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he Atlantropa project was by far and still is to this day the most ambitious project that humankind had ever devised. German engineering capabilities never end to impress me as well as their innovative thinking, this is a project which began to be planned in the early 1920s to actually drain 1/5th of the Mediterranean sea in order to create more land to develop more infrastructure for the Germans.

This plan was to take place after their victory in the Second World War in order to expand the “Aryan Empire” and overall produce more wealth. Besides the financial gains, the project itself would have been something that would have changed the faith of the African continent if it were to ever occur.

Another very important reason for this plan was to actually merge Europe and Africa together in order to make trade easier as well as produce more farmland for the Fatherland.

The man behind the project

Herman Sörgel in 1944 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This project was planned out by Herman Sorgel who was a well-known German architect. From 1926 until 1944 he dedicated all of his time to this huge project. In theory, his main goal was to create a supercontinent by merging Africa and Europe offering a great geographical advantage that meant more power for the Germans.

The German government at the time did not take Sorgel very seriously as this was a madman’s plan which would require enormous amounts of resources invested in something that was not really seen as a necessity at the time. However, by 1933 when the Nazi government came to power, Hitler himself was more than impressed with the scale of this plan and the advantages it could bring to the Fatherland. Therefore, he took Sorgel very seriously and actually invested in further developing the project.

Based on Hitler’s plans of invading Europe and his envision of winning the Second World War, the plan would have been a possibility from all the resources acquired from enemy nations and the fact that there would be no need for consent as enemy nations would be dominated.

The plan itself

The plan was to create three titanic dams which would have become the biggest structures humankind would have ever seen. The first, as well as the biggest planned dam, would have been built from Gibraltar, Spain (Europe) to Ceuta, Morocco (Africa). The second barrage would have been built across the Dardanelles (where the Black Sea ends) which would, in theory, close the Balck Sea. Last but not least, the third dam would have been built from Tunisia up to Sicily cutting the Mediterranea into two different water levels.

Map created by Herman Sörgel and presented in an exhibition in 1932 (Source: Interesting Engineering)

You may wonder why the need for two different levels, well the answer is quite simple. Sorgel had so much more planned than just merging Africa and Europe as one supercontinent, he wanted to use the dams to produce enough energy to actually power up the whole of Europe and Africa at the same time. This is why he would only drain 200 meters deep and not the whole Mediterranean.

At the time when the plan was conceived this would have been possible as most households in the 1930s would not require electricity and most of those that did require electricity would be for the heavy machinery in various factories. Many historians and people with a high interest in this subject contradict the efficiency these dams would have had however, I would like to respond by saying you should not underestimate German engineering.

A profitable investment?

Atlantropa was supposed to be the answer to the damage done by the First World War such as poverty and unemployment on a national level. Sorgel was not selfish as some historians portray him to be when coming up with this plan as he had seen an advantage for the whole European continent and not just Germany as well as for the African continent. With this said, he did not agree with war at all, but under Nazi ruling, he had no say.

As the Mediterranean water flows in from the Atlantic, in theory draining a fifth of the Mediterranean sea would have been an achievable task, but at a very high cost financially and time-wise. The more difficult task, but once again not impossible, would have been building the Dams, as it would require an extenuating amount of resources as well as a huge workforce.

Sorgel even founded the Atlantropa Institute in order to promote his vision to the rest of the world. The media around the world was in love with his project as they had seen many benefits such as the amount of land that can be used for agricultural purposes as well as new routes for easier trading across continents. Also By lowering the Mediterranean by 200 meters, would offer a total of 660,200 km2 of new land reclaimed from the sea — an area larger than France.

Sadly, the plan didn’t quite work out so well for Sorgel, as the Germans have lost the Second World War things had taken a different direction, as the plan was for Germany to conquer all of the lands needed to build the dams with sufficient materials gained and no permission needed.

In 1950, after things had calmed down a bit, Sorgel tried to sell his project to the rest of the world, emphasizing the benefit of free hydroelectric energy. Although the United Nations found a lot of interest in the project, most of the central European nations were financially drained from all the World War II reparations.

Here is a video made by Sorgel in 1950 presenting the project in a more visual manner:

This was very bad timing for Sorgel as everyone had their interest captivated by the newly discovered nuclear energy which at the time seemed more beneficial by being a lot more efficient. It was not only this but also the extensive amount of resources required for such a humongous project that led to the project’s decline.

On the 25th of December 1952, Sogrel gave his last breath. His project although ambitious and very well-known at the time had been overshadowed by the upcoming Cold War and sadly forgotten with time. Even to today’s standards and technological advancements, this would be the biggest project ever faced by humankind. Its long-term “profitability” makes it too high of a risk for any nation.

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