back to article Heart of darkness: Inside the Osówka underground city

Lurking just outside the Polish village of Sierpnica is a relic of World War II Nazi ambition. The Osówka complex is the largest and most accessible remnant of the huge Project Riese (translation: “Giant”), an effort to create an underground city capable of housing 20,000 or more Nazi troops and workers. The scope of Project …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not just the scale of this which impresses me, but the speed at which it was constructed. Compare that to a trunk road interchange near me, where it's taken a bunch of contractors years to get to the stage where they are now years away from completing the installation of a glorified roundabout.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Forced labor using expendable slaves, no safety concerns, and machine-gun equipped supervisors is extremely fast.

      Anyway in wartime everything speeds up - little space for delays to increase costs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You wait till the Brexit Disaster really starts hitting !

        :-(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          2 thumbs up, 2 thumbs down.

          A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then.

          1. Jedit

            "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

            I think people are more tired of everything being used as an excuse to make a Brexit joke, and probably not a little aggrieved at being compared to Nazis.

            1. phuzz Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

              "probably not a little aggrieved at being compared to Nazis."

              After all, the nazis were technically trying to unite Europe.

              1. Potemkine! Silver badge

                Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                After all, the nazis were technically trying to unite Europe.

                Not really, they didn't plan to apply the same rules for anyone anywhere. Fate of european countries would have been different according to their prejudice. Subduing does not necessarily mean unifying.

                1. Alumoi

                  Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                  Not really, they didn't plan to apply the same rules for anyone anywhere. Fate of european countries would have been different according to their prejudice. Subduing does not necessarily mean unifying.

                  And how's that's different from the current EU?

                  Oh, wait, Germany IS rulling EU.

            2. Andytug

              Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

              Is there not yet some equivalent Brexit version of Godwin's Law, which would state that every Internet discussion eventually mentions Brexit, or similar?

              We could call it Farage's Law, maybe......

              1. Shoot Them Later
                Boffin

                Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                I hereby announce the invention of the Farage Cage, a large metal structure that you can step inside to be shielded from all mentions of Brexit.

                It works by applying 40,000 volts to its structure if anyone mentions Brexit. Very effective, and widely considered a preferable alternative to enduring another Brexit discussion.

                1. Joe 35

                  Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                  I suggest a slight amendment to your otherwise excellent plan

                  "It works by applying 40,000 volts to its structure if anyone mentions Brexit."

                  The 40,000 volts should be applied not to the structure, but to the dangly bits of anyone who mentions the B word.

              2. teknopaul Bronze badge

                Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                Internet rule 50: if it exists someone blamed it on Brexit in the comments.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                  @ teknopaul

                  That's because it's Brexit's fault.

                2. Thomassmart

                  Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                  ....and recommended Linux as a better solution, and probably something about bitcoin.

                3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

                  Re: "A clear mandate for destroying the British economy, then."

                  Internet rule 50: if it exists someone blamed it on Brexit in the comments.

                  But how does that intersect with "Rule 34"?

          2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            "2 thumbs up, 2 thumbs down."

            you were on 11 / 12 so I evened your score too

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Forced labor using expendable slaves, no safety concerns, and machine-gun equipped supervisors

        Sounds like Sainsbury's plans for post-Brexit farm labourers.

      3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "Forced labor using expendable slaves, "

        Indeed.

        "There are always more workers, Dr Zola."

        One of (sadly) many dark chapters in human history.

        I've seen a few horror films set in old abandoned Nazi bunkers, but this actually is one.

    2. arctic_haze Silver badge

      The speed

      They build a lot in less than two years but still it is nothing like the amount of work in the Apollo program every year within the 9 years between the Kennedy speech and the Moon landing.

    3. Tikimon Silver badge

      Give 'em credit, the Krauts thought BIG

      Have you seen the Flak Towers (Flakturm) that were built in Berlin, Hamburg, and Vienna? Ranging from 150-250 feet tall, they were built so tough that many still loom over their host cities, too strong to destroy. Some of those were built in as little as six months.

      As mentioned, slave labor and such helped get that done. But consider another massive engineering feat of the same period, done without slave labor in record time: The Pentagon. One of the world's largest office buildings was competed in 16 months by free men.

    4. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Pint

      "Compare that to a trunk road interchange near me..."

      Empire State Building was built in roughly one year, in early 30's. The mind boggles.

      1. Joe Montana

        Regulation...

        Less regulation, less paperwork, less red tape, cheaper labour, more relaxed health+safety/labour laws, much easier to get things done...

        Look at construction projects taking place in third world countries, they generally have inferior equipment and lower skilled labourers and still manage to get large projects completed.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. macjules Silver badge

        You should see the Austria/Italy Brenner Base Tunnel project that is in progress - 55km long from Innsbruck to Fortezza. Very impressive indeed, not withstanding major resistance from Germany against the project

    6. milet

      You should see Woflschantze then

      Go to Hitler's headquarters "Woflschantze" (near Ketrzyn, also Poland) and be impressed with 7-meters of concrete able to withstand nuclear bomb...

    7. Muscleguy Silver badge

      i wish to refer my honourable friend to the brand new Queensferry Crossing now adding to the engineering marvels which span the Firth of Forth here in Scotland. An entirely Scottish project it came in slightly under budget, cost estimates fell from £4.3bn at the start to the £1.6bn it cost to build. It was within tolerance on the time front, especially since internationally bridges take on average 2 years longer to build than estimated. Bad weather set ours back a couple of months.

      Then there's the new Borders rail line, on time and under budget. The A9 between Perth and Inverness is being dualled very efficiently too. They did the longest stretch of single lane recently, it is now open. When doing that drive, wait for the dualled bit, don't try and overtake.

      Scotgov seems to have cracked the secret of public procurement of infrastructure programs. International bodies are noticing and delegations are arriving wanting to know how we are doing it. Don't expect the MSM to inform you of this. The rule is the SNP is Baaaad, m'Kay?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "An entirely Scottish project..."

        Ah yes, the Queenferry Crossing, designed and built by well-known Scottish firms such as Ramboll, Sweco, Leonhardt Andra, Hochtief, Dragados, and American Bridge International, with steelwork sourced from the Scottish towns of Gdansk, Seville and Shanghai.

        Budget was £1.45 - 1.6 billion when they started building, came out as £1.35 billion. So only a bit more expensive than the Edinburgh Tram line.

        Due to be completed in December 2016, opened at the end of August 2017 and immediately closed again to finish it off (work which is still ongoing).

        1. stephanh Silver badge

          Re: "An entirely Scottish project..."

          "with steelwork sourced from the Scottish towns of Gdansk, Seville and Shanghai."

          Make Scotland Great Again?

  2. Ol'Peculier

    Stump Hole Cavern

    Am I the only one thinking of this sketch?

    "We are of course part of a much wider network of caves that riddle the entire county, including the much larger Redscar Cavern located half a mile to the west. A trifle flashy for my taste I have to say, with their gift shop, granary style cafeteria, and one hundred percent safety record all over their promotional literature. But there you go. Now if we stay in single file we’ll make our way into the main cavern. I do think it’s worth noting that Redscar were served with a council notice, ordering them to replace 115 yards of faulty wiring. Put it this way – I wouldn’t like to get caught down there in a thunderstorm, and no amount of trilobites in Perspex or stegosaurus shaped pencil tops is going to change that.

    "I myself am not fond of the darkness – I sleep with the lights on now. It’s in the darkness I see the boy’s face. Eyes protruding, tongue out…black.

  3. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    King Arthur's Labyrinth

    While this is on a much larger scale, bits sound reminiscent of King Arthur's Labyrinth near Machynlleth. In the latter case the caverns were excavated as a slate mine, but still impressive - some of the main caverns are vast! Also complete with flooded tunnels (you enter by riding on a boat - with small outboard - through the flooded tunnels) and hard hats for the bits where the tunnel is about 4ft high. The aim of the tour is to view various bits of son-et-lumiere on the theme of the Welsh tales of King Arthur. Personally I'd pay just to explore the tunnels!

    Well worth a visit if in the area. The adjoining Corris Craft Centre is home to Dyfi Distillery, makers of award-winning gin!

    1. Humpty McNumpty

      Re: King Arthur's Labyrinth

      There are further tunnels without cheesy welsh folk tales that you can visit separately http://www.corrismineexplorers.co.uk/ and of course the slate mines of Blaenau Ffestiniog https://www.llechwedd-slate-caverns.co.uk have been open to the public as an attraction longer still. (Includes this insanity https://www.zipworld.co.uk/adventure/detail/bounce-below )

      1. BlinkenLights

        Re: King Arthur's Labyrinth

        Llechwedd is very safe and tourist oriented. For more of an adventure you can spend a day exploring the nearby Cwmorthin slate mine - look up Go Below Extreme.

        You enter the mine in the middle level (the upper levels are all collapsed) and make your way down to the lowest level that's not flooded and back up again. Aong the way you climb up and traverse vertical walls (via ferrata style), zip wire across the top of deep caverns, an abseil descent, ride down the deepest underground zip line, and finally jump of an underground cliff attached to a free fall descender.

        There are no concessions to "tourists". The mine is exacly as left, except for the zip wires and safety wires. The only lighting is your helmet torch.

  4. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Human cost

    Reminds me of a holiday on Alderney some years ago, staying at the Landmark Trust's 'Fort Clonque' - a Napoleonic-War-era fortress on its own little island, which was re-fortified by the Germans during the WWII occupation, using slave labour from the concentration camp they built on the island.

    My bedroom was in a WWII-era gun bunker, with double glazing in the gun-slit looking out to sea. Slight twinge about having a happy holiday in something built by Polish slaves, but at the same time they were at least being remembered.

    1. I Am Spartacus

      Fort Clonque

      Used to know that well, as I stayed just down the coast, well in house on the next beach. Played around it with my brother when we were kids.

  5. LDS Silver badge

    Maybe one day we will also visit Cold War underground facilities

    There are not a few that were sealed when no longer useful, but still waiting somewhere under some mountain.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Maybe one day we will also visit Cold War underground facilities

      You used to be able to play paintball in the old Greenham Common airbase (or Cruise missile fame). Because they'll not be demolishing all those reinforced concrete hangars anytime soon.

      There's also a company that do a zombie apocalypse themed day. You start by going with a police SWAT team to fight some zombies, with paintball guns. Lots of pyrotechnics, as your movements are controlled by the police, and other actors playing zombies. Then after lunch all the actors dress up as zombies and try to eat you, while you fight them off. They've got two sites. One old 60s concrete shopping Centre in Reading and an old Cold War bunker in North London. Sadly my mate refused to do it for his stag do, and I haven't persuaded enough friends to join me and go. Seems like a well spent £100 to me - for a one-off experience.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Maybe one day we will also visit Cold War underground facilities

        Seems like a well spent £100 to me

        They'd need to pay me a lot more than that.

    2. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: Maybe one day we will also visit Cold War underground facilities

      Secret Bunker in Fife - http://www.secretbunker.co.uk/

      Not on the scale of this but worth a visit if you're in the area and just a short drive from Crail to get something nice at the Lobster Hut at the harbour.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Maybe one day we will also visit Cold War underground facilities

      The one near where I went to Uni has been turned into library storage:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-Attack_Command_and_Control_System_Facility,_Hadley

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cut and paste Wolfenstein texture maps

    This "photo" is clearly just some cut and pasted texture maps from Wolfenstein II.

    You really have to try harder !

    https://regmedia.co.uk/2018/01/10/osawka_image_3.jpg

    :-)

    Nice story.

  7. chivo243 Silver badge

    Outsourcing

    (according to the guide, the Third Reich was not above a bit of outsourcing).

    Too true. When I was a child, we had Greek neighbors, one of their uncles was trained as a welder by the Nazis. He was quite good too. He cut two Fiat X19s apart and welded the front end onto the other back end. It was a thing of beauty, it drove down the road straight as an arrow...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outsourcing

      I loved that car !

      But I don't think mine was from a Greek chop shop.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing

      "He cut two Fiat X19s apart and welded the front end onto the other back end."

      That brought back a memory of the two front ends (of a BMC 1100, I think) welded together. Maybe that's up on Youtube somewhere.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Outsourcing

        welded the front end onto the other back end.

        That's the trick - otherwise you have one interesting to drive car

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Outsourcing

          "otherwise you have one interesting to drive car"

          Believe me, the two front end version was far more interesting.

  8. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Wine manufacture

    I have a theory that the various underground factories built during WW2 were later turned to manufacturing artificial wine. That is where all the German wine comes from, distributed through pipelines around Europe and beyond. Sometimes oil, sometimes wine, sometimes natural gas; there may be problems during the switch from one to another.

    All the pictures of vineyards and happy peasants are just a sales puff by the wine industry.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Wine manufacture

      Ever wondered why the German wine sold in Britain is crap ? - Revenge .....

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Coat

      "That is where all the German wine comes from,..through pipelines around Europe"

      Funny, I think I heard the same thing about how all the curry houses in London are supplied, from a massive (secret) kitchen under Kings Cross Station.

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Windows

    I don't suppose this is Himmler's project to awake some giant from Norse mythology

    So, a Cheyenne Mountain for Nazis?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: I don't suppose this is Himmler's project to awake some giant from Norse mythology

      is Cheyenne Mountain a project to wake a mythical giant?

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: I don't suppose this is Himmler's project to awake some giant from Norse mythology

        is Cheyenne Mountain a project to wake a mythical giant?

        Nah, just a the Stargate which leads to aliens who inspired Egyptian mythology.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      So, a Cheyenne Mountain for Nazis?

      Nice.

  10. Spoobistle

    VLF transmitter?

    Didn't this complex appear in that series of Jamie Theakston programmes, now rolling round on Yesterday or Quest?

    It struck me that the site could well have been intended as a VLF transmitter for communication with submarines, a well known Nazi obsession. All the Allied powers were doing this after WW2 (Alpha, Omega etc) but there doesn't seem to be much information about whether the Germans were developing anything similar.

    1. david 12 Bronze badge

      Re: VLF transmitter?

      >It struck me that the site could well have been intended as a VLF transmitter<

      VLF transmitter sites are located at the coast, not in the mountains. And the Germans did have a big VLF site, which was rolled up and taken east by the Russions.

  11. PatientOne

    No Pipboy and Blue jumpsuit?

    Shame...

    and no ValtTec logo, either :(

  12. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge
    Joke

    Italians and concrete.

    beware, esp if they are Americal Italians. PP

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heart of darkness

    it's a beautiful to visit the area in summer, but pretty miserable in snowless, damp winter time. No wonder Frenkenstein was born in the area ;)

  14. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
    Joke

    Mystery solved?

    "Hitler's Bitcoin Factory"

    ...Too soon how?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phah. Poor effort.

    You should see the real inside of the Rock of Gibraltar if you want to see impressive.

    If you've got military colleagues or are military, you can get the -proper- tour, where you'll see a wall the length of a football pitch lined with toilets, hospitals still with equipment, offices, mess-halls, etc.

    With tunnels you could drive two way traffic through, impenetrable access points and a side stairwell of over a thousand steep steps in near pitch black, it's an awe-inspiring sight.

    True story: Whilst mapping out the interior, some of the British MOD training staff identified a draft in a tunnel where there should be no draft. Bit of exploratory hitting things with a sledgehammer revealed a false cave wall.

    Inside it was a room lined in cork, with WW2 rations, what looked like rowing machines, and other assorted equipment.

    There was a letterbox shaped hole which looked out over the Gibraltar strait.

    When queried, Whitehall denied all knowledge. When sent pictures, they burst. During the war, if the Germans ever looked like they were going to seize the rock, a group of soldiers who had been psychologically tested and assessed were going to be bricked inside that room. With rations for several years, the rowing machines could be used to keep fit and intermittently power a radio from which they could send out updates on the German shipping in the strait, seen through the slit.

    Wow.

    1. teknopaul Bronze badge

      Re: Phah. Poor effort.

      Good candidate for worst ever oncall job.

  16. Emjay111

    Not forgetting Burlington

    This is one underground "city" in the UK that I'd love to explore. It would make a great tourist attraction as well. Maintained until fairly recently I understand.

    The place has over 60 miles of roads, deep under Corsham in Wiltshire:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/content/articles/2005/12/14/burlington_nuclear_bunker_feature.shtml

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not forgetting Burlington

      I'd love to look around too (especially once they've got rid of the asbestos)

  17. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Speer got a waiver?

    IIRC, the use of reinforced concrete was verboten for buildings of the Thousand Year Reich, as it made for ugly ruins after the thousand years (or, 5 years in our own world).

    Or was that only for monumental government buildings?

  18. John Sturdy
    Big Brother

    Another opened bunker

    Bunk'art, in Tirana, is a museum and art gallery built in the main Cold War bunker of the Albanian communists, and is fascinating to visit.

    (And, although not a bunker, in the same city, the old secret surveillance centre The House of Leaves is also now open as a museum, with a lot of old wiretapping and other bugging equipment on display.)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compulsory link (considering the project name) Rammstein - Reise, Reise (Live at Hellfest 2016)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compulsory link (considering the project name) Rammstein - Reise, Reise (Live at Hellfest 2016)

  21. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    FMA

    Perhaps the Nazis were trying to build a giant "casting circle" under Europe? Hitler was planning on putting himself in the middle and achieving immortality (nevermind that the dwarf in the flask would have been in the *real* center of it...)

  22. gypsythief

    The Geek's Guide to Britain is officially dead.

    Welcome to the Geek's Guide to Europe!

    (P.S. Dear El Reg: I am wanting to go on a road-trip around Europe soon; please add lots more interesting European Geeks Guide spots before then. Thanks, Gypsythief)

  23. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Re: Italian concrete contractors

    A euphemism for The Mafia?

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