Hidden in the middle of lush Masurian forests, and slowly being reclaimed by nature, is Wolf’s Lair (Wolfsschanze), a secret Nazi stronghold and Hitler’s headquarters on the Eastern front. The walls of these concrete bunkers, nowadays covered in moss and lichen, once witnessed the assassination attempt on on the Führer.
Wolf’s Lair was built in 1941 and it functioned like a small city, with over 80 buildings (including bunkers) and over 2000 people working there. It had its own power generator, a railway and an airport to serve it, but also a cinema and a tea house.
The location of the headquarters was carefully chosen. The thick forest that surrounded it made it difficult to spot it from the air. For further camouflage, trees and other plants were planted on the roofs of the buildings. To protect the headquarters from land attack from the east, it was built behind a string of lakes. What is more, the whole area was surrounded by a minefield with over 50 000 mines.
Nazi leaders could feel relatively safe in Wolf’s Lair. During World War II, Hitler spent about 800 days there. The location of Wolfsschanze was a well-kept secret and the complex had three security zones.
But all those security measures were aimed at protecting the complex from outside threats and weren’t of much use in the case of an attack from the inside. On July 7, 1944, a German colonel Claus von Stauffenberg managed to smuggle a suitcase bomb into the room where Hitler was holding a meeting. The Führer survived the blast almost intact, but nobody could feel safe anymore.
Hitler left Wolf’s Lair in November 1944. Then in January 1945, just before the Soviet forces reached the base, as the Nazis retreated, they tried to blow it up. However, not having enough time and explosives, they partially failed at completing this task. The ruins of the complex remained in the forest for decades.
In the 1950’s, Polish sappers cleared the surrounding minefields. Nowadays, Wolf’s Lair attracts many tourists. A visit to the complex is on the itinerary of both the Ultimate Poland and Polish Delight tours.