Wolf’s Lair

Wolf’s Lair


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The Wolf’s Lair in Gierloz in Poland was Adolf Hitler’s base on the Eastern Front during World War Two. The Nazi leader often called himself “the Wolf” and thus the Wolf’s Lair, also known as ‘Wilczy Szianiec’ or ‘Wolfsschanze’ is named after him.

At one point housing 2,000 people, the Wolf’s Lair was heavily defended and shrouded in Poland’s dense woodlands. In fact, it seems that the forces Hitler had to fear in his headquarters were not just external, but from within his own ranks.

On 20 July 1944, a group of Hitler’s own men, led by Claus von Stauffenberg, tried to assassinate him at the Wolf’s Lair by smuggling in a bomb. Whilst the attempt was unsuccessful, it did result in four other deaths.

In 1944, Hitler’s headquarters moved to Zossen and the Wolf’s Lair was mostly destroyed under his orders. Today, its ruins are a museum.


Mysteries of the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s secret headquarters

Eight kilometers from Kętrzyn (Poland), hidden in the Mazurian forests, lays one of the most interesting military buildings in Europe. We are talking here about the famous Wolf’s Lair, the former secret headquarters of Hitler which witnessed, among other things, the attack on the Soviet Union and the attampted assassination of the leader of the Third Reich. Below we listed a set of facts and curiosities describing this place.

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.


Hitler's British Lair

In the event of a successful Nazi invasion of Britian, Adolf Hitler proposed rural Shropshire as his headquarters. Roger Moorhouse explores why he would have chosen such a location.

The news that Adolf Hitler might have established his headquarters at Bridgnorth in rural Shropshire, in the event of a successful Nazi invasion, would have struck many perhaps as an unlikely tale. Why Shropshire? Why Bridgnorth? As the BBC told us, it was all about transport links, about the region’s centrality and, rather implausibly, because of its similarity to the Black Forest.

Well, the decisive factor has not been mentioned – that of isolation. Hitler was not what we would call a ‘people person’, and in wartime he was happy to devote himself entirely to the prosecution of the war, eschewing almost all public appearances and doing a rather good impression of a fascist hermit. Consequently, it was Goebbels who became in large degree the public face of the regime, touring the bomb sites and dispensing sympathy and slogans to the bombed out.

Hitler, meanwhile, spent most of his time at his ‘Wolf’s Lair’ headquarters in rural East Prussia, tucked away in the forest, away from the hustle of the capital, in a region that was both comparatively remote yet only a day’s train ride from the epicentre of power – a place, in fact, rather like Bridgnorth.

Hitler’s penchant for isolation was to have some serious consequences. At the ‘Wolf’s Lair’, his generals complained, he was cut off from the tribulations of the German people, blind to the consequences of the Allied bombing, remote from the ubiquitous death notices. In fact, at the ‘Wolf’s Lair’ he was free to conduct his war almost as a wargame, with his armies like so many counters strewn across a map table.

Hitler’s isolation in East Prussia both spurred the German resistance and provided them with their greatest opportunity. So, whilst Stauffenberg would rail against the literal and metaphorical image of “Hitler in the bunker”, he would also attempt to exploit the resulting remoteness for all it was worth seeking to cut the ‘Wolf’s Lair’ off from the rest of Germany in July 1944, whilst he and his confederates launched a coup in Berlin. Far from a footnote in history, then, the ‘Wolf’s Lair’ is of rather seminal importance.

So, the prospect of Hitler coming to Bridgnorth is indeed an intriguing one, but one that nonetheless makes good sense when viewed in the context of Hitler’s wartime habits and preferences. One thing is for certain, if the German Führer ever had managed to come to Shropshire, it is doubtful that he would have spent long in any manor house or country pile. Given his passion for reinforced concrete, he would have swiftly built himself a bunker. “Hitler in the bunker” said Stauffenberg, “that’s the real Hitler”. He was right.

Roger Moorhouse is author of The Wolf's Lair: Inside Hitler's Germany published by Endeavour Press.

From The Archive

John Wheeler-Bennett's account, with many illuminating details, of the attempt that nearly put an end to the Third Reich.

Albert Speer’s plan to transform Berlin into the capital of a 1,000-year Reich would have created a vast monument to misanthropy, as Roger Moorhouse explains.


Can you actually sleep at the Wolf’s Lair?

For those brave enough to want to spend a night in this forest near where Hitler once hid out, you can easily organise it. On-site there is a fully functioning hotel, bar and restaurant. Rooms can be booked online or over the phone, and the restaurant serves up a special ‘Wolf Soup’ to add some eeriness to your trip. Alcohol is also available here in the downstairs bar of the old two storey blue building in the forest.


Other NS bunkers and military installations

Of course, the Wolf’s Lair is the destination par excellence for all those who travel in Mazury and are interested in (military) history. But also some other facilities have been preserved and offer you exciting discoveries, mostly even away from the tourist masses. All of them can be easily reached by car from the Wolfsschanze in a few minutes and offer exciting photo spots.

Mauerwald

From 1941 to 1944, Mauerwald (Polish: Mamerki) was the seat of the Army High Command and thus the central planning position for the war against the Soviet Union. Mauerwald is overshadowed by the Wolfs Lair, but in contrast to the former Führer Headquarters, the gigantic complex has a much better preserved building fabric.

The museum offers a somewhat strange mixture of dioramas with battles from the Second World War, a submarine that certainly did not sail through the Masurian Lake District, and a reconstructed Amber Room.

Directly next to the museum there is an observation tower. The steel stairs take you to dizzying heights high above the treetops. Why the tower stands here remains a mystery, because you can’t see anything of the bunkers up here. However, the idyllic view over the Masurian forests and lakes is nice too.

More exciting than the tower and the museum is the walk through the bunkers, which sometimes contain small exhibitions with miliaria, but sometimes are left to their own devices. When walking through the dark, humid corridors you should have a good cell phone or flashlight with you. The best thing is to take a picture of the plan at the museum with your smartphone to avoid getting lost in the huge area.

Hochwald

In the middle of the forest, about halfway between Węgorzewo and Giżycko, Heinrich Himmler had set up his quarters during the Second World War near the village of Pozezdrze about 20 km east of the Wolfsschanze. The bunker complex, which is only poorly signposted on the main road, is an interesting destination and far less well developed than the Wolfsschanze. Originally, there were still several barracks here. The area around Himmler’s 70-meter-long bunker was blown up by the Red Army, but is in good condition, so that today you can easily walk through the ruins with a flashlight.

Rastenburg airfield

In the middle of the forest, well signposted but only accessible via a historic runway, lies the former secret airport Rastenburg. In the 1930s, a small sports airport was located here. When the Nazi leadership decided to build the Wolfsschanze, the existing airfield only 10 km away was the ideal location for the new airport. The airport developed into the central hub for the Nazi leaders, who could quickly travel from here to Berlin or to inspections on the Eastern Front. Hitler also used the airport five times for flights to today’s Ukraine.

The Wolfsschanze also had a small airfield, but with a runway of only 250 m length it was too small for the Heinkel, Junkers and Focke-Wulf airplanes, which could land on the airport Rastenburg with its two runways of 1200 and 900 m length.

The death of Fritz Todt

This is where Fritz Todt, after whom the NS construction group “Organisation Todt” was named and who was largely responsible for the NS Autobahn program, died in 1942. Actually Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, should also have been on the plane, but he had to cancel the flight for health reasons. According to another theory, Todt was on his way to Munich to attend a concert with his wife, but his own plane was being serviced and he had to fall back on the one of General Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle. After the successful take-off, the plane suddenly turned around and then exploded while still in the air. According to the official investigation report, the pilot Albert Hotz is said to have accidentally triggered the plane’s self-destruct mechanism.

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg also used the airport when he flew here from Berlin and started his return journey from here after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler. Towards the end of the war, the airport was used by the Red Army and later by the Polish army.

Today the airport is used by sports pilots, but you can also admire some military aircraft in a small museum and learn about the history of the airport and Polish pilots who fought on the British side during the war.

Do you know of any other interesting such areas? Write it down in the comments!

* – this link is a partner link. If you buy or order something through this link, we get a small commission. You don’t have to pay a cent extra and we can continue to write new articles for you. Thanks for your support!


Many-Storied Wolf's Lair

A 1927 mansion erected by L. Milton Wolf, one of the real estate developers who built up "Hollywoodland" in the Roaring Twenties, was just sold to Moby for $3.925 million.

Here's some trivia: Architect John Lautner designed the gate house, "in teak and redwood with a green granite fireplace," according to a 1982 Times story. (That story implies that Wolf's ghost haunts the place.)

Even HowStuffWorks has written up the Wolf's Lair! That website claims that Mr. Wolf had a secret passageway to a hidden apartment behind the guesthouse, where he could ensconse pretty starlets and enjoy them at leisure. Well, let's hope the enjoyment was mutual.

HowStuffWorks says further that the castle's turret was designed as a home for Wolf's pet gibbon. I guess pretty starlets get tedious at times, and monkeys liven things up. L. Milton Wolf died in the house, btw--at the dining room table, pitching forward into a bowl of minestrone.

Read more about the place in the Los Angeles Times "Hot Property" column of April 17, 2010. Since a Famous SInger bought the Wolf's Lair, it's in all the papers. Also follow along on LACurbed, because they've got pictures from the new owner. Speaking of pictures, follow this link to a set of eleven black and white images of the Lair in 1958. (The undated picture above, however, is from the Los Angeles Public Library's online photo collection.)


Inside the Wolf’s Lair: Hollywood & History

Following the fifteenth and final assassination attempt on Hitler, the last nine months of the war in Europe took more lives than the sum total of the previous five years of conflict. “Had Hitler died on 20 July 1944, the total casualties of the Second World War could have been halved.”[1]

Operation Valkyrie was a symbol of German Resistance within the Third Reich, and the final of fifteen attempts against Hitler to take over his government and cultivate a new German state. By doing this, those who were members of the resistance hoped to demonstrate to the Allies-before they reached Berlin-that not all of Germany believed in Hitler’s Germany. Members of the resistance included the Kreisau Circle, which was a group of prominent military, political and religious leaders and intellectuals. The most famous of these conspirators was Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg who after serving in, and becoming a casualty of the battle in North Africa, spearheaded the assassination attempt and its subsequent takeover of Berlin. After many previous attempts, Operation Valkyrie took place on 20 July 1944 within Gaestebaracke, in Rastenburg, Prussia. Following this, Stauffenberg flew to Berlin to take over the aftermath of Operation Valkyrie, where every part of the initial plan failed due to natural causes, personal dispositions and unaccounted for deviations in plan.

While the formal details of Hollywood’s Valkyrie are historically accurate, the movie lacked the personal depth of the parties involved, which is a significant factor in understanding the foundation of the operation, and by extension its breakdown. The film’s portrayal of the persons involved in the plot to kill Hitler as sinless heroes misleads their character, motives and politics, however, despite minor alterations, simplifications and omissions, the film effectively conveys the truth that not all of Germany’s people agreed with Hitler’s ideologies and many did heroically resist to prove that to the world. In completion of analyzing the film and comparing it to its historical counterpart, I believe that supplementary knowledge and texts are required to fully understand the political structure of the individuals involved, their personal dispositions, and the time-line to the sequence of events.

Within the parameters of this article, I will analyze the extent of the film’s historical accuracy in depicting the events of Operation Valkyrie and the 20 July 1944 plot to kill Hitler. Through a comparison of history to film, I will explain some of the ways in which the Hollywood version provided an accurate historical interpretation, and the ways in which the director made stylistic choices that simplified Operation Valkyrie for easy viewing. Upon completion of my analysis, I will examine historical film as a medium of history, and how it alludes to the messages the film draw from the resistance.

Within the plot of the film, Valkyrie was able to successfully depict the series of events that were most instrumental leading up to the eventual 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Germany’s Führer, Adolf Hitler. In order to compress two years of planning and events (from Stauffenberg’s recruitment, on), into a two hour-long film, minor edits, conjunctions and omissions were made to help further the film along smoothly, while not sacrificing any particulars that are necessary to an accurate portrayal of the events. In that, careful consideration was taken when writing the script to maintain historical accuracy. Writers McQuarrie and Alexander consulted a variety of primary sources in order to properly represent the individuals, locations and the development of events. They visited the actual locations, met with relatives of the conspirators, and referred to first hand accounts, photographs, news reels and various other historical records in order to ensure that the film had layers of historical dimension.[2] This was then successfully implemented in tasteful casting through the physical appearance of the protagonists, the use of authentic dialog and speeches, and the carefully copied particulars of the plot to kill Hitler.

One of the imaginative ways the director was able to explain the various components that made up Operation Valkyrie was in using meetings between the key conspirators. Not only did it work to represent the secret gatherings that took place wherein Valkyrie was proposed and planned in detail, but was also a stylistic foreshadowing tool, outlining the requirements needed for Valkyrie to be successful, so that as the operation was enacted, only subtle cues (such as imagery and reactionary dialog) were necessary for the audience to deduce what went wrong.

In the first private meeting between Stauffenberg, General Olbricht, General Tresckow, Beck and Dr. Goerdeler, Operation Valkyrie is proposed- said to be by Stauffenberg-as a modification to its original purpose.[3] As explained to Goerdeler, the original Operation Valkyrie was Hitler’s contingency plan to protect his government and contain civil unrest by means of the Reserve Army in Berlin, in the event that he is cut off or killed.[4] The organizers then situate it within the context of a possible military unrest, where if the S.S were staging a coup, a state of emergency would be declared and the Reserve Army would be mobilized to protect what it believes to be Hitler’s government, while the conspirators put a new government in place to immediately negotiate with the Allies.[5] The initial stages are then outlined in which Valkyrie would first have to be rewritten to exclude the SS, the written evidence of high treason would need to be signed by Hitler, and then initiated by the commander of the Reserve Army, General Fromm, immediately following Hitler’s assassination.[6]

In the following meeting between Stauffenberg and Tresckow, the secondary details of the plan are fine-tuned, focusing on the reverberation of Hitler’s death. This included accelerating the original Valkyrie in its modifications, from securing Hitler’s government in six hours, to seizing control of the government in just three hours.[7] Instead of spreading the Reserve troops across Germany’s nineteen military districts including occupied cities, Valkyrie would be rewritten to focus the majority of its strongest units to focus singularly on Berlin as all the other states mirror Berlin’s decisions.[8] Therefore by surrounding the government quarters, and occupying all SS and police barracks in Berlin, they would be able to take Germany.[9] Furthermore, in order to safeguard all their plans, they need to ensure that no conflicting orders surface, which would be accomplished in two ways, isolating the chain of command and cutting them off, and taking control of a forms of communication.[10]

As portrayed in the film, the third meeting before Operation Valkyrie was put in motion focused entirely on the logistics of Hitler’s demise. In this underground meeting,

Colonel Quirnheim explains the step-by-step process of Hitler’s assassination from the makeup of the bomb to its success as dependent on the elements of the Wolf’s lair. In this case, with the two 975 gram packs of plastic ‘W’ holding the British time pencils and crushed acid capsule, the projected time for the blast would be 10-15 minutes (factoring in the heat).[11] Because of the makeup of the bunker composed of reinforced concrete, steel doors, and no windows, the air pressure would magnify the bomb, making the second completely redundant.[12]

In comparing the details of the meetings in the film to historical fact, the film accurately portrayed what Operation Valkyrie was supposed to do and by doing so was able to illustrate what went wrong. In the first two meetings, the film clearly demonstrated Stauffenberg as first the Chief of Operations for the final plan to assassinate Hitler, and then later in June 1943 (during the second meeting) entrusted with the task of drawing up the complete plan for the total military seizure of Berlin after Hitler’s death.[13] In order to get Hitler’s approval, Operation Valkyrie was given the cover story that “the Home Army must have a cut and dried plan of action for the event of either a munity of the SS against Hitler or mass rising among millions of foreign slave-laborers who had been deported from their homes and were working in Germany,” while the official plan would be employed to turn against the Nazi regime.[14] With the assistance of the Berlin police force, the Home Army would seize government buildings, round up members of the SS, and occupy communication outlets such as the berlin radio stations and newspaper offices.[15] By August 1943, Operation Valkyrie was complete,[16] and faced the issue that neither Olbrietch nor Stauffenberg had authorization to enact it, that right being reserved for Hitler himself and Fromm, in the event of an emergency.[17]

Within the film’s explanation of the parameters of the plot, and following Hitler’s signature on Operation Valkyrie, I was able to trace five important markers used to tell the story of Operation Valkyrie. They are as follows, July 20 th , Oblricht’s lack of action, Fromm, Operation Valkyrie enacted, and the round up of conspirators. The outlining of the events in the three scenes of the meetings, allowed the audience to understand the historical context and therefore pay attention to the details of the actual events. From the details of historical accuracy in those scenes such as the type of bomb used, the specially made pliers for Stauffenberg, Trusckow leaving to go to the front lines, and the leading role Stauffenberg played in constructing Operation Valkyrie, it is clear that the film consulted historical resources. With that said, any minor changes, simplification or omissions made in its representation of events was to further along the audience’s understanding of the story, without sacrificing the necessary specifics of its history.

Prior to the final assignation attempt against Hitler, there were two other attempts or trial runs made before 20 July 1944. The first was on 11 July 1944 in Berchtesgaden where Stauffenberg smuggled the bomb into the conference, but upon telephoning Olbricht, the conspirators had decided that he should not proceed unless Himmler is there as well.[18] As Himmler was not, this attempt was not followed through with.[19] The second chance took place four days later, where Stauffenberg to the ‘Wolf’s Lair’ at Rustenburg with an unsuspecting Fromm.[20] Upon notifying Olbricht, Olbricht issued the preliminary stages of Valkyrie, the mobilization of the Reserve Army.[21] At 1 p.m. the Rustenburg conference began, of which Stauffenberg left to once again contact Olbricht.[22] However, by the time Stauffenberg returned, the meeting had concluded and Hitler had left the room.[23]

These two initial attempts were combined within the film, where in during a tactical conference in the Wolf’s Lair with Hitler (and Fromm), Stauffenberg left the room to phone Olbricht and notify him that Himmler was not present.[24] Quirnheim acting as the mediator calls the other conspirators who agree not to proceed, but Quirnheim encourages Stauffenberg to “do it”.[25] As Stauffenberg returns to the conference, he is panicked to discover that the conference had finished in his absence and Hitler was no longer among the group.[26] The film was able to successfully combine the two attempts while still conveying the important messages that Himmler as a primary target, and the duration of the phone call were reasons that the earlier attempts did not ensue.

On 20 July 1944, shortly after 10:00 a.m. Stauffenberg flew into the Rastenburg airfield carrying only the papers needed for his reports and the bomb wrapped in an extra shirt.[27] Around 11:00 a.m. “Stauffenberg was summoned by the chief of army staff, General Walther Buhle, and after a short meeting they proceeded together to a conference with General Keitel in the OKW bunker in Restricted Area I” where Stauffenberg discovered that the 1:00 p.m. briefing conference had been pushed forward by half an hour due to a visit by Mussolini.[28] Following this Stauffenberg asked Keitel’s aid for a place where he could have a brush-up, and change his shirt (some accounts say this was explained as due to the humidity), where Stauffenberg and his aid, Haeften proceeded to arm the bombs, but were interrupted by Vogel who informed Stauffenberg of a call from Fellgiebel and urged him to hurry.[29]

In the film, this is simplified so that immediately after Stauffenberg’s arrival he asks Major Freyend if there is a place where he can change his shirt, whilst lifting up his chin to reveal a bloodstain where he nicked himself shaving.[30] This slight modification was made to give viewers a more visual reason for Stauffenberg’s need to change. Stauffenberg is led to a room where he over hears that the meeting has been moved up to 12:30 p.m, and publically asks Fellgiebel if someone can get him during the meeting as he’s expecting an important call.[31] While in the room changing, Stauffenberg and Haeften begin preparations for the bomb, when they are interrupted by Freyend after receiving a telephone call, urging them to speed things along.[32]

The film then imitates the historical series of events following the interruption, where Haeften packed one of the bombs, unset, into his briefcase and left, while Stauffenberg armed the other with his specially made pliers to accommodate his handicap.[33] Upon leaving, Stauffenberg refused both Lechler and Freyend to carry his briefcase which was not considered suspicious as Stauffenberg was known to be proud and self-dependent, but eventually allowed Freyend to carry his briefcase while he requested to be placed near the Führer because of his poor hearing (affected by previous injuries sustain in duty).[34] In the film, the characters are simplified to include only Freyend as Lechler adds nothing to the story. [35] Through this, Freyend also is able to provide the audience with a historical explanation as to why the conference is no longer taking place in the Wolf’s Lair, due to it being so humid that day.[36] The conference instead took place in the Gaestebaracke (guest barrack), a long wooden building with all ten windows in the room open (depicted visually in the film), instead of the Wolfs Lair (which was changed as of 15 July due to the heat).[37] During the meeting, Stauffenberg left to take an incoming telephone call, and proceeded to leave the barrack, while his briefcase, kicked under the far side of the oak support of the conference table exploded at 12:42 p.m. [38]

Upon feigning shock, Stauffenberg proceeded to escape by car, where he was met with resistance at the last Guard Post, of which he took it upon himself to go into the guardroom and telephone the Commandant’s office with Captain von Möllendorff on the other end and unknowing of the explosion, instructed Sergeant-Major Kolbe to allows Stauffenberg to pass, and on the way to the airfield, Kretz, the driver witnessed Haeften throwing “some objects” out the car. [39] Kretz latter reported this Intel, and the package was found to contain “975 grams of explosive, two detonators and a 30-minute delay fuse” wrapped in brown paper.[40] This was once again simplified in the film to omit Möllendorff as he was not necessary to the key explanation of the story, and instead, had Stauffenberg fib his way past the guard, which was true to an extent, as Möllendorff was not aware of the lockdown.[41] The film then accurately portrayed Haeften’s disposing of the bomb.[42]

The film continued to accurately portray the events following the explosion, as General Fellgiebel telephoned Berlin, and enacted Valkyrie despite seeing Hitler survive the blast, (which was ambiguously communicated), and followed his action by cutting off all communication from and to Rustenburg.[43] However, “it was impossible to isolate Rustenburg completely. Although the telephone and teleprinter exchanges could be cut, there were still radio transmitters both the Ministry of Propaganda and the German News Agency had their own private teleprinter lines which did not pass through the main exchange,” and no provision had been made to accommodate it.[44] When the call came from Fellgiebel to the conspirators in Berlin, he enacted Valkyrie but made not mention of Hitler’s survival and without that confirmation from Stauffenberg who was airborne at the time, General Olbricht remain static, despite Stauffenberg’s friend Quirnheim insisting.[45] This was represented in the scene in Olbricht’s office, following the explosion, when Fellgiebel called Olbricht, and told Quirnheim (who answered the phone) about the explosion. The ambiguousness of the information given over the phone was expressed through illegible and static dictation on the receiving end. Quirnheim was given special recognition for his attempts at persuading Olbricht, in the film, by issuing a standby alert under Olbricht’s name while he was out to lunch.[46]

The aircraft carrying Stauffenberg and Haeften left for Berlin-Rangsdorf at 13:15 p.m. while those survivors (including Hitler) began to put together the pieces of his disappearance.[47] After arriving at the airport in berlin, more than three hours after the explosion, and assuming that the time sensitive coup was already underway, Stauffenberg and Haeften were disheveled to find their receiving car not there.[48]

At the same time, in Berlin, Fromm and Olbricht were disputing over Olbrichts authorization of Valkyrie. At 4:10 p.m. Fromm rang Keitel at Rustenburg to which he got through at everyone’s surprise, and upon discussing the details of the explosion, Keitel informed Fromm that Hitler was alive, and asked for the whereabouts of Stauffenberg who had not yet returned. [49] Upon hearing this exchange, Olbricht finally took action and issued the cover story for the coup: “The Führer, Adolf Hitler, is dead…An unscrupulous clique of non-combatant party leaders has tried to exploit the situation to stab the deeply committed front in the back, and to seize power for selfish purposes”.[50]

With Stauffenberg’s arrival, a following argument between him and Fromm took place, where Stauffenberg recounted his witness of the explosion simply stating ‘He is dead’.[51] The following argument took place between Stauffenberg, Olbricht and Fromm was almost copied word for word in the film, with Olbricht stating that he initiated Valkyrie, infuriating Fromm who said he was in command, this was treason and for Stauffenberg to shoot himself while all the others were under arrest.[52] Fromm and his aide were then put under arrest at gunpoint, and locked in an office.[53] “By five o’clock, the coup had begun to show the momentum it should have had four hours earlier”.[54]

Operation Valkyrie Enacted

Following the arrest of Fromm, the commander of Berlin’s military district was arrested in a similar fashion after discovering the coup in progress and attempting to escape whilst yelling “the Führer is not dead!” [55] This was followed exactly in the film. The next four hours in the War Office was frenzied with activity as the various conspirators transmitted instructions for Operation Valkyrie within and beyond the Reich, as illustrated in the film by the conspirators engaging in frequent telephone conversations and marking off territories.[56]

Within German, Martial law was declared to be in effect and the Reserve Army assumed absolute control, arresting or placing under military authority all SS, SD, Gestapo and Party personnel.[57] This was portrayed in the film through Major Remer, the commander of the city’s standing garrison, and his battalion who made various arrests of SS, and were en route to arrest Goebbels, the head of the Ministry of Propaganda, who was ensconced in Prinz Albrechtstasse.[58] The film portrayed Remer’s suspicion well, through a scene where he confines in a troop that there is a coup, but he is not sure which side they are on, and of his reluctance in arresting Goebbels who was also the honorary colonel.[59] Prior to meeting with Remer, Goebbels took precautions by having several cyanide capsules on hand, which was portrayed in the film by him inserting one in his mouth before meeting Remer.[60] The exchange between Remer and Goebbels in both the film and historically followed the outline that Goebbels rang Rastenburg and with Hitler on the other end, gave the phone to Remer who upon recognizing his Führer’s voice and his instructions to take the traitors alive, dispatched his troops to the War Office.[61]

During this time, the conspirator’s failure to shut down completely all broadcasting was taking effect. Orders were issued by the Nazi government that contradicted the orders coming from the War Office and once again the War Office was frenzied with the major military districts calling for clarification.[62] This was represented in the film through the scene in the communications office where in the head permitted orders from both Rastenburg and the War Office to go through.[63]

Following this radio activity began to bolster that the Führer was not dead, followed by a broadcast at 1:00 a.m. where Hitler himself said: “A small clique of ambitious, irresponsible and at the same time senseless and criminally stupid officers have formed a plot to eliminate me…I myself sustained only some very minor scratches bruises and burns. I regard this as confirmation of the task imposed on me by Providence to continue on the road of my life as I have done hitherto…”, which was replicated word-for-word in the film.[64]

It was at this moment, that the conspirators knew their coup had failed. Shortly after Hitler’s speech aired the chief members of the Valkyrie conspiracy were rounded up by Remer and the SS.[65] Fromm and his aide escaped confinement (whereas in the film, Fromm’s aide was never arrested) and led the troops to the leading members.[66] After an exchange in gunfire, resulting in Stauffenberg being shot in the arm, the conspirators were captured.[67] As depicted in the film, Fromm took on the court martial orders to sentence to death Quirnheim, Olbricht, Haeften, and the man “whose name I will not mention,” in attempt to ‘get rid’ of those who could speak out against him and reveal his knowledge of the coup.[68] Beck who was placed under arrested and was allowed to commit suicide.[69] While the film reproduced Beck’s asking for a pistole for ‘private use’ and Fromm ordering him to ‘hurry up,’ Beck was not able to die as gracefully as he did in the film. After two attempts at shooting himself, and “found to still be still alive, Fromm ordered an officer to administer a coup de grâce.”[70] Following this, the other conspirators were escorted to the courtyard where they stood before the firing squad, one at a time, in order of rank.[71] When Stauffenberg was called upon, either Quirnheim or Haeften ran out in front of him and was shot before Stauffenberg who proclaimed either “Long Live Sacred Germany,” or “Long Live Secret Germany,” before he himself was subjected to the firing squad.[72] Because of its ambiguities, the film made the choice that it was Haeften who ran out, and that Stauffenberg yelled “Long Live Sacred Germany.”[73]

In the final scenes of the film, there were flashes back and forth in which the other conspirators who were not present at the time were arrested and sentenced to death, committed suicide, or stood trial. In that, the film accurately recalled that Tresckow committed suicide via hand-grenade, Witzleben who was executed slowly by being hung to death, suspended from a meat hook, and Fromm who was later captured and executed.[74] This is one of the most powerful scenes in the film as it truly shows the extent of the German resister’s sacrifice.

By simplifying history through film, it allows for these events and occurrences to be known to mass populations.[75] “With the growing professionalization of filmmaking and the rise of the Hollywood film industry, subsequent historical movies [tend] to be more guarded in conveying explicit messages or interpretations about the past…But much like most viewers-whether historians or not- [they do not] possess the critical tools to fully analyze those movies.”[76] That is why it is so intrinsic for directors, screenwriters, and actors to conduct primary and secondary historical research in order to accurately represent the events of the past, especially because viewers tend to believe whatever is depicted. With that said, I believe that despite some minor changes, simplifications and omissions, and ‘filling-in the blanks,’ Valkyrie did portray a historically accurate account of German resistance, and that any of those changes made did not effect the understanding of the broader scope of events, but allowed viewers to understand it and gain more from the film. “Writing history- whether on the printed page or the movie screen-entail[s] interpretation and a dose of civic responsibility.”[77]

The only downfall of the film was its shallow/(mis) representation of the main characters in the film. In actuality, the conspirators were not the spot-less heroes the film portrayed, although they preformed many acts of heroism. Political, social, and religious motives, Anti-Semitic backgrounds, and initial support for Hitler was omitted, played down or only faintly hinted at within the film. And this is cause for concern, as viewers should be shown both truths of the resistance. However, in conclusion, the film Valkyrie successfully conveyed its message to its viewers, that there were many people within Germany who opposed Hitler and his government and did attempt to right his wrongs. As one of the conspirators, Tresckow, said, “The assassination must be attempted, at any cost. Even should it fail, the attempt to seize power in the capital must be undertaken. We must prove to the world and to future generations that the men of the German resistance movement dared to take the decisive step and to hazard their lives upon in. Compared with this, nothing else matters.”[78] This movie spoke for exactly what these conspirators wanted the rest of the world to know, that it didn’t matter whether their plan was successful or not, all that mattered was that they could show “that not all of us were like him”.[79]

Baigent, Michael, and Richard Leigh. Secret Germany: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Mystical Crusade Against Hitler. London: Jonathan Cape, 1994.

Fest, Joachim. Plotting Hitler’s Death: The Story of the German Resistance. Translated by Bruce Little. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1996.

Hansen, Randall. Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Operation Valkyrie. Canada: DoubleDay Canada, 1994.

Hoffmann, Peter. The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996.

Prittie, Terence. Germans Against Hitler. Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1964.

Ramirez, Bruno. Inside Historical Film. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014.

Niemi, Robert. Inspired by True Events: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2013.

Valkyrie. DVD. Directed by Bryan Singer. 2008 Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009.

[1] Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, Secret Germany: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Mystical Crusade Against Hitler (London: Jonathan Cape, 1994), 66.

[2] Robert Niemi, Inspired by True Events: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LCC, 2013), 179.

[3] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[13] Terence Prittie, Germans Against Hitler (Toronto: Little, Brown and Company, 1964), 233.

[17] Joachim Fest, Plotting Hitler’s Death: The Story of the German Resistance (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1996), 220.

[18] Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, Secret Germany: Claus von Stauffenberg and the Mystical Crusade Against Hitler (London: Jonathan Cape, 1994), 41.

[24] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[28] Peter Hoffmann, The History of the German Resistance 1933-1945 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University, 1996), 398.

[30] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[35] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[41] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[46] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[51] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[59] Ibid, 56. Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[63] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[66] Randall Hansen, Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Operation Valkyrie (Canada: DoubleDay Canada, 1994), 28.

[72] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).

[75] Bruno Ramirez. Inside Historical Film (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014), 3.

[79] Valkyrie, DVD, directed by Bryan Singer, 2008 (Beverly Hills, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2009).


Wilhelma Gerke’s memories, 16 Feb 1994.

Fifty years later again in the Wolf’s Lair.

“I remembered a lot about my stay in the Wolf’s Lair, although after 50 years many details escaped my memory. From mid-February 1944 I served in the FBB, i.e. the Führer Begleit-Bataillon (Hitler’s Personal Battalion). Here I would like to explain that FBB was a unit of the German Wehrmacht, not an SS.

First, I had training at the training ground in Orzysz, and from 1st April to the end of June 1944 I was in the Wolf’s Lair 𔄘” safety zone (a special “zero” safety zone in which Hitler lived). The whole HQ consisted of three safety zones. Safety zones II, I and 0 were separated from each other by a 2.5-meter wire mesh fence. Each zone was heavily guarded by patrols and sentry posts.

The Fuhrer side battalion consisted of 7 companies: three grenadier companies, 1 light gun company, 1 tank company, 1 anti-tank company and 1 quick response company. The latter was equipped with amphibians. My seventh company was responsible for security inside the headquarters when Hitler was in the Wolf’s Lair. In the event of a threat, we were to immediately find ourselves in the zero security zone and defend Hitler’s shelter.

In the spring and summer of 1944 (Hitler stayed from March 20 to July 14, 1944 in Obersalzberg, in the Alps) our unit was responsible for protecting the extension area. This meant service in 48 or even 72 hours. It looked like this: 3 hours of duty and 3 hours break, then 24 hours off. The soldiers, who were on duty, had a machine gun with 6 magazines and two hand grenades. At 16.00 there was a change of guard, followed by the maintenance of weapons, dinner, exit.

We lived in a 50-person barrack, which was located right next to the first security zone, near Hitler’s shelter. In the morning at 7.00 there was an appeal followed by classes and exercises. In our free time, we were able to drive a trolley to Kętrzyn. In the morning, four or five buses of workers from the “Todt Organization” (OT) were brought to the Wolf’s Lair. Most often they came from East Prussia, prisoners and forced laborers were not there.

While serving as a guard at the western post, we served about 200 OT workers in addition, some people came by train. Freight rail traffic through the quarters – from the station in Parcz to the station in Czerniki – was escorted. I don’t remember any passenger trains passing through the forest, of course, apart from special ones (Sonderzüge). In the summer of 1944 a new Hitler’s bunker was being built. The building material was delivered by train. From the stopping place of the train, this material was taken by a field train and brought to a concrete mixer, located near the Führer shelter. The new Führer bunker was built from scratch in less than 6 weeks, in May and June 1944. I saw it ready. I don’t remember, however, how one of the local guides told me that there were gun or machine gun positions on it. Maybe they were built later after I left the quarters.

Many of the barracks of the quarter were reinforced with brick walls and reinforced concrete ceilings, among others a wooden council barrack, in which on July 20, 1944 a historic assassination attempt was carried out on Hitler. Firstly, because there was a strong anti-aircraft defense, and secondly – the headquarters area was well camouflaged and difficult to detect by existing means.

I think it was unreachable for English and American bombers. However, it is hard to imagine that the English and American intelligence services were not aware of the existence of the Wolf’s Lair. I remind you that we were constantly warned about the possibility of the partisans from the Białystok forests starting the operation.

Once i read in some tourist guide that the camouflage nets were changed according to season of the year. I clearly state that they were only green and never changed. This is not true.”


Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair plaque stolen

A plaque commemorating one of the assassination attempts on Hitler’s life has been stolen according to Polish police.

One of Hitler’s most famous locations was that of the Wolf’s Lair in Gierloza in Poland. During the war, Hitler used the base as a headquarters from which to coordinate the war.

It was at the Wolf’s Lair that one of the most famous attempts to take Hitler’s life took place. It was in 1944 when Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg walked into the Wolf’s Lair, left a case in a room that Hitler was meeting other top Nazi officers in and promptly left waiting for his bomb in the case to detonate. It did, and it caused much damage, but it unfortunately didn’t kill Hitler.

After the war the Wolf’s Lair was retained, and Polish authorities placed a plaque on the site to commemorate von Stauffenberg’s bravery and attempt to take Hitler’s life and end the war. It is now open to tourists who want to learn about the war and what happened there.

The Wolf’s Lair included around 200 German bunkers and a military barracks. It was noticed this week that the plaque had been removed, CBS News reports.

Polish police are now investigating the theft of a metal plaque, which had been attached to a large stone and was put in place in 2004, on the 60 th anniversary of the assassination attempt.


Angelokastro is a Byzantine castle on the island of Corfu. It is located at the top of the highest peak of the island"s shoreline in the northwest coast near Palaiokastritsa and built on particularly precipitous and rocky terrain. It stands 305 m on a steep cliff above the sea and surveys the City of Corfu and the mountains of mainland Greece to the southeast and a wide area of Corfu toward the northeast and northwest.

Angelokastro is one of the most important fortified complexes of Corfu. It was an acropolis which surveyed the region all the way to the southern Adriatic and presented a formidable strategic vantage point to the occupant of the castle.

Angelokastro formed a defensive triangle with the castles of Gardiki and Kassiopi, which covered Corfu"s defences to the south, northwest and northeast.

The castle never fell, despite frequent sieges and attempts at conquering it through the centuries, and played a decisive role in defending the island against pirate incursions and during three sieges of Corfu by the Ottomans, significantly contributing to their defeat.

During invasions it helped shelter the local peasant population. The villagers also fought against the invaders playing an active role in the defence of the castle.

The exact period of the building of the castle is not known, but it has often been attributed to the reigns of Michael I Komnenos and his son Michael II Komnenos. The first documentary evidence for the fortress dates to 1272, when Giordano di San Felice took possession of it for Charles of Anjou, who had seized Corfu from Manfred, King of Sicily in 1267.

From 1387 to the end of the 16th century, Angelokastro was the official capital of Corfu and the seat of the Provveditore Generale del Levante, governor of the Ionian islands and commander of the Venetian fleet, which was stationed in Corfu.

The governor of the castle (the castellan) was normally appointed by the City council of Corfu and was chosen amongst the noblemen of the island.

Angelokastro is considered one of the most imposing architectural remains in the Ionian Islands.



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