THE SATELLITE CAMPS OF KZ GROSS-ROSEN
JEDLINA ZDRÓJ (BAD CHARLOTTENBRUNN)
FÜHRER HEADQUARTER “RIESE”
CASTLE KSIĄŻ (FÜRSTENSTEIN)
SYSTEM OF THE NAZIS CONCENTRATION CAMPS
MYTHS ABOUT “KOMPLEX RIESE”
ORGANISATION TODT (OT)
SILESIA AS FORMER EASTERN TERRITORY OF THE REICH
FORCED LABOUR IN THE THIRD REICH
FÜHRER HEADQUARTER “RIESE”
Only after the invasion of Poland had begun in 1939, shelters for political and military leaders of the Third Reich were built. Since Adolf Hitler was the political as well as the military leader of Nazi Germany, all places where he and his inner circle of confidantes were supposed to be staying for a certain amount of time were called Führerhauptquartiere (“Führer Headquarters”; FHQ for short) after 1938. Furthermore, the headquarter was the command centre for many military decisions taken during the Second World War, all of which ultimately had to be sanctioned by Hitler himself. During the invasion of Poland Hitler reigned and gave his orders from a special train, but starting 1939 a growing number of Führer Headquarters were built as more permanent bases of operations. Construction began on 20 Führer Headquarters, not all of which were finished, however. The best-known example for such a Führer Headquarter probably is the “Wolfsschanze” (or “Wolf’s Lair”). Certain strategic features of a given site were crucial to the decision whether to build an FHQ there: it had to be connected to a traffic system and offer specific defence and cover options; moreover, a train station with appropriate shelter for the special train had to be nearby. It also had to be close to an airport and it had to be connected to a long-distance communications network (because it was necessary to give direct orders and also receive the latest information on developments in the field).
Two authors – Franz W. Seidler and Dieter Zeigert – assume that the complex in the Owl Mountains is a Führer Headquarter whose construction was never finished. They point to a file opened by Siegfried Schmelcher, the architect of the complex; in this file – called “Geheime Reichssache 91/44” (“Secret Affair of the Reich 91/44) – Schmelcher compiled data and information on all other FHQ previously built by the Organisation Todt. Moreover, Seidler and Zeigert name the diaries of Leo Müller, Schmelcher’s representative, as further sources to prove their theory.
In September 1943, Minister of Armaments Speer, OT head of operations Dorsch and OT senior construction manager Müller started talks on the “Riese” project; in November of the same year, construction efforts in the Owl Mountains began. Judging from its location it was supposedly planned to become a contingency facility for the Wolfsschanze. From here, all operations in the east were to be coordinated. Plans included building subterranean work and living spaces not only for the Führer Headquarter itself, but also for the “Oberkommando des Heeres” (OKH, “Army High Command”), the “Oberkommando der Luftwaffe” (OKL, “Air Force High Command”), the Reich Leader SS and the Foreign Minister. Additionally, quarters for support and security forces were to be created. In the Owl Mountains, there were also plans for an underground industrial facility similar to the one in Mittelbau-Dora. The stated goal was to have bomb-proof work and living spaces until August 1945. The costs for the construction of this facility were estimated at 130 million Reichsmark – four times the sum invested in the creation of the Wolfsschanze. All underground facilities were at the top of the priority list for the construction effort. Komplex Riese went beyond the scope of all earlier projects of a comparable nature. It consisted of ten individual, self-contained facilities on an area covering more than 10 square kilometres, not including Castle Fürstenstein which was also part of the complex.
The Owl Mountains offered an excellent spot to build an FHQ. However, the region was not connected to the telegraph network, with the nearest telegraph station being in Schweidnitz. Supply problems slowed work on the telegraph line down to a crawl. It can be assumed that the construction work on the buildings also suffered >from such shortfalls.
According to calculations, an average of 9500 workers would have been necessary to build the complex as planned. Furthermore, 359,100 cubic metres of concrete were needed. If Riese had been finished, this would have been the largest amount of concrete used for any FHQ. The entire complex would have covered an area of 194,232 square metres, with the bomb shelter for the FHQ taking up about 5,000 square meters alone. The file mentioned above also contained a breakdown of the planned magnitude for Komplex Riese. According to this list, the facility was designed to give shelter to 27,244 people. The actual blueprints for Riese, however, have been lost, making a detailed reconstruction impossible. Only the remnants still visible today as well as the sources mentioned above shed at least some light on this construction project.