Project Riese (Riese stands for Giant) is the code name for the mine project that was started in 1943. The project has various complexes and underground tunnels with military facilities, but is never completed. One of the entrances of the tunnel system is located a few minutes’ drive from Palac Jugowice.
The reason that Hitler started Project Riese is not quite clear. It is suggested that because of the increase in the number of air raids on Nazi-Germany by the allies, a backup plan had to be made to bring the weapon industry to safety. So they came to the idea to make underground factories in the Owl Mountains and next to it to establish the headquarters of Hitler in Ksiaz Castle. A plan was developed to create tunnels under the castle with a network of roads, water pipes, sewers, electricity and telephone lines. For this was a team of mining specialists appointed of which the majority were Germans, Italians, Ukrainians, and Czechs. But the majority of the work was carried out by forced labourers and prisoners of war.
Because the progress of the project did not go quick enough, were prisoners from nearby concentration camps deployed. So was it that in the busiest period there were 13.000 prisoners working on the project. The majority of them came out of camps such as Gross Rosen and Auschwitz. The work was hard, many prisoners were sick, underfed, exhausted and were badly treated by the German guards. Apart from this the work was dangerous. An estimated 5000 people lost their lives working on Project Riese.
None of the underground works was eventually completed. At the moment the mine is visited by tourists and enthusiast for military facilities. A variety of artefacts from this project can be separately visited; Ksiaz Castle, Walim mines, Grodno Castle and the former concentration camps Gross Rosen and Auschwitz. A large part of the underground complex is closed because of the big risk of collapse and accidents.
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