- Readings at site of Gusen camp near St Georgen show elevated levels of uranium – indications of subterranean implosions seven decades ago
- 15 miles of tunnels lie under Gusen, a sub-camp of Mauthausen where tens of thousands of people were murdered
- Hunt to find evidence of atomic research after documentary by Andreas Sulzer unnerved locals
By Allan Hall
PUBLISHED: 08:09 EST, 27 December 2013 | UPDATED: 08:14 EST, 27 December 2013
Austrian authorities have ordered a search of secret tunnels beneath a former concentration camp complex where Nazi scientists are believed to have conducted nuclear research in a bid to build an atomic bomb.
The probe was triggered by a TV documentary which accessed wartime archives containing blueprints and eyewitness accounts of frantic attempts to beat the Americans in the race for the weapon to win the war.
And recently, readings were taken of the area at St Georgen showing elevated levels of uranium – indications of subterranean implosions seven decades ago.
In January 1944, some 272 inmates of Mauthausen were taken from the camp to nearby St Georgen to begin the construction of secret galleries. By November that year, 20,000 out of 40,000 slave labourers drafted in to build the tunnels had been worked to death. (File picture of concentration camp inmates)
The 15 miles of tunnels lie under the nearby Gusen concentration camp site, a sub-camp of the notorious Mauthausen where tens of thousands of people were murdered.
At one time, 40,000 slave labourers toiled in the tunnels making war weapons, including Messerschmitt aircraft.
But now the hunt is on to find evidence of atomic research after a documentary by filmmaker Andreas Sulzer on Hitler’s quest for wonder-weapons beneath the Crystal Mountain unnerved locals.
The local authority has already spent £10,000 on preliminary searches of the tunnel system and is now seeking to assemble a team of international experts.
One hitherto secret underground borehole found by geothermal imaging devices turned up an empty space yielding no clues as to what it might have been used for.
If the Austrian site does render up proof of nuclear research, historians may yet have to rewrite the last chapters of WWII to show how close Hitler might have come to winning it
Stefan Karner, a renowned historian at the University of Graz and head of a conflict research institute, is making his own researches in the area in the belief that plant and machinery related to nuclear research might be found.
Sulzer searched archives in Germany, Moscow and America for evidence of the S.S.-led nuke building project.
He discovered that on January 2, 1944, some 272 inmates of Mauthausen were taken from the camp to St Georgen to begin the construction of secret galleries.
By November that year, 20,000 out of 40,000 slave labourers drafted in to build the tunnels had been worked to death.
After the war, Austria spent some £10million in pouring concrete into most of the tunnels.
But Sulzer and his backers believe they missed a secret section where the atomic research was conducted.
The Soviets were stationed in St Georgen until 1955 and they took all of the files on the site back with them to Moscow.
In January 1939, nine months before the outbreak of the war, German chemists Otto Hahn (pictured) and Fritz Strassmann published the results of a historic experiment about nuclear fission
Experts are trying to discover if there is a link between St Georgen and sites in Germany proper where scientists were assembled during the Third Reich in a bid to match American efforts to build the ultimate weapon.
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