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I personally love Villa Winter and am fascinated by it. Such a beautiful structure in a beautiful setting. But when it came to writing about Villa Winter (more correctly called Casa Winter in Spanish), I knew I had my work cut out for me, and it was going to take a LOT of time! There are so many myths and stories out there, that it is difficult to sort out the facts, which in themselves are extremely few. There have been a great many articles written about it, and most of them contradict each other, or contain wild exaggerations and/or vivid imagination! But the fact is, that nobody knows the truth about the supposed holiday home built by Gustav Winter. There is only one thing for sure, that Villa Winter is a mystery and the truth died in 1971, when Gustav Winter himself passed away.
So, where to begin? I was fascinated searching for and reading all the various articles, hearing about all the supposed horror stories, but the main source of this article has been Pedro Fumero, the current caretaker and researcher of the villa, and an episode in the series, Secret Nazi Bases.
While Pedro himself was born and raised on Tenerife, his family came from, and remained in, Cofete. His grandfather and uncles worked at Villa Winter, and he remembers his many visits to the area and playing around the villa. His grandfather used to tell him all about the villa, and he loved listening to them. Since his move back to the villa in 2012, Pedro has been searching for the truth about Villa Winter, and his research has included scouring local, provincial, military, state, and private archives from countries such as Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Portugal, France, and England, along with consultations done electronically to countries like Argentina, the United States, and Russia. He has examined the villa from top to toe, uncovering even more questions and mysteries. But, whilst Pedro, with the help of others, have uncovered a lot, the villa’s purpose still remains shrouded in mystery.
What facts do we know about Villa Winter?
Apart from seeing that the structure of Villa Winter is extremely strange and not over suitable for it’s supposed purpose of a family holiday home, there’s very little factual evidence available. But we do know the following…
- German born Gustav Winter, known to the locals of Fuerteventura as Don Gustavo, signed a lease for a large part of the southern coastline in 1937. Soon after, he purchased the land outright.
- Gustav Winter had a connection with the Third Reich (Nazis), although the extent of which is unknown.
- Gustav Winter received subsidies for ‘economic plans for island of Fuerteventura’ from the department of Hermann Göring, one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party and second in the Third Reich below Hitler.
- Gustav Winter never actually lived there, but instead settled in Morro Jable
- In 1996, Villa Winter and the surrounding land was sold to the hotel group Lopesan Hotels.
Our first question is a simple one with an obvious answer, or so it should be! When was the villa built? Whilst the ‘official’ records state 1946, Pedro and other eyewitnesses say that the ‘bunkers’ were definitely built soon after Gustav acquired the land in 1937. Then we have Gustav Winter stating it wasn’t built until 1958! That just doesn’t make sense; unless you consider a possible cover up due to Spain’s neutrality during the war, and not wishing to be seen as being involved in that history.
The next question is, who constructed it? According to some, Gustav Winter closed of the peninsula and had it heavily guarded, during its construction, and only those working there were allowed to in and then had to leave at sunset. Some say that German military worked on building the villa, along with the forced labour from the prison in Tefia. But Tefia is a very long way away! But then, Pedro Fumero’s grandfather used to tell him that the villa was built by the Spanish military. So again, another mystery. I would also love to know how they managed to get all the construction materials there!
Down in the basement of the villa, you find long corridors with several rooms off them. The corridor has a domed ceiling and some of the walls are 1.4 metres thick and reinforcement everywhere. The design and structure is extremely similar to typical German bunkers. It’s certainly not the normal cellar of a family or agricultural home!
The rooms off the corridor are small and some are quite narrow. There is also a bathroom. When playing there as a child, Pedro remembers seeing metal shackles on the walls of the narrow rooms. You can see repairs on the walls where they might possibly have been. At the end of those rooms there was a ventilation hole up to the outside ground. Were the rooms indeed cells and/or places of torture? If so, who was held there? One room had evidence of a door at the end, that had been sealed up.
The other rooms had a small window that allowed light in, but kept the room hidden from the outside. Could German officers, and even perhaps Hitler, have stayed in those rooms?
But there’s more! Rapping on the corridor floor of the basement reveals different sounds along it. One area it gives a loud, solid sound, while a few paces down the corridor gives a booming hollow sound. Pedro Fumero believes that this indicates there are more floors below that have been sealed up. Pedro had scans done in one ‘hollow’ area, which revealed there was a ramp that goes 2 metres down and ends at a door. Their research went down to 3 metres, and Pedro believes there may be 2 more floors.
Along at the end of a corridor is a very strange room. It’s been called a ‘kitchen’, for want of a better word as it’s unlike any kitchen you’ll ever know. The walls are part tiled with square white tiles, there is a square tiled sink in a corner, set into a worktop (no cupboards below) and an oven. Then you have a drain in the centre of the floor. Such drains are normally only in laboratories and surgeries, or slaughterhouses, but never a kitchen. Then there is the oven; in his investigations, Pedro lit the oven. He says that it reached 700°! This is around about the same heat required for a crematorium (just saying!), but could just as easily have been used for melting metal. You would certainly never need such a fierce heat in a kitchen, and that would certainly cremate a cake very quickly!
Furthermore, When Pedro’s grandfather told him all about the villa, he mentioned a laboratory down in the bunkers – never a kitchen.
So what was this room used for? Was it a medical facility where face altering plastic surgery was carried out? Could it have been a place for experiments on human beings?
When you first approach Villa Winter and see the huge tower at one end of the house, your first thought is (well mine is), WOW what a fantastic place to sit and gaze upon the beautiful vista! But, as with everything else in this villa, there are strange things about the tower, and a complete air of mystery.
The tower is not accessible from the main living floor, as you think it would be, but you have to go up to the second floor to gain access. The tower has a 360° view, but the windows are somewhat small if they were just for taking in the beautiful views. However, they would be ideal for signalling out to sea, and the tower makes a perfect observation post.
It has a huge fuse box, far too big for a family home, but maybe just right to provide a high power communication systems that would allow communication with U-boats!
Then to the right of the tower there is a small door leading to some small strange rooms built into the eaves. The rooms are accessed through small ‘child-size’ openings. They appear to be attic rooms, perhaps for storage, but why would there then be a bathroom? When Pedro was a child he played there with his friends, and just thought of them as children’s bedrooms, as they were the only ones really capable of fitting in them easily.
Tunnels & more bunkers?
On the outside of the house there is a small square window. Behind it lies a tunnel that ends in a concrete wall. The lie of the tunnel gives Pedro belief that it leads to the other side of the room in the basement that has a sealed door. He looks around the window on the outside, and within the stonework it almost appears as though there used to be an arched access doorway there, that was changed to show a window. Pedro believes that this could have been an escape tunnel, but more, that there was another floor and bunker below it all. Sadly, without being allowed to excavate, we will never know.
There were 3 airstrips in the southern peninsular. The first was built during WWII on the eastern coast just north of village of El Puertito. The second was used in 1945 and was on the edge of the beach in front of Villa Winter. The third was built in the early 1960s and is still shown on Google Maps as an abandoned aerodrome. There is also a helicopter pad just in front of the villa.
Concerning the airstrip in front of the villa on the beach, eyewitnesses say they remember planes landing on Cofete beach. According to sources, Gustav claimed it was to make the villa more accessible because his wife had a difficult pregnancy, and they needed to be able to reach a hospital.
The Conspiracy Theories
There are so many conspiracy theories about Villa Winter, but one thing they all have in common is that they’re about Nazis, U-boats and Adolf Hitler. Was it a U-Boat base? Did German Officers go there for some R & R, with music, dancing and prostitutes? Did Nazis carry out horrific experiments on humans, perhaps even children, there? Was face-altering plastic surgery carried our on high ranking war criminals at the end of the war? Are there volcanic tunnels below the villa that lead out to the sea? Did Hitler escape from Germany after the war, and hide at Villa Winter on his way to Argentina?
Nazis and U-boats
There are many things that point to the possibility of Villa Winter being a U-boat base, including the fact that it is known that the submarines often patrolled the area around the Canary Islands, and that they were allowed to come into the port at Las Palmas, which is directly opposite Cofete. However, there are two points to consider; one is that the waters around the area were far too treacherous for U-boats to approach the land, so how were they supposed to be refueled and restocked? And the other is, why go to so much trouble and expense to create a secret base when allied reconnaissance knew all about the U-boats patrolling and docking at Las Palmas?
Pedro believes that the villa was built in that exact spot because it was built over the natural lava vents, that you can find all around the coastline. These allowed the U-boats to navigate in and up to the villa, where they could be refueled and restocked. Whilst experts state that would be extremely difficult, bearing in mind that U-boats do not reverse or can turn round easily, it would not be impossible. And with regard to the latter point of, why? Perhaps there were other reasons, and not just U-boats refueling.
But there is a fair amount of evidence that Villa Winter was involved with U-boats, and that there were at times German Officers there.
There is a letter in existence that was sent within the German High Command. It talks about German U-boats being supplied by a somebody called Winter in the Canary Islands, and that it was drawing too much attention to the U-boats operating in and around the Islands. The letter was apparently to Herman Goering, which apparently doesn’t make sense as Herman was the head of the Luftwaffe, but he was also Hitler’s number 2 and also a very powerful force within the Third Reich.
Furthermore, there are a number of eye-witnesses, including Pedro Fumero’s grandfather, who state they saw German officers at the villa, as well as U-boats in the vicinity. Pedro’s grandfather once told him that while he was in his boat fishing near Roque del Moro, he saw U-boats rise to the surface, and men in uniforms of the German army. There was also a fair amount of blasting going on in the area at one time; although Gustav Winter claimed he was going to be experimenting with growing tomatoes!
On Cofete beach there is a small cemetery that was for the locals. Pedro remembers seeing graves there marked with German names, but when the cemetery was moved, those markers were no longer there.
With all the secrecy surrounding Villa Winter, it is easy to see why any research being done takes so long. But there are further hindrances to investigations. The local government, and other politicians, forbade Pedro to continue with his careful excavation work, as the building is of historic interest. He has been told that if he does any more such work he will be heavily fined. As if that wasn’t enough, Pedro has been a victim of several instances of vandalism; perhaps by locals who are still fearful of the villa and what he may uncover about it, or perhaps from political people who do not want the truth uncovered?
So, it’s over to you – Was Gustav hiding something? Was there a u-boat base there? Or is it all really just a coincidence, and Villa Winter really just a dream holiday mansion for Don Gustavo and his family?