Polish gov't to turn Nazi HQ into educational center

$2 million project aims to educate the younger generation about "Wolf’s Lair," Hitler’s Polish base.

Photo of Nazi troops to be displayed at Wolf's Lair 370 (photo credit: Wilczy Szaniec)
Photo of Nazi troops to be displayed at Wolf's Lair 370
(photo credit: Wilczy Szaniec)
KRAKOW – The Polish government has announced plans to renovate Adolf Hitler’s wartime headquarters in Nazi-occupied Poland – a network of bunkers known as the “Wolf’s Lair” – and turn it into an educational center and museum.
The $2 million project aims to teach tourists and Polish schoolchildren about the history of the “Wolf’s Lair” and Nazi ideology. The educational center is scheduled to open to the public in approximately two years.
“The main idea behind the project is to introduce the Wolf’s Lair as a place where totalitarian ideas developed and their horrific results,” said Jan Zaluska, 65, the CEO of Wolf’s Nest, the company that leased the site in 1991 and has operated it ever since.
“We will turn the Wolf’s Lair into an educational center, especially for the younger generation,” said Zaluska. “We are very concerned by the fact that the younger generation’s knowledge of history gets worse every year as observed in the students who have been coming here from all over the world in recent years.”
The Polish Culture Ministry also emphasized the educational purpose behind the project.
“\The goal of the exhibitions and displays is to show visitors how beliefs like the Nazi ideology can distort an entire country. The displays will try to tell the story of daily life in Nazi command and the horrific decisions taken there,” the ministry stated.
One of the exhibitions will show the failed assassination attempt of Hitler by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, which occurred at the Wolf’s Lair in 1944.
Polish historian Tomasz Chinchinski from the World War II Museum in Gdansk is responsible for the planned exhibitions.
“We do not want to create a glorification of Nazism, so our goal is not to show the visitors only the bunkers and the fortresses or the assassination attempt on Hitler, but to give them the tragic dimension that symbolizes this place, which was the command center of a terrible and destructive war machine,” he said.
“We do not intend to rebuild the Wolf’s Lair as it was then because we believe that this would be morally wrong. We wish to introduce its history and teach the visitors about key decisions made in this place that led to the Holocaust.”
Work on the Wolf’s Lair began in 1940, shortly after Germany’s invasion of Poland when Hitler decided to build a headquarters that would include dozens of offices and a chain of large bunkers from which he could command the Nazi army.
The responsibility for the building of these headquarters was given to the Todt organization, a government organization that was founded in 1933 by Fritz Todt, the German minister of ammunition.
Most of the organization’s workers were prisoners of concentration camps and forced labor prisons. During four years, they built dozens of underground bunkers in a forest in northern Poland and placed mines in a large radius around the compound.
Seventy years later, anyone who visits this important historical site, the center of Hitler’s war machine, finds what the Polish historian Jan Oldakowski has described as a “grotesque Disneyland.”
The complex now includes a hotel, restaurant, shooting range and other tourist attractions, most of them with no connection to the original purpose of the structures.
Even the buildings themselves, many of which were left standing since the end of the war, are covered with thick moss. Large parts of the bunkers are in ruins.
“The biggest change that has happened here in the past decade is the placement of a cash machine,” said Lukasz Joachimek, 36, a tourist guide.
Luiza Jankowska, a 22-yearold student of political science at the Gdansk University, could not hide her disappointment.
“I came to the Wolf’s Lair because I wanted to see the place where Colonel Von Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler. I was very disappointed to see the dilapidated condition of the site,” she said.