Hunting tunnels: Panzer LTA’s hidden gem

A group of German visitors take a look at a rare, historic hunting tunnel at the Panzer Local Training Area Sept. 14. The tunnels were opened to the public as part of Germany’s open monument initiative. -- Photo by Stephanie Cleaton, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office.

A group of German visitors take a look at a rare, historic hunting tunnel at the Panzer Local Training Area Sept. 14. The tunnels were opened to the public as part of Germany’s open monument initiative. — Photo by Stephanie Cleaton, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office.

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Public Affairs Office

The Panzer Local Training Area is steeped in history. During World War II, from 1939 to 1944 German armed forces tank crews trained at the LTA, but its history goes back even further.

The Duke of Baden-Württemberg, Karl Alexander, built a vast system of tunnels in 1733 to execute his princely right to hunt and show the world his noble powers as an accomplished hunter and statesman. The tunnels allowed the duke to approach his prey undetected.

“With the guns of that time you had to come up very close, since the hunting weapons were inaccurate and did not reach very far. So you went into the tunnels downwind and emerged right in front of the deer ready to shoot,” said Andreas Ganz, the German federal state forester who is responsible for the forest that surrounds the area.

A group of Germans recently toured the tunnels Sept. 14 as part of the annual Germany-wide open monument initiative (Tag des offenen Denkmals) to open historical sites to the public.

Every second Sunday in September, people are giving free access to monuments that are generally closed to visitors.

Hunting tunnels are extremely rare. In Germany, only one other hunting tunnel is still in existence, in Ilmenau Thuringia, about three hours from Stuttgart, according to Stephanie Cleaton, the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart community relations specialist who led the tour.

“What makes the tunnels so interesting is that you pretty much can see and walk through them as they were during Duke Karl Alexander’s reign,” Cleaton said.

“Our tunnels here are still in situ, meaning unmoved and in place, for almost 300 years. They were unbothered through the passage of time. After World War II some of the tunnel arches were removed by people who needed stones to rebuild their houses. But other than that, you can still climb through them and think yourself a noble hunter, if you are so inclined,” Cleaton said.

This is only the third time the tunnels have been opened as part of the open monument initiative.

One German visitor expressed regret that the hunting tunnels are not accessible year-round. But Cleaton said tours can be arranged for interested groups throughout the year.

For more information on the tunnels, to schedule a tour or to attend next year’s open monument day, call the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Community Relations Office at 431-3463/civ. 07031-15-3463.