Due to the increasing threat of war, Helene begins lobbying for the construction of a bomb shelter at the museum in early 1939. But it is only after the German Wehrmacht invades Poland on 1 September of the same year that she manages to convince the Minister of education, arts and sciences of the need to protect the national art treasures. Then the construction of the shelter can begin.
A safe place for the collection
An underground concrete bunker designed by Jan Emmen, chief engineer of the Government Buildings Agency, is built. Engineer Hendrik Engel, architect Kees Bremer and probably architect Gerrit Baas are also involved in the project. The bunker is covered with a 3-metre layer of sand to make it look like a sand dune.
Architectural drawing 'Bombproof repository for art treasures: Hoge Veluwe’, 1939-1940 (National Archive) / Bomb shelter under construction, early 1940
In 1941, the sand layer is increased to a height of 7 metres. A layer of natural stone is placed under the top layer of sand for reinforcement. Because building materials are becoming scarce, blocks of Maulbronn sandstone are used for this.
The mouth of Mars
The bomb shelter is also given an entrance of masonry brick in 1943. Above the entrance is a Latin text, which translates as:
‘Lest the mouth of Mars devour the monuments of art, this shelter was built twice two years ago. Now, as the fury of the god of war grows ever greater, it is both covered and hidden under a high mound of sand.’
Entrance to bomb shelter, detail with Latin inscription (1943);
Ne martis fauces artis monumenta vorarent. Haec cella ante annos condita bis geminos. Nunc crescente furore dei cui proelia curae. Tectaque harenae alto subditaque est tumulo.