One of the biggest tourist attractions in Lower Silesia is the Książ Castle in Wałbrzych (formerly Waldenburg). Not only beautiful but also very interesting due to many unexplained secrets of the World War II. Was there, in its underground, a secret Hitler’s laboratory? Or maybe a secret military weapon factory? For what purpose Germans had built under the castle and in the nearby Owl Mountains a system of tunnels, called Complex “Riese”? Does the legend of the “Golden Train” contain even a grain of truth?
The Castle Książ
In September 1943 Adolf Hitler decided to build his new headquarter in Lower Silesia. The choice fell on the heavily forested Owl Mountains (Góry Sowie).
Officially the construction of the “Riese” Complex began on November 1, 1943, and the project got the rank of the highest priority of the Third Reich. The work on “Riese” took place in strict secrecy. The construction site, with a surface area of about 35 km2, was closed for any visitors. The entry was allowed only with a special pass. Germans drilled holes in the rocks and then smashed them with explosives. This way tunnels and chambers were formed, which were then reinforced with concrete.
“Riese” – Osówka (click to enlarge)
Over time a network of roads, railways, water supply and sewage systems with telephone and power lines was created. According to the prisoners, who worked at “Riese”, tunnels were to serve for Hitler’s fast and secret transport purpose. Complete lack of documentation and rare testimonies of the very few witnesses led to emerging many legends and questions around the Complex. One of those stories concern mysterious experiments on atomic weapons, V2 rockets, experiments on bacteriological weapons and even on German UFOs. Up today 7 objects in the Complex “Riese” are known: Jugowice, Włodarz, Walim–Rzeczka, Soboń, Osówka, Gontowa and Książ Castle.
“Riese” – Włodarz (click to enlarge)
“Riese” – Osówka (click to enlarge)
The “Riese” Complex required not only huge financial investments and the use of specialized equipment, but also a large number of workers. They were provided by the Gross-Rosen Concentration Camp, which existed in the village Rogozienko (nowadays Rogoźnica) in the years 1940-1945. The largest groups of the prisoners were Jews, Poles and Russians. Gross-Rosen and his sub-camps also included members of the resistance movement from France and other Western European countries, including the Netherlands. They were arrested during the action “Nacht und Nebel” (Night and Fog). Being totally destroyed, camp documentation does not allow determine accurately the number of camp prisoners who perished in a deadly exhaustion in the tunnels of the “Giant” tunnel. In total, 3648 deaths of prisoners have been reported as a result of illness and exhaustion resulting from lack of food, hard physical work and cruelty of the guards.
A small part of the Complex “Riese” is accessible to tourists. Especially popular are historical and educational routes, also adapted for children, eg in the “Osówka” Underground City in Głuszyca. Visitors of some of the tunnels can see figures of working prisoners or experience bombing.
“Riese” – Walim
The authorities of the Third Reich began to interest in Castle Książ, held since 1509 by the Hochberg family, already in 1941. It was decided then to occupy and confiscate all the Hochberg property, setting out to do it the paramilitary Todt Organization. 35 architects were employed and they turned the glorious chambers into a solid block in the Nazi style. The furnishings of historic interiors, including valuable works of art, were destroyed or stolen. Today it is known that Castle Książ was devastated in 90%!
Interiors – the present view (click to enlarge)
According to the few survived documents, the object was to be assigned to the high-ranked Third Reich officials, while Hitler was to possess a room for work, reading, a conference room, a reception room, a bathroom and a room for servants. At this time in the rocks beneath the castle Germans cut huge tunnels up to 50 meters deep, so big that trucks could move inside easily. The job was done by the Gross-Rosen prisoners and forced laborers. In 1944 their number was – only in the castle alone! – about 3000! Works in these undergrounds lasted almost until the end of the war. On May 8, 1945 the castle began to be occupied by the Red Army, which continued destruction. The Nazis managed however to mask the work that had already been done by them. For this reason many underground tunnels and objects have not yet been discovered.
Both Polish and foreign tourists visiting Książ Castle often do not realize that beneath them, deep in the rocks, exists a system of underground corridors and tunnels.
Książ underground / photo Adrian Sitko
Only a negligible part of it is available to visitors, because a seismological lab of the Polish Academy of Sciences is situated there. Besides the staff practically no one else can enter there. That is why many enthusiasts of history ask why these tunnels are so much protected from the visitors. Maybe they hide another secret…?
In the castle’s basement there is a place for a very interesting object, resembling a railway station. And since there is a railway station, there must be railroads and a train… Is it… the “Golden Train”? Probably the railway tunnel exists but is inaccessible… Is it the same tunnel from the stories told by the prisoners of the Gross-Rosen camp, working at the Complex “Riese”? According to researcher Tadeusz Słowikowski, the Germans hid a train with a secret cargo in it. A few days before the Russians entered Wałbrzych an armored train with unknown cargo set off from the nearby Świebodzice. He had never arrived to Wałbrzych however, as simply “had dissolved in the air.”
It is believed that the mysterious train had “stuck” somewhere in the area of 65 km of the railway line on the Wałbrzych-Wroclaw route, just next to Wałbrzych-Szczawienko railway station.
Wałbrzych-Szczawienko – the famous 65 kilometer
The famous 65 kilometer
What did he carry on? Perhaps deposits of the local population, perhaps weapons, and perhaps documents. In 2015 the issue of the “Golden Train” again became famous. Two researchers, Piotr Koper and Andreas Richter, organized and paid for their own research, run on the famous 65 kilometer. Wałbrzych then experienced a real siege of media from around the world. Unfortunately, their attempt to find the “Golden Train” did not bring expected results. Nevertheless those searchers, convinced of the validity of their theory, don’t give up and have announced the resumption of the search in the near future.
Despite all indications that Książ was supposed to be a Hiltler’s secret residence, he had never visited the castle. At least there is no evidence of his presence. However he visited Walbrzych on July 22, 1932, to take part in the NSDAP electoral rally held at the then-current city stadium. His speech was very short because of the rigid time schedule. His visit had been recorded in the film, which now belongs to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.
Walbrzych – the city stadium
Castle Książ and Owl Mountains are definitely worth visiting, but is it worth to explain their secrets? What would be the Castle Książ without these secrets…
1. Joanna Lamparska “Zamkowe tajemnice”, Wydawnictwo ASIA-PRESS, Wrocław 2009r.
2. Jerzy Rostkowski “Zamek Książ – zapomniana tajemnica”, Agencja Wydawnicza CB Andrzej Zasieczny, 2004r.
Photo:: Dorota Mazur, Radosław Drożdżewski (1 – tunnel in Książ)
Published: May 7, 2017