The Man who tried to drain the Med

Herman Sörgel, in 1928, who conceived of Atlantropa. (Photo: Public Domain)

It’s not just the plot of a Philip K. Dick book—a man spent his life trying to make Atlantropa happen.

An artist’s rendering of what Atlantropa—a plan to partially drain the Mediterranean—might have looked like. (Photo: lttiz/CC BY 3.0)

Later this year, Amazon Studios will release the much-anticipated second season of The Man in the High Castle, a story set in a grim alternative future, where the Axis Powers have won World War II. The United States is cut up in three parts, with a Nazi puppet state in the West, a region under Japanese occupation in the East, and a neutral buffer zone between them. The series is loosely based on a sci-fi classic written by Philip K. Dick. In the original novel, published in 1962, Dick describes how the Axis Powers have drained the Mediterranean, in order to reclaim vast swaths of additional farmland.

The story is widely seen as an allegory on Fascism. But somehow, the most farfetched of this complicated plot is the one closest to reality: the part about emptying the Mediterranean.

In fact, the plan was a very seriously considered proposal, mapped out a few decades earlier by the German architect Herman Sörgel who devoted his whole life to promote his grand scheme to drain the Mediterranean and unite Europe and Africa into one super continent.

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