Hitler's bunker, where he lived, worked and slept, was an enormous block of concrete deprived of windows and with foundations going 7 m down into the ground. The ceiling was 8 m thick. The rooms were just over 2 metres high and were simply furnished. Fresh air got here only through the ventilators so the smell of a concrete bunker and humidity prevailed.
Like on many other bunkers here, some trees grew on the roof.
Only the north wall of the bunker remains. If you walk around it, you will see the empty shell of Hitler's flat, with thick wires hanging from the ceiling. Nothing but the ruin that it deserves to be.
One of the first stops on the sightseeing tour of Wolfsschanze is the site of the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler on 20 July, 1944. If it had succeeded it could have spared the nations of Europe even more suffering and destruction. Plans to kill Hitler had been made by some German officers who believed his actions could prove catastrophic for the Third Reich. It fell upon colonel Claus Schenk count von Stauffenberg to carry out the sentence of death. It all went well at first - he had managed to leave his briefcase with a bomb under the table at which Hitler and his officers were holding a meeting. He had also managed to leave the room before the bomb exploded and even flee to Berlin in the belief that Hitler had been killed. As it turned out four people had died in the explosion but Hitler had only been slightly injured.
Repressions following the attempted murder were horrendous: Stauffenberg and his three assistants were shot only hours later, over the next eight months 700 people were arrested and tortured, 150 were killed. Officers in Plotzensee were hanged on cambrels. And Hitler interpreted his own salvation as a sign from Providence confirming his 'life mission'.
The site of the attempted assassination is now marked with a memorial to Colonel Stauffenberg.
8 kilometres east of Ketrzyn lies Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) - Adolf Hitler's war headquarters, a complex of over 80 (some sources speak of even 200), now mostly ruined, buildings in the midst of marshy forest. The place had been chosen for its inaccessibility and closeness to the Russian border and the Eastern front.
Hitler arrived here with his entourage on 24 June 1941 to spend over 800 days in this secluded spot. He and the over 2000 people serving him had everything they needed there: shelters, barracks, two airports, a power station, air-conditioners, water-works, heat-generating plants and two teleprinters. No luxuries though, and permanent humidity and plenty of mosquitoes to torment them.
Obviously, life in that hidden military town centred around Hitler and his orders and whims. You can read more about it in the guidebooks. Here are some of his infamous collaborators who stayed there with him: Hermann Goring, Heinrich Himmler, Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, dr Fritz Todt and others. It was here that Hitler made many of his war-time decisions, including those concerning the construction of new death camps.
In November 1944, soon after the Red Army troops reached the borders of East Prussia, Hitler's headquarters were moved to Zossen near Berlin. Two days later an order was given to blow up Wolfsschanze. It was carried out on the night of 24/25 January 1945. 8 tonnes of explosives had to be used to blow up each of the big bunkers. Huge pieces of concrete flew as far as 50-100 metres from the sites of the explosion. When the Red Army arrived there, powerful Wolfsschanze was a mass of ruins.
Opening hours: daily from 8 a.m. till dusk
Admission: 12 PLN, students and schoolchildren - 6 PLN
Parking: car - 8 PLN, motorcycle - 4 PLN, bicycle (yes!) - 2 PLN
Guided tours: in Polish - 40 PLN; in English, German, Russian, French or Italian - 50 PLN per group of up to 10 people
Uphill close to the Teutonic Castle stands another unique Gothic building - St George's Basilica with fragments of the town walls and bastions. Built in the second half of the 14th century by the Teutonic Knights and extended in the 15th century, it was obviously meant to be used for defensive purposes if needed. With two towers, one of them 40 m high, it has the look of a castle. Inside, note elaborate vaulting constructed in 1515 by Master Matz of Gdansk, a pulpit dating back to 1594 and two 15th century cells probably linked to the defensive character of the building. You can also see displayed some precious objects from the county graveyards.
As we visited the place on a Sunday, we found the church open but we couldn't explore it as there was a wedding ceremony going on. We left in a bit of a hurry as we were tired after visiting 'Wolf's Lair' and there was a woman with the look of a drug addict, pestering us for money at the church door.
Dating back to 1360-70, the Gothic Teutonic Castle is Ketrzyn's greatest tourist attraction. Its three wings and a wall with a marvellous Gothic gate surround a cobblestone courtyard in the shape of, approximately, a quadrangle. One of its corners houses a round brick tower, added to the building in 1622.
The castle is in excellent condition for such an old structure. You would never guess that it had to be rebuilt after the damage done to it by the Soviet Army in 1945. Its exterior was reconstructed in 1962-67, according to 19th century drawings by C. Steinbrecht.
It now houses a public library and a museum with a collection of Gothic sculpture, old handicraft, and 17th-19th century furniture.
Open: 15 June-15 September - Mon.-Fri. 9.00-18.00, Sat.-Sun. 9.00-17.00
16 September-14 June - Sat.-Mon. 9.00-15.00, Tue.-Fri. 9.00-16.00
Admission: 5 PLN, concessions - 2 PLN
Whilst I was staying in Ketrzyn I noticed on the town map there was a lake not far from the town centre. On my last day there which happened to be a Saturday, the shops had all closed early. So I wandered off behind the town centre and found the lake. On a sunny afternoon, sat on a bench, it was one of those feel good factors.
Headquarters of German OKW 1941-44. About 30 bunkers in various states of preservation in ther forest.