'Wolf's Lair' renovation aims to educate

By Tony Paterson

The ruined bunker complex in the forests of northeast Poland 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 240ha complex and turn it into a historical and educational centre.

The project has been initiated by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, which has granted a new lease for the "Wolf's Lair" under the proviso that the company running the site drops its fun park image.

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 buildings and concrete bunkers.

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 that failed to kill the Nazi leader while he was attending a staff meeting on July 20, 1944. Von Stauffenberg was executed along with many other plotters.

After communism's collapse, the Polish 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, a staff officer sentenced to death at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

The Polish historian Jan Oldakowski has described the complex as a "grotesque Disneyland".

"The biggest change here over the past decade has been the introduction of a cash machine," said Lukasz Joachymek, a freelance tour guide. Independent

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