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Project Riese

Riese [ˈʀiːzə] (German for "giant") the code name of the mining and construction project of Nazi Germany, started and unfinished in the Owl Mountains and Książ Castle in 1943-45. It consists of seven complexes of the underground military facilities located in Lower Silesia, previously Germany, now territory of Poland.



Complex Rzeczka
Complex Rzeczka
Książ Castle

In the presence of the increasing Allied air raids Nazi Germany moved a large part of its strategic armaments production into, considered to be safe, the District of Sudetenland. In September 1943[1] the project was created of Hitler's headquarters in Książ Castle and underground factories below the Owl Mountains. For this purpose the Schlesische Industriegemeinschaft AG (Silesian Industrial Company) was established in autumn 1943. But with the unsatisfactory progress of work in April 1944 the supervision of the construction was handed over to the Organisation Todt[2].

The plans included adaptation works in Książ Castle, the creation of the underground complex below the castle, the construction of tunnels and large underground halls at several locations in the Owl Mountains. The rocks of the mountains were drilled and blasted by explosives. For this purpose the mining specialists were employed, mostly Germans, Italians, Ukrainians and Czechs[3] but the most of the work was done by forced laborers. In this way tunnels and halls were created and reinforced by concrete and steel. The whole was armed with the network of roads, narrow gauge railway, water supply, sewerage, electricity and telephone lines.

According to Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich:

And in 1944 he [Hitler] had two underground headquarters blasted into mountains in Silesia and Thuringia, the project tying up hundreds of indispensable mining specialists and thousands of workmen. (...) According to Point 18 of the Führerprotokoll, June 20, 1944, I reported to the Fuehrer that "at the moment a good 28,000 workers are building additions to the Fuehrer's headquarters." According to my memorandum of September 22, 1944, some 36,000,000 marks were spent for bunkers in Rastenburg [Wolf's Lair], 13,000,000 for bunkers in Pullach near Munich to provide for Hitler's safety when he visited Munich, and 150,000,000 for the bunker complex called the "Giant" near Bad Chrlottenbrunn [headquarters of the Organisation Todt for the project Riese]. These projects required 328,000 cubic yards of reinforced concrete (including small quantities of masonry), 277,000 cubic yards of underground passages, 36 miles of roads with six bridges, and 62 miles of pipes. The "Giant" complex alone consumed more concrete then the entire population had at its disposal for air-raid shelters in 1944. [4]

Before the entry of the Red Army many underground structures have been destroyed, or at least tunnels leading to them were blown up. In the documents of the Third Reich there are records which allow to assess the quantity of materials used in the construction of the project Riese and the volume of the tunnels. On this basis it appears that about half of the underground corridors has not been found yet[5].

Together with the Red Army Polish Army arrived in the area in May 1945. After the war the complexes were stripped of all machinery and raw materials within a few years. They were very valuable to a country ruined as a result of six years of war. Some German documents concerning the project Riese were found by Polish Army and taken over by The Office of Security and never seen again[6 ][7].

There is no longer doubt that the castle and its immediate surroundings were prepared as one of the main Hitler's headquarters[4]. The purpose of the underground complexes in the mountains is not determined. The opinions of experts incline towards assumption that they were shelters for war production[8][9].

Presently the undergrounds are visited by tourists and the enthusiasts of military facilities. Much of the underground is closed because of risk of accidents. Groups of amateur speleologists explore inaccessible tunnels. The complexes Rzeczka, Włodarz and Osówka are available to visitors.

The individual structures of the project

Complex Książ

Książ Castle

Książ Castle is located near the city of Wałbrzych. The castle’s last owner in the inter-war period was the Hochberg family, one of the wealthiest baronial dynasties in Prussia, Hans Heinrich and his English wife Mary-Theresa Olivia Cornwallis-West (Princess Daisy). In 1941 the Nazis confiscated the castle. At that time sons of Daisy and Hans Heinrich fought against Hitler’s army - one in British Army and one in Polish Armed Forces in the West.

The works in Książ Castle led to the destruction of some chambers, in particular suffered the decorative elements of the ceilings and floors. The most serious work however took place below the castle. There are two levels of corridors and chambers. The first level is 15 m under the ground accessible from the castle by a lift and a staircase and also by two entrances from the gardens. It is reinforced by concrete (80 m long, 180 m2, 400 m3)[10 ]. The second level is 53 m under the courtyard. It contains four entrances, the network of wide tunnels (5 m high and 5.5 m wide)[5] and four chambers. Most of the underground is reinforced by concrete. There are three shafts leading to the surface with diameters: 5 m (presently filled with rubble), 3.5 m and 0.7 m. The total length of the complex is 950 m (3,200 m2, 13,000 m3)[11]. Presently it contains seismological measuring equipment of the Polish Academy of Sciences, only a small part of the underground is opened for visitors. Above the ground are foundations for machinery, a series of buildings and storehouses and two reservoirs of water. There are remains of sewage treatment plant and a narrow gauge railway. The forced laborers camp of AL Fürstenstein was built near the castle.

Complex Rzeczka

Complex Rzeczka

The complex is located on a borderline between the villages of Rzeczka and Walim, inside Ostra Mountain. There are three entrances leading to parallel tunnels about 45 m away from each other. Between them are large halls (up to 10 m in height), one is reinforced by concrete, two are collapsed. The tunnel number 1 is 100 m long and has an almost finished guardroom. There is one shaft leading to the surface (depth 30 m, diameter 5 m), presently filled with rubble. The length of the complex of tunnels is 500 m (2,500 m2, 14,000 m3)[10 ]. Built above the ground was the main telephone exchange, capable of serving a few hundred phone numbers[12]. A narrow gauge railway was used for transportation. In 1995 the complex Rzeczka was opened for visitors and in spring 2001 transformed into museum. It contains exhibits connected to history of the project Riese.

Complex Włodarz

Complex Włodarz

The complex is located near the village of Walim, inside Włodarz Mountain. There are four entrances 80 m - 160 m away from each other leading to tunnels (180 m - 240 m long) containing guardrooms. The entire complex is a large amount of corridors intersecting at right angles and forming a grid. It contains one of the biggest unfinished halls (10 m high). There is a shaft leading to the surface (depth 40 m, diameter 4 m)[11]. Some of the corridors have higher second levels connected by small shafts (depth 3 m - 5 m, diameter 1.5 m). This is a stage of creating big halls. Two tunnels were bored, one over the other and then the ceiling was collapsed to create large space. Approximately 30% of the complex is flooded and can only be accessed by boat. The total length of the tunnels is 3,100 m (10,700 m2, 42,000 m3)[10 ]. Above the ground are foundations for machinery and buildings, the reservoir of water and storehouses with thousands of fossilized bags of cement. The forced laborers camp of AL Wolfsberg was built near the complex. The network of narrow gauge railway, existing here after the war was disassembled and scrapped. The complex is opened for visitors.

Complex Osówka

Complex Osówka

The complex is located near the villages of Kolce and Sierpnica, inside Osówka Mountain. It has two entrances and one tunnel not connected to the main underground, all on different levels. There is a shaft leading to the surface (depth 48 m, diameter 5 m)[10 ]. The tunnel number 1 (150 m long) has chambers created for a guardroom. The tunnel number 2 (450 m long) begins on the level 15 m below the main underground. It has a guardroom reinforced by concrete and behind it there is the so-called "fault". It is a connection of two levels created by the collapse of the ceiling. The tunnel number 3 (120 m long) is not connected to the main underground. It is 450 m away from the entrance number 2 and 45 m below the level of the main underground. The tunnel contains two dams and a hydraulic equipment of unknown purpose. The total length of the tunnels is 1,700 m (6,700 m2, 30,000 m3)[10 ]. Above the ground are foundations for machinery and buildings, the depots of building materials and the reservoir of water. The network of narrow gauge railway existed here after the war. The forced laborers camp of AL Sauferwassergraben was built near the complex. Two objects are particularly interesting, the so-called "officers' mess" (679 m2, 2,300 m3) and "power station" (894 m2)[11]. The "officers' mess" is a building with walls 0.5 m thick and a roof adapted for a camouflage by vegetation. An unfinished subway (30 m long) connects it with the shaft. The "power station" is a concrete monolith (30 m x 30 m) with tens of pipes, drains, culverts and equipment of unknown purpose. The complex is opened for visitors.

Complex Sokolec

Complex Sokolec

The complex is located near the villages of Sokolec and Sowina, inside Gontowa Mountain. It consists of two independent undergrounds 1 km apart on different levels. The underground 640 m AMSL has two entrances 100 m apart leading to tunnels containing chambers for guardrooms. The tunnel number 1 is 130 m long and the tunnel number 2 is 150 m long. The underground is collapsed in many places because it was bored in soft rock of sandstone. The underground 580 m AMSL has two independent tunnels 200 m apart. The tunnel number 3 was discovered in 1991. It is collapsed 11 m from the entrance and has not been explored yet. The tunnel number 4 (100 m long) was discovered in 1994, the only one which was found with mining equipment from 1945. The total length of known tunnels is 850 m (2,400 m2, 7,100 m3)[10 ]. Above the ground are remains of building and storage infrastructure and a narrow gauge railway. The forced laborers camp of AL Falkenberg was built near the complex.

Complex Jugowice

Complex Jugowice

The complex is located in the village of Jugowice Górne (Jawornik), inside Dział Jawornicki Mountain. It has seven entrances leading to six independent tunnels. The tunnel number 1 is 10 m long. The tunnels number 2 (115 m long) and number 4 lead to an underground of the total length of 450 m. There is a shaft leading from the surface (depth 16 m, diameter 0.5 - 0.6 m) near the underground but not connected to it[13 ]. The tunnel number 3 is 15 m long. The tunnel number 5 is 5 m long. The tunnel number 6 is collapsed 30 m from the entrance and has not been explored yet. It has double armoured doors, one at the entrance and one behind the collapse. The tunnel number 7 has length of 40 m with concrete reinforcement 10 m long. The identified tunnels of the complex have length of 550 m (1,400 m2, 3,000 m3). Above the ground are remains of building and storage infrastructure and a narrow gauge railway. The forced laborers camp of AL Hausdorf was built near the complex.

Complex Soboń

Complex Soboń

The complex is located near the hamlet of Zimna Woda and the town of Głuszyca, inside Soboń Mountain. It contains three tunnels running from three directions to one point. The tunnel number 1 is 216 m long, number 2 is 250 m long. The tunnel number 3 is not connected to the main underground. It is collapsed 83 m from the entrance and has not been explored yet. The total length of tunnels is 700 m (1,900 m2, 4,000 m3)[10 ]. Above the ground are several buildings and a bunker. A narrow gauge railway was used for transportation. The forced laborers camp of AL Lärche was built near the complex.

The air raid shelter in Głuszyca


The town of Głuszyca was in the centre of activity connected to the project Riese. At least three camps of forced laborers were located here (AL Wüstegiersdorf I, AL Wüstegiersdorf II and AL Waldlager). It was a reloading place for the majority of supplies due to existence of a railway junction. In autumn 1943 the factory of Maschinenbau F. Krupp was relocated here from Essen[2]. It took over local industry, mostly textile factories and adapted them to armaments production. As a preparation for the war an air raid shelter was built inside a hill near the factory of Mayer-Kauffmann Textilwerke AG. It has two entrances and is reinforced by bricks and concrete. The total length of tunnels is 240 m (600 m2, 1,800 m3)[11].

Complex Dzikowiec

Complex Dzikowiec

The complex is located near the village of Dzikowiec, inside Wapnica Mountain. It is not classified as one of the complexes of Riese. The complex was created as a result of limestone mining (the mine of Jonberg). Since 1943 adaptation works were made by the prisoners of AL Ludwigsdorf II. The entrances number 1 and 2 are located inside a ravine. There is a small shaft leading from the surface (diameter 0.3 m). The tunnel number 3 (200 m long) starts from higher level and inclines towards the complex, reaching it 5 m above its floor. There are two large chambers (7 m high). The tunnel number 4 is not connected to the main underground. The complex was located near a railway.

Complex Miłków

The complex is located in the village of Ludwikowice Kłodzkie, the hamlet of Miłków and inside Włodyka Mountain. It is not classified as one of the complexes of Riese but the connection to the project is undeniable. It consisted of the ammunition and explosives factory Dynamit Nobel AG (code name: Mölke-Werke) which was located around and inside the unused coalmine of Wenceslaus. The explosives from Dynamit Nobel AG were used to blast the tunnels of Riese and the power station located here supplied the project with electricity[10 ]. The coalmine was closed in 1939 because of frequent methane explosions. 191 miners lost their lives in one such explosion in 1930. When adaptation works started a part of the coalmine was cut off by reinforced concrete walls, gastight locks and steel gates. Some tunnels were enlarged and reinforced. Underground production halls were built, two near the shaft Walther and one near the shaft Nanna (8x6x30 m). Four ventilation shafts were created[14 ]. Above the ground numerous buildings and bunkers were built for the storage of ammunition and explosives. They were connected by the network of concrete roads and protected by antiaircraft artillery. The forced laborers camps of AL Ludwigsdorf I and AL Ludwigsdorf II were built near the complex. Before the entry of the Red Army the coalmine has been flooded. Presently the part of the complex above the ground is in the state of ruin. The coalmine is still flooded and inaccessible, except for small sections. A large number of ammunition has been found hidden in the area of the complex.

The work of prisoners

Complex Rzeczka

Prisoners were the main work force in the construction of the project. From fall 1943 to April 1944 the work was done by forced laborers (chiefly Poles and Russians) and POWs (Italians and Russians)[2]. From May 1944 prisoners of the nearby concentration camp were assigned to forced labour. In the overwhelming numbers they were Jews[15], mainly Hungarian, Greek and Polish[2]. They were deployed in camps in the vicinity of the complexes. The network of these camps has been named Arbeitslager Riese and was part of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp.

According to incomplete data the numbers of prisoners working for the project range between 13,300[16] and 36,000[17]. It was possible to determine the names of nearly seven thousand of them. The work of the prisoners was very hard. They bored tunnels inside mountains, built roads and railway tracks, worked in the transportation of building materials. Mortality was very high because of disease, malnutrition, exhaustion, dangerous underground works and the treatment of prisoners by German guards. The deportation of 857 exhausted prisoners to Auschwitz concentration camp as well as 14 planned executions after failed escape attempts are also documented[18]. The estimated total number of 5,000 victims[18] lost their lives.


List of subcamps of Arbeitslager Riese

German names Polish names (location)
AL Dörnhau Kolce
AL Erlenbusch Olszyniec
AL Falkenberg Sokolec
AL Eule Sowina
AL Fürstenstein Książ
AL Hausdorf Jugowice
AL Kaltwasser Zimna Woda
AL Lärche Glinica
AL Ludwigsdorf I Ludwikowice Kłodzkie
AL Ludwigsdorf II Ludwikowice Kłodzkie
AL Märzbachtal Marcowy Potok (Glinica)
AL Oberwüstegiersdorf Głuszyca Górna
AL Sauferwassergraben Kłobia (stream) (Osówka)
AL Tannhausen (Zentralrevier) Jedlinka
AL Waldlager Głuszyca
AL Wolfsberg Włodarz
AL Wüstegiersdorf I Głuszyca
AL Wüstegiersdorf II Głuszyca
AL Wüstewaltersdorf Walim

Geographical names

English Polish German
Lower Silesia Dolny Śląsk Niederschlesien administrative region
Dział Jawornicki Mittelberg mountain
Dzikowiec Ebersdorf village
Glinica Lärche village
Głuszyca Wüstegiersdorf town
Głuszyca Górna Oberwüstegiersdorf village
Gontowa Schindelberg mountain
Owl Mountains Góry Sowie Eulengebirge mountains
Jawornik Jauering hamlet
Jedlina-Zdrój Bad Chrlottenbrunn town
Jedlinka Tannhausen village
Jonberg limestone mine
Jugowice Oberdorf village
Kłobia Sauferwassergraben stream
Kolce Dörnhau village
Książ Fürstenstein castle
Ludwikowice Kłodzkie Ludwigsdorf village
Marcowy Potok Märzbachtal stream
Miłków Mölke hamlet
Olszyniec Erlenbusch village
Osówka Säuferhöhen mountain
Ostra Spitzenberg mountain
Rogoźnica Gross-Rosen village
Rzeczka Dorfbach village
Sierpnica Rudolfswaldau village
Soboń Ramenberg mountain
Sokolec Falkenberg village
Sowina Eule village
Silesia Śląsk Schlesien region
Wacław Wenceslaus coalmine
Walim Wüstewaltersdorf village
Wałbrzych Waldenburg city
Wapnica Kalkberg mountain
Włodarz Wolfsberg mountain
Włodyka Bauerberg mountain
Zimna Woda Kaltwasser hamlet

Video games

The project Riese is the basis of Treyarch's third Nazi Zombie map in Call of Duty: World at War, entitled "Der Riese".

See also


  • (Polish) Kruszyński, Piotr: Podziemia w Górach Sowich i Zamku Książ, Wałbrzych 1989.
  • (Polish) Aniszewski, Mariusz: Podziemny świat Gór Sowich (wyd.2, rozszerzone), Wydawnictwo Technol, Kraków 2006
  • (Polish) Kosmaty, Jerzy: Roboty górnicze prowadzone w Górach Sowich w ramach programu "Riese" w okresie drugiej wojny światowej, Prace Naukowe Instytutu Górnictwa Politechniki Wrocławskiej Nr 117, Studia i Materiały Nr 32, Wrocław 2006
  • Speer, Albert: Inside the Third Reich, The Macmillan Company, New York 1970
  • Lewandowski, Piotr: "The Giant", The Warsaw Voice, April 7, 2004
  • Lewandowski, Piotr: "The Builders", The Warsaw Voice, April 7, 2004
  • Lewandowski, Piotr: "Vanishing Files", The Warsaw Voice, January 19, 2005
  • Lewandowski, Piotr: "Convoy", The Warsaw Voice, April 20, 2005
  • Franke, Annemarie; Ernst, Ulrike; Veit, Charlotte; Kobylarz, Renata; Zajaczkowski, Mariusz; Szurlej, Monika; Grützbauch, Johanna: "Complex Riese", The Krzyzowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding in Europe, 2006
  • (Polish) Sudecka Grupa Eksploracyjna "Kompleks Jawornik", 2008
  • (Polish) Pomorski Klub Eksploracyjny "Kopalnia Wenceslauss dawniej i dziś"


  1. ^ Complex Riese, The Krzyzowa Foundation..., p.11
  2. ^ a b c d Lewandowski, P: The Builders
  3. ^ Kosmaty, J: Roboty górnicze..., p.147
  4. ^ a b Speer, A: Inside the Third Reich, p.217
  5. ^ a b Kosmaty, J: Roboty górnicze..., p.158
  6. ^ Lewandowski, P: Vanishing Files
  7. ^ Lewandowski, P: Convoy
  8. ^ Lewandowski, P: The Giant
  9. ^ Kosmaty, J: Roboty górnicze..., p.145
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Aniszewski, M: Podziemny świat Gór Sowich
  11. ^ a b c d Kruszyński, P: Podziemia w Górach Sowich i Zamku Książ
  12. ^ Kosmaty, J: Roboty górnicze..., p.146
  13. ^ Sudecka Grupa Eksploracyjna
  14. ^ Pomorski Klub Eksploracyjny
  15. ^ Complex Riese, The Krzyzowa Foundation..., p.14
  16. ^ Complex Riese, The Krzyzowa Foundation..., p.6
  17. ^ Kosmaty, J: Roboty górnicze..., p.152
  18. ^ a b Complex Riese, The Krzyzowa Foundation..., p.7

External links

Project Riese
Complex Osówka
The Giant
The Builders
Vanishing Files


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