Wednesday, June 04, 2008
THE REICH UNDERGROUND
Written by Fumo Verde
As heavy bombing from the allies started to hit the towns and cities of the Fatherland, German leaders came up with the idea of going underground with not only their ammunitions and supplies, but with entire factories. Director Michael Kloft gives us never-before-seen film footage of these tunnels and caves during their wartime-production heyday along with footage of what these facilities look like today. In these dark labyrinths where V-rockets were manufactured along with some of the world’s first jet planes, the audience gets to explore some of the deepest secrets the Nazis held.
Hitler and the German High Command were at first reluctant to put their production plants underground, but after the heavy and strategic air-bombing campaign carried on by the Allies, which really reeked havoc in the summer of ’43, Albert Speer was able to convince Nazi leaders into doing just that. Starting first by expanding mines that were already in use and utilizing the slave labor force they had gathered from their occupied territories, the Nazis were able to move entire war production plants deep under the earth. The Allies knew of about 300 by 1943, but German files bring the number to somewhere around 800 underground emplacements, which made bombs, planes, ball bearings, and other goods that fed the Nazi war machine. Some of the tunnels ran for miles, such as the one by the banks of the river Neckar in Baden-Wurttemberg. This place was used to also house NATO forces during the Cold War and is still in use today by the German government.
To see the massive size of some of these manmade caves really blew my mind. The labor that had to go into it was incredible and the poor souls who had to do it were there to work until they were dead. Even though these places were factories, making tools of war, they were also death camps of which a prisoner’s only way out was that final big sleep. All of these underground places were sealed up by the Americans and British but today the German government has opened some of the tunnels up to make sure they will not collapse in on themselves and destroy whatever may be above. This is how Kloft was able to go inside and give us a real picture of how big and how extensive the tunnels of the Nazis were. Even now, parts of these places are falling apart and it is up to the German government to decide on how to fix them or to destroy them altogether.
This is an interesting subject for those who are very involved in the history of WWII, but it never seemed to get up and go. It was like I was waiting with Geraldo and watching them open Capone’s vault all over again. Sure, some of the tunnels are in use, but we don’t get to see the inner workings of those places. This doc was one of those that is very interesting and has a lot of unknown facts, but it never really caught my attention. Admittedly, there was footage never seen before, but even this seemed to look the same as all the other Nazi atrocities I have watched over the years.
If The Reich Underground comes on the History Channel, then yes, I would watch it, but as for adding it to my already extensive WWII collection, I wouldn’t have bought it.