Google Reveals Historic Aerial Images from WWII

Google EarthGoogle has announced a new set of historical aerial images, taken over European cities during World War II, which have been made available via Google Earth. They can now be compared directly to images from the present day.  Images taken in 1943, show the effect of wartime bombing on more than 35 European towns and cities. Imagery for Warsaw, which was heavily destroyed at the time, is available from both years 1935 and 1945.

The Historical Imagery feature gives people a unique perspective on the events of the past using today’s mapping technology. It is hoped that this World War II imagery will enable all of us to understand our shared history in a new way and to learn more about the impact of the war on the development of our cities.

Imagery from 1935 and 1945 for Warsaw in Poland is particularly compelling. The city was amongst those most badly damaged in the war and comparisons with today are striking.  Contrast can be seen for example by comparing the imagery of the Historic Centre of Warsaw, a UNESCO World Heritage site, described as an ‘outstanding example of a near-total reconstruction of a span of history covering the 13th to the 20th century’. The Royal Castle of Warsaw for example was completely burned to the ground and subsequently reconstructed, between 1971-1988.  Dramatic too is the imagery of the location of the Warsaw Ghetto, supposedly the largest ghetto in Europe between 1940 and 1943.

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Young Hitler: A Non- Fiction Novel

Young Hitler
Young Hitler

How did a lowly World War One veteran, with neither substantial education or wealth, rise to become the most reviled leader in the modern history of Europe?

In this account of the life of young Adolf Hitler, Claus Hant explores his psychology and development. From the heart of pre-war Vienna through to the horrors of the trenches in World War One, we go straight to the source of the forthcoming death and destruction Hitler unleashed decades later on Europe. We follow the young Adolf Hitler from his years in Linz, to his life as a struggling artist in Vienna, to the hellish trenches of World War One and then to an impoverished post-war Munich. The narrative follows the bizarre series of events that culminate in this lonely and eccentric young man becoming ‘The Fuehrer’ of the Third Reich.

Claus Hant has chosen to write this as a ‘non-fiction’ novel, a narrative in which the writer’s imagination assumes a subordinate role and is a facilitator of factual information. All of the major events experienced by Hitler in the book are based upon the latest academic research. Facts that have been known so far only to a small circle of specialised historians are introduced for the first time to a broader audience. With detailed appendices, this is the most accurate and compelling portrait of the young man who became one of the most notorious political leaders of the twentieth century.

Claus Hant is a German scriptwriter and the creator of a detective series that ran on prime time for over a decade and made German TV history with its audience figures: Der Bulle von Tölz. Hant has also written cinema films, his latest being Der grosse Kater, starring Bruno Ganz (Downfall).

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Visit World War II Historical Sites with

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the start of Second World War. With you can step back in time with a comprehensive guide to European sites, the history of which will always be closely linked to the horrific events of World War II.

Gdansk – First shot fired, 1 September 1939

Despite the overwhelming superiority of German forces, the 180 Polish soldiers manning the Westerplatte garrison managed to withstand bombardment from sea, land and air for almost seven days before being forced to surrender.

Stay at: Hotel Podewils ***** prices start from £114 per room per night

Hotel Podewils is a restored baroque mansion, built in 1728 by the noted stonemason Krzysztof Strzelecki. It enjoys a prominent place on the embankment of the Motlawa River next to the marina, two kilometres from the Old Town of Gdansk. After a day of sightseeing guests can unwind with a Finnish or Turkish sauna, or retire to the lounge bar for an aperitif. To book go to

Hotel Podewils, Gdansk

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Take a Tour: Second World War Tunnels in Kranj

The old town centre of Kranj is situated on a conglomerate prominence (from the Pleistocene era) between the rivers Sava and Kokra.  The conglomerate is mostly well agglutinated, only in few places quite loosen bound together.  The gravel stones were bound into conglomerate during the warmer interglacial periods. In the favourable climatic conditions the lime binder glued the gravel stones together.  The later rising and falling of underground waters dissolved the lime binder and caused karstification and forming of cracks, grottoes, caverns, caves and even rock falls.  Similar processes are still going on today.

The Old Town, Kranj
The Old Town, Kranj

The tunnels under Kranj and the surrounding have been carved into Pleistocene conglomerates.  The conglomerate walls can be clearly seen where there is no concrete coating. All the manmade tunnels were dug during World War II, for the purpose of sheltering the civilian population. The Kranj community started building tunnels on the eve of World War II.  The work was newly started during the occupation in 1944, when the danger of allied forces bombing from Italy increased.  The tunnel works were carried out by two construction companies from Kranj – Josip Slavec (known for construction of bridges and high-speed roads before the war) and Josip Dedek (known for construction of dams for hydroelectric power stations).

The majority of construction works was finished by the end of 1944, performed by 130 hired workers, but there was not enough material and time to finish the protective concrete coating and other installations. The tunnel was nevertheless used by the citizens during the last few months of World War II when there were frequent air–raid warnings. After the war the tunnel was abandoned, but became of interest for a short period again during the Slovene independence war in 1991 – the Kranj civil protection unit re-opened the entrances and restored the shelter.

One of the most interesting is the almost 1300 metre long old city air-raid shelter, an important monument of construction from World War II. The bunker has four entrences – from Jelenov klanec, from the Kokra canyon, from Lajh, and along the staircase from the back of Prešeren’s Theatre. The tunnel starting at Jelenov klanec crosses a conglomerate prominence and then opens up into the Kokra River canyon, which is a nature conservation area.

A long southern extension branches off under the Post Office and leads all the way to Lajh. All tunnels are of approximately equal dimensions, 2 metres wide; only the section under Pungert is slightly branched. They are fortified by a layer of concrete, the unfinished section showing the original conglomerate tunnel. Apart from one smaller chamber there are no larger rooms.

There were similar tunnel projects elsewhere in Kranj during World War II
There were similar tunnel projects elsewhere in Kranj during World War II

Tunnel at Savska cesta road
The tunnel walls are protected by a concrete coating. In some places you can see strow stalactites that have formed on the ceiling and are up to one metre long. The total length of the tunnels is 265 metres. They comprise a concrete tube 2,4 metres in diameter, truncated with a level floor. There are two entrances 50 metres apart to enable factory workers to retreat to safety.

Tunnel next to Kranj railway station
This tunnel is made up of two extensions with two entrances. The total length of the tunnel is 93 metres. The tunnel walls are vaulted with concrete blocks. Drops of water which are saturated with calcium carbonate, seep through the joints and calcite curtains and straw stalactites have been formed in some places. The tunnel is dug out of stratified dolomite with limestone layers. According to the geological map KRANJ L33-65 the rocks in the upper Triassic formation are c. 200 million years old.


Tunnel next to former Sava Kranj factory
The tunnels were built to protect workers at the old Sava Kranj factory, which had one of its plants near the Kokra River canyon. There are two entrances on the right bank of the Kokra River, next to the military bridge. Once there were benches – wooden planks on iron framework – along the walls and electric lighting on the ceiling. During World War II the Germans built several open fire-fighting reservoirs in Kranj, which have all been filled up. On the location of the city fountain (restored in 1995) on Glavni trg Square a large underground reservoir was built in 1943 by the Josip Dedek construction company. It was first filled up with water on 16th January, 1944.

Fire-fighting Reservoir on Glavni trg
Since the underground reservoir is filled to the top, it can be compared to a cave siphon and is therefore accessible only for the most experienced cave divers. The reservoir, which is completely underground, has two narrow open shafts next to the fountain. It is 3,5 metres deep, 4 metres wide and 30 metres long. It contains 310 cubic metres of clean water and could therefore still serve its purpose.

After the war the Kranj firebrigade maintained the reservoir for some time, but with modern technical equipment it has later fallen into disuse.  In 2002 it was researched and documented again by members of the Cave rescue team (Caving club Carnium) and the Water rescue team (Diving club of Kranj).

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries there was a smaller mine in Gorenja Sava at the foothills of Šmarjetna gora, which supplied manganese to the Jesenice ironworks. With the invention of a revolutionary steel strengthening process with manganese in 1872, which changed the steel industry worldwide, the mine has become a part of steel working history. The mine level which is almost 400 metres, has two entrances. The tunnels are up to 5 metres wide. They were equipped with tracks for the pit carts, which were pulled by men or horses. Miners cut through numerous smaller natural caves – shafts in the limestone of Šmarjetna gora – and cave animals spread from the caves into the mine levels; among them a species of endangered cave beetle (Anophthalmus besnicensis), endemic to the surroundings of the Rovnik hill above Besnica near Kranj.

Glavni trg, Kranj
Glavni trg, Kranj

The Tular cave
Tular is a natural cave, which was formed in the Sava conglomerates by a small stream. It was first mentioned already in 1689 by the famous naturalist J.V. Valvasor. The endemic fauna of this cave is very interesting. A subspecies of a small cave beetle (Anophthalmus miklitzi ssp. staudacheri) and a subspecies of a blind cave crustacean (Niphargus ilidžensis ssp. slovenicus) have been described from this cave. In 1944 it was partly walled into an air-raid shelter for the nearby factory.

In 1960 the abandoned shelter was turned into a cave laboratory by speleobiologist Marko Aljančič (1933 – 2007), who populated it with the European blind cave salamander (Proteus anguinus). It is the only cave laboratory in Slovenia and – apart from the cave laboratory in Moulis in France – the only place to breed this endangered cave amphibian in captivity. In the laboratory the ecology and behaviour of the Proteus, mainly its breeding, are studied. Apart from that the laboratory also raises the public awareness of the Proteus as the symbol of the Slovene natural history, with special emphasis on nature conservation. Since visitors could disturb the animals, the laboratory is not open to the public.

The Brezno nad Podblico pothole
The entrance into the pothole above Podblica is located on the eastern slope of the Jelovica plateau, some 100 metres above the village Podblica. The dimensions of the entrance, which opens up in an almost vertical rock wall, are 4 metres by 2 metres. The oval entrance pitch of 10 metres ends in a small chamber, followed by a larger chamber of flowstone, which after 10 metres splits into two tunnels, ending in rubble shortly after. The total depth of the pothole is 35 metres, and the total length 98 metres.

The Jeralovo brezno pothole
The entrance to the Jeralovo brezno pothole was dug open during the Mayday holiday 1972, by members of the Speleological Society of Kranj. Not even the landlord on the Jerala farmhad known of its existence until then. A strong draught was blowing out of a small rift in the rocky slope. After they had enlarged the entrance opening, they found an 80 metres deep and 300 metres long cave. The whole system is made up of three main tunnels and numerous smaller chambers. The entrance is located in the western slope of Rovnik hill above Jerala farm in the village of Njivice. It used to be a sinkhole in Triassic limestone.

The Kranj Tunnels Today
In the 1980s and 1990s the abandoned tunnels at Jelenov klanec and Pungert were used to cultivate . Unfortunately all the dirtiness was left in the tunnels after mushrooms growing had ceased. In 2003 the Speleological Society of Kranj started removing the rubbish. In 2005 they have cleaned a part of the tunnels at Jelenov klanec, and in 2007 they had also cleaned the entrances to the Kokra River canyon. Most of the work was resumed by the Kranj Civil Protection Units: Cave Rescue Unit (Caving Club Carnium), Unit for Provisional Accommodation (Scout Association of Kranj), Water Rescue Unit (Diving club of Kranj), Unit of Rescue Dog Handlers (Rescue Dog Handlers Club of Kranj), Communications Unit (Radio Club of Kranj).

In 2006 and 2007 they removed more than 150 cubic metres of rubbish from the tunnels. The work was performed by volunteers as part of the annual “Let’s Clean Kranj” event, organized by the Scout Association of Kranj. With their work they have paved the way to the revival of the abandoned underground constructions. The Municipality of Kranj, together with the Kranj Tourist Board, the Regional units of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, and the Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation, has decided to tidy and put in order the tunnels.

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