According to period documents, memoirs and witness testimonies, Książ Castle and its underground chambers were to serve as a secret headquarters for Hitler and his closest accomplices while the rest of the Riese complex was to become a hidden headquarters for the Wehrmacht. With the Nazis expelled from North Africa and the Soviet Union, and every resource needed for the success of the war, there was growing consensus among Hitler’s subordinates that the costly project was not only insane, but impossible to complete. According to his memoir, Hitler's adjutant Nicolaus von Below repeatedly tried to sway Hitler and Speer to abandon the project. Speer in his own memoirs, which shed significant though perhaps dubious light on the scope of the project, seems to acknowledge his incredulity towards the project, but was unwilling to swerve from his duties: “At a briefing on June 20, 1944, I informed the Führer that about 28,000 labourers were working at the time on expanding his headquarters. The construction of the bunkers in Kętrzyn [Hitler's famous quarters in Eastern Poland, known as 'Wolf's Lair'] cost 36 million marks, the bunkers in Pullach, which ensured Hitler's safety when he was in Munich - 13 million marks, and the Riese bunker complex near Bad Charlottenbrunn [Jedlina Zdrój today] - 150 million marks. These construction projects required 257,000 cubic metres of steel-reinforced concrete, 213,000 cubic metres of tunnels, 58 km of roads with six bridges, and 100 km of pipelines. For the Riese project alone, more concrete was used than was earmarked in 1944 for the whole population for the construction of air-raid shelters.” (Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, Macmillan, 1970).
In July, 1944 many of the firms working on Hitler’s unfinished Wolf’s Lair were moved to Lower Silesia to expedite the construction of Riese. However, unfavourable changes on the Eastern Front occurred much faster than anticipated for the Reich and in January 1945, the Red Army rampaged across Eastern Europe on a beeline for Berlin. Bypassing the Owl Mountains, an SS unit was able to remain in Walim-Rzeczka until May 1945, before which time they had bricked or obliterated all entrances into the underground fortress and whatever was or wasn’t stored there subsequently disappeared, as did the estimated 7,000 to 30,000 POWs who built the complex.
Buried Beneath Speculation
Of note is Speer’s calculation of 213,000 cubic metres of Riese tunnels; today less than 100,000 are known, suggesting that much of the complex may remain undiscovered. Survivor accounts, the illogical arrangement of the found tunnels and the inability to fully explore them due to their increasingly dangerous deterioration support this possibility. It is presumed that all the tunnels were to eventually have been linked, and underground narrow-gauge railways exist at some of the sites, as well as extensive plumbing that appears to lead nowhere. Due to the exodus of the German population and the military’s protracted stay in the area upon the war’s end, there is scant first-hand information on the site or its purpose. Conspiracy theories abound, and many believe the Nazis proliferated the idea that Riese was intended as a headquarters in order to hide its true intention, citing German sources as too obvious and forthcoming. Some sensationalists believe a super-weapon was in development here, while others speculate that confiscated Nazi treasure may still be buried in the Owl Mountains including missing gold and cultural treasures from Wrocław, and even the famous Amber Room which disappeared from Saint Petersburg during the war. The mass graves of the prisoners who built the complex have never been found and sadly less absurd is the grisly likelihood that they were herded inside the complex before it was detonated.