A huge, secret, underground Nazi weapons factory, believed to have been built for the development and planned manufacture of nuclear weapons and other WMDs, has been uncovered in Austria.
Now scholars want to know if the SS general who oversaw it was brought to America after the war to help the US with its weapons programs.
The vast weapons facility was uncovered last week near the town of St. Georgen an der Gusen by a team led by Austrian documentary- maker Andreas Sulzer, who said it was “likely the biggest secret weapons production facility of the Third Reich.” The 75-acre industrial complex is located close to a second subterranean factory, the B8 Bergkristall facility where the Messerschmitt Me 262, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter, was produced toward the end of World War II, London’s Sunday Times reported (paywall).
The existence of the facility was mentioned in the diaries of an Austrian physicist who worked for the Nazis, and Sulzer used ground-penetrating radar technology to pinpoint its location. His team cut away layers of earth and granite slabs with which the Nazis had sealed the entrance shaft.
“Declassified intelligence documents as well as testimony from witnesses helped excavators identify the concealed entrance,” The Times said. Work on the excavation was halted last week by local authorities who required that he get new permits for the dig, but is set to resume next month.
“Previous research had found increased levels of radiation around the St Georgen site, apparently giving credibility to longstanding claims that Nazi scientists experimented with nuclear weapons in the area, which was under the exclusive command of the SS,” the Times reported.
It quoted Rainer Karlsch, a historian working with Sulzer, saying:
“The SS leadership . . . aspired to create a combination of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. They wanted to equip the A4 [a variant of the V-2] missile, or more advanced rockets, with poison gas, radioactive material or nuclear warheads.”
“The facility, like the Bergkristall factory, relied on slave labor from the nearby Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp,” the Sunday Times said. “Up to 320,000 inmates are said to have died because of the brutal conditions in the subterranean labyrinth.”
“Prisoners from concentration camps across Europe were handpicked for their special skills — physicists, chemists or other experts — to work on this monstrous project,” Sulzer told the British newspaper, “and we owe it to the victims to finally open the site and reveal the truth.”
Sulzer, whose work is being partly funded by German state TV network ZDF, is also seeking to establish what became of SS General Hans Kammler, who managed the project and reported to SS chief Heinrich Himmler.
“Kammler was in charge of Hitler’s missile programs, including the V-2 rocket used against London in the latter stages of the war. He was known as a brilliant but ruthless commander, who had signed off the blueprints for the gas chambers and crematoria at the Auschwitz concentration camp complex in southern Poland,” The Times reported. “Rumors persist that he was captured by the Americans and given a new identity after the war.”
In the post-war Operation Paperclip, some 1,500 scientists, technicians and engineers from Nazi Germany and other countries — who were believed capable of contributing to US weapons programs, and whose expertise the US did not want going to the Russians — were brought to America. Nazi party participants, activists and supporters were supposed to have been excluded from this program, but this restriction was circumvented, and recruits included rocket scientist Wernher von Braun — the central figure n Nazi rocket development.
Kammler is believed to have lived at the St. Georgen site, and was headquartered in an area captured by the US Army in May 1945.
“Kammler was officially said to have committed suicide after the war. But according to John Richardson, supported by declassified documents from the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), he was interrogated by Richardson’s father and then taken to America as part of Operation Paperclip,” the newspaper reported. Donald Richardson worked for the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA.