Hitler’s HQ makeover plans condemned as Nazi Disneyland
Adolf Hitler’s headquarters during much of the Second World War is getting a makeover by the Polish authorities to attract visitors, prompting concerns that it will be transformed into a Nazi theme park.
The Wolf’s Lair (pictured), a secret complex in the dense forest of modern-day northeast Poland, was the dictator’s base for the majority of the war, giving him better access to the bloody Eastern Front.
Nearly 300,000 tourists visit each year, mostly Poles and Germans, for a US$4 entrance fee.
The Austrian-born leader spent 850 days at the Wolfsschanze, in what was then East Prussia, between 1941 and 1944.
The Nazis blew up many of the bunkers and other installations as the Red Army advanced in January 1945.
In Soviet-occupied Poland, the forest encroached into the moss-covered site and it is now in dire need of repair.
The Polish Srokowo Forest District, which manages the compound, is investing heavily in the Wolf’s Lair.
The district’s spokesman Sebastian Trapik said every effort was being made to maintain “due seriousness and respect for historical truth” at the crumbling historic site.
Mutinous officers tried to kill Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair on July 20, 1944, in the plot known as Operation Valkyrie, adding to the site’s interest.
Hitler survived the briefcase bomb, as depicted in the Hollywood film starring Tom Cruise, with only a perforated eardrum and bruising because the explosive was moved by an aide behind a heavy oak conference table.
The conspirators, led by Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, were rapidly arrested and executed.
The Wolf’s Lair had 200 buildings with two airstrips and a railway station with 2,000 staff and security personnel. It was protected by anti-aircraft guns and minefields and naturally by lakes and marshes.
Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini and other Axis allies visited Hitler at the 250-hectare compound.
Critics have said insensitive “attractions”, including amateur re-enactments by actors in Nazi uniforms, could turn the site into a sick version of Disneyland.
A restaurant and even a bunker hotel are being planned.
Previously, other sites associated with Hitler have taken a more drastic approach.
In Germany, most sites connected with Hitler have been destroyed.
The Berlin bunker where he died in 1945 is now an unremarkable car park.
After years of resistance to any commemoration, the Berlin authorities erected an information plaque in 2006.
The Wolfsschanze or Wolf’s Lair today. Picture credit: Wikimedia