The Wolf’s Lair (Wolfsschanze in German) is hidden in thick forest in the Masurian woods, 8km east of Kętrzyn and was Hitler’s main headquarters during WWII. The complex, which became one of several Führer Headquarters in various parts of Central and Eastern Europe, was built for the start of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. A famous attempt to assassinate the Führer took place here on 20th July 1944.
Today, it is 18 hectares of huge, overgrown and partly destroyed bunkers. During World War II, it was a top-secret, high security site surrounded by three security zones and guarded by personnel from the SS-Begleitkommando des Führers, Reichssicherheitsdienst and the Wehrmacht’s armoured Führerbegleitbrigade.
The complex was an impressive feat of engineering with a remote location carefully chosen far away from typical aerial bombing targets such as transport routes and towns. 3,000 German labourers were involved in its construction consisting of 80 structures. These included seven bombproof bunkers for the top leaders of the Third Reich with walls and ceiling up to 8m thick.
The security around the bunkers was impressive and included barbed wire barriers, gun emplacements and minefields in addition to some of Hitler’s most war-hardened troops. The camp included an emergency airstrip and a backup airfield 5km away to allow the Nazi Elite a quick exit if the need ever arose. The natural camouflage of the forest was further enhanced with artificial vegetation-like screens suspended on wires and changed according to the season of the year. The Allies did not discover the site until 1945.
Hitler spent a long time in the Wolf’s Lair. He arrived on 26th June 1941 and stayed there until 20th November 1944 with only short trips away from the complex.
Having survived an assassination attempt within the complex in July 1944, Hitler left the Wolf’s Lair as the Soviet Red Army approached a few months later.
The Wolf’s Lair complex was blown up on the 24 January 1945, just three days before the Red Army arrived. The minefield protecting the now ruined bunkers was still active with approximately 55,000 mines and it took 10 years to make the complex safe.
There’s not a lot to see nowadays, but with a little imagination and a site map or tour guide, you will be able to get a flavour of what life must have been like at Wolfsschanze. The structures of the complex are conveniently numbered so that you can quickly ascertain what purpose they served. Number 13 is Adolf Hitler’s bunker; which is now just one wall but Göring’s home, number 16 is in surprisingly good condition.
The full-day private guided tour to Wolf’s Lair is highly recommended. Follow your local guide into the forest to find the Wolf’s Lair, feel the atmosphere filled with historical events and search for the hidden secrets of this big area.
For anyone staying in the capital, the Day-tour from Warsaw to the Wolf’s Lair is excellent. Your guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive with you to the Wolf’s Lair, where you will explore the complex with him or a local guide. After 3 hours you’ll drive back to Warsaw.