In researching my forthcoming novel, I pay a visit to The Riese (The Giant) in southern Poland, not far from the Czech republic. The place is Wlodarz and in a stunningly beautiful landscape there it is: An underground half finished cave system, built by prisoners of war and slave laborers for the SS and Hitlers Third Reich. It’s fascinating. It’s macabre and we should be glad it’s history.
The Riese is surrounded with mystery as to why it was built, how big it is etc. The main objective was probably an attempt by the Third Reich to build arms factories on a safe distance from allied bombing. But they also appear to have had scientific laboratories and weapon test facilities here. Some believe the purpose was to developed new weapon technologies in secret. Rumours say that they planned a factory for mass production of atomic weapons here, however it is probably not so, since the scientists of the Third Reich at the time had not yet understood that they could make a fission bomb. What they where working on was nuclear power. The nazi a-bomb is I believe, a myth.
Spread out over several hundred square km the Riese consisted of 213,000 cubic meters of tunnels, 58 km of roads with six bridges, and 100 km of pipelines. Today seven underground systems are known covering about 97,000 cubic meters of tunnels, which means over a half of the underground tunnels and chambers remain to be discovered. To build these tunnels the nazis used forced labour from the nearby concentration camp Gross-Rosen and it’s sub-camps. BTW: The term ”forced labour” is really not doing the prisoners true situation justice. It was about murdering people by forcing them to work themselves to death. In average, I have learned, it took about two weeks to kill a strong man in the labour camps.
The feeling of this place is quite different compared to Mittelwerk. Here all buildings from the concentration camp is gone. The museum is privately run by amateurs. The military vehicles, guns etc on the pictures are not from the second world war but junked russian and polish vehicles from a much later date. The museum appear to have very few visitors – and no wonder, you almost need a tank to go the last 800 meters from the paved road up the hill to the museum. I feel lucky to have my off-road motorcycle. Still, I don’t mind the junk yard feeling of this place. It’s an interesting contrast to the extremely well organized Mittelbau-Dora museum in Germany.
At the end of the film clip there are a few pictures from where I stay at the moment.