Wolf's Lair is Adolf Hitler’s war headquarters where he lived between June 1940 until November 1944. It is located nearby a town of Ketrzyn in the heart of the Masuria Lake District. It is a huge complex of 250 ha which consists of around 200 objects: barracks, shelters and bunkers, as well as two airports and a railway station. Power and water supply systems, asphaltic and concrete roads and lighting system made the complex a self-sufficient town in the middle of the forest, where Hitler is claimed to have spent more than 800 days. The complex even had a hair salon, cinema, sauna and a teahouse. Our guide will tell you about everyday life in the Lair and about many crucial decisions which were made here e.g. about creation of concentration camps. Although the retreating German troops blew up the whole complex in 1945, it is now preserved in a good condition, especially some of the bunkers inhabited by German dignitaries, for example the Goering bunker. On July 20th 1944 a famous assassination attempt took place in Wolf's Lair. You will visit the exact place where a German officer (Claus Von Stauffenberg) tried to kill Adolf Hitler by letting a bomb burst. The explosion killed four people. Hitler survived with his clothes singed, a cut to his hand and damaged ear drums. The assassination plot was depicted in the movie "Valkyrie" with Tom Cruise.
Wolf's Lair's location
When planning an attack on the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler wanted a suitable place from which he could successfully implement the so-called Barbarossa plan (the code name for the invasion of the Soviet Union). The decision to build the Wolf's Lair was made in the summer of 1940, when Colonel Rudolf Schmundt - the head of Hitler's adjutant, dr. Fritz Todt - Minister of Armaments and Ammunition and Major Gerhard Engel - Hitler's adjutant, carried out a reconnaissance of Gierloz forest. With surrounding lakes and swamps, the site located 8 kilometres east of the town of Ketrzyn was identified as ideal location for Hitler's war headquarters. The forest was situated far away from the communication routes, but near the border with the Soviet Union, which was of great strategic importance. The Masurian Lakes, stretching to the east of the forest, were a natural obstacle against the land forces. Also, East Prussia was one of the most fortified districts of the Third Reich. There were many fortresses in its area (Giżycko, Toruń, Kłajpeda, Pilawa) and the so-called fortified areas with anti-tank trenches and barbed wire entanglements.
Wolf's Lair Infrastructure
About 200 facilities were built on an area of 250 ha. These included air-raid shelters, lighter concrete and brick structures, and wooden barracks. The quarters had two landing pads and a railway station. The main landing site was located south of the Quarters, 6 km away near the town of Wilamowo. The second, backup one, was located near the village of Parcz. There were three entrances to the Quarters, guarded by guardhouses: from the east, west and south. The entire area is divided into three security zones. The area was perfectly masked. Most of the buildings built here had flat roofs with hollows from 10 to 30 cm. They were filled with earth, in which bushes were planted, grass was sown and artificial trees were set up. At the edges of the roofs of many buildings there were metal arches in the shape of an inverted "U" letter. Masking nets were stretched between them and the trees growing nearby. From the bird's eye view, the whole thing looked like a thick forest. The masking effectiveness was checked by means of aerial photographs. The walls of the buildings were covered with a mixture of seagrass and green dye, which, when the mortar was added, turned into a green, naturally irregular and porous plaster. Also, very sophisticated psychological masking was applied. It involved, among others, the fact that the people working on the construction of the Wolf's Lair had civilian passports. Until June 21, 1941, a Russian airline flying between Moscow and Berlin was allowed to fly over the Wolf's Lair. Thus, it was suggested that the facilities built in the forest could not have any significant military significance. The personal security of the Führer was supervised by the State Protection Service-RSD, the Chief Protection Battalion-FBB and other SS and Police units. The inhabitants and guests of the Wolf's Lair were guarded by anti-aircraft defense posts, minefields, barbed wire entanglements, and fixed and mobile posts placed in heavy bunkers.
Life in Wolf's Lair
Modern technical equipment, water supply system, sewage system, sewage treatment plant, command communications system, asphalt and concrete roads lit by lanterns, hairdresser, sauna, cinema, tea rooms, all this made "Wolf's Lair" a self-sufficient forest town. The living quarters were relatively modestly, but functionally furnished. Small work rooms, mostly lit by daylight, had paneled or plastered walls. The basic equipment included wardrobes made of wood, shelves for files, tables, chairs and stools. Most of the living quarters had parquet floors.
Hitler arrived at the Wolf's Lair with his entourage on June 24, 1941. Some of his visits to the Quarters lasted just a few days, the longest one a year and four months. In total, he spent over 800 days here. The life of all the inhabitants of the quarters focused around him. In 1944, the headquarters were inhabited by over two thousand people, of which only 20 were women (Ewa Braun never visited the Wolf's Lair).
Hitler stayed in Wolf's Lair on the following dates:
June 24, 1941 - July 16, 1942,
November 1, 1942 - November 7, 1942,
November 23, 1942 - February 17, 1943,
March 13, 1943 - March 19, 1943,
May 9, 1943 - May 21, 1943,
July 1, 1943 - July 18, 1943, J
uly 20, 1943 - February 27, 1944,
July 14, 1944 - November 20, 1944.
Faced with the threat of an attack by the approaching Soviet troops, on November 20, 1944, Adolf Hitler left Wolf's Lair forever. Two days later, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel gave the order to destroy the Wolf's Lair, codenamed "Blowing up the Island". On the night of January 24-25th 1945 the blowing up of shelters and barracks began. Two days later, on January 27, Red Army troops entered the Headquarters without firing a shot.
Operation Valkyrie - Hitler's Assasination Attempt
The activity of the military opposition group revived when it established contacts with the former mayor of Leipzig, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, and General Ludwicki Beck - leading opposition representatives. On June 4, 1944, Rome was liberated, two days later English and American troops landed in Normandy. At the beginning of July, the territories of the USSR were liberated and the Red Army entered Poland. A new character has appeared on the political scene. It was Colonel Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg. It was he who took the risk of assassinating Hitler and directing the coup in the country. The preparations for the coup, aimed at the removal of Hitler, were based on the use of a plan code-named "Valkyrie", which was provided in the event of a possible revolt by prisoners and forced laborers working in Germany. The plan approved by Hitler was, from the beginning, a legal camouflage and the basis of an intended military coup. With the help of the land forces (provided under the code name "Valkyrie" to suppress a possible rebellion), headed by Colonel Stauffenberg, it was planned to occupy the government district, the propaganda ministry, all important service posts, arrest officers, man the radio station and press offices. Stauffenberg and his adjutant Werner von Haeften arrived at the Wolf's Lair on July 20 in the morning. Around 12.15 Stauffenberg announced that he would like to refresh and change his shirt before the conference. John von Freyend made his room available to him for this purpose. Haeften went with Stauffenberg to the indicated room to help the one-armed disguise and prepare the explosives. A few minutes before 12.30, Stauffenberg went to the conference barrack. On the way, John von Freyend offered to help Stauffenberg with the briefcase, which the colonel flatly refused. Directly in front of the barrack, however, he handed over the briefcase to him, at the same time asking for a place as close to the Fuhrer as possible. The briefcase with the explosive charge was placed on the outside of the right table support, about 2.5-3 meters from Hitler. After a few minutes, Stauffenberg announced that he needed to call. The telephones were in the adjoining room. His adjutant left with him. There was an explosion when Stauffenberg and his adjutant got into the car. They easily left the Headquarters and flew back to Berlin. The explosive device placed by Colonel Stauffenberg completely devastated the interior of the conference room. There were broken chairs, broken glass, and scattered papers everywhere, and only a small fragment remained from the massive oak table top. In the place where the briefcase with the bomb stood, a funnel with a diameter of about 1.5 m was created in the ground. There were 24 people in the room at the time of the explosion. The participants of the conference felt the explosion as a powerful blast of air, accompanied by a deafening roar and a yellow-blue flame. The blast of air crushed almost everyone to the floor. After a few seconds, Hitler was found and evacuated from the smoky room. The Führer was suffering from a bleeding from his right elbow and a slightly rubbed cuticle on his left hand. Despite the fact that the eardrum was cracked, no serious damage to the hearing organ was found. However, he recovered relatively quickly. Already three hours after the attack, Hitler was able to meet Mussolini at the local train station. Stauffenberg and Haeften landed in Berlin convinced of the success of their mission. Gen. Olbricht announced the commencement of the action "Valkyrie". The coup attempt lasted about 7 hours and broke down at midnight. Count Claus von Stauffenberg was arrested and sentenced to death the same night around 0.30. The sentence was carried out without delay. The stenographer and three generals were fatally wounded as a result of the bomb explosion. As a result of sustained wounds, concussion or ruptured eardrums, most of the participants had to be treated in the Karolewo hospital
Wolf's Lair today
The Wolf's Lair is currently divided into 2 main areas, once known as “safety zones”, which tourists visit today. Historically there were 3 zones, but today it is worth going to the so-called "Zone I" - where Hitler and his entourage lived (entrance is paid), and to "Zone II", where there is no organized sightseeing and you can go on your own. Main sites are located in a fenced area.