The Nazi mysteries surrounding Villa Winter

In the south of the desolate island of Fuerteventura there is an even more desolate peninsula. This is the peninsula of Jandía, a piece of land that was originally a separate island from Fuerteventura, but is now joined to it by a sandy isthmus known as The Wall. The beauty here is as devastating as the sense of helplessness. Among these volcanic lands, Villa Winter, queen of desolation, crowns the landscape. In this enclave, it is easy, as many have already realised, to let your imagination run wild. Even more so, with the dozens of rumours that have been circulating about the mansion for years. All related to gruesome stories about Nazis.

To get to the spectacular Cofete beach, where the Winter house stands, it is necessary to drive at least 30 minutes through impossibly winding bends. Once there, the only other traces of human presence are a small cemetery, now abandoned, and a tiny village. The isolation of Villa Winter is therefore the cause of the greatest suspicion regarding its activities. The year of construction, the secrecy surrounding the building and the nationality of its developer are also small branches that stir the fire of gossip…


Villa Winter in the desolation of Cofete | Shutterstock

Gustav Winter and the construction of the villa

Gustav Winter was born one day in 1893 in a village in the mountainous Black Forest region of Germany. He graduated in electrical engineering and came to Spain after escaping from the British army at the beginning of the First World War. There, on the mainland, he implemented numerous electrification projects, until in 1924, also for work, he ended up in Gran Canaria. It was on a visit to Fuerteventura that he is said to have fallen in love with the island.

In 1933, the engineer settled on the Jandía peninsula. Four years later, with the Second World War about to break out, Winter rented the vast expanse of land on the peninsula with the intention of building a house there. The seed of villa Winter was already planted. To reap the rewards, the German decided to hire more staff from his native country to study the land, which in 1941 officially became his property. It was around this time that the family, according to writers Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa and Borges Jurado, built a fence to separate them from the rest of the neighbours. Most of the people from Fuerteventura who lived in the area were then evicted.

Villa Winter

Villa Winter | Shutterstock

A Nazi nest

The conditions in which Villa Winter was built made people suspicious of the strange place. Not only because of the isolation of the area, but also because of the high tower that crowns the complex, from which the entire coast of Cofete can be seen. The remains of rails found outside the house also arouse suspicion. These were supposedly intended to reach as far as Morro Jable, 22 kilometres from Cofete. The books by the writers Vázquez-Figueroa and Jurado, together with that of Lucía Etxebarría, are some of the works set in the complex that have added to the suspense of the place.

Many things have been said about the Winter villa, including that Hitler himself was there and that, in order to build the villa, labour was brought in from concentration camps. However, there are two things that are the most famous. First, there is the theory that the complex served as a supply base for the Nazi submarine fleet during World War II. On the other hand, there are stories that Villa Winter served as a hiding place for Nazi officers after the war. It is even said that one of the rooms was used by them to undergo cosmetic surgery and escape without being recognised.

Cofete Beach

Cofete Beach | Shutterstock

The engineer’s family has always denied all these rumours, but not Pedro Fumero. The latter, nephew of a married couple who lived there from the very moment it was built, claims that all these legends and more are true. In fact, he has made Villa Winter a sort of tourist attraction for visitors who dare to enter the house. Fumero speaks of crematorium ovens, torture, Nazi nests… ‘Here in Fuerteventura there was a rat’s nest of German officers. Von Marx, Alberto Lehanbacher, Winter… If you pull the blanket over your head, half the island is involved’, the Majorero pointed out in an article in a Spanish newspaper.

Between truth and myth

It is impossible to know what really happened within those walls. But, amidst all the rumours, there are some certainties. Certainty number one: Casa Winter was not a submarine base. This is certain for several reasons: firstly, the waters of Cofete beach are so shallow that it would be impossible for a submarine to be stationed there. On the other hand, there is the testimony of the historian Juan José Díaz.

This university professor stated in an article in ABC that he had studied in detail the documentation of a clandestine service of the German Navy which was dedicated to supplying German submarines in the Canary Islands during the armed conflict. In those papers, according to the historian, ‘there is no record, anywhere, of any activity of this type being carried out in Fuerteventura’, although there was in Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Another of the theses that support the legend of the submarines lies in the tower that presides over the house, supposedly built for military purposes. However, this bastion was not built until 1947, when the war was already over.

Villa Winter

Villa Winter | Shutterstock

Fact number two: Gustav Winter’s name appeared in 1945 on a list drawn up by the Allied intelligence services and sent by the US State Department to the Spanish Foreign Minister at the time. In this document, the engineer’s name appeared along with 103 other Germans suspected of being spies and who were asked to be expelled and repatriated to Germany. Shortly afterwards, Winter, who did not leave the country, acquired Spanish nationality.

More than 70 years have passed. Not much more is known about Villa Winter. Just two certainties, accompanied by a multitude of rumours. But the house is still there, standing in front of the immensity of Cofete, surrounded by doubts that may never be solved.

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