Wolf's Lair

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Wolf's Lair
Wolfsschanze
Part of Führerhauptquartiere
Forest Gierłoż, Rastenburg, Poland
Wolfsschanze, Gierloz, Poland 2.jpg
Entrance to the Führer Bunker at the Wolfsschanze.
Wolf's Lair is located in Poland
Location within Poland
TypeBlast-resistant camouflaged concrete bunkers
Coordinates54°04′46″N 21°29′37″E / 54.079344°N 21.493544°E / 54.079344; 21.493544Coordinates: 54°04′46″N 21°29′37″E / 54.079344°N 21.493544°E / 54.079344; 21.493544
Built1941 (1941)
Built byHochtief AG
Organisation Todt
Construction
materials
2 m (6 ft 7 in) steel-reinforced concrete
In useThird Reich
Demolished24-25 January 1945
Current
condition
Destroyed
Current
owner
Polish Government
Open to
the public
Yes
OccupantsAdolf Hitler
Events20 July Plot
WolfsLairMap.png
Location within present-day borders of the Wolf's Lair.
 
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Wolf's Lair
Wolfsschanze
Part of Führerhauptquartiere
Forest Gierłoż, Rastenburg, Poland
Wolfsschanze, Gierloz, Poland 2.jpg
Entrance to the Führer Bunker at the Wolfsschanze.
Wolf's Lair is located in Poland
Location within Poland
TypeBlast-resistant camouflaged concrete bunkers
Coordinates54°04′46″N 21°29′37″E / 54.079344°N 21.493544°E / 54.079344; 21.493544Coordinates: 54°04′46″N 21°29′37″E / 54.079344°N 21.493544°E / 54.079344; 21.493544
Built1941 (1941)
Built byHochtief AG
Organisation Todt
Construction
materials
2 m (6 ft 7 in) steel-reinforced concrete
In useThird Reich
Demolished24-25 January 1945
Current
condition
Destroyed
Current
owner
Polish Government
Open to
the public
Yes
OccupantsAdolf Hitler
Events20 July Plot
WolfsLairMap.png
Location within present-day borders of the Wolf's Lair.

Wolf's Lair (German: Wolfsschanze) was Adolf Hitler's first Eastern Front military headquarters in World War II.[1] The complex, which would become one of several Führerhauptquartiere (Führer Headquarters) located in various parts of occupied 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 5 miles (8.0 km) from the small East Prussian town of Rastenburg (now Kętrzyn in Poland). It was guarded by personnel from the SS Reichssicherheitsdienst and troops from the Wehrmacht's armoured Führer Begleit Brigade. Although three security zones surrounded the central complex where the Führer bunker was located, an attempt to kill Hitler was made at 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 the summer of 1944, work began to enlarge and reinforce many of the Wolf's Lair original buildings, however the work was never completed because of the rapid advance of the Red Army during the Baltic Offensive in autumn 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 Werwolf in Ukraine.[3]

Although the standard name in English for Wolfsschanze is "Wolf's Lair", the German name does not actually mean this. Schanze is a term from military engineering and is best translated as "fortification" or "sconce".

Layout[edit]

The decision to build the Wolf's Lair was made in the autumn of 1940. Built in the middle of a forest, it was located far from major roads and urban areas. The 6.5 km2 (2.5 sq mi) complex, which was completed by June 21, 1941, 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] The installations were served by a nearby airfield and train lines. Buildings within the complex were camouflaged with bushes, grass and artificial trees planted on the flat roofs; netting was also erected between buildings and the surrounding forest so from the air, the installation looked like unbroken dense woodland.[4]

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

Although the RSD had overall responsibility for Hitler's personal security, 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]

1. Office and barracks of Hitler's bodyguard
2. RSD command center
3. Emergency generator
4. Bunker
5. Office of Otto Dietrich, Hitler's press secretary
6. Conference room, site 20 July 1944 assassination attempt
7. RSD command post
8. Hitler's bunker and air-raid shelter
9. RSD command post
10. Secretariat under Philipp Bouhler
11. Headquarters of Johann Rattenhuber, SS chief of Hitler's security department, and Post Office
12. Radio and telex buildings
13. Vehicle garages
14. Rail siding for Hitler's Train
15. Cinema
16. Generator buildings
17. Quarters of Morell, Bodenschatz, Hewel, Voß, Wolff and Fegelein
18. Stores
19. Residence of Martin Bormann, Hitler's personal secretary
20. Bormann's personal air-raid shelter for himself and staff
21. Office of Hitler's adjutant and the Wehrmacht's personnel office
22. Military and staff mess II
23. Quarters of General Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations of OKW
24. Firefighting pond
25. Office of the Foreign Ministry
26. Quarters of Fritz Todt, then after his death Albert Speer
27. RSD command post
28. Air-raid shelter with Flak and MG units on the roof
29. Military and staff mess I
30. New tearoom
31. Residence of General Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, supreme commander of OKW
32. Old Teahouse
33. Residence of Reich Marshal Hermann Göring
34. Göring's personal air-raid shelter for himself and staff, with Flak and MG on the roof
35. Offices of the High Command of the Air Force
36. Offices of the High command of the Navy
37. Bunker with Flak
38. Ketrzyn railway line

Reinforcements[edit]

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

Traudl Junge, one of Hitler's secretaries, recalled that in late 1943 or early 1944, Hitler spoke repeatedly of the possibility of a devastating 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." [5]

When 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.[6] According to Armaments Minister Albert Speer, "some 36,000,000 marks were spent for bunkers in Rastenburg [Wolf's Lair]." [7] Hitler’s bunker had become the largest, "a positive fortress" containing "a maze of passages, rooms and halls." Junge said in the period between the July 20 assassination attempt and Hitler's final departure from the Wolfsschanze in November 1944: "we had air-raid warnings every day [...] 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."[8]

No air attack ever came. Whether the Western Allies knew of the Wolfsschanze's location and importance has never been revealed.

Hitler's daily routine[edit]

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

After lunch, Hitler would deal 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, which could also last as long as two hours, began at 7:30 pm, after which films were shown in the cinema. Hitler would then retire to his private quarters where he would give monologues to his entourage, including the two female secretaries who had accompanied him to the Wolf's Lair.[9] Occasionally Hitler and his entourage listened to gramophone records of Beethoven symphonies, selections from Wagner or other operas, or German lieder.[1]

Notable visitors[edit]

Assassination attempt[edit]

Reichsminister Hermann Göring surveys the destroyed conference room at the Wolfsschanze, July 1944.

In July 1944, an attempt was made to kill Hitler at the Wolf's Lair. The assassination, which became known as the 20 July plot, was organized by a group of acting and retired Heer Army officers and some civilians who wanted to remove Hitler in order to establish a new governance in Germany. After several failed attempts to kill Hitler, the Wolf's Lair - despite its security - was chosen as a viable location. 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.

However due to the reconstruction of the Führer Bunker in the summer of 1944, the location was changed to a building known as the Lager barrack on the day of the strategy meeting. This alternate venue along with several other factors, such as Hitler unexpectedly calling the meeting earlier than anticipated, meant Stauffenberg's attempt would prove unsuccessful. At 12:43 pm, when the bomb exploded, the interior of the building was devastated but Hitler was only slightly injured. Four other people present 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). However by the time they reached the guard house at the perimeter of Sperrkreis 2, the alarm had been sounded. According to the official RHSA 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. On reaching the outer limit of the Wolfsschanze security zones, the two men 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. However once news arrived from the Wolf's Lair that the Führer was still alive, the plan failed as 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.

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

Demise[edit]

Enormous amounts of explosives were used to blow up the Wolfsschanze bunkers. Here the explosion has lifted a bunker's roof, made of 2-meter-thick solid ferro-concrete.

In October 1944 the Red Army reached the borders of East Prussia during the Baltic Offensive. 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. However the actual 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. Despite the use of tons of explosives - one bunker required an estimated 8,000 kg (18,000 lb) of TNT - most of the complex buildings were only partially destroyed due 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 Auschwitz was liberated. It took until 1955 to clear over 54,000 land mines which surrounded the installation.[4]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  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. ^ Junge, Traudl (2003). Until the Final Hour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 116. 
  6. ^ Junge, Traudl. Until the Final Hour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003, p. 126.
  7. ^ Speer, A: Inside the Third Reich, p.217
  8. ^ Junge, Traudl. Until the Final Hour. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003, p. 145.
  9. ^ Eva Braun never came to the Wolf's Lair.
  10. ^ 11.02.1942, : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  11. ^ 10-13.01.1943, : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  12. ^ 05/06.08.1944, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  13. ^ 24.03.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  14. ^ 14/15.08.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  15. ^ 29.05.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  16. ^ 05.11.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  17. ^ 25.10.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  18. ^ 18.12.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  19. ^ 17.08.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  20. ^ 28.10.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  21. ^ 15.07.1942, : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  22. ^ 07.05.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  23. ^ ??.10.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  24. ^ 08.09.1941, : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  25. ^ 16.05.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  26. ^ 06.06.1942, : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  27. ^ 18/19.10.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  28. ^ 21.07.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  29. ^ 19.12.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  30. ^ 08.12.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  31. ^ 26.05.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  32. ^ 27/28.06.1942, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  33. ^ 11.09.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  34. ^ 08.01.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  35. ^ 07.12.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  36. ^ 25.08.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  37. ^ 28.08.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  38. ^ 14.09.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  39. ^ 20.07.1944, : pict., publisher (pl): National Digital Archives, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  40. ^ 18.09.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  41. ^ 30.07.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  42. ^ 15.07.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  43. ^ end of july 1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  44. ^ 04.09.1944, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  45. ^ 20.10.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  46. ^ 11.09.1941, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 
  47. ^ 06.07.1943, : pict., publisher (de): Prussian Heritage Image Archive, retrieved 20.09.2013 

References[edit]

Sources
Documentary

External links[edit]