During World War II numerous cellars of residential buildings in Vienna were adapted to offer protection from air raids, and most were connected to one another by openings broken through their walls. White arrows, lines, acronyms and words such as LSK, NA or ZIVIL mark air raid shelters created in this way, which were used by the civilian population during air raids on the city.
These were places of fear and scenes of the civilian population’s arduous life during the war. After a bomb attack on the city, the signs on the walls were supposed to make it easier for rescuers to find people buried inside houses that had been hit.
The air raid shelters were intended both for the people living in these houses and for passers-by seeking protection. There were also public air raid shelters for people who were on the street. However, not everyone was allowed to find refuge from attacks: in keeping with the inhuman Nazi ideology, Jewish people and houses owned by Jews were excluded from all protective measures.
The white characters on the walls are a reminder of that terrible past of war and the Nazi regime’s totalitarian rule. They show the exact location of an air raid shelter and its emergency exits and whether passages to neighbouring houses had been broken through the walls. In addition, white arrows and lines mark cellar windows and other corresponding entrances as well as outer walls with openings leading to adjacent houses.
In order to find one's way in the darkened city or after bomb attacks, geographical landmarks were also provided, which refer to well-known places. These are primarily the four references to DONAU, RING, GÜRTEL and PARK.
The meaning of the signs:
- LS – air raid defences
- LSK – air raid shelter (colloquial)
- LSR – air raid shelter (official term)
- Ø – No LSK - no air raid shelter
- MA, MD – wall opening (to another cellar)
- NA - emergency exit
- DONAU – geographical point of reference: the river Danube
- RING – geographical point of reference: "Ringstraße" in Vienna
- GÜRTEL – geographical point of reference: "Gürtel" street in Vienna
- PARK – geographical point of reference: a park