The Harz has a long History. Some of that History is awesome, like how it came that there are so many Teiche in the Area. But not all History in the Harz is good.
Being in Germany, the Third Reich and World War II also happened here in the Harz. There were Camps and forced Labour, and also a number of Death Marches towards the End of the War.
Today’s Story is about Werk Tanne, a Third Reich Explosives Factory between Clausthal and Altenau, but way closer towards Clausthal.
The Factory was built between 1935 and 1938. Clausthal-Zellerfeld was chosen as the Location for Werk Tanne because of its central location in Germany. Back then, the Infrastructure here in the Harz was also very well suited for such a Factory.
Starting in 1939, Week Tanne produced about 2800 Tons of TNT a Month, and had the Capacity to Fill about 3000 Tons of it into Bombs and other Ammunitions.
For concealment Purposes, it was forbidden to fell any Trees in the Area. Furthermore, it was mandatory to plant only Fir Trees, so that new Trees would blend in to the existing Forest.
In 1940, there was a major Explosion in the Nitration Plant. Parts of that machinery flew over two kilometres into Clausthal and many Windows were shattered. People got pushed through the Chain-link Fence.
In the End of 1944, despite all the Secrecy and Concealment, Werk Tanne as destroyed by a 129 Bomber US Ai Raid. A lot of forced Workers died and TNT Production never started up again. Bombs however were still filled with Explosives until the End of the War though.
After the War, American Forces occupied Werk Tanne and attempted to blow up the Factory. Most Buildings still exist today though, as they were build from massive steel-reinforced Concrete and it would have been to costly to further demolish the other Buildings.
Because Nature was of least Concern during World War II, the Nazis pretty much just dumped the Waste Products of TNT Production everywhere. The Pfauenteiche in Clausthal and the ground in Werk Tanne are very polluted. Slurry was dumped right in Clausthal and still sits there today.
The Pollution actually made it all the Way down to Osterode, were Factory Sewage was dumped into the Ground. Restauration and Sanitation Efforts yet have to make a major Impact, as there are many uncuttable Corners.
The black Tarp you can see in the Foto with the toppled Building is used to catch Rainwater and then funnel it into an activated Charcoal Filter, and Efforts are made to remove the TNT from the Ground without allowing it to spread. It is still going to take Decades until the Area is clean again, if it ever will be.
Today, Werk Tanne is private Property and inaccessible to the Public. Most of the remaining Buildings are in Danger of Collapsing and the Area is more or less fully overgrown.
I do not know what the Future holds for Werk Tanne, and I doubt anyone really does. There have been many Plans in the Past, but most of them failed because of the prevailing contamination. Currently, the Plan is to build a Solar Farm in the Area.
And even though Werk Tanne definitely fits into the darker History of the Harz, I still find it very interesting.
World War II and the Era of the Third Reich were dark Times and I am glad that those Times are over, but it still is History worth Telling.
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Sources (in German):