Friday, February 20, 2009




In 1940 the German Army started with a huge bunker complex, Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair), in the dark woods, east of Rastenburg (now Ketrzyn). Finally the whole complex measured 2.5 km from West to East and 1.5 km from North to South, which makes for a surface of about 3.5 square km, or in other words a complex of 350 ha.

We have projected the plan of this complex on a 1 : 25 000 map from 1938. The squares on the map are 1 x 1 km. The biggest bunker was the bunker where Hitler spent most of his time from September 1941 till November 20, 1944.

In one of the smaller buildings Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler with a time-triggered bomb on July 20, 1944. Hitler survived and Colonel von Stauffenberg and accomplices were executed that same day in Berlin.

During the German retreat in January 1945, they attempted to blow up the bunkers, however the concrete was so strong that even today there is still a lot to be seen on the site.

The remains of the complex are located in Poland at the hamlet of Gierłoż (German: Forst Görlitz) nearKętrzyn (German: Rastenburg), although at the time of operation this area was part of the German province of East Prussia, the southern part of which was assigned to the People's Republic of Poland after 1945. It consisted of a group of bunkers and fortified buildings in a thickly wooded area, surrounded by several rings of barbed wire and defensive positions. The complex was served by a nearby airfield. It was built for the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed 'Operation Barbarossa' (22 June 1941), and abandoned on 25 January 1945 as the Soviet army front line troops approached Wegorzewo (German: Angerburg) located only 15 km away. Hitler arrived on the night of 21 June 1941, and departed for the last time on 20 November 1944. He spent over 800 days there, off and on, during World War II.

The original bunker system was constructed by Organisation Todt, but the enlargement of Wolfsschanze was never finished; the expansion work was stopped only a few days before the Russian advance to Wegorzewo pressured German forces to blow up the entire Wolfsschanze bunker complex just prior to the Wehrmacht retreat westward.

The Wolfsschanze was the location of the failed assassination attempt on Hitler which was carried out byClaus von Stauffenberg on 20 July 1944.

The whole complex was severely damaged by the demolitions carried out during the German retreat because Hitler thought it was too valuable to allow the Soviets to use. Clearance of the large minefields around the site set up by the Germans was carried out from 1945 to 1956 by the Polish Army. Today the complex is a museum, open all year long. Despite the damage, the site remains to this day a notable tourist attraction. A monument to the July 20 plotters can also be found on the site.



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