It looks like an ugly lump of concrete and … well, it is. It is also a protected historic monument. Really.
The fact that it dates from 1941 gives us a clue as to why it’s a historically important structure. And its name? Schwerbelastungskörper means ‘heavy load-bearing body’ and that’s exactly what its purpose was. It was erected to ascertain whether the site would support a huge triumphal arch – something along the lines of the Arc de Triomphe but much, much bigger.
Hitler had plans for Berlin. He’d decided that once he’d won this pesky war he would redesign the city. The proposed German version of the Arc de Triomphe appealed to his ego but first, he had to make sure that the land was strong enough to support such a magnificent structure.
Berlin is built on swampy ground and therefore a feasibility test was required. The concrete structure was built and its interior housed instruments to measure the effects of the weight of the Schwerbelastungskörper on the land. It was deemed that if it sank into the ground by only a few centimetres (less than 6 cm) then the land could support the triumphal arch.
But of course, soon after the Schwerbelastungskörper had been built, Hitler had other matters to concern himself with. Yet even though the structure showed that it would be most unwise to build the arch there – it actually sank more than three times the maximum number of centimetres in only just over two years – Hitler did not abandon his plans.
However, the construction was set aside, supposedly temporarily, while Germany concentrated on the more pressing matter of the Second World War.
Of course, the arch was never built – the surrender of Germany and the suicide of the Fuhrer put paid to that idea. And it wasn’t demolished after the war either. To demolish such a huge structure would have required the use of explosives e fact that residential apartment buildings and railway lines were nearby and could be damaged (or even destroyed) vetoed that idea.
Where Is Schwerbelastungskörper?
JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.