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Remnants of War

When walking in the park (Volkspark) in Friedrichshain with Guido's aunt she pointed out the hill that dominates the landscape and told me that it was built from the rubble left by allied bombing.  She added that that place was chosen in order to bury a 'flak tower'.

On the flight over I had been reading Joseph Kanon's Leaving Berlin set after the War. Then Emily leant me Ken Follet's Winter of the World - not as well written but well researched and much more voluminous.  So this reference to Flak Towers sparked my interest.  Why would anyone bury a tower - why not just knock it down?  Ken Follet told me that Berliner's loved them.  They provided shelter and their guns told them that someone was fighting back against the waves of bombers that were trying to annihilate them.

So I did a bit of research.  At the beginning of the Second World War the Third Reich did not believe in defence. Expenditure on defensive infrastructure detracted from the war effort and was often ineffective, so their slogan was:  'The best means of defence is attack'.  They wanted to avoid at all costs the defensive stalemates of the First World War.  But when against all their assurances Berlin came under attack from British bombers in 1940 they reluctantly and very rapidly constructed huge castle like structures called Flaktürme (Flak Towers). 

They were built in pairs. The Gefechtsturm (the battle tower) was the gun tower and the largest. The smaller Leitturm (search tower) coordinated the defence.  Berlin had three pairs.  There were also three in Vienna, two Hamburg and others in Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

The word 'Turm' in German can mean 'tower' as in English.  But it can also refer to a 'castle'.  While the Leitturm resembled  a substantially built water tower, the Gefechtsturm (G-tower) was a huge square thirteen story building half the size of a city block with outer walls 3.5 m (11 feet) thick ferro-concrete that looked more like a big castle.  At each corner was a cylindrical tower containing a helical access stairway and each was topped with 128 mm (5.0 in) anti-aircraft guns firing explosive shells (producing flak).  In addition, each tower had numerous rapid-firing 50mm guns for defence against low flying aircraft and attack on the towers themselves. 

 

Zoo Flak Tower
source: http://theelephantgate.weebly.com/the-war-comes-to-the-zoo.html

 

Allied bombs couldn't penetrate the towers and they acted as local air raid shelters for women and children and men over 70 years old.  Men of fighting age were excluded.  They also contained an emergency hospital.

So it turned out to be very difficult to remove them, particularly the Gefechtsturm.  Towers in Hamburg, Vienna  and Stuttgart have been repurposed but in Berlin they had been points of last resistance to the Russian invasion and their popularity with Berliners meant that they had to go.  They were located in a triangle around the city. One at the Zoo; one at Friedrichshain and the third at Humboldthain.  The only one to be fully demolished was at the Zoo in the British sector.

The French tried blowing up the Gefechtsturm at Humboldthain but success was illusive because of collateral damage to nearby railway tracks.  The Russians were similarly unsuccessful at Friedrichshain in the Soviet sector. So the next best solution was to bury the recalcitrant monsters.  Thus women, of which there were many more than men, the men being prisoners or dead, were put to work, carrying rubble from the city to cover the remaining towers.  Hence Mont Klamott (Rubble Mountain) in Volkspark Friedrichshain.

I want to stay with the Flak towers for just a little longer because when I was looking at photographs of them I saw something that didn't make sense to me.  There on the cover of LIFE magazine was a picture of US military women posing with a radar dish that was obviously operating in the microwave band. 

 

Radar dish
source: http://theelephantgate.weebly.com/the-war-comes-to-the-zoo.html

 

How could that be?  Surely microwave radar was an allied military secret along with proximity fuses?  Yet these flak towers clearly had microwave radar controlled guns.

 


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Travel

Italy

 

 

 

 

A decade ago, in 2005, I was in Venice for my sixtieth birthday.  It was a very pleasant evening involving an excellent restaurant and an operatic recital to follow.  This trip we'd be in Italy a bit earlier as I'd intended to spend my next significant birthday in Berlin.

The trip started out as planned.  A week in London then a flight to Sicily for a few days followed by the overnight boat to Napoli (Naples).  I particularly wanted to visit Pompeii because way back in 1975 my original attempt to see it was thwarted by a series of mishaps, that to avoid distracting from the present tale I won't go into.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

More on 'herd immunity'

 

In my paper Love in the time of Coronavirus I suggested that an option for managing Covid-19 was to sequester the vulnerable in isolation and allow the remainder of the population to achieve 'Natural Herd Immunity'.

Both the UK and Sweden announced that this was the strategy they preferred although the UK was soon equivocal.

The other option I suggested was isolation and accepting the economic and social costs involved until a vaccine is available to confer 'Herd Immunity'.

New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and, with reservations, Australia opted for that course - along with several other countries, including China.

In the event, every country in which the virus has taken hold has been obliged to implement some degree of social distancing to manage the number of deaths and has thus suffered the corresponding economic costs of jobs lost or suspended; rents unpaid; incomes lost; and as yet unquantified psychological injury.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Medical fun and games

 

 

 

 

We all die of something.

After 70 it's less likely to be as a result of risky behaviour or suicide and more likely to be heart disease followed by a stroke or cancer. Unfortunately as we age, like a horse in a race coming up from behind, dementia begins to take a larger toll and pulmonary disease sees off many of the remainder. Heart failure is probably the least troublesome choice, if you had one, or suicide.

In 2020 COVID-19 has become a significant killer overseas but in Australia less than a thousand died and the risk from influenza, pneumonia and lower respiratory conditions had also fallen as there was less respiratory infection due to pandemic precautions and increased influenza immunisation. So overall, in Australia in 2020, deaths were below the annual norm.  Yet 2021 will bring a new story and we've already had a new COVID-19 hotspot closing borders again right before Christmas*.

So what will kill me?

Some years back, in October 2016, at the age of 71, my aorta began to show it's age and I dropped into the repair shop where a new heart valve - a pericardial bioprosthesis - was fitted. See The Meaning of Death elsewhere on this website. This has reduced my chances of heart failure so now I need to fear cancer; and later, dimentia.  

More fun and games.

 

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