Hitler’s “Wolf’s Lair” As It Is Today – The Military Headquarters for the Eastern Front (Pictures & Video)

 
 
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The Wolf’s Lair, or the in German Wolfsschanze, was one of many Fuhrer’s Headquarters located near the Eastern Front. Adolf Hitler did not want to repeat the mistake from World War I of commanding the army from a distant location (it was one of the reasons why Germany lost the Great War) and wanted to be close to the front and the soldiers.

The Wolf’s Lair was built in 1941 and was ready on May for the Fuhrer’s first visit. Hitler was gravely mistaken that Operation Barbarossa would take only a few months and as the war continued – the upgrading of Hitler’s headquarters continued as well. Some of the work was conducted by local companies, but the most important and secret tasks were executed directly by companies from the Third Reich.

The construction lasted to 1944. It took a workforce of 2,000 to 3,000 people working at any given time, most them Prisoners of War from Poland, Norway, France and Russia. Forced laborers did not work there for more than six months at a time due to security reasons; afterward, workers were sent mostly to the Death Camps.

Adolf Hitler with his staff including Keitel, Jodl, Bormann, and others at Wolf's Lair, Rastenburg, East Prussia, Germany, Jun 1940 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R99057 / o. Ang. / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de)
Adolf Hitler with his staff including Keitel, Jodl, Bormann, and others at Wolf’s Lair, Rastenburg, East Prussia, Germany, Jun 1940 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R99057 / o. Ang. / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

The location of Wolf’s Lair was carefully chosen by the Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition and the founder of Organisation Todt, Dr. Fritz Todt with the help two of his adjutants, Engel and Rudolf Schmundt. A forest 8 km on East from Rastenburg (Polish Kętrzyn) was his choice. The 6.5 km2 (2.5 mi2) complex consisted of three concentric security zones; Security Zone 1 was in the heart of the Wolf’s Lair, Security Zone 2 surrounded the inner zone and Security Zone 3 was the heavily fortified outer security area which surrounded the two inner zones.

In addition, it was defended by land mines and the Führer Begleit Brigade, a special armoured security unit from Wehrmacht which manned guard houses, watchtowers, and checkpoints.

Model of Wolf's Lair(© Marek i Ewa Wojciechowscy / Trips over Poland, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia )
Model of Wolf’s Lair(© Marek i Ewa Wojciechowscy / Trips over Poland, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia)

No air attack ever came. Whether the Western Allies knew of the Wolfsschanze’s location and importance has never been revealed. For its part, the Soviet Union was unaware of both the location and scale of the complex until it was uncovered by their forces in their advance towards Germany in early 1945.

The only attack on the headquarters came from the inside, commonly known as 20 July plot, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler perpetrated by Claus von Stauffenberg and other conspirators. The name Operation Valkyrie, originally referring to only a part of the conspiracy, has become associated with the entire event. As we all know, the attempt was unsuccessful.

The conference room at the Wolf's Lair soon after the assassination attempt (Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1972-025-10 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de / Wikipedia)
The conference room at the Wolf’s Lair soon after the assassination attempt (Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1972-025-10 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de / Wikipedia)
The biggest building in the Wolf's Lair. Note the ceiling thickness (Przemyslaw 'Blueshade' Idzkiewicz. - en:Image:Wolfsschanze, Gierloz, Poland 2.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia )
The entrance to the Wolf’s Lair. Note the ceiling thickness (Przemyslaw ‘Blueshade’ Idzkiewicz. – en:Image:Wolfsschanze, Gierloz, Poland 2.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia )

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As the complex never was completed, so there is no ultimate image of the Wolf’s Lair. The current one was created in 1944 and has been available for tourists since 1959. Additional damage was caused by Polish sappers removing explosives from the area after the war.

(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
In total, there were 80 buildings and 100 wooden barracks (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
20 July plot that killed 4 people led to the arrest of at least 7,000 people by the Gestapo (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
According to records of the Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 of these were executed (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
Swamps and woods surrounding the Wolfsschanze (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
In total, Fuhrer spent more than 800 days at the Wolfsschanze until his final departure on 20 November 1944 (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
Wolfsschanze is derived from “Wolf,” a self-adopted nickname of Hitler. He began using the nickname in the early 1930s and it was often how he was addressed by those in his intimate circle (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
The Red Army captured the abandoned remains of the Wolfsschanze on 27th January without firing a shot, the same day that Auschwitz was liberated further south (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
It took until 1955 to clear over 54,000 land mines that surrounded the installation and lives of few Polish sappers (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
Since the Fall of Communism in the early 1990s, the Wolf’s Lair has been developed as a tourist attraction (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
Annually, 180,000 – 200,000 tourists visit the place (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
(Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
On 25th January 1945, the complex was blown up and abandoned 48 hours before the arrival of Soviet forces (Credit: Guy Pichard / http://guypichard-bzh.fr)
Location within present-day borders (By Original uploader was Kelisi at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3813795)
Location within present-day borders ( By Original uploader was Kelisi at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia)

All pictures by Guy Pichard – used with his kind permission.

Check out this color footage of Hitler and his close associates at the Wolf’s Lair during WW2

 
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