Eight kilometers from Kętrzyn, hidden among the Mazurian forests, is one of the most interesting military objects in Europe. We are talking about the famous Wolf’s Lair, the former secret headquarters of Hitler, which witnessed, among other things, the attack on the Soviet Union and the assassination attempt on the leader of the Third Reich. Below, we have compiled a collection of facts and interesting information describing this place.
The complex known as the Wolf’s Lair covered an area of about 250 hectares. It consisted of approximately 200 buildings, including shelters, barracks, two airports, a railway station, a power station, water supply systems, heating plants, and two telegraph centers. The concrete walls of the bunkers were several meters thick to provide the possibility of surviving enemy fire or an air raid. Hitler’s bunker had a ceiling thickness of up to 10 meters and walls up to 8 meters thick.
A total of 30,000 to 50,000 people worked on the construction site. By 1944, over 2,000 people worked there, including only 20 women. Interestingly, Eva Braun, Hitler’s wife, never stayed at the Wolf’s Lair.
The location was chosen deliberately as it was located far enough eastward that it was not threatened by British air raids at the beginning of the war. At the same time, it was possible to coordinate later military activities on the Eastern front.
The Wolf’s Lair was perfectly camouflaged. Its location was favorable, surrounded by lakes and forests, and the buildings were carefully disguised. The whole complex was carefully fenced, and no one could approach it. The perfection of the camouflage is evidenced by the fact that the Wolf’s Lair has never been bombed.
Thanks to the surrounding forests, the buildings were practically invisible from the air. However, in winter, when the leaves fell, German engineers covered the buildings with mortar mixed with seagrass brought especially from the Black Sea. In this way, the falling snow stopped in the plaster’s cavities, and the buildings masked themselves.
The German leadership was so confident in the effective concealment of the Wolf’s Lair from the prying eyes of outsiders that after the construction of this headquarters, airplanes flying from Berlin to Moscow flew right over it. This was a psychological ploy designed to show the world that there was definitely no military object under Kętrzyn.
At the beginning of its existence, the “Wolfsschanze” served Adolf Hitler as a command center during Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. The German dictator arrived there for the first time on June 24, two days after the war began with its former ally.
As the front progressed in Russia, the Germans built another headquarters for Hitler in Ukraine, but it was no longer such an engineering masterpiece as the complex in Masuria. The Wolf’s Lair remained Hitler’s favorite field headquarters, where he stayed (with breaks) for over 800 days: from June 1941 to November 1944. At the end of the war, as Germany lost its conquered territories on the Eastern Front, the headquarters was moved to Zossen near Berlin on November 20, 1944.
Hitler traveled to the Wolf’s Lair by air or by train from Berlin to Kętrzyn. The route of the Führer’s train was often changed at the last minute and kept secret because of fears of an assassination attempt. As it turned out, this habit saved him at least once: in the spring of 1942, Polish partisans learned of Hitler’s planned train ride and carried out a sabotage operation to derail the train. Sources indicate that the plan was successful, but due to a change in the route of the Reich’s leader, a regular train traveling from Königsberg to Szczecin was mistakenly derailed, with 430 Germans on board.
The Wolf’s Lair was the site of the famous assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in the room where a meeting of the highest-ranking Wehrmacht commanders was taking place. The plan failed because the high temperature that day forced the meeting to be moved from a concrete bunker to a lightweight barracks, and the shockwave did not stop at the walls of the structure but dispersed, weakening in the process. Additionally, the thick oak table shielded Hitler from the blast, and the German dictator was only slightly injured, while Stauffenberg and the other conspirators were immediately captured and executed.
In addition to Hitler, other Nazi dignitaries also visited the Wolf’s Lair, including Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Fritz Todt, and Albert Speer.
When the Germans withdrew from Masuria, they decided to blow up the Wolf’s Lair. It took around 8 tons of TNT to destroy the complex.
The area around the Wolf’s Lair was completely cleared of mines only in 1955. Engineers had to deal with 54,000 mines on 72 hectares of forest and 52 hectares of land.
Today, the Wolf’s Lair is a tourist attraction visited by over 250,000 people annually. We encourage you to see the complex for yourself. Below is a map and a link to website with information for tourists