This is one of the world’s largest public fallout shelters from the Cold-War
era, located in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland
. In response to a law passed in 1963 that stipulated that there should be a bunker space for every single inhabitant of the country, this enormous structure was built between 1970 and 1976 at significant cost (ca. 40 million CHF). The facility is constructed around a dual road tunnel through the Sonnenberg right in Lucerne.
In the event of a “crisis”, the road tunnel would be sealed off and the space used for 20,000 people – a third of Lucerne’s total population. The logistics centre had 450 tons of flat-packed bunk beds in storage, together with portable toilets and other supplies to make this possible.
However, setting all this up would have taken up to two weeks – but in the age of ICBM
s there wouldn’t have been anywhere near that long a forewarning time. Furthermore, the water supply would have lasted for only another two weeks, and the kitchens would only have catered for staff, so that civilians would have been required to bring along all the food they would need for two weeks themselves.
What nuclear wasteland they would have found when forced to re-emerge into the open is hard to imagine. Moreover, radiation from nuclear bombs would have only marginally receded in that short space of time. Common harmful radionuclides produced in a nuclear explosion’s fallout include iodine-131, which has a half-life of a bit over a week, as well as caesium-137 and strontium-90, which have a half-life of ca. 30 years!
Nevertheless, the Sonnenberg shelter was equipped with a hospital with 336 beds, two operating theatres and its own laundry (ONLY for the hospital!), a command post with a meeting room, its own police and prison, power supply, air-filtration system, etc. – all housed in a complex spread over seven storeys.
At the same time, the public became aware of the facility in a series of public events at the site that attracted much interest, so it was decided to make the bunker accessible for the public on regular guided tours. These started in 2008.
Unfortunately, when I was in Switzerland
in August 2020, I didn’t yet know about this unique facility. I even made an excursion to Lucerne and would have been only a few hundred yards from the bunker entrance that day. But then again, I couldn’t just have rocked up and it wasn’t a Sunday anyway. This will have to be pre-planned better some other time (hopefully). But since I haven’t seen the bunker and photographed it for myself yet, I cannot provide any images for a photo gallery here.