The legacy of the Third Reich still hovers over Zlocieniec, Poland, in the form of two brick towers from a former Nazi training center that loom over the town. Last week, a time capsule buried by the Nazis in the shadows of the towers 82 years ago was unearthed and found to contain perfectly preserved Nazi relics including two copies of German Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
On April 22, 1934, Nazi officials in their crisp military uniforms and local dignitaries wearing black top hats gathered near the German town of Falkenburg for a ceremony marking the groundbreaking of the new Ordensburg Krossinsee center, one of three massive new educational complexes that would be used to indoctrinate future leaders of the Nazi Party.
As the crowd watched from behind a rope encircling a deep dirt pit carved out of the ground for a tower foundation, Nazi leaders carefully descended into the enormous rounded hole as their finely polished black boots gingerly stepped down the rungs of a rickety wooden ladder. More than 20 feet below the surface, one of the Nazis unrolled a scroll and bellowed the words of a proclamation marking the groundbreaking—punctuated at the end with big red letters emblazoned on the parchment that declared “Heil Hitler!” After the crowd professed its allegiance to the Nazi fuhrer, the scroll was rolled up, tied with red string, sealed with wax and slid into a black copper cylinder along with other contemporary documents before its top was soldered shut.
The time capsule was placed in the tower’s foundation as construction of the vast campus began. It took only two years for the Ordensburg Krossinsee center to be completed, and Hitler himself came to Falkenburg on April 24, 1936, for its official dedication. Admission to the training center was limited to men of German citizenship between the ages of 23 and 26 who were at least 63 inches tall and did not wear glasses. Students took classes in philosophy, politics and world history in the morning and participated in military drills and sports in the afternoon. The training center featured more than 20 living quarters, sporting fields, drilling grounds and a riding arena with horse barns. Students could row and sail on the nearby lake or participate in the noted equestrian program. In 1937, members of the Hitler Youth began to join the young Nazi cadres at the Ordensburg Krossinsee center.
Much changed in Falkenburg in the ensuing years. Nazi brownshirts attacked the town’s Jewish population during Kristallnacht, and after the start of World War II, a forced labor camp opened near the town. Following World War II, the town changed hands—and names. The region of Germany around Falkenburg was ceded to Poland, and the town became known as Zlocieniec.
The former Ordensburg Krossinsee training center is now home to a Polish army barracks, and more than eight decades after its dedication, a team of excavators has recovered the time capsule buried in 1934. Work began at the end of August, and the excavation crew dug carefully as it encountered thick concrete, groundwater and even old German anti-vehicle mines. After more than a week of digging aided by archaeologist Marcin Peterleitner, the crew unearthed the same pit stood in by Nazi officials in 1934. This time, though, those descending into the hole wore muddy work boots and hard hats as they climbed down two metal ladders. Using photographs from the original dedication ceremony as a guide, they worked into the night on September 6, before finally locating the black copper cylinder buried 82 years earlier.
A week later, Zlocieniec officials transported the time capsule 75 miles west to the National Museum in Szczecin, Poland. After conducting a visual inspection of the cylinder, museum staff cut open its top with precision tools. For the first time in 82 years, the items folded inside saw the light of day. The items were all “perfectly preserved” and looked as if they “had been deposited yesterday,” Dr. Peterleitner told Polish news service RMF 24.
Among the items found inside the time capsule were an envelope filled with silver and bronze Reichsmark coins, photographs of Nazi leaders, black-and-white pictures of Falkenburg, a tourist map of the area, a program from the town’s 600th anniversary celebration held in 1933 and German newspapers from April 21 and 22, 1934. Also inside were two copies of “Mein Kampf” with a steely photograph of its author, Adolf Hitler, staring from the cover and the wax-sealed parchment that was read at the groundbreaking ceremony more than eight decades earlier. The National Museum plans to inventory, translate and preserve the contents of the time capsule before making them available to town residents.
The search continues. Watch new episodes of HUNTING HITLER Tuesdays at 10/9c on HISTORY.