The complex called “the Wolf’s Lair” covered an area of about 250 ha. It consisted of about 200 buildings: shelters, barracks, two airports, railway station, power station, water supply system, and heating plant. Concrete bunker walls were several metres thick to give the possibility of surviving enemy fire or an air raid. Hitler’s bunker had a ceiling thickness of up to 10 metres and walls up to 8 metres thick.
A total of 30,000 to 50,000 people worked on the construction site. By 1944, more than 2000 people worked there, including only 20 women. Interestingly enough, Eva Braun (Hitler’s wife) never stayed in the Wolf’s Lair.
It was not a coincidence that this location was chosen – the complex was located so far eastwards that at the beginning of the war it was not threatened by the British air raids. At the same time, it was possible to coordinate later military activities on the eastern front.
The Wolf’s Lair was perfectly masked. The location of the village was favorable for him: on the one hand, it is surrounded by lakes and on the other, it is surrounded by forests. The buildings were carefully camouflaged, and the whole complex was carefully fenced and no one could approach it. The perfection of the masking 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, the leaves are being lost, so German engineers covered the buildings with mortar with added seagrass, brought especially from the Black Sea. In this way the falling snow stopped in the cavities of the plaster and buildings were masking themselves.
The German command was so sure that it was possible to hide the Wolf’s Lair so effectively from the outsiders’ sight that, after its construction, all planes from Berlin to Moscow were flying above the complex. It was a psychological game supposed to show the world that there is certainly no military object near Kętrzyn.
At the beginning of its existence, “Wolfsschanze” served Adolf Hitler as the place of command during Operation Barbarossa – the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. The German dictator was there for the first time on 24 June, two days after the beginning of the war with a recent ally.
As the German offensive on the Russian front progressed, their engineers built another headquarters for Hitler in Ukraine, but it was not such an engineering masterpiece as the complex near Kętrzyn. The Wolf’s Lair remained the führer’s favourite headquarters, in which he stayed (with breaks) for over 800 days: from June 1941 to November 1944. At the end of the war Germans were losing their conquered lands on the eastern front, so on November 20, 1944 the command center was moved to Zossen, near Berlin.
Hitler used to move to the Wolf’s Lair by air or by the Berlin – Kętrzyn train. The route of the führer train was frequently changed at the last minute and kept secret because of the threat of an attack on his life. As it turned out, this custom rescued him at least once: in the spring of 1942, Polish partisans learned about the planned passage of Hitler’s train and carried out a sabotage action aimed at derailment of the train formation. Sources indicate that the plan was successful; however, due to a change in the route of the Third Reich leader’s travel, an ordinary train of 430 Germans was derailed by mistake.
It was in the Wolf’s Lair that the famous assassination attack on Hitler took place, when on July 20, 1944 Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg laid a bomb in a room where the highest-ranking Wehrmacht commanders were meeting. The plan failed because the high temperature of that day forced to move the conference from a concrete bunker to a lightweight barrack, and the shock wave did not stop on the walls of the structure, but dispersed, at the same time weakening itself. In addition, the führer was shielded by a thick oak table and finally the German dictator was only slightly wounded, while Stauffenberg and the rest of the conspirators were immediately captured and executed.
In addition to Hitler, other Nazi dignitaries also appeared in Wolf’s Lair: Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Fritz Todt and Albert Speer.
When the Germans withdrew from Mazuria, they decided to blow up “Wolfschanze”. Probably 8 tons of TNT was used to destroy the complex.
The area around the Wolf’s Lair was not completely demined until 1955. The Sapers had to deal with 54,000 mines per 72 ha of forest and 52 ha of land.
Today, Wilczy Szaniec is a tourist attraction visited by more than 250,000 people every year. We encourage you to see the complex with your own eyes. Below you will find a map and a link to the website with information for tourists.