The Wolf’s Lair is a place where we wanted to go for a long time. When we were planning a summer holiday trip to the eastern Poland we decided to visit it finally.
We like fortifications, what you probably already know from previous posts. The Wolf’s Lair, called in the original Wolfsschanze is the former headquarters of Hitler and the High Command of the Armed Forces. It was camouflaged in the forest park. Hitler was stationed here in 1941-1944. There was overall 8 of major lodging during the II WW, but it is known that here he officiated the longest, up to 800 days.
The Wolf’s Lair consisted of 200 buildings: some huge reinforced bunkers, smaller buildings, brick and wooden barracks, there were shelters, warehouses, 2 airports, power station, railway, air conditioning, water supply, heating plants and two teleprinters. Through the center of the object passed the railway line. The whole area covered about 250 ha and was surrounded by barbed wire and minefield. The entrance to the center was made possible by three guard-houses. Inside were three separate security zones, and the zone I and II was additionally enclosed by 2 meter high fence with barbed wire. The crew consisted of 2200 people.
Today, it is mostly ruins. Wooden houses and barracks fell apart. Some of brick buildings are basically skeletons (walls and roof) in a heavily destroyed state (mold on the ceiling and walls). Bunkers are destroyed, wherever we can find inlets where you can get inside. For safety reasons, on each of the objects is a sign that the entrance to the center is dangerous. Walking is therefore at your own risk. In one of the bunkers were wooden barrier that blocked the entrance. Other objects are suitable for exploration.
How to explore The Wolf’s Liar?
First, you need to get to Gierłoż near Kętrzyn. To the object itself will lead us signposts (the first we’ve seen before Kętrzyn). When we are on site group of bodyguards is taking care of cars in the parking lot. At the entrance they are charging a admission fee for parking and at the same time selling tickets. We drove to the parking lot, left the car. The car park is quite crowded.
We decided to look for a guide and find out how the tour here. And here we have found big disappointment. Our idea was completely different than what we found. The guides were there, but you can hire a guide for PLN 70. For larger groups of tourists it makes sense. For one family – the price is too big. Guides lead groups in Polish, English, German, Russian and French language. We decided to explore on our own. Why there is no a guide included in ticket price? Why there is no scheduled tours? Strange.
At the entrance is a map of the whole area with a legend showing the buildings. The buildings are painted with paint numbers you can find on the map. If anyone is curious whether the entrance you get anything in the ticket price – the answer is no. Any leaflets, maps, anything outside of receipt. It looks poorly. The only way to have a map with you is to make a photo of plan at the entrance. You can also buy one of many books and maps in the kiosk. Commerce everywhere.
Sightseeing this way we have chosen had its advantages. We visited everything at our own pace, and at most objects we found a group with a guide and you could overhear for a moment what the guide says. We visited what we are interested in, also bunkers interiors (the place where guide will never enter).
The Wolf’s Lair taken important decisions about the course of World War II. The most important event that took place here was conducted by Claus von Stauffenberg (on 20 July 1944) failed attempt to kill Hitler. Details about this attack you can see in the Valkyrie movie, which has its name from codename of action. We have seen this movie and recommend it to everyone. We found a poster on the way with detailed description of this event hour after hour. Who knows, maybe if this attacks would be successful II WW would be ended much earlier?
The tour is specified by colored routes. Red trail (longer) leads around all objects, and the yellow trail (shorter) just selected. We went a longer one.
The area around the Wolf’s Lair during the war was surrounded by a minefield. This field had a length of 100 m and a length of 10km. Minimum density was so high that any walker was able to go 100m forward without hitting a mine. There were anti-person mines and anti-tank, some of them were without possibility to disarm, and there were also those who were hidden in glass containers, which were not detected by sapper’s devices. The area was repeatedly demining. The first actions of the Soviet engineers had already been taken in 1945, shortly after the conquest of the land. Interestingly inside Wolf’s Lair they did not find any mines. The mines were hidden in the tall grass, bushes, on the terrain protected by machine guns and turrets. Practically it was impossible to attack the enemy. Immediately after the war there was more important to demine fields and factories, so this area was left mined until 1951. Arable land was cleared of mines using a tractor plowing the field without the tractor driver. There is a commemorative plaque with a dummy mine founded in 2003 in memory of sappers, who died in the mine clearance. Kris was much interested about the mines around the object, who as always tried to realize the scale of the project.
The Red Army took the campaign to destroy Wolf’s Lair troops by blowing up concrete bunkers with such force that the concrete blocks were flying in the air at the height of 20-30m. Apparently, witnesses say that the force of the explosions was so great that nearby lakes cracked ice. On the demolition of one bunker was used about 8 tons of TNT.
This area was looted after the war by the local population, who have used what they could for their own economic purposes.
To sum up: a shame that the land is not used in a better way. These could be places that were not blown up reconstruct the style of the war and put the exhibits of that time. Surely it is better to be conducive to the imagination, especially children. None of the objects had lighting and was not officially released to the public.
We can compare exploration of this place to our visit to Miedzyrzecki Fortified Region, where was restored a small part of the facility for tourist purposes.
By choosing to visit with children is best to organize a larger group (eg. excursion in the family) – then it pays to take a guide. On the tour you have to spend at least an hour, and with a guide that accurately tells the story of all building – from 2-3 hours.
Before arriving worth seeing the movie Valkyrie.
Walking Wolf’s Lair is a walk in the woods. Even in the heat is not hot in here, and inside the bunkers is even pleasant chill. Mosquitoes can fly so you should purchase some protection fluid. Tracks between the bunkers are passable for cars, although here and there you can find the protruding roots.
We invite you to watch the cutscene of our visit: