bunkerschatz-der-bundesbank-a-946766.html
http://www.bundesbank-bunker.de/en/
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundesbankbunker_Cochem
https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/bundesbankbunker-in-cochem-15-milliarden-d-mark-unter.1242.de.html?dram:article_id=420594

Join the conversation
39
There are 39 comments , add yours!
Gethin Thomas 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Amazing story. I have been to a similar bunker in the UK. Which was for the government. Thanks for making this presentation.

1 month, 2 weeks ago Edited
Ros Mercury 11 months ago

Heike you brought me back to the early 1960's, I learned to type with your #10 photo, I remember those telephone, I have seen the punched tape machine in my commercial course and what a great history you published here, I'm sure the youngsters of today don't know any of this.  I just can't imagine the shredding of all that money the time it must have taken. But glad that Germany  came back to be a one country.

11 months ago Edited
Johnny Chan 11 months, 1 week ago

A very informative blog! It’s obvious the amount of research done here. Thank you for sharing a piece of history and these wonderful photos Heike.

11 months, 1 week ago Edited
Jay Boggess 1 year ago

WOW! Amazing story & wonderful photo report!+1

1 year ago Edited
Ho Kim 1 year ago

Wow, I do and do appreciate your for kind telling such an interesting story. I knew that Germans tried and are trying themselves to make things prepared and perfect but I didn't know they worked this much : preparing alternative currency in case of counterfeit currency flooding! It's rather fortunate for all of us in the globe that the plan ended in vain but it remains as an interesting tourist's attraction. Anyhow I think it will be a hot business if they can sell the 'alternative currency' as a funny money. Thank you again for the very interesting story! smile You helped me a lot to plan the future German tour of mine.

1 year ago Edited
Heike Replied to Ho Kim 1 year ago

Thank you Ho! During the world war II the German Nazis planed exactly this with Great Britain. At the concentration camp Sachsenhausen , Jewish prisoners had to make counterfeit British pound for the nazis. https://www.scrapbookpages.com/Sachsenhausen/counterfeit.html
And guess who sat in the high positions in Germany in the early sixties? Lots of former nazis... They knew about that plan and were now afraid, their own plan could be realized by others against Germany. Crazy...
Concerning fun-currency. In Germany, old bank notes that are damaged, are shreddered and you can buy them for fun in sacks for the fireplace in your house - if you have a fireplace, I don't.
So if you buy a 1 million shreddered Euro sack, you can throw it into the fire and can tell your friends next day, how cool you are, because you burned 1 million euro in your fireplace.. smile If you ever come to Germany for a tour, you have to let me know!!! I would be happy to be your travel-guide.  smiley

1 year ago Edited
Ho Kim Replied to Heike 1 year ago

So it makes very good sense. They thoght the enemy can do the same thing that they had once thought of...
It will be a honor of mine if you can guide me for the trip.smile

1 year ago Edited
Marsha 1 year ago

Interesting informational post with great photo documentation!

1 year ago Edited
Heike Replied to Marsha 1 year ago

Thanks a lot, Marsha! smile

1 year ago Edited
Jorge Cardoso 1 year ago

great one :)

1 year ago Edited
Heike Replied to Jorge Cardoso 1 year ago

Thank you! smile

1 year ago Edited
Lynn F Medley 1 year, 1 month ago

Soo interesting!! Your story was not too long it kept me in suspense, awesome images!

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Lynn F Medley 1 year ago

Thanks Lynn. Glad you liked it!

1 year ago Edited
Don Baird 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks for taking the time to provide this very interesting post and great photos.

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Don Baird 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you, Don ! Glad you liked it!

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Greg Blaney 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks for the post, Heike. You always teach us things we have never heard of but are of great interest. Love your photos (the spiral staircase ones are outstanding). Being old enough to remember the 60s, it was a bit of a trip down memory lane to see the furniture and other artifacts from the time period. Fortunately, we've moved on from that smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Greg Blaney 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks a lot, Greg. I was so fascinated by myself by this story, that I had to share it. Glad you liked it and yes, I agree, I'm also really happy about the progress we made since the 60th. smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Tsao T-F 1 year, 1 month ago

You have a nice travel and record well. Thank you for sharing.grinning
I played the telephone switchboard in my childhood in my grandfather's hotel. Your story reminded me.

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Tsao T-F 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you very much, Tsao! smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Pete 1 year, 1 month ago

thanks for sharing. very informative

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Pete 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks Pete!

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Antonio Gil 1 year, 1 month ago

I always read your posts till the end. They are informative and well-humoured. Amazing story and very good pictures of such an interesting place.

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Antonio Gil 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you so much Antonio! Do you know the british Author Frederick Forsyth? He writes politcal Agent thrillers. The story of the bunker would be a great background for one of his agent-thrillers. smilesmile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Antonio Gil Replied to Heike 1 year, 1 month ago

Yes. I've already read some of his books, and I agree with you. This is an excellent set for a spy story smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Björn Roose 1 year, 1 month ago

Quite an interesting story, Heike, and some nice photos too smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Björn Roose 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks Björn! I was fascinated by this story. First I thought it's a weird idea to try to bring a economy to a stillstand by conterfeid money, but than I was informed that the Nazis planed exactly that in the 2nd ww with great britain...

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Björn Roose Replied to Heike 1 year, 1 month ago

Yeah, I knew about that plan. Would be harder nowadays and then again not. Adding digital money is after all something that has become common and perfectly legal practice ...

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Francesc 1 year, 1 month ago

Excellent post very interesting...A wonderful report about cold war....Excellent photos.....

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Francesc 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you Francesc! Great you enjoyed the post!

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Camellia Staab 1 year, 1 month ago

Loved reading this and in my opinion not long at all. Had to share it with hubby since he loves to read/look at this typed of articles. Last time we were in London we ended up going to Churchill's War Room and so many of the photos you have here reminded me that museum. So glad you shared this with us. Your posts are always so fascinating.

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Camellia Staab 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you Camellia. I didn't know about Churchill's war room. That is something I'm also very interested in. Next time I'm in London I have to visit it. smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Buster Bruce 1 year, 1 month ago

Heike- thank you for a most comprehensive report on a most fascinating subject. And you images were storytelling in themselves.

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Buster Bruce 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you Buster. It's really fascinating, the whole story has a bit of this cold-war agent thrillers...smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 1 year, 1 month ago

Great post, good to know. when I am there will visit it; Cochem is on my list for next yeqr;

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Berckmans Peter 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks Peter. It's really worth a visist. You have to pay an extra charge of 2.50 Euro for a photo-permission, but in my opinion it's ok. Better than not allowing it, like in some museums or other attractions.

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Abigail Gossage 1 year, 1 month ago

Fascinating!  Very like our Diefenbunker.  Thanks for sharing.

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Abigail Gossage 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you Abigail. I never heard from the Diefenbunker before. I googled it. Very cool!

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Sherry Hill 1 year, 1 month ago

very interesting.. and your photos are wonderful..

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
Heike Replied to Sherry Hill 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you, Sherry!! smile

1 year, 1 month ago Edited
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