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Culture

Hitler's Unrealized Dream in Poland

As the Nazi regime began losing the war in 1943, Hitler set about building a massive, top-secret building complex in Poland. Sixty years on, "Project Giant" is beginning to turn into a tourist attraction.

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The remains will be used as the location of a paintball war in a couple of months.

It's the kind of thing you won't find in most tourist guides.

Removed from main roads, absent of any documentation exhibit and crumbling into dust, the massive concrete complex was once Adolf Hitler's most ambitious project. Few in the Reich knew what the maniacal Nazi leader had in store for the planned 200 square kilometer (49,421 acres) complex of underground tunnels.

When forced laborers began work in 1943, the war was already beginning to turn as the allies pushed the German army out of North Africa and the Soviet Union. With bombing raids beginning in Germany, Hitler planned to move his headquarters east to Poland. Near Wroclaw he began the fantastical project, at the cost of 150 million Reichsmarks.

"The entire Reich leadership was supposed to be lodged there, round 25,000 people," said Jürgen Heckenthaler, a historian who studied the project. "There are six or seven separate underground lairs."

Not for the tour bus set

Today, those lairs are either closed up with bricks or filled with water. Some tunnels go on indefinitely, creating a haunting air about the place that has begun to attract more than 50,000 tourists a year, according to Heckenthaler.

But the area is probably not for the tour bus set. Adventure-seekers have to use ropes to lower themselves into some areas. Some of the tunnels are only reachable by a boat.

Locals have ventured into the labyrinth to search for hidden treasures. Rumors have it that the V2 Rocket was built there, or that the pieces of the storied Bernstein Room, stolen by the Nazis from St. Petersburg in 1944, were holed up in the tunnels.

"Complete rubbish," said Heckenthaler, dismissing the myths.

Crude museum, paintball wars

But a lack of money and material on "Project Giant" has so far barred historians from building a documentation center on the property that could set the record straight. For now, others have sought ways to make money off the piece of land.

A Polish pensioner has set up a crude museum on the land, with artefacts from the war - including a Soviet T-34 tank. In a few months, wannabe commandos will hold paintball wars in the crumbling Nazi building.

"And that, where 5,000 forced laborers died," says Heckenthaler. "Very, very questionable."

  • Date 10.08.2003
  • Author Rafael Heiling
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/3xZm
  • Date 10.08.2003
  • Author Rafael Heiling
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/3xZm