The Second World War was a harrowing and terrifyingly violent time in the history of Europe. Germany, embittered by their defeat in the Great War and suffering because of it, had decided to put their faith in a new, more decisive leader.
The legacy of German aggression during World War II looms over the little town of Zlocieniec, Poland. Yet today, a buried treasure, hidden beneath the ground for over 80 years, may help to shed some light on the dark history of this European city. What archeologists found has to be seen to be believed…
Coming to Power
Adolf Hitler was Führer of Germany from 1934-1945 but before that, he was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the President of the Weimar Republic in January of 1933. At that point, the Nazi Party began to eliminate all political opposition and consolidated its power. Once the previous president died, Hitler rose to power and became supreme dictator of the country and merged the offices of Chancellery and Presidency.
Many years before the war started, just as Germany was starting to take back the power and influence that had been robbed from them in WWI, officials from the Nazi party gathered near the German town of Falkenburg to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Ordensburg Krossinsee center, which would serve as an educational complex for young men to be inducted into the new German regime…
A crowd gathered around the deep pit, carved into the ground where the center would stand. Leaders from the Nazi party carefully lowered themselves down into the hole, descending more than 20 feet below the surface. A scroll was read aloud and all the gathered party members announced a thunderous, “Heil Hitler!” before tying the scroll up with a red string, sealing it, and slid it into a black, copper cylinder.
The Krossinsee Center
Several more items of note were then placed inside the capsule and the cylinder was placed in the ground, many feet below the tower’s foundations. Once it was covered up, it was time for the Ordensburg Center to be completed. Two years later, Adolf Hitler showed up to dedicate the center’s official dedication. Below the massive school campus, the capsule would wait….
Admission to the training center was, as expected, very exclusive. Only those young men between ages 23 and 26 of a pure, German bloodline were permitted to enter. The men also had to be in excellent physical condition, have no physical limitations of any kind, measure at least 63 inches tall, and didn’t need to wear glasses.
Classes at the Krossinsee center included the study of politics, world history and philosophy. Afternoon classes included more physical or military-based pursuits like battle tactics, military drills, equestrian, and organized sports. Students at the center lived in more than 20 living quarters and drilled on an immense campus which included sports fields and stables. But even such a prestigious academy couldn’t outlast the war…
Falkenburg under Nazi occupation was a nightmare. German brownshirts attacked the town’s Jewish population during the now-famous incident of Kristallnacht, or “the night of broken glass”. Once World War II was in full swing, a forced labor camp opened near the town. But the end of the war found the town ceded to Poland as recompense and it became known as Zlocieniec.
Today, the Ordensburg Krossinsee training center is home to a Polish army barracks. And 80 years after its original dedication, a team of excavators have dug beneath the building’s foundations to uncover the time capsule that German records show was buried there in 1934. But the process was not an easy one, and the natural defenses of the earth have made the process a sluggish one…
Work on the excavation began in August of 2016. The crew was careful to dig around the thick concrete and avoid the repositories of groundwater that pooled beneath the enormous structure. Thankfully, it only took the crew about a week of digging before archaeologist Marcin Peterleitner, unearthed the very pit that the Nazi’s had stood in on that fateful day in Falkenburg.
Deep in the Earth
The crew used a combination of photographs from the original ceremony as well as underground imaging equipment to guide them to the site of the capsule. They worked into the night but finally uncovered the black, copper capsule: still whole and untouched since the 1930s. Now it was time to open the treasure and find what they had waited all these years to uncover…
The Capsule Itself
The large copper cylinder has been something that Polish archaeologists had known about for some years. But it wasn’t until recently that they had the opportunity to mount the expensive dig for the item itself. Within the capsule were a number of valuable coins, documents, and photographs that gave the archeologists a taste of what life was like back in those trouble times.
Among the items found inside the time capsule was an envelope filled with silver and bronze Reichsmark coins. These rare, German coins have not been used since the days leading up to World War II. In fact, their value is likely greater now than it ever was in 1934, when German inflation was only beginning to ebb away. Other items also gave Polish authorities a clue as to what was happening in those days…
A collection of photographs picturing Nazi leaders as well as a number of black-and-white pictures of the city of Falkenburg in its heyday were among the collected items. A tourist map of the area and even a program celebrating Falkenburg’s 600th anniversary in 1933 were also folded neatly in the capsule. There were also German newspapers from April 21 and 22, 1934.
The reason that archaeologists were so interested in the capsule was because records indicated that the copper cylinder contained a rare piece of film that showed footage of the city’s 600th Anniversary celebration in 1933. Unfortunately, the film was nowhere to be found in the container. There were, however, two copies of a rather rare and particularly important book hiding at the bottom of the container…
The time capsule contained two brand new copies of “Mein Kampf”, each with a photograph of the book’s author, Adolf Hitler. The wax-sealed parchment that was read at the groundbreaking ceremony was also rolled up and uncovered from the capsule. Both the books and the parchment were in near-perfect condition, despite being buried for more than 80 years.
Mein Kampf is an autobiography written by Adolf Hitler while he was imprisoned for “political crimes” he committed in Munich in November 1923. In it, Hitler outlines his political ideology and future plans for Germany. The book is separated into two volumes and was released in early 1925. All of the artifacts in the capsule, though German, now belonged to the Poland. But where would they reside after their discovery?
A week after the capsule opening, Zlocieniec officials transported the time capsule to the National Museum in Szczecin, Poland. All objects, coins, photos, book, and documents were carefully preserved and carbon-dated to assert their authenticity. Despite the missing film, the capsules treasures are of particular cultural importance to Poland and Germany.
History of the Castel
As for the Krossinsee Castle where the items were found, construction of the building began on April 22, 1934. The camp was originally designed by famed architect Clemens Klotz. Most of the building itself was built atop immense granite foundations. The expensive enterprise cost Germany over 20 million Reichsmarks to complete….
As the Third Reich made their way across Europe, annexing country after country. Throughout World War II, the Nazis stole an enormous amount of items including: gold, silver, jewelry, cultural items of great significance, books, religious treasures, and works of art. Some of the things they stole included buildings which they eventually transformed to suit their own tastes.
The treasures of the time capsule will be on display at the Zlocieniec museum in the coming months and will serve as a reminder of the horrors committed during that dark period of Polish history. It’s still unclear what happened to the documentary film that was presumed to be packed in the case, but it seems that particular piece of history may now be lost for all time.