Clambering between debris and fallen trees, a German relic hunter was deep in a forest when his metal detector emitted an unexpected signal. And so, brushing away the cold earth and leaf litter from the ground, he couldn’t believe his luck. “It’s a fricking door,” he exclaimed. “And I think there is some sort of structure down here…”
The relic hunter – whose YouTube channel “WW2HistoryHunter” has more than 140,000 subscribers – made the discovery while hiking in an undisclosed location in rural Germany. His past videos, meanwhile, have documented hidden World War Two locations such as strategic bunkers and ammunition dumps.
It was a bright but bitterly cold morning in December 2015 when this adventurer began his exploration of an area of German countryside where he hoped to uncover further WWII artefacts. Equipped with his metal detector and a pair of ski gloves, he subsequently began searching a forest for hints of buried relics and hidden structures.
“Today it’s a forest, but it didn’t used to be like that,” he explained in a YouTube video about his search. “They had a training facility here. They had all kinds of storage of armory and weapons.” Hence, it wasn’t long before the relic hunter began unearthing various intriguing objects.
Firstly, his metal detector signaled what appeared to be something “chunky” and “definitely iron” near the surface. He therefore dug a large hole and found what he believed to be a cap from a French hand grenade. This was then followed by a 1940 bullet cartridge.
However, there was something else buried down there. Something big. So the explorer dug deeper into the earth with a shovel and then bored into the hole with his fingers. The object he subsequently pulled out appeared to be an enormous shard of bomb shrapnel. “That’s because the Allies bombed this area to pieces several times,” he explained.
In contrast, his next find was a mystery. The pitch of the signal from the metal detector indicated a small object – a cartridge, perhaps. However, the object that he pulled from the earth was larger than a cartridge, and it also had an attachment shank and thread. “Could be a smoke grenade,” guessed the relic hunter.
Next, he found something even more unexpected: a delicate, paper-thin circle of aluminum. The relic hunter claimed that it was a top for a World War Two milk bottle. “Quite a special find actually,” he remarked. “You never find them in a complete state like that.”
Meanwhile, the landscape itself offered tentative hints of the past. Overgrown furrows and embankments appeared to indicate the location of fox holes, trenches and other wartime structures. Yet it was not here that the relic hunter found the door.
In fact, he came across the mysterious door later on while exploring higher ground among the trees. After clearing away a surface covering of earth, he located a large, square metal lid and what appeared to be a hatch leading to an underground structure – a hidden bunker, maybe.
Indeed, the European countryside hides a warren of German-built underground structures, particularly on the so-called Atlantic Wall in coastal areas. So what would the relic hunter find here? Inserting his shovel between the door and the frame, he opened the lid a small way.
However, the door would not open fully. Instead, the relic hunter peered through a hole in the corner. It was too dark to see anything, though, so he decided to cover up the hatch and come back another day. Of course, he’d been able to ascertain that there was a large structure down there, but he could not yet be sure exactly how deep it was.
Two months later, though, the relic hunter returned to the forest. This time, moreover, he was kitted out with a heavy-duty chisel, a crowbar, a hammer, some ropes and a ratchet. The total load of this extra equipment was around 30 pounds, which demonstrated how determined he was to open the door.
Unfortunately, this time it was even colder than it had been on his previous visit. “Some people have fun in the snow,” he said. “I’m not one of those.” Thankfully, though, it turned out that there was no snow in the upper part of the forest where he’d discovered the door. What’s more, he had it open in ten seconds using his crowbar.
Finally, the relic hunter was able to look inside. What would he find? A cache of ammunition? A Nazi control center? Or a hastily abandoned wartime bunker filled with the personal effects of German soldiers? “I have to say I’m really, really disappointed,” he admitted. “To be honest, I feel like an idiot.”
In fact, the “bunker” contained several large pipes and valves; it appeared to be part of a water system. Who and what the system supplied, however, was unclear. It may have been used for supplying local residences with drinking water or for irrigating crops.
Alternatively, it could have been built to service the nearby Nazi training facility. Searching the area close to the hatch, the relic hunter came across a mound. And after climbing to the top of the small hill, he found a second hatch, securely bolted down. The shape of the structure suggested a water tank, and on that basis he formed a new hypothesis in his mind.
According to the relic hunter, the presence of ammunition dumps at the facility would have posed a significant fire hazard. Therefore, the Germans engineered a technological solution – an “ingenious fire protection system” consisting of a web of underground pipes. It was this supposed infrastructure that the relic hunter claimed to have found.
Of course, there is no way to verify his hypothesis without further investigation, although it seems plausible. Ammunition bunkers typically feature some sort of flooding system, to be used in the event of fires. Moreover, why else would such a large storage tank have been installed in the middle of a remote forest?
However, if the relic hunter is right and those pipes were once part of an abandoned Nazi facility – whether to put out fires or simply supply drinking water – they must, at some stage, connect with its underground bunkers and tunnels. Perhaps a future episode of “WW2HistoryHunter” could follow where they lead.