Dachau's Air Raid Shelters
The street that you see in the photograph above is Bergstrasse, which climbs up the hill called Karlsberg and ends at the former District Administration Building at Augsburgerstrasse 1. At the bottom of this street was the entrance to Dachau's main World War II air raid shelter which is under this hill. The shelter is a tunnel that goes deep into the hillside and has several other entrances. There were also other bunkers in the beer cellars under the Zieglerbräu and Hörhammerbräu Breweries, which are on the other side of this road, but not shown here. During World War II, American and British planes bombed the civilian population of virtually every German city, whether or not the targeted city had any important munitions plants or was of strategic importance.
An estimated 500,000 German civilians, including a few Dachau citizens, were killed in the bombing raids, more than the total of American soldiers who lost their lives in the entire war in both Europe and the Pacific. At the end of the war in May, 1945, the whole country of Germany lay in ruins, with thousands of bodies rotting under the beautiful buildings that had been destroyed by bombs. It took more than a year to dig the bodies out from under the rubble and some were never recovered. Americans arriving to conduct trials of Nazi war criminals in Dachau and Nuremberg were astounded by the stench of decaying corpses that permeated every major city in Germany.
As the unofficial "capital of the Nazis," Munich was one of the primary targets for the American bombers. Dachau was close enough to Munich (approximately 12 miles) that the Dachau residents went into their shelters every time the air-raid alarms sounded. In 1944, there were 97 air-raid alarms for Munich and nearby Dachau. Another bombing raid on Munich and Dachau was on April 9, 1945. On air-raids over Munich, the US Air Force pilots were careful not to bomb the prison compound at Dachau, which was known to house 137 VIP prisoners and thousands of Communists, who were allies of the Americans. The concentration camp was marked by flares in the sky, so that the bombers wouldn't accidentally drop any bombs that might kill the prisoners. There was only one direct hit on the Dachau concentration camp, a bomb that struck the service building and destroyed all the prisoner clothing that was stored there. (Incoming prisoners had to surrender their civilian clothing which was kept in storage and returned to them if and when they were released, as many Dachau prisoners were.)
Another entrance to the Dachau air-raid shelters was down the steps, shown in the photograph below. This building is now the Hörhammer Department store. It is on Augsburgerstrasse next to the parish church of St. Jakob which also has underground rooms. These underground rooms and brewery cellars were connected so that the bunker under the Schlossberg hill was quite extensive.