If you go down to the woods today… Hitler's bunker blooms again
The Nazi leader's wartime nerve centre in a Polish forest is to become a museum
The ruined bunker complex set deep in the forests of Poland's north east was once the nerve centre of Adolf Hitler's war machine. More recently, giggling tourists play paintball and pose for photographs in Nazi uniforms at the site which critics have dubbed a "grotesque Disneyland".
But now, 68 years after German troops dynamited much of Hitler's so-called "Wolf's Lair" before fleeing the advancing Soviet Red Army, Poland has announced plans to renovate the 600-acre complex and turn it into a key historical and educational centre containing outdoor exhibits and a museum.
The project has been initiated by Poland's Ministry of Culture and National Heritage which has granted a new lease for the "Wolf's Lair" under the strict proviso that the private company running the site fulfils an educational objective and drops its present fun park image.
"At this moment, one does not feel the tragic dimension of this place," said Tomasz Chincinski, a historian working on the project. "We need to work on new ways of telling history, to make young generations want to learn it and understand it," he told The New York Times.
Hitler had the "Wolf's Lair" built as his Eastern front headquarters in what was then East Prussia, and used it to co-ordinate the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The compound was a heavily guarded complex of 200 buildings and concrete bunkers complete with its own power plant and staff of 2,000 military personnel.
Those who worked there complained of boredom, freezing winters and summers plagued by swarms of mosquitoes.
Four months before German troops blew up many of the buildings in the compound in the face of the Red Army's advance, the "Wolf's Lair" was the scene of the abortive attempt to assassinate Hitler. The German army officer Claus von Stauffenberg detonated a briefcase bomb which failed to kill the Nazi leader while he was attending a staff meeting on 20 July, 1944. Von Stauffenberg was caught and executed along with many other plotters immediately afterwards.
Poland's post war communist regime opened the site for visitors but did little more to inform them of its history than display wartime photographs of the complex. After communism's collapse, Poland's new democratic authorities leased out the complex to a private company called Wolf's Nest, which tried to exploit its tourist potential.
The company turned some of the bunkers into a restaurant and hotel and opened an indoor shooting range in the offices used by General Alfred Jodl, the Nazi army commander sentenced to death at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. The Polish historian Jan Oldakowski described the complex as a "grotesque Disneyland".
Today, although some paths have been cleared through the undergrowth, most of the "Wolf's Lair" is in disrepair. Its concrete bunkers are in ruins and covered in carpets of thick moss. "The biggest change here over the past decade has been the introduction of a cash machine," said Lukasz Joachymek, a freelance tour guide at the site.
The "Wolf's Lair" owes its new lease of life to the end of an ownership dispute which has left it firmly in the hands of the Polish Forestry Service. "It took years before the matter was settled. Before that, we could not think about investing," said Jan Zaluska, the director of Wolf's Nest, whose company has now agreed to work together with historians and meet the government's educational requirements for the site.
The battle for control of Stieg Larsson's £30m legacy
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Kennington bus crash: 32 injured after double decker hits tree in south London
Robin Thicke named sexist of the year 2013
PAs cleared of fraud - and Nigella Lawson left reeling at 'ridiculous sideshow' of drug allegations and public dissection of marriage to Charles Saatchi
Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
Apollo Theatre collapse: Scores injured after ceiling collapses in London's West End
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 2 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 3 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 4 Cycle death inquest: Boyfriend hugs driver of 32 tonne tipper truck that killed his girlfriend
- 5 Burglar steals video tapes of child abuse, hands them into police
- < Previous
- Next >
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: This Big 4 giant is seeking ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have personal tax exp...
£22000 - £37000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: This se...
£27000 - £30000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Capita ...