Geoff Walden


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Project "Riese" (Giant)

   As Allied bombing of the Reich resulted in increased destruction of critical factory areas and disruption in manufacture of Hitler's "Wonder Weapons," the Nazis began to move these and other critical sites underground. One such tunnel project was begun in 1943 in the Eulengebirge (Owl Mountains) area of Lower Silesia (Schlesien). This area was part of Germany pre-1945, but it is now in Poland. Some seven separate tunnel systems have been identified, all falling under the overall project name "Riese" (Giant). The exact purpose of these tunnel systems remains unclear today and is the subject of considerable debate. Some or most of the systems may have been planned to be connected into a huge complex, possibly serving several different functions.

   Most records of this project seem to have been destroyed or hidden at the end of the war, but Nazi Armaments Minister Albert Speer, along with Hitler's Luftwaffe adjutant Nicolaus von Below and general staff officer Gen. Walter Warlimont, reported in their memoirs that the tunnels were meant as a Führer Headquarters. However, some researchers have felt this was a ruse to disguise the real purpose(s), and they have stated the tunnels were meant for any or all of the following purposes: military command headquarters, underground defense industry, manufacturing site for top-secret "wonder weapons," atomic bomb research and testing, the "Nazi Bell," research into anti-gravity devices and/or time machines ... take your pick. It has even been rumored that still undiscovered tunnels of the Riese complex were used to hide the famous Bernsteinzimmer (Amber Room from St. Petersberg) and other Nazi treasures. Most historians believe today that, although there may still be hidden tunnels to be discovered in the area, the project was designed to be a Führer and/or military headquarters and site for underground armaments production. Most of the excavation work was done by forced laborers from Poland, Russia, and Czechoslovakia, Russian and Italian prisoners of war, and concentration camp prisoners from the nearby Gross-Rosen camp (transferred from Auschwitz). An estimated 5000 out of some 13,000 slave laborers died on this project.

   Three of the tunnel systems, plus underground facilities at the Fürstenstein Castle (Książ), have been opened for public viewing (the other tunnels are the least finished, and are too dangerous to open for tourists). This page shows these three main tunnel systems, plus an associated site nearby. The WW2 period German names are followed by today's Polish names in parentheses.

 

Complex Wolfsberg (Włodarz)

The Wolfsberg tunnel system at Włodarz was the largest of the Riese complex, consisting of some 3100 meters of tunnels, with four entrances. The entrance shown above was constructed for tours, as all of the original entrances were blasted and buried after the Soviets had stripped these complexes of machinery and equipment in the years following the end of WW2. The photo on the right above shows pre-fab concrete arches that would have been used inside the tunnels.  (Google Maps link)

 

All of the Project Riese tunnels remained unfinished at the end of WW2, and although the Wolfsberg complex had the largest number of bored tunnels, most of these are just bare rock, with only a small amount of finished concrete, such as the Entrance 4 guard room shown on the left above. The rest of the complex resembles an ordinary mine, complete with rail cars to remove rock, as seen below (the mining equipment seen in these tunnels today was likely added for the tourism business, as the tunnels were stripped by the Soviets). Some 30 percent of the complex is flooded today. The view on the right below shows how the large chambers were constructed - tunnels were bored one above the other, then the floor of the upper tunnel would be collapsed and the spoil removed to form one large chamber.

 

The Wolfsberg complex included various above-ground facilities such as barracks, warehouses, and other buildings. Ruins of these, some with accessible basement rooms, exist today near the tunnel entrances.

 


Complex Dorfberg (Walim / Rzeczka)

A smaller tunnel complex was begun between today's villages of Walim and Rzeczka (some references today call this Complex Rzeczka, but the locals call it Walim). The Dorfberg tunnel complex had three entrances and about 500 meters of tunnels. The photo on the left above shows a pile of "petrified" bags of cement outside the entrance to Tunnel II, a common sight at unfinished Third Reich underground projects, as the bags of cement that were abandoned in 1945 hardened in place from saturation by rainwater. The entrances were protected by guard rooms; this one at Dorfberg displays various relics from the period. The photo on the right below shows concrete wall and ceiling linings in one of the larger chambers.  (Google Maps link)

 

As seen on the left, most of the unfinished Dorfberg complex consists of bare rock tunnels. However, a large machinery hall was built in one of the tunnels, with ventilation piping in the upper section (right).

 


Complex Säuferhöhen (Osówka)

The Säuferhöhen complex (called Osówka today) had three entry tunnels, all on different levels (Tunnel 3 was never connected to the main complex and remains separate today). Tunnel 2, seen at the left, is the main entry tunnel today. The entrance appears much like it did in 1945. The Tunnel 1 entrance (on the right) has been rebuilt because the original entrance had been buried by the Soviets.  (Google Maps link)

 

These photos show the guard room inside Entrance 2, complete with machinegun positions and a uniformed mannequin.

 

The Osówka complex includes several partially finished rooms and corridors, and a huge unfinished chamber (on the right above). The photos below show displays of original equipment inside the unfinished tunnel corridors.

 

Some of the tunnel corridors would have had two levels (left). On the right is an original gauge to measure the air pressure from the ventilation system, which was designed to keep the air in the tunnels at a higher pressure than the outside air, to keep poison gas or smoke from flowing in.

 

Foundations of various structures such as barracks buildings and transformer stations can be found outside the Säuferhöhen/Osówka tunnels.

 


 

This controversial object is located near the villages of Ludwikowice (Ludwigsdorf) and Miłków, in the vicinity of the old Wenceslas Mine (closed and flooded in 1939; remains closed today). This area was the site of factory facilities called the Molke Werke, used by the Dynamit Nobel company to manufacture explosives used in the "Riese" tunnel projects, as well as ammunition. This area is today a complex of ruined buildings near the concrete object shown above. This object is called "The Henge" by some today, as its shape is somewhat reminiscent of Stonehenge. This object has been claimed to be a test site for a Nazi UFO, an anti-gravity machine, a time machine, and the "Nazi Bell" (Google it .. I won't attempt to explain it here). Other researchers say this structure is nothing more than the remains of an industrial cooling tower, with nothing at all to do with UFOs, time machines, or anti-gravity devices (indeed, a factory cooling tower with an almost identical base structure exists at another site in this part of Poland).  (Google Maps link)

 

References:

Jerzy Cera, Góry Sowie Fotomapa, Podziemne Kompleksy Riese, Krakow, Inter-Cera, 2009.

Gerold Schelm, "The Henge" at Ludwikowice, Poland - Test Rig for the Nazi Bell? A Trip Report (2005).

The Wikipedia page on "Riese" has much good information, including GPS coordinates to the sites.

Tunnel site URLs (some of these pages are only available in Polish):
Wolfsberg/Włodarz tunnels
Dorfberg/Walim/Rzezcka tunnels

Säuferhöhen/Osówka tunnels
Museum Molke (location of the "Henge")

Hints for visitors - Following my visit to these sites in April 2014, I put together a page of advice for others wanting to visit the "Riese" sites.

 

Rstone.gif (1273 bytes)   Project "Siegfried" FHQ in the Jonastal Valley (a similar site in Germany)

Lstone.gif (1289 bytes)   Back to the Third Reich in Ruins homepage

 

Third Reich in Ruins, http://www.thirdreichruins.com/

All contents copyright © 2000-2017, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.  All photos taken by or 
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This page is intended for historical research only, and no political or philosophical aims should be assumed. 
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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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