With a total length of over 2000 m, the Heimkehle cave is one of the largest known caves in the southern Harz. You can visit about 600 m of it, which is divided into four areas: an outdoor area with a museum, the so-called "little cathedral", the "big cathedral" and the Thyra Lake.
In the "small cathedral" there is a monument in memory of the victims of the concentration camp Dora during the Second World War. At that time, the cave housed an armaments factory where the prisoners had to work under the toughest conditions.
The "great cathedral" impressively shows the further course of history after the end of the Second World War. The Red Army had the cave blown up because of its previous use, which is why the interior of the "Great Cathedral" is full of blasted off pieces of rock. This, in turn, has the advantage that nowadays only a few rock fragments fall from the ceiling, so the risk of injury to visitors is extremely low. For your own safety, however, every visitor must wear a helmet!
For safety reasons the cave may only be visited with a guided tour. The last guided tour takes place one hour before the cave closes. It is possible to visit not only the interior of the cave via the present, easily accessible entrance, but also the former natural entrance, which can be reached via a section of the Karst trail. The cave tour lasts about 45 minutes and contains besides the pure visit interesting information about the formation, history and geology of the cave.
Bats in the cave Heimkehlele
The Heimkehle cave is inhabited by various bat species. A total of eleven different species have been identified in the cave so far. Some species use the cave only as winter quarters, others have set up camp here all year round. This is the reason why during a viewing one often sees a bat fluttering around. They are hardly to be found here from the beginning of May to mid-July. During the swarming period up to 4000 bats stay in the cave.
Restaurant "Zur Höhle Heimkehle"
If you get hungry after the cave tour, you can stop off at the restaurant "Zur Höhle Heimkehle". It is located on the outside of the cave and offers good home cooking with Harz specialties. The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am.
First tourist use
The Heimkehle cave was first mentioned in a document in 1357 and Theodor Wienrich, who ran a hotel in the 1920s in the immediate vicinity of the cave, held guided tours of the cave for the first time. However, these had more of a hobby character, so there was no evidence of this tourist use of the cave.
Use as an armaments factory
During the Second World War the National Socialists set up an armaments factory in the cave. 1500 prisoners of the Dora concentration camp in Rottleberode had to work here every day under the worst conditions. In the equipped workshops, chassis parts for the war plane JU 88 were produced, and when the Allied front approached the camp, it was dissolved on 4 April 1945 and the prisoners of the concentration camp were sent on death marches.
Explosion of the cave
Because the cave was used as an armaments factory, the Red Army had the accesses to the cave blown up in 1946. If one could have proved that the cave was already used for tourism in the 1920s, this blasting would probably not have taken place.
Today a memorial in the "little cathedral" commemorates the victims of the Dora concentration camp. Since 25 April 1954 the cave has been open to visitors again. It will therefore celebrate its 60th anniversary as a tourist attraction in 2014.
How to get there
By public transport:
The Heimkehle cave is easily accessible by public transport. Overnight guests from the region around Stolberg and the Harz district receive the Harz holiday ticket HATIX when checking into the hotel. This means that all public buses can be used free of charge.
Bus 450 runs from Sangerhausen, Breitenstein, Stolberg and Berga to Heimkehle. Leave the bus at the bus stop junction Heimkehle and from here you have a few minutes walk to the cave.