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German newsreel: Hitler receives officials at Wolfschanze and inspects
winter clothing and equipment, November 1941: Launch Real Player
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Hitler receives Ribbentrop, Keitel, Göring, and others at Wolfschanze, August 1943:
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Conference room at Wolfschanze after assassination attempt, July 20, 1944;
Hitler receives Mussolini at Wolfschanze just after attack:
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Hitler’s most well-known field headquarters, Wolfschanze (Wolf’s
Lair), was located in Rastenburg (Ketrzyn), East Prussia (now Poland), 200 km
north of Warsaw. It was built in 1941 and enlarged in 1944.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union began June 22, 1941. Hitler arrived at
Wolfschanze on June 24th. While the dictator stayed only a few weeks in his
other redoubts, he spent three years at Wolfschanze, a place Colonel General
Alfred Jodl described as “a cross between a cloister and a concentration camp.”
Hitler left Wolfschanze November 20, 1944, as the Red Army approached. On
January 24, 1945, German soldiers dynamited the bunkers.
Of all Hitler’s field headquarters, Wolfschanze is most popular with tourists,
despite the fact that it is nothing but a heap of ruins. Nevertheless, the site
is quite open and accessible. 250,000 visitors arrive yearly, mainly Poles and
Germans, singly and in groups. Swarms of ravenous mosquitoes greet them.
The standard tour passes Martin Bormann’s bunker number 11, Hitler’s bunker 13,
Hermann Göring’s bunker 16, Colonel-General Alfred Jodl’s bunker 17, and Field
Marshall Wilhelm Keitel’s bunker 19. Fritz Todt, who built Wolfschanze, had his
own bunker, which Albert Speer inherited after Todt’s death in a mysterious
plane crash, February 8, 1942. In all, there were more than eighty bunkers and
buildings, among them a railroad station, two airfields, and a power plant.
Still present are the ruins of the barracks where Claus von Stauffenberg’s bomb
2,100 officers, soldiers, and civilians were stationed at Wolfschanze. Barbed
wire, mine fields, ordnance, guardhouses, road barricades, and the East Prussian
forests separated this work force from the outside world.
Wolfschanze was freezing cold in winter, stifling hot in summer. To eliminate
mosquitoes, the Wehrmacht poured oil on the nearby lakes, but killed all the
frogs along with the mosquitoes. Hitler was peeved. The croaking frogs serenaded
him to sleep, he said. So his minions had to bring in more frogs.
Hitler’s bunker had an external concrete shell, like a nuclear power plant,
covering a huge concrete block. His chamber was windowless, completely closed
off from the outside, illuminated only by electric light.
Albert Speer described Hitler’s bunker as resembling an ancient Egyptian tomb.
In these surreal, cramped surroundings, the Führer would hold forth for hours on
end, torturing his minions with long-winded disquisitons in the wee hours of the
morning. Only courtesy and a sense of duty, according to Speer, enabled Hitler’s
exasperated listeners to stay awake.
A private company currently maintains Wolfschanze. Officials insist that they
will never turn it into a Hitlerian Disneyland.
From his field headquarters on New Year's Day, 1945, a subdued Hitler spoke to the German people. Albert
Speer described the scene:
Hitler’s western headquarters [code
named Adlerhorst, "eagle's nest"], from
which he had directed the Ardennes offensive, was at one end of a solitary
grassy valley near Bad Nauheim, a mile northwest of Ziegenberg. Hidden in woods,
camouflaged as blockhouses, the bunkers had the same massive ceilings and walls
as all the other places at which Hitler stayed.
Three times since my appointment as a minister I had
tried to deliver my New Year's wishes to Hitler personally, and each time
something thwarted my intention. In 1943 it had been the icing of an airplane,
in 1944 motor damage on the flight from the coast of the Arctic Ocean when I was
returning from the front.
Two hours of this year of 1945 had passed when I at last, after passing through
many barriers, arrived in Hitler's private bunker. I had not come too late:
adjutants, doctors, secretaries, Bormann--the whole circle except for the
generals attached to the Führer's headquarters, were gathered around Hitler
drinking champagne. The alcohol had relaxed everyone, but the atmosphere was
still subdued. Hitler seemed to be the only one in the company who was drunk
without having taken any stimulating beverage. He was in the grip of a permanent
Although the beginning of a new year in no way
dispelled the desperate situation of the year past, there seemed to be a general
feeling of thankfulness that we could begin anew at least on the calendar.
Hitler made optimistic forecasts for 1945. The present low point would soon be
overcome, he said; in the end we would be victorious. The circle took these
prophecies in silence. Only Bormann enthusiastically seconded Hitler. After more
than two hours, during which Hitler spread around his credulous optimism, his
followers, including myself, were transported in spite of all their skepticism
into a more sanguine state. His magnetic gifts were still operative. For it was
no longer possible to produce conviction by rational arguments. We ought to have
come to our senses when Hitler drew the parallel between our situation and that
of Frederick the Great at the end of the Seven Years' War, for the implication
was that we faced utter military defeat. But none of us drew this conclusion.
|Zur Jahreswende spricht der Führer aus seinem Hauptquartier
zum deutschen Volk:
„Deutsches Volk! Nationalsozialisten! Nationalsozialistinnen! Meine
Nur der Jahreswechsel veranlaßt mich, heute zu Ihnen, meine deutschen
Volksgenossen und Volksgenossinnen, zu sprechen. Die Zeit hat von mir mehr
als Reden gefordert. Die Ereignisse der hinter uns liegenden zwölf Monate,
besonders aber der Vorgang des 20. Juli, haben mich gezwungen, meine ganze
Aufmerksamkeit und Arbeitskraft der einzigen Aufgabe zu widmen, für die ich
seit vielen Jahren lebe: dem Schicksalskampf meines Volkes.
Ich möchte am Ende dieses Jahres nun all den unzähligen Millionen meiner
Volksgenossen als der Sprecher der Nation und in diesem Augenblick auch als
der Führer ihres Schicksals aus übervollem Herzen danken für alles, was sie
erlitten, geduldet, getan und geleistet haben, den Männern und den Frauen,
bis hinunter zu unseren Kindern in der HJ., in den Städten und Marktflecken,
in den Dörfern und auf dem Lande. Ich möchte sie bitten, auch in Zukunft
nicht zu erlahmen, sondern der Führung der Bewegung zu vertrauen und mit
äußerstem Fanatismus diesen schweren Kampf für die Zukunft unseres Volkes
durchzufechten. Im übrigen will ich euch, meine Volksgenossen, so wie in den
langen Jahren des Ringens um die Macht, auch heute aufs neue versichern, daß
mein Glaube an die Zukunft unseres Volkes unerschütterlich ist. Wem die
Vorsehung so schwere Prüfungen auferlegt, den hat sie zu Höchstem berufen!
Es ist daher meine einzige Sorge, mich abzumühen, um das deutsche Volk durch
diese Zeit der Not hindurchzuführen und ihm damit das Tor in jene Zukunft zu
öffnen, an die wir alle glauben, für die wir kämpfen und arbeiten.
Ich kann diesen Appell nicht schließen, ohne dem Herrgott zu danken für die
Hilfe, die er Führung und Volk hat immer wieder finden lassen, sowie für die
Kraft, die er uns gegeben hat, stärker zu sein als die Not und Gefahr. Wenn
ich ihm dabei auch danke für meine eigene Rettung, dann nur, weil ich
glücklich bin, mein Leben damit weiter in den Dienst meines Volkes stellen
zu können. In dieser Stunde will ich daher als Sprecher Großdeutschlands
gegenüber dem Allmächtigen das feierliche Gelöbnis ablegen, daß wir treu und
unerschütterlich unsere Pflicht auch im neuen Jahr erfüllen werden, des
felsenfesten Glaubens, daß die Stunde kommt, in der sich der Sieg endgültig
dem zuneigen wird, der seiner am würdigsten ist: dem Großdeutschen Reiche!
Announcer: At New Year, the Führer speaks to the German
Volk from his headquarters: At
year’s end I am spokesman for the nation and at this moment also the agent of
its destiny. With overflowing heart I thank the countless millions of my
comrades for everything that they have done, suffered, put up with, and
accomplished. I include people in the cities, market towns, and little towns
and our children. I would like to ask you not to lose
heart but to trust in the leadership of the movement. With extreme fanaticism
you must fight this ponderous war for our people’s future to the end. Overall,
comrades, I want to assure you again that, just as during our struggle for
power, my belief in the future of our Volk is unshaken. One has received the
highest calling when providence lays before one such difficult trials.
Therefore, I alone must make every effort to lead the German Volk through these
hard times and open the door to the future, for which we all work and fight. I
cannot close this appeal without thanking almighty God for the help he has
given to Volk and leadership, as well as for the power he has given us to be
stronger than the troubles and danger we confront. I thank God for my own
salvation only because I am happy that I am able to offer my life to the
service of my Volk. In this hour, as spokesman for Great Germany, I vow to the
Almighty that we will be faithful and unshaken in our duty. In the New Year we
will fulfill our rock-solid belief that the hour will come when victory will
come to those who are most worthy, the Great German Reich.
Volk! National Socialists. My comrades! Only the arrival of the New Year has
prompted me to speak to you. The times have demanded more from me than
speeches. The events of the past twelve months, especially those of July 20th
[the assassination attempt], have forced me to dedicate all my attention and
strength to that for which I have lived many years: the destiny-struggle of my
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