Archaeologists excavating the ruins of Saxon Palace in Poland recently discovered a 147-foot-long tunnel hidden under the rubble.
The tunnel, 13 feet underground, baffled the archaeologists working on the Saxon, or Saski, Palace in Warsaw, since the tunnel was not in any known configuration plans or blueprints.
According to a spokesperson for Saxon Palace in an interview with Science in Poland, the tunnel was determined to be a conduit for military activity. The palace hosted the headquarters of the Polish army.
“The tunnel was supposed to enable them to quickly transfer reports and information,” spokesperson Sławomir Kuliński said. “The tunnel also had technical functions. It contained a telegraph cable and a system of heating and irrigation pipes for both wings of the palace.”
Kuliński said the tunnel was built in the 1930s for transporting military intelligence and featured legionary eagles “typical of the 1930s and military functions.”
The palace was built in the 1660s and became a royal residence in the early 18th century after King Augustus II purchased it. Augustus expanded the palace, and it took on many different functions over the years. According to the Miami Herald, it has housed military staff, a foreign affairs ministry, restaurants, shops, and even a high school.
For centuries, the Saxon Palace was an important part of Polish military and architectural history. However, much of that history would be lost when the palace was destroyed during World War II when Nazi forces occupying Poland blew it up in 1944 after the failed Warsaw Uprising.
Poland had been occupied by German forces since 1939. In the summer of 1944, Soviet troops encouraged Polish underground nationals, known as the “Home Army,” to rise up against the German occupiers.
Polish troops were initially wary, but Poland’s geographical position put it in a tough spot. While the Soviets and Polish had the same enemy during World War II, if the Soviet Union liberated Poland, it would be established as a communist, pro-Soviet country. The Home Army, closely tied to the Polish government-in-exile in London, strongly desired to be a Western capitalistic nation.
But the Soviet Army was quickly approaching the Polish border, and the Home Army had to make a choice — fight against the Germans themselves and retain some hope of avoiding control by the Soviets or let the Soviets liberate Poland.
Public DomainGerman forces demolished the palace after a failed Polish uprising during World War II.
In the summer of 1944, Germans in Warsaw were weakened and demoralized following the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler. The Home Army launched its attack and regained control of most of the city within three days. However, transportation and communication arteries remained under German control. By the end of August, the Germans launched a brutal counterattack, killing tens of thousands of Polish civilians.
In the meantime, the approaching Soviet army refrained from assisting the Polish forces and refused to allow the Western Allies to use Soviet air bases to send troops or supplies. Without support from the Allies, the Home Army was forced to surrender in October 1944.
After the failed uprising, Hitler ordered the destruction of Warsaw. German troops used flamethrowers and explosives, focusing on historical monuments, national archives, and places of interest. By January 1945, 85 percent of the buildings in Warsaw were destroyed.
After World War II, the demolished remains were cleared to ground level. Over the ensuing decades the area would become a lawn filled with brush and trees.
Archaeologists began work on the site in 2006, but the tunnel had gone unnoticed until a recent expansion of excavation efforts.
The Polish government plans to reconstruct Saxon Palace. It is estimated to be completed in 2030.
After reading about the tunnel found under Saxon Palace, check out these photos from the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. Or, read about the mass grave of Nazi soldiers found in Poland.