Ksiaz Castle or Zamek Ksiaz (or Schloss Fürstenstein in German) is one of the most imposing castles in Lower Silesia in the southwest of Poland. The castle (map), situated atop an impressive rock cliff, can trace its origins back to the 13th century when it was built by the order of Bolko I, the Duke of Lwówek. Since then, it was destroyed and rebuilt and expanded various times and in different styles (from Gothic to Baroque and neo-Classical) by the Bohemians and the last family to reside there, the Hochberg family, one of the richest and most influential families in Prussia. The Hochbergs lived there for many generations from the 16th century, when Konrad von Hochberg was granted the rights to the castle and the surrounding area, till 1944, when it was seized by the Nazis.
The Riese Project
The Nazis stripped Ksiaz Castle of its furnishings and the castle then became an important part of the Riese Project, an elaborate plan to create an underground military industrial complex complete with tunnels, roads, rail links and subterranean arms factories. The castle itself is said to have been prepared as the new headquarters for Hitler. For this purpose, thousands of prisoners, many from concentration camps like Auschwitz, were used as slave labour. Towards the end of the war, with the Red Army approaching fast, the Nazis destroyed much of the complex. The destruction continued when the Red Army ousted the Nazis. Till this day, the Nazis’ exact plans with the castle remain a mystery. Were they building a secret weapon? Did Hitler plan to use the castle as a personal bunker? Little is also known of the fate of the prisoners who built the underground complex, though one can only guess.
Ksiaz Castle today
The castle today is an important tourist attraction in Lower Silesia, attracting visitors who come here to admire the majestic architecture, visit the underground tunnels (a small section of which is open to the public) and learn about the castle’s tempestuous past, and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding forests.
Ksiaz Castle certainly is a sight to behold. The interior, much of it bare, is a solemn testament to the castle’s opulence and grandeur in its heyday. The great Maximilian Room as well as the Summer Pavilion and the beautiful landscaped gardens, built under the stewardship of Conrad Maximilian Hochberg in the 18th century, have been lovingly restored. Some of the rooms, such as the beautiful Games Salon and China Salon, have also been restored and refurnished. One room has been turned into a wondrous antique store! Another room houses an exhibition that details the castle’s history. Take some time to read about the Hochberg family and their tragic demise during World War II, as well as the mysterious Nazi plans and the prisoners who worked here.
Ksiaz Castle’s grim and mysterious past come to life in its underground tunnels, many of which have reinforced concrete walls. There are remnants of unfinished construction work as well as the elevator shaft that was, supposedly, built to transport the Führer from the castle to the underground complex.
A walk in the gardens and terraces that surround the castle, known as some of the finest in Poland, is a must for any visitor. It’s the best way to truly appreciate the castle’s various architectural styles as well as the stunning surroundings.
The castle is located approximately 70 kilometers from Wroclaw, and is a must-visit in my book if you’re in the region. Visit the Ksiaz Castle official website for more details. There are two hotels in the vicinity of Ksiaz Castle: Hotel Ksiaz and Hotel Przy Oślej Bramie.