Last December, on a morning run through a city park in Vienna’s second district, I stumbled across a strange sight: a huge concrete tower looming above the snow. The park, the Augarten, features Vienna’s oldest Baroque gardens and once hosted concerts conducted by Mozart. Today the 17th-century Palais Augarten is the headquarters of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. But the giant, stained tower that rises above the park and the smaller tower that stands nearby? Alongside Vienna’s traditional architecture—imposing, ornate, and meticulously maintained—the towers look like they’ve been ripped out of a cartoon dystopia.
The park’s website tells me that they are Flaktürme, antiaircraft gun towers, ordered by Hitler and built in the 1940s to protect Vienna from bombing. Berlin and Hamburg had similar towers.