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)
Complex Dorfberg (Walim / Rzeczka)
Complex Säuferhöhen (Osówka)
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.
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.
Project "Siegfried" FHQ in the Jonastal Valley (a similar site in Germany)
Third Reich in Ruins, http://www.thirdreichruins.com/
All contents copyright © 2000-2016,
Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved. All photos taken by or
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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.