Category Archives: News/Stories

Wolf’s Lair: Hitler’s Infamous Bunker Faces Its Past

by DW

A complex of crumbling former Nazi bunkers in a northeast Poland forest became a Disneyland for selfie-stick wielding tourists. Also the site of an assassination attempt on Hitler, it’s now getting a facelift.

The room where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944 is being rebuilt this year as part of a major renovation of the Wolfsschanze, or Wolf’s Lair, the bunker complex in eastern Poland where the Nazi leader spent much of the war.

The conference room was devastated in the infamous assassination attempt in which an explosion killed four Nazi officers, but which Hitler survived with light wounds. A thick oak table deflected the blast of the briefcase bomb that Stauffenberg had placed on the floor before leaving the room and travelling back to Berlin.

The renovation project coincides with this year’s 75th anniversary of the July 20 assassination attempt. It will feature life-size models of Hitler and all those who were present that fateful day.

“The priority this year is the reconstruction of the meeting room in which Stauffenberg carried out an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Hitler,” said Sebastian Trapik, a spokesman for the Wolf’s Lair memorial site. In addition to the placement of “symbolic figures depicting those present at the time of the explosion,” re-enactments might also be performed, he added.

Only the foundations of the barrack building where the explosion happened remain. Set in dense woods near Kętrzyn in former East Prussia, the site is marked by a memorial to resistance hero Stauffenberg, who, together with three co-conspirators, was shot dead in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock military headquarters in Berlin within hours of the failed assassination.

Hitler and recently arrived guest Benito Mussolini visit the scene of the failed assassination attempt in the hours after the explosion.

Ordering the Holocaust

The reconstruction of the Wolf’s Lair is the latest in a series of measures aimed at refocusing the historical significance of the site for its 300,000 annual visitors.

Historians and visitors have long condemned the Eastern Front bunker as a ghoulish tourist trap focused more on entertainment than informing people about the fateful decisions taken there. Warsaw Uprising Museum director, Jan Oldakowski, for example, once described the site as a “grotesque Disneyland.”

But in the bunkers that now stand cracked and covered in moss like Mayan temples in a jungle, decisions were made to carry out the Holocaust, and to take no prisoners in the crushing of the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944 — when 250,000 Poles were killed.

This important history will be central to the complete redesign of the Wolf’s Lair that was launched by the Polish Forestry Inspectorate, which took over the site from a private leaseholder in 2017.

The crumbling Stauffenberg memorial at the Wolf’s Lair.

Reflecting on the past

Before the modernization, there was scant historical information apart from some boards with maps showing the main bunkers and a sign explaining the July 20 plot. Private guides were on hand but some of them focused more on technical information, such as the thickness of the walls, rather than on historical context.

The new management has shut down what Sebastian Trapik calls “fairground entertainment,” including a ramshackle shooting range where tourists could, for a few cents, fire bursts of pellets at plastic bottles from replica pneumatic MP40 submachine guns. It was housed in the former bunker of General Alfred Jodl, who was hanged at Nuremberg for war crimes. Paintball sessions that used to be on offer here have also been stopped.

Meanwhile, information panels have been installed outside the buildings this month, and a documentary film is now screened in one of the shelters. New exhibitions about weapons and military equipment, and on the Warsaw Uprising, have been opened. A multimedia app for visitors has also been launched.

Trapik says the inspectorate had consulted historians and literature on the site in designing the new exhibitions and information panels, and that visitor numbers were already on the increase. The reconstruction of sightseeing trails and the installation of new lighting this year will also allow visitors to walk around the bunkers at night.

And while tourists can currently spend the night in one of the few intact buildings, a green-painted barracks that used to house SS officers, a new hotel, restaurant, conference room and visitor center will be completed in the next five years.

De facto Nazi capital

After Hitler relocated to his far eastern bunker in June 1941, two days after launching the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wolf’s Lair became the effective capital of the Third Reich. The Nazi dictator spent 850 days at the sprawling site that includes 50 bunkers and 70 barrack buildings, two airfields, a railway station and anti-aircraft batteries.

German military operations on all fronts were directed from the Wolf’s Lair, which was home to some 2,000 people. There were eight huge bunkers for the Nazi leadership. Hitler, his secretary Martin Bormann and Hermann Göring had their own, and there was a guest bunker for state guests such as Benito Mussolini and Pierre Laval, the leader of France’s Vichy regime.

The roofs were continuously thickened to protect the bunkers from Allied bombs. Hitler’s ceiling was eight meters thick in the end.

The remains of the ‘guest bunker’ for VIP visitors, among them Mussolini.

‘Site of the perpetrators’

The Wolf’s Lair was evacuated in November 1944 as the Red Army closed in. German engineers tried to detonate all the bunkers in January 1945, however the steel-reinforced concrete was so strong that many buildings remained standing. Today they remain spectacularly mangled in parts, with walls at precarious angles and lumps of masonry hanging from rusted steel wires.

The site is especially significant since few so-called “sites of the perpetrators” remain from the Nazi era. Hitler’s Berghof retreat on Obersalzberg mountain in Bavaria, and the Berlin bunker where he committed suicide, were razed at the end of the war.

Historian say that with wartime generations dying out fast, original locations like the Wolf’s Lair can, when their history is properly presented, help younger generations comprehend the evils of — and resistance to — the Nazi regime.

0Shares

Dresden Commemorates 1945 Allied Area Bombing with Human Chain

By DW 

Tens of thousands gathered in Dresden’s old town to pay tribute to the victims of Allied air raids in 1945. The commemoration has taken place every year since 2010 and often attracts right-wing demonstrators.

Around 11,500 people stood hand-in-hand to form a human chain around Dresden’s old town on Wednesday commemorating the 74th anniversary of an allied bombing in 1945 during World War II.

Dresden was decimated by a series of four air raids from February 13-15, 1945, during which British and US air forces dropped more than 3,900 tons of explosives. The heavy use of various incendiary bombs led to a firestorm in the city, a phenomenon is more typically seen in nature when a fire becomes so large it creates and sustains its own wind systems, sucking in more oxygen and facilitating its own spread.

Between 23,000 and 25,000 people are thought to have died in the area bombing, concentrated not on strategic targets but on a population center.

Since 2010, thousands have traditionally gathered in Dresden every year on February 13 to form a human chain around the old town, where most of the destruction occurred, to symbolically protect it.

City partnerships

Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer and Dresden’s Mayor Dirk Hilbert were among those who participated. A delegation from Wroclaw, Poland and the British city of Coventry also joined the ranks — both cities suffered severe damage from the air in World War II and have had partnerships with Dresden over the past 60 years.

Hilbert, mayor since 2015, recalled the victims not only in Dresden but also in other European cities. He highlighted the importance of reconciliation, saying there were currently “reconciliation gaps” around Europe that need to be closed.

Around 100 people also gathered at Dresden’s Frauenkirche for a prayer for peace, where pastor Sebastian Feydt paid tribute to the 60-year partnership between Dresden and Coventry. All church bells in Dresden are also set to ring at 9:45 p.m. CET (2045 UTC), the time of the first air raid on February 13.

Right-wing demonstrations

The annual commemorations in Dresden, a city that was once strong in its Nazi sympathies, have also traditionally attracted right-wing extremists, who organize events on the February 13 anniversary for their own political purposes.

The high numbers of civilian casualties during the bombings of cities like Dresden and Hamburg, coupled with historians questioning their strategic value so late in the war, are popular talking points among the far-right in Germany.

On Wednesday, members of the Young Alternative for Germany, the youth wing of Germany’s AfD party, and the ultranationalist National Democratic Party (NDP) laid a wreath at the Heide cemetery in Northern Dresden.

Other AfD party members also leaned wreaths on the Altmarkt memorial at the center of Dresden’s old town, where the bodies of thousands of victims were burned after the Allied attacks in 1945.

38Shares

2019 State of the Historical Society and Website

 

Hello All Members,

I’m writing this to discuss the website and historical society in which we will cover some of the good things and issues we are running into while going into 2019.

We are growing. While we do not have a brick and mortar organization as of yet, we are seeing an uptick and improvement in membership and donations while we are working on growing the website in all areas from writing to photography. This is something we strive to bring to all who enjoy this website: the information of history with current events and photos. As we boast, we by far have one if not the largest collection of German historical and military photos beneath the actual German Federal Archives.

We are still focusing on the writing and mainly working on the World War II area of German military history. This will in time change to other areas such as World War I and other parts of German history. I know, I know. We are working towards that for the WWI buffs. But if we come across pictures from all eras, they will be posted soon after when time allows.

Here are some good things we are seeing or accomplishing:
  1. Pages on the Website: 466
  2. Photos and Images on Website: 20,854
  3. The writing is being worked on weekly with more and more information being added.
  4. Website Members lists are growing!
  5. Paying or Society Members are growing at a nice rate!
  6. Donations have been coming in for the website and museum!
  7. We added a Forum for members to talk about historical subjects.
  8. Upgraded security features for the website.
Unfortunately, there are down things also:
  1. We need more donations or the long term goal of the museum will not happen!
  2. We are seeing constant web attacks from spammers and more. Granted the entire internet has this issue, but we are forced to remove members when they don’t follow our Sign Up Rules.
  3. Removing members due to their emails being blacklisted on the web due to spam accounts. People you have to change your passwords and they must be strong or your accounts will be broken into. This causes your email to do illegal things.
  4. Removing the Chat Feature. It was not popular, but maybe one day we will bring it back.
  5. The last and always the constant pain – People coming here thinking we will support their National Socialist – Nazis beliefs, non-sense, stupidity, etc. We cover the history and support the soldaten that served Germany. Nazism is Dead. The Holocaust is a Stain on German Honor. This is not forgivable. Nazis will never secure a majority anywhere around the world. Take the hate and go crawl back into your hole.

I hope everyone has enjoyed my short report on things. Any questions, please send them to our inbox. Danke.

 

Mit Freundlichen Gruß,

Hans-Wilhelm B. von Richter, Chancellor of the Society
Historical Society of German Military History

Please make a Donation to help the study of German History and to help honor German Veterans. Danke.

80Shares

German WW1 Submarine emerges off French Coast

by BBC

The wreck of a World War One German submarine is gradually resurfacing on a beach in northern French after decades of being buried in the sand.

Shifting sand off Wissant, near Calais, is exposing the remains of the UC-61 which was stranded there in July 1917.

The crew flooded the vessel and abandoned it and by the 1930s the submarine had largely been buried.

It is now becoming a tourist attraction again, although the local mayor warns it may only be a fleeting visit.

Since December, two sections of the submarine have been visible at low tide about 330ft (100m) from the dunes.

“The wreck is visible briefly every two to three years, depending on the tides and the wind that leads to sand movements, but a good gust of wind and the wreck will disappear again,” said Mayor of Wissant Bernard Bracq.

However, local tour guide Vincent Schmitt believes the winds and tides could lead to even more of the UC-61 being exposed.

“All the residents of Wissant knew there was a submarine here, but the wreck is mostly silted and therefore invisible,” he said.

“Pieces reappear from time to time, but this is the first time we discover so much.”

German submarines, known as U-boats, targeted Allied shipping during World War One, sinking hundreds of vessels.

Historians say the UC-61 was credited with sinking at least 11 ships, either by laying mines or by firing torpedoes.

On its last journey, the submarine had left Zeebrugge in Belgium and was heading to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Le Havre to lay mines when it ran aground.

The 26 crewmen surrendered to French authorities.

47Shares

German army forms sixth tank battalion

by DW

The German army is growing for the first time since the end of the Cold War. Germany’s defense minister said the new tank battalion will help the country meet its NATO commitments.

The German army will be strengthened with a sixth tank battalion in response to rising security concerns in Europe, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.

“With this, the German army will grow for the first time in decades,” von der Leyen said at a military base near the western city of Münster.

The formation of the 363rd Tank Battalion will begin in October next year, with battalion staff and the first of four companies to be stationed at the Hardheim military base south of Frankfurt.

A second company will become active in October 2021, followed by the transfer of another two companies to Hardheim from bases in the states of Bavaria and Thuringia.

More than 100 Leopard 2 tanks are currently being upgraded, some of which will join the 363rd Panzer Battalion, von der Leyen said.

The formation of the 500 soldier-strong battalion comes as Germany increases its defense spending in response to security threats from Russia and pressure from the United States to meet NATO defense budget targets.

52Shares