The Wolf’s Lair: a Historical Monument Which Is Doomed to Disappear
The Wolf’s Lair is a historical monument with a shrouded past. Here tourists can take a walk around the remaining ruins, to dine at a restaurant located in one of the former bunkers, and to book a room for an overnight stay in a nearby hotel.
The Wolf’s Lair (German: Wolfsschanze) is located in present-day Poland, close to a town that once was an old Prussian settlement (Polish: Kętrzyn). It was no accident that Adolf Hitler choose this location: the dense forest hid the buildings well, and the existing railroad was perfect for the supply of building materials and for human transportation. Swampy areas and lakes were meant to hinder the enemy soldiers’ attacks of the buildings. Moreover, 3 military airports meant to protect from air attacks were near the Wolf’s Lair.
Construction of the Wolf’s Lair started in the spring of 1940. The Todt organisation, founded by the Minister of Armaments Fritz Todt, had been entrusted with the entire construction. In order for the construction to go smoothly and that no one around would know about the real purpose of this construction Germans informed the people that construction of a poisonous chemical plant named Askania was being performed. Construction took place from the spring of 1940 until the 20th of November, 1944. During this period of time 200 buildings of various purposes had been built. The complex included residential buildings, offices, hotels for German military officers, railroad, station, cinema, casino, sauna, storage houses, etc.; among them were 7 huge bunkers, several medium-sized bunkers, and a few dozen smaller bunkers.
The bunkers were meant to protect from air attacks, therefore, their sizes were impressive: 50 m length, 30 m width, 20 m height. Wall thickness was 4-6 meters, and roof thickness was 6-8 meters. Hitler’s own bunker width was as thick as 10-12 meters; the walls had two reinforced concrete sheathings. The thickness of the first and second sheathing was 4 meters. There was a gap between the sheathings filled with stone rubble so that the structure, when strictly necessary, could amortise. Approximately 8 people could fit in each bunker. There was enough space for a couple of rooms only. After the war American scientists have calculated that the bunker would have been able to withstand an explosive force of an atomic bomb dropped directly on it, like the one that was dropped on Hiroshima.
The Wolf’s Lair was like a city, which had its own power plant, water supply, heating, and air cleaning systems, as well as a telephone connection with Berlin and the front line. It was a 2,5 square kilometres area, plus 8 square kilometres of the forest. The entire territory of the Wolf’s Lair was surrounded by a minefield. Demining processes took place until 1956. During these processes 54 000 mines and 200 000 pieces of ammunition had been discovered. When building the Wolf’s Lair a lot of attention was given to camouflage of the buildings; the walls were painted green and planted with grass, shrubs and trees. From time to time control flights above the buildings took place in order to evaluate the camouflage; photos were taken and the defects were corrected immediately.
The first time Adolf Hitler and the cream of German military arrived to the Wolf’s Lair was on the 24th of June, 1941. For 3,5 years Hitler lead his military from this location exactly, going to Berlin only on rare occasions. The Fuhrer (a.k.a. Hitler) had spent 800 days in the Wolf’s Lair; this was the exact location where his assassination attempt took place.
On the 20th of July, 1944 Claus von Staffenberg had attempted to assassinate Hitler in this bunker.
The assassination attempt was portrayed in the film called „Valkyrie“. Hitler was only a hair’s breadth away from getting killed by Germans themselves. Realising that Germany was going to lose the war, after long considerations the part of the Nazi military opposing Hitler decided to try and blow up the Fuhrer in his own headquarters. Claus von Staffenberg arrived to the meeting in the Wolf’s Lair. He had a bomb with a timing mechanism. During the meeting all the participants had gathered around a wooden table on which, in a map military actions were being discussed. Claus von Staffenberg placed the briefcase under the table and left the room, pretending to have received a call. A few minutes later, already outside, he heard an explosion. Thinking that Hitler had died he went from the Wolf’s Lair to Berlin where everything was already prepared for an operation: government takeover.
Only when Stauffenberg was in Berlin he learned that Hitler did not die. Of all 25 people present during the assassination attempt four military officers died and eleven were injured. The Fuhrer would have died if the meeting had taken place in his bunker (at the time it was being refurbished) and not in a masonry-wooden building; the explosive force in the enclosed space would have been much stronger.
Stauffenberg was arrested in Berlin together with other three military officers. The following night he was shot dead. On the 20th of November, 1944 Hitler and his entire military left the Wolf’s Lair. Shortly after the departure general field-marshal Keitel ordered to detonate all the buildings so that the approaching Russian military would not be able to use them. Detonation of the bunkers took place on the 24th of January, 1945. 10 tons of explosives had been brought to the bunker’s rooms and the bunker was detonated from the inside. During the explosion some concrete blocks, weighing as much as 10 tons, had been scattered within a 100 m radius, and the enormous bunker walls had parted. Some bunkers were driven into the ground up to 1-2 meters.
Currently the Wolf’s Lair is visited by around 200 000 people yearly.
- You can feel the spirit of those times by booking a hotel, here.
- Working hours: open all year round from 8 a.m. until sunset.