Wolf's Lair

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Wolf's Lair
Wolfsschanze
Part of Führerhauptquartiere
Gierłoż Forest, Kętrzyn County, present-day Poland
Adolf Hitler's Bunker in Wolfsschanze.JPG
Hitler's reinforced bunker at the Wolfsschanze
Coordinates 54°04′49″N 21°29′39″E / 54.0804°N 21.4941°E / 54.0804; 21.4941Coordinates: 54°04′49″N 21°29′39″E / 54.0804°N 21.4941°E / 54.0804; 21.4941
Type Blast-resistant camouflaged concrete bunkers
Site information
Owner Polish Government
Controlled by Wilcze Gniazdo
Open to
the public
Yes
Condition Mostly destroyed (in ruins)
Site history
Built 1941 (1941)
(completed on 21 June 1941)
Built by Hochtief AG
Organisation Todt
In use 3½ years
Materials 2 m (6 ft 7 in) steel-reinforced concrete
Fate Partially demolished by retreating German forces 24–25 January 1945
Events 20 July Plot
Garrison information
Past
commanders
SS-Gruppenführer Johann Rattenhuber
Garrison Reichssicherheitsdienst
Führerbegleitbrigade
Occupants Adolf Hitler
Government of Nazi Germany
Oberkommando der Wehrmacht

Wolf's Lair (German: Wolfsschanze; Polish: Wilczy Szaniec) was Adolf Hitler's first Eastern Front military headquarters in World War II.[1] The complex, which became one of several Führerhauptquartiere (Führer Headquarters) in various parts of eastern Europe, was built for the start of Operation Barbarossa – the invasion of the Soviet Union – in 1941. It was constructed by Organisation Todt.[1]

The top secret, high security site was in the Masurian woods about 8 km (5.0 mi) east of the small East Prussian town of Rastenburg (now Kętrzyn, Poland). Three security zones surrounded the central complex where the Führer's bunker was located. These were guarded by personnel from the SS Reichssicherheitsdienst and the Wehrmacht's armoured Führerbegleitbrigade. Despite the security, the most notable assassination attempt against Hitler was made at the Wolf's Lair on 20 July 1944.[1]

Hitler first arrived at the headquarters on 23 June 1941. In total, he spent more than 800 days at the Wolfsschanze during a 3½-year period until his final departure on 20 November 1944.[1] In mid-1944, work began to enlarge and reinforce many of the Wolf's Lair original buildings. The work was never completed because of the rapid advance of the Red Army during the Baltic Offensive in late 1944. On 25 January 1945, the complex was blown up and abandoned 48 hours before the arrival of Soviet forces.[1]

Name[edit]

Wolfsschanze is derived from "Wolf", a self-adopted nickname of Hitler.[2] He began using the nickname in the early 1930s and it was often how he was addressed by those in his intimate circle. "Wolf" was used in several titles of Hitler's headquarters throughout occupied Europe, such as Wolfsschlucht I and II in Belgium and France and Werwolf in Ukraine.[3]

Although the standard translation in English is "Wolf's Lair," a Schanze in German denotes a sconce, redoubt or temporary fieldwork.

Layout[edit]

The decision was made in late 1940 to build the Wolf's Lair in the middle of a forest, far from major roads and urban areas. The 6.5 km2 (2.5 sq mi) complex was completed by 21 June 1941 and consisted of three concentric security zones.[4] About two thousand people lived and worked at the Wolf's Lair at its peak, among them twenty women,[4] some of whom were required to eat Hitler's food to test for poison.[5] The installations were served by a nearby airfield and railway lines. Buildings within the complex were camouflaged with bushes, grass, and artificial trees on the flat roofs; netting was also erected between buildings and the surrounding forest so that the installation looked like unbroken dense woodland from the air.[4]

  • Sperrkreis 1 (Security Zone 1) was located at the heart of the Wolf's Lair, ringed by steel fencing and guarded by the Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD). It contained the Führer Bunker and ten other camouflaged bunkers built from 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) thick steel-reinforced concrete. These shelters protected members of Hitler's inner circle such as Martin Bormann, Hermann Göring, Wilhelm Keitel, and Alfred Jodl. Hitler's accommodation was on the northern side of Führer Bunker so as to avoid direct sunlight. Both Hitler's and Keitel's bunkers had additional rooms where military conferences could be held.[1]
  • Sperrkreis 2 (Security Zone 2) surrounded the inner zone. This area housed the quarters of several Reich Ministers such as Fritz Todt, Albert Speer, and Joachim von Ribbentrop. It also housed the quarters of the personnel who worked in the Wolf's Lair and the military barracks for the RSD.
  • Sperrkreis 3 (Security Zone 3) was the heavily fortified outer security area which surrounded the two inner zones. It was defended by land mines and the Führer Begleit Brigade (FBB), a special armoured security unit from Wehrmacht which manned guard houses, watchtowers, and checkpoints.

A facility for Army headquarters was also located near the Wolf's lair complex.[1]

The RSD had overall responsibility for Hitler's personal security, although external protection of the complex was provided by the FBB, which had become a regiment by July 1944. The FBB was equipped with tanks, anti-aircraft guns, and other heavy weapons. Any approaching aircraft could be detected up to 100 kilometres (62 mi) from the Wolf's Lair. Additional troops were also stationed about 75 kilometres (47 mi) away.[4]


Reinforcements[edit]

Hitler meeting Reich Commissioner Robert Ley, automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche, and Reichsminister Hermann Göring at the Wolfsschanze in 1942

Hitler's secretary Traudl Junge recalled that Hitler spoke repeatedly in late 1943 or early 1944 of a possible bomber attack on the Wolfsschanze by the Western Allies. She quoted Hitler as saying, "They know exactly where we are, and sometime they’re going to destroy everything here with carefully aimed bombs. I expect them to attack any day." [6]

Hitler’s entourage returned to the Wolfsschanze from an extended summer stay at the Berghof in July 1944. The previous small bunkers had been replaced by the Organisation Todt with "heavy, colossal structures" of reinforced concrete as defense against the feared air attack.[7] According to Armaments Minister Albert Speer, "some 36,000,000 marks were spent for bunkers in Rastenburg [Wolf's Lair]." [8] Hitler’s bunker had become the largest, "a positive fortress" containing "a maze of passages, rooms and halls." Junge wrote, "We had air-raid warnings every day" in the period between the 20 July assassination attempt and Hitler's final departure from the Wolfsschanze in November 1944, "but there was never more than a single aircraft circling over the forest, and no bombs were dropped. All the same, Hitler took the danger very seriously, and thought all these reconnaissance flights were in preparation for the big raid he was expecting."[9]

No air attack ever came. It has never been revealed whether the Western Allies knew of the Wolfsschanze's location and importance. The Soviet Union was unaware of both the location and the scale of the complex until it was uncovered by their forces in their advance towards Germany in early 1945.[10]

Hitler's daily routine[edit]

Hitler would begin his day when he was in residence by taking a walk alone with his dog around 9 or 10 am, and at 10:30 am he looked at the mail that had been delivered by air or courier train.[4] A noon situation briefing was convened in Keitel's and Jodl's bunker and frequently ran for two hours. This was followed by lunch at 2 pm in the dining hall. Hitler invariably sat in the same seat between Jodl and Otto Dietrich, while Keitel, Martin Bormann, and Göring's adjutant General Karl Bodenschatz sat opposite him.[1]

After lunch, Hitler dealt with non-military matters for the remainder of the afternoon. Coffee was served around 5 pm, followed by a second military briefing by Jodl at 6 pm. Dinner could also last as long as two hours, beginning at 7:30 pm, after which films were shown in the cinema. Hitler then retired to his private quarters where he gave monologues to his entourage, including the two female secretaries who had accompanied him to the Wolf's Lair.[11] Occasionally, Hitler and his entourage listened to gramophone records of Beethoven symphonies, selections from Wagner or other operas, or German lieder.[1]

According to Speer, between 28 July 1941 and 20 March 1942, Hitler left Rastenburg only four times for a total of 57 days. Afterwards, Hitler spent the next three months in Obersalzberg before returning to Rastenburg for the next 9 months.[12]

Notable visitors[edit]

Assassination attempt[edit]

Claus von Stauffenberg (far left) meeting Adolf Hitler at the Wolfsschanze five days before the 20 July plot in 1944

In July 1944, an attempt was made to kill Hitler at the Wolf's Lair which became known as the 20 July plot. It was organized by a group of acting and retired Heer officers and some civilians who wanted to remove Hitler in order to establish a new government in Germany. After several failed attempts to kill him, the Wolf's Lair was chosen as a viable location, despite its security. Staff officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg would carry a briefcase bomb into a daily conference meeting and place it just a few feet away from Hitler.

The location was changed to a briefing building (Lagebaracke) on the day of the strategy meeting due to the reconstruction of the Führer Bunker in mid-1944. Stauffenberg's assassination attempt was unsuccessful because of this alternate venue, along with several other factors, such as Hitler unexpectedly calling the meeting earlier than anticipated. The bomb exploded at 12:43 pm; the interior of the building was devastated, but Hitler was only slightly injured. Four people died from their wounds a few days later.

Before the bomb detonated, Stauffenberg and his adjutant Lieutenant Werner von Haeften had already begun to leave the Wolfsschanze in order to return to Berlin. Their escape involved passing through various security zones that controlled all access around the site. After a short delay at the RSD guard post just outside Sperrkreis 1, they were allowed to leave by vehicle. The two officers were then driven down the southern exit road towards the military airstrip near Rastenburg (at 54°2′36″N 21°25′57″E / 54.04333°N 21.43250°E / 54.04333; 21.43250).

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring surveys the conference room destroyed by the suitcase bomb left by Claus von Stauffenberg on 20 July 1944

The alarm had been raised by the time they reached the guard house at the perimeter of Sperrkreis 2. According to the official RSHA report, "at first the guard refused passage until Stauffenberg persuaded him to contact the adjutant to the compound commander who then finally authorized clearance". It was between here and the final checkpoint of Sperrkreis 3 that Haeften tossed another briefcase from the car containing an unused second bomb. The two men reached the outer limit of the Wolfsschanze security zones and were allowed to catch their plane back to army general headquarters in Berlin.

The attempted assassination of Hitler at the Wolf Lair was part of Operation Valkyrie, a covert plan to take control and suppress any revolt in the German Reich following Hitler's death. News arrived from the Wolf's Lair that Hitler was still alive, and troops loyal to the Nazi regime quickly re-established control of key government buildings. Von Stauffenberg, his adjutant Werner von Haeften, and several co-conspirators were arrested and shot the same evening outside the Bendlerblock in Berlin.

On 20 August 1944, Hitler personally presented survivors of the bomb blast with a gold "20 July 1944 Wound Badge". Next-of-kin of those killed in the blast were also given this award.

Demise and capture[edit]

Enormous amounts of explosives were used by the retreating Germans to blow up the Wolfsschanze bunkers. Here the explosion has lifted a bunker's roof, made of solid ferro-concrete two meters thick.

The Red Army reached the borders of East Prussia during the Baltic Offensive in October 1944. Hitler departed from the Wolf's Lair for the final time on 20 November when the Soviet advance reached Angerburg (now Węgorzewo), only 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) away. Two days later, the order was given to destroy the complex. The demolition did not take place until the night of 24–25 January 1945, ten days after the start of the Red Army's Vistula–Oder Offensive. Tons of explosives were used; one bunker required an estimated 8,000 kg (18,000 lb) of TNT. Most of the buildings were only partially destroyed due to their immense size and reinforced structures.

The Red Army captured the abandoned remains of the Wolfsschanze on 27 January without firing a shot, the same day that Auschwitz was liberated farther south. It took until 1955 to clear over 54,000 land mines that surrounded the installation.[4]

Historical site[edit]

The area was cleared of abandoned ordnance such as land mines following the war, and the entire site was left to decay by Poland's Communist government. The Wolf's Lair has been developed as a tourist attraction since the Fall of Communism in the early 1990s. Visitors can make day trips from Warsaw or Gdańsk.[49] Hotels and restaurants have grown up near the site.[50] Plans have periodically been proposed to restore the area, including the installation of historical exhibits.[51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kershaw 2000[page needed]
  2. ^ Antony Beevor (2001). Stalingrad. London: Penguin Books. p. 97. ISBN 0-14-100131-3. As an alternative to Wolfsschanze at Rastenburg, it was code-named Werwolf. (The word Wolf, an old German version of Adolf, clearly gave the Führer an atavistic thrill.) 
  3. ^ John Toland (1978). Adolf Hitler. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 978. ISBN 0-345-27385-0. Hitler moved his headquarters deep into the Ukraine […] a few miles northeast of Vinnitsa. Christened Werwolf by himself, it was an uncamouflaged collection of wooden huts located in a dreary area. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Wolf's Lair website
  5. ^ Claire Cohen (18 September 2014). "Last surviving female food taster, 96: 'I never saw Hitler, but I had to risk my life for him every day'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  6. ^ Junge, Traudl (2003). Until the Final Hour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 116. 
  7. ^ Junge, Traudl. Until the Final Hour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003, p. 126.
  8. ^ Speer, A: Inside the Third Reich, p.217
  9. ^ Junge, Traudl. Until the Final Hour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003, p. 145.
  10. ^ Berlin: The Fateful Siege, Antony Beevor
  11. ^ Eva Braun never came to the Wolf's Lair.
  12. ^ Speer, Albert (1995). Inside the Third Reich. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 401. ISBN 9781842127353. 
  13. ^ : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, 11 February 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  14. ^ : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, 10–13 January 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  15. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 5–6 August 1944, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  16. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 24 March 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  17. ^ 14/15.08.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  18. ^ : Image-No.: 50059436 (search inside)., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 29 May 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  19. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 5 November 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  20. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 25 October 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  21. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 18 December 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  22. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 17 August 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  23. ^ : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, 15 July 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  24. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 7 May 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  25. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, October 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  26. ^ : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, 8 September 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  27. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 16 May 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  28. ^ : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, 6 June 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  29. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 18–19 October 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  30. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 21 July 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  31. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 19 December 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  32. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 8 December 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  33. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 26 May 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  34. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 27–28 June 1942, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  35. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 11 September 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  36. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 8 January 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  37. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 7 December 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  38. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 25 August 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  39. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 28 August 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  40. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 14 September 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  41. ^ : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, 20 July 1944, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  42. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 18 September 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  43. ^ a b : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 30 July 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  44. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 15 July 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  45. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, July 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  46. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 4 September 1944, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  47. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 20 October 1941, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  48. ^ : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, 6 July 1943, retrieved 20 September 2013 
  49. ^ Wolf’s Lair trips from Warsaw
  50. ^ Wolf's Lair amenities Archived 25 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  51. ^ Restoring the Walls and the History at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair

Bibliography

  • Junge, Traudl, "Bis Zur Letzten Stunde: Hitlers Sekretärin erzählt ihr Leben", München: Claassen, 2002, pp. 131, 141, 162.
  • Junge, Traudl, "Until the Final Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary", London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2003, pp. 116, 126, 145.
  • Junge, Traudl, "Voices from the Bunker", New York: G.P.Puttnam's sons, 1989.

External links[edit]