WHY A GREAT MANY COME TO ‘WOLFSSCHANZE’ (POLAND) AND VERY FEW GIVE CREDIT TO ‘WEHRWOLF’ (UKRAINE)
The military headquarters of Adolf Hitler, attributed in German as ‘Führerhauptquartier’ (Fuhrer’s main quarters) have been historically misappreciated as no less than an issue of political and territorial organization in Europe in the days of the Third Reich. It’s a secret to no one that the concentration of authority and centralization of power in the Third Reich, in Hitler’s hands in the disposal of his military and party environment was personified in extreme. In the context of geography, the center of the military-political life of Germany, as well as the fate and fortune of its allies and satellites, were beyond the exclusive province of Berlin. To any point of time Hitler was at his military headquarters distanced 10 kilometers from the heartstreets of the Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, the surrounding area allocated the greater part of the party leaders, admitted members of Hitler’s intimate circle, fuhrer’s personal adjutants and chiefs of army staffs than any other part of Europe, including Berlin.
The extensive historiography of the Second World War, including numerous memoirs and scholarly researches, has preserved hundreds of references to the ‘WEHRWOLF’ HQ. Anyhow, the history of this location as well as a number of issues dealing with the Eastern front, are still at the low level of understanding of the majority of my Western readers (Ukraine is my heartland). At varying times, this very pinewood forest at a stone’s throw from Vinnytsia witnessed the visits of Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda; Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer and the infamous chief of the SS; Albert Speer, the nominal architecture of the state and later the Minister of Armaments; Hermann Goering, nominally the second-in-a-row man in the Third Reich and the one-of-his-kind Reichsmarshal of the Air forces (Luftwaffe); Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary and the ‘power behind the throne’ of the regime; Alfred Rosenberg, the ideological inspirator of the Nazi movement and later the head of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories.
The headquarters in Ukraine was also attended by Ion Antonescu, the authoritarian ruler of Romania; Ante Pavelic, the man in dictator power in Croatia as well as a cast of foreign ambassadors of Germany’s allies and even the neutral countries such as Turkey. All while Blondie, Hitler’s favorite sheepdog, was constantly (in the disposal of personal veterinary officer) near fuhrer in ‘WEHRWOLF’, Eva Braun had never visited Hitler in his military headquarters, in contrast with the yellow-press speculations you can find.
Traudl Junge, the personal secretary of Adolf Hitler, would recall in her memories sixty years later (the book would breathe inspiration into the creation of the acknowledged ‘Der Untergang’ (The bunker) 2004 movie), that the enormous stuffy heat and dampness inside the premises of the headquarters near Vinnytsia had damaged her own health of young girl 22 years old. Rochus Misch, a former personal bodyguard of Hitler and the later-on witness of the agony within the Berlin bunker in spring 1945, would comprise his 2008 memoirs with details, that he had practiced a kind of barter with the locals, an exchange of knitting needles sent by his wife from Germany for sunflower oil and gooses, a gift to send back to his family. Walter Schellenberg, a deputy commander of the SD foreign intelligence at that time, would later write on his first fly over the occupied territory of the Eastern front and the first-in-a-row visit to the ‘WEHRWOLF’.
Albert Speer would fill his 1969 ‘Inside the Third Reich’ memoirs with recallings on his automobile rides around Vinnytsia without bodyguards, as well as on the pinewood boards, which had once covered the walls of the officer’s canteen, Hitler used to share with his military advisers. The near-death reminiscences of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel would include the passage on the air conditioning system inside the ‘Führerhauptquartier’ in Ukraine had been of poor assistance to Hitler’s constant headaches back in summer 1942 and only deepened fuhrer’s irritancy and hard temper. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein would also recall the sickly look of the German supreme commander (Hitler) within his own military headquarters close to Vinnytsia. Heinrich Hofmann, the personal photographer of Adolf Hitler, visited the Ukraine headquarters for a number of occasions and completed (with the help of his own assistant) a series of photos. Years from that period, he would resurrect his own recallings on Hitler’s reaction to the news of the capitulation of the 6th army in Stalingrad. Walter Warlimont, deputy chief (next to Alfred Jodl) of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) Operations Staff, also had his career times back in Ukraine and later wrote on his free and easy swimming in the river of Southern Bug and chatting with the local citizens.
Above and beyond the fact that OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres) staff were stationed in the city of Vinnytsia, the ‘WEHRWOLF’ headquarter had been visited by the commanders of one in every army groups, including Friedrich Paulus, Günther von Kluge, Wilhelm List, Erwin Rommel, Erich Von Manstein, and Heinz Guderian. Franz Halder, the chief of staff of the Army High Command (OKH), used to make a car passage almost every single day to cover the distance between the University of Vinnytsia (staff of the OKH was stationed in) and the ‘Führerhauptquartier’ in the woods to the North. As a mere day-to-day basis, the officers of different ranks had to make repeated air journeys to the ‘Wehrwolf’ for the relevant operational manuals and orders. Victor Lutze, a successor of Ernst Rohn as the formal leader of the SA, visited ‘Wehrwolf’ in July 1942 to make a report on the performance of his soldier in a war. In August 1942 Otto Georg Thierack, the president of the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Court) made his way to the Ukrainian headquarters to be appointed as the Reich Minister of Justice (a man, who would implement a legal term ‘Vernichtung Durch Arbeit, ‘the extermination through work’.
On a personal commission from Hitler, the flights of the attendees were to be serviced by a separate air unit, known as the ‘Fliegerstaffel des Fuhrers’ (The flying squadron of Fuhrer), quartered on a separate airfield 25 km from Vinnytsia and supervised by Hans Baur, Hitler’s personal pilot. The air old-timer Baur would recall, years from that period (in his ‘I was Hitler’s pilot’ memoirs), the high charge capacity of the airfield, as well as an exceptional taste of the Ukrainian noodles with eggs. Back in August 1942, Baur was commissioned to handle the widow of István Horthy and thus the daughter-in-law of Miklós Horthy, the authoritative dictator of Hungary, from the military hospital (the young woman worked there) in the Ukrainian town of Berdichev to Wehrwolf.
All while the ‘Wolfsschanze’ in the Eastern Prussia is generally mentioned and recognized of a much greater frequency, ‘Wehrwolf’ for the most part is of lower historical value for the most of ‘Western’ people. I have diversified four main reasons, why a great many come to ‘Wolfsschanze’ (Poland) and very few at least give credit to ‘Wehrwolf’ (Ukraine).
- In historical contrast with the fact, that ‘Wehrwolf’ was once built to occupy the largest area among Hitler’s military headquarters (‘Führerhauptquartier’) in Europe with 162 000 м2 of the main area, the German fuhrer spent only 118 fulls days in ‘Wehrwolf’ unlike with more than 800 days within ‘Wolfschanze’. At this rate, regardless the importance of the decisions made in Ukraine in unequal periods between July 1942 and August 1943, the more way important and long-go stay of Hitler and the Reich’s political and military command in the woods of Rastenburg reveals the gap in ‘awareness’ on the Hitler’s headquarters.
- The 1944 ‘July plot’ has been historically attributed as one of the most discussable and get-to-hear episodes of the Second World War with the natural emphasis on the events back at ‘Wolfsschanze’ in Eastern Prussia. Along with that, very few people, who find their passion in history, have cognizance of the fact, that Claus von Stauffenberg had his career times as the OKH officer in Ukraine too back in the second part of 1942. No later than in August 1942, he took an open objection among the OKH officers to the practice of mass killings of the Jews as well as to the unfavorable tide of the war for Germany. In a wider sense, this period in the woods of Ukraine deep enough into the occupied territories on the Eastern front was a starting point of Stauffenberg’s antipathy to the regime and Hitler in person, months before his service in North Africa, the well-known severe injury and close getting-to-know with the opposition. The photo below (right) depicted Claus Von Stauffenberg on his way to Vinnytsia back in summer 1942. The photo on the left depicted Graf von Stauffenberg with Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim at the OKH headquarters in Vinnytsia city.
- The overwhelming majority of the people, who annually visit Hitler’s headquarters near Vinnytsia city of Ukraine take a disappointing note that they find no more than grass and bricks on the site of the former historical importance. Sure enough, while both famous ‘Führerhauptquartiers’ were intentionally devastated by the Germans and later occupied by the Soviet forces, ‘Wolfsschanze’ HQ has been preserved in relatively better condition.
- Due to natural historical, geographical and political reasons, Ukraine, unfortunately, is attributed as a direction beyond the tourist desire for the ‘Western’ people regardless of its intensive historiography in the context of the Second World War and the Eastern front. ‘Wolfsschanze’ was to be shaped as a tourist destination back in the 1990s and is currently visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. On the other side, Hitler’s headquarter near Vinnytsia in Ukraine has been preserved as no more than woods without footpaths or any historical signs and it was no sooner than 2011, that the situation had been brought to light with the establishment of the memorial complex.
THE EASTERN FRONT AND A HQ NEAR VINNYTSIA
Originating on the invasion of Poland (‘Weiß’ plan) back in 1939, Hitler’s main adjutant (Rudolf Schmundt, later Chief of the Army Personnel Department) used to choose the location for the military headquarters of the fuhrer on considerations to the proximity to the fighting front. For reasons the history could appreciate, Hitler and his military leaders were in a position to be on the warpath and to make the campaigns without leaving Berlin. On the contrary to the logistic frame of the issue, such ‘home-minded’ practice would inevitably sophisticate and dramatize the contact between the high command and the commanders of the army groups. Hitler’s military headquarters, thus command centers were once nominated the ‘Führerhauptquartiere’. The historical records show that no less than 19 facilities of that kind were scheduled for the construction during WW2 with 14 of them finished a greater or lesser degree. A number of the finished ‘Führerhauptquartiere’ were not visited by Hitler or used for the intended purpose.
With winter 1941 approaching and on account of the extended military advance of the German army to the East, a military demand rose to move Hitler’s military headquarters from the ‘Wolfschanze’ in East Prussia (now too distanced from the headquarters of the army groups ‘South’, ‘Center’ and ‘North’) further on to the East deep into the occupied territories of the Soviet Union. No sooner than in November 1941, in the course of the blitz advance to Moscow, general Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler’s key military adjutant, assigned (previously supplied with the inspection details from the ‘Todt’ organization) the construction of two military headquarters on the Eastern front. The first one, codenamed ‘Bärenhöhle’ was chosen to be build-up near Smolensk and would not be later ever used by Hitler. The second one planned to be located closer to the Army Group ‘South’, was initially specified on the location close to the Ukrainian city of Lubny, at almost equal distance to Kyiv, Poltava, and Cherkasy. On the very third day of the building-up, the Germans now gave appropriate consideration to the incompleteness of the transport system on the location. General Schmundt assigned an order to move the construction to the reserved location close to the city of Vinnytsia, examined a week before. The new site was adequate enough to meet the requirements of the ‘Führerhauptquartiere’.
- The availability of a city of a moderate significance with sophisticated transport junction nearby. The Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia (93 000 inhabitants back in 1939) was now that kind of city. Later on, the OKH staff, altogether nearly 8000 people, would be allocated within the city. All while the local university and the asylum were chosen to place the offices, the military personnel were to be quartered simply in the apartments of Vinnytsia city. In wider means, the city of Vinnytsia was destined to provide the OKH headquarters and the residents of the ‘Wehrwolf’ HQ with the provision, electricity and a communication hub.
- The sophisticated transport options were in all cases the canonical issue when choosing the location for Hitler’s military headquarters as means to deliver building materials under construction, as well as for the later purposes of logistics for the personnel and supplying. The city of Vinnytsia had one of the major railway junctions in the region which was now accompanied by a narrow-gauge line directly to the construction site. Above and beyond the communication with the OKH headquarters in Vinnytsia (the code name ‘WINNIZA-STADT’), the transport system was considered to guarantee logistics with Luftwaffe and Herman Goering’s headquarters (codename ‘Anlage Steinbuch’), as well as with Heinrich Himmler’s HQ (codename ‘Anlage Hegewald’. The facility also allocated the office of Joachim von Ribbentrop and Doctor Lammers (State chancellery). At this period of war, the Germans also made enormous efforts to build the ‘IV Durchgangsstrasse’, the arterial road to supply the forces on the Eastern front.
- The existence of the woodland on site of the planned military headquarters was another crucial factor for the construction to the North of Vinnytsia. The few ones give consideration to the fact, that back in 1941 the location of the expected ‘Wehrwolf’ was beyond the forestry, located to the North. No sooner than on the second phase of the construction and the put-in operations of the main objects, the open-field-like territory was planted with apr. 200 trees, thousands of bushes and 12 000 m2 of grass. On the other side, the woodline to the North was completely cleared until the open field. In addition to the forestry, the granite quarry to the North would become the key source of stone on the construction of the ‘Wehrwolf’.
The construction of the ‘WEHRWOLF’ military headquarters of Adolf Hitler near Vinnytsia could be nominally divided into two stages. The main phase was initiated on December 15, 1941, and would be endured up to the July 16, 1942, and Hitler’s first day on the site. This initial phase of the construction witnessed the forced labor of apr. 1200 of Soviets prisoners of war, who would be later commissioned to conduct hard work on the construction of the ‘IV Durchgangsstrasse’ road. In contrary to the false historical belief (that Wehrwolf was constructed purely by the prisoners), the major share of the workforce was assigned to the ‘Todt’ organization, with merely 8000 workers in the height of the works in April 1942. January 1943, the period Hitler was absent, witnessed the initiation of the second building phase, which would be conducted to July 1943 and determined to create a new zone for the operating personnel, as well as to improve winterize the existed buildings.
The ‘WEHRWOLF’ military headquarters was destined to become the largest object of this kind in the history of the Second World War, with the unthinkable 11 400 cubic meters of concrete put into the construction and with 3000 of the guarding personnel, assigned to secure Adolf Hitler and the military command. Along with the construction of the HQ for Hitler, the Germans would build up the headquarters for Goering and Himmler and the extended territories of Ukraine, up to the city of Zhytomyr to the North, were pre-planned to be turned in the lad for the Volksdeutsche, after the never-completed mass evacuation of the locals. The collapse of the Third Reich would spell the death of the plans to create the so-called ‘Siedlungsgebiet Wehrwolf’ (‘Wehrwolf’ settlement area).
HITLER AND UKRAINIAN SUMMER HEAT
Every first reference of Adolf Hitler at the ‘WEHRWOLF’ alludes to the emphasis on the Ukrainian summer heat, which badly damaged the physical and maybe the mental state of the German dictator. The origin of the historical delicate gradation was not purely based on the post-war storytelling of Dr. Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal physician, who testified retrospectively, that Hitler did suffer the brain fever between 22 and 29 of July 1942. As a means of attestation to Morell’s recallings, a number of memoirs of the former ‘Wehrwolf’ staff and attendees, written independently and at varying times, included references to the unbearable heat and dampness inside the wooden buildings of the military headquarters near Vinnytsia. One of the outdoorsy thermometers was put on a tree a few steps next to the entrance of Hitler’s house. In this respect, Hitler, who had been prone to long walks, had an everyday routine of assuring oneself in the severity of the Ukrainian climate, a country he had the vision to turn into a ‘breadbasket’ for the Reich. Despite the fact, that the refrigerator was invented back in the first half of the XIX century, there were any in ‘Wehrwolf’ and the Germans used to store provision, including wine, inside of the concrete bunker beyond the ‘Sperrkreis I’ main zone. Alan Bullock would use the pages of his legendary «Hitler: A study in tyranny’ book to make a statement, that Hitler’s self-isolation within his military headquarters would later result in his poor health in general terms as well as his progressive divorcement from the reality of war.
Hitler’s fatigue back in hot July days of 1942, after troubled with constant headaches, is generally attributed to the decision, that Hitler finally commissioned on July 23, 1942 (the second day of Hitler’s brain flew, according to Theodor Morell). On that day in the ‘Wehrwolf’, Adolf Hitler prescribed the order to apportion the German forces in their advance to the East unto to Caucasus and Volga river. This 23 July document would actually derail the reasonableness of the ‘BLAU’ plan, piecemeal the forces of Wehrmacht and would finally lead to the tragedy of the 6th army in Stalingrad within seven months.
A year prior to the historically controversial July 23 decision, at the times when the Wehrmacht seemed to bring the Red Army to its knees, Adolf Hitler made his first visit to Ukraine. On that day of August 6, 1941, the German fuhrer took a personal flight to the Ukrainian city of Berdichev. He was greeted by field-marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, the supreme commander of the Army Group ‘South’ at that period and sometime later (September 23) Hitler conducted an arrangement with Ion Victor Antonescu, the Romanian ruler. It worth mentioning, that Hitler felt himself fatigue no later than the next day, August 7 and had experienced weakness and lack of energy for the span of the following week. Every second praised historians attributes this occasion as one of the reasons, which would postpone the advance to Moscow. In wider means of the Holocaust, the same day, August 7, 1941, witnessed the mass action against the Jewish population of Berdichev. The jews, which at that time formed the 40% of the city demography, were commissioned to be put into the ghetto. The ‘Berdichev tragedy’ would later become one of the first actions of a mass slaughter of the Jewish population on the occupied territories of the USSR, and the post-war investigators would reveal the bodied of apr. 20 000 former Jews from Berdichev.
On August 28, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini conducted a planned visit to the disposal of the German and Italian troops near the Ukrainian city of Uman. Only a few weeks prior to that visit the German forces surrounded and captured apr. 100 000 of the Soviet soldiers in a pocket near Uman, actually eliminating two armies. That flight to Uman was later memoired by Hans Baur, Hitler’s personal airman, who would recall the occasion, when he delegated a few-minute control to the Italian dictator and Mussolini was filled with enthusiasm on the German CONDOR. The air route included the flight over the city of Vinnytsia, the location Hitler would visit only 11 months later. In December 1941 Hitler visited the headquarters of the Army Group ‘South’ for the second time, this bout near Poltava. Historically speaking, Hitler’s migration to the ‘Wehrwolf’ in July 1942 was not his first visit to Ukraine, as well as was not the only location that the German Fuhrer had visited on the Eastern front. Later on in March 1943, Hitler would make a visit to Zaporizhia.
HITLER AND HIS 118 DAYS IN WEHRWOLF
On July 16, 1942, the air procession of 16 planes, with Hitler as the key VIP on board of his CONDOR-260, left the airfield of ‘Wilhelmsdorf’ near the ‘WOLFSSCHANZE’ in East Prussia to land on the airfield to the North of Vinnytsia three hours later. This very ‘Wilhelmsdorf’ air-ground in Wolfsschanze would be later used by Claus Von Stauffenberg prior to and just after the famous attempt upon a life of Adolf Hitler on July 20, 1944. On the hot summer day of July 16, 1942, Hitler’s CONDOR-260 was accompanied by 15 units of ‘U-52’ and ‘ME-11’. As a mere of a short carriage inside the armored car, surrounded by his personal guards, the fuhrer finally reached his new field headquarters to the north of Vinnytsia. The interior and passenger compartment of Hitler’s personal car included a niche for a hidden gun; the car body was designed to survive the machine-gun cannonade and the bullet-proof glass was to stand the rifle contact shot. The powerful headlight was aimed to blind the oncoming transport and people on the road. All the while the lack of luxuriance and spartan living conditions were common for Hitler in any of his field headquarters, the Ukrainian 40*C summer heat and the swarm of the forestry mosquitos casually made Hitler’s military and political environment to fall into nostalgia on the East Prussia. Later on, Hitler entered into Dr. Morell’s recommendations and issued for all residents of the headquarters to take the ‘Atibrin’ pill as a preventive measure to malaria.
Back in the times of the construction planning, the assigned territory between Vinnytsia and Zhytomyr, which had been previously determined include Hitler’s new headquarters, as well as the OKH staff (WINNIZA-STADT), the HQ for Luftwaffe (STEINBRUCH) and Himmler (HEGEWALD), was codenamed as ‘EICHENHAIN’ (Oakwood or ‘Oak grove’). The very location of Hitler’s military headquarters was codenamed as ‘WALD’ (Forest). For all that Hitler was not the initiator of the allocating near Vinnytsia (General Schmund’s decision), he entitled the place as ‘WEHRWOLF’ soon after the arrival, thus making a reference to the ‘Der Wehrwolf: Die Bauernchronik’ book of Hermann Löns, a german writer. The ‘Wehrwolf’ word was made up by this author and should not be confused with the indeed word ‘Werwolf’. Many of the German officers, who were commissioned to move to the Ukrainian headquarters or to visit the location, were in intended ignorance of Hitler’s bibliography and used the linguistically correct ‘WERWOLF’ nomination. In this historical respect, we could find both variants of the nomination of Hitler’s HQ near Vinnytsia, each one is in one way correct.
Regardless of some incorrect beliefs: A) Hitler was a resident of the ‘WEHRWOLF’ headquarter for the span of all days from July 1942 until August 1943. B) Hitler indeed spent only 118 full days on the location, which was almost seven-time below his presence within the ‘Wolfsschanze’. C) The making of one or another decision should not be resolved to the location itself and included a myriad of factors behind it. It’s generally established to determine three periods of Hitler’s presence at the ‘Wehrwolf’, two of which were intermitted with trips to Berlin and ‘Wolfsschanze’ respectively.
- July 16 — September 27 and October 4 — November 2
This span of time is to be attributed as the most prolonged period of Hitler’s residency in ‘Wehrwolf’ HQ in Ukraine, two months of which the German dictator spent permanently on the site up to his short-term journey to Berlin, to give a public speech. On the very day of his arrival to a new headquarters on July 16, 1942, the Vichy authorities initiated the infamous assault on the Jews in Paris and in less than a week the first cattle trucks, filled with people, would leave Warsaw in direction of Treblinka extermination camp. The summer military campaign of Wehrmacht, under the ‘BLAU’ operation, would bring a sense of triumph to Hitler (despite his July fatigue) no later than on July 24 with the German forces entering the city of Rostov-na-Donu. This event, as I have stated above, was preceded by the infamous №45 directive a day before, which reinvented German priorities on the East. On July 22, Hitler ordered to send a hand-written letter to Seyss-Inquart on his fiftieth birthday.
On July 27, 1942, more than 400 British bomb carriers would devastate Hamburg and would dishearten all the residents of the ‘Wehrwolf’ and infuriate Hitler. The next day, July 28, would sign three decrees on domestic policy, including the restriction of trade, child care and finally the public-health care. With the last one, Hitler assigned his personal physician Karl Brandt as ‘the Führer’s general commissar for the medical and public health services’. On July 29, 1942, Hitler sent a telegram to Benito Mussolini on the occasion of his 59th birthday, with the assurances that ‘their ally would secure the victory for the sake of the European freedom‘. On August 18 Hitler issued the infamous ‘Directive №46’, prescribing the most decisive methods against the partisans and the decree on architectural issues in Vienna on the same day. On August 19, 1942, no more than a week after Churchill’s visit to Moscow and his statement, that the ‘Second Front’ would not be opened in Europe in 1942, Hitler experienced a wave on enthusiasm back in his accommodation near Vinnytsia on the failed British’s landing near the French city of Diep. On August 20 he sent a gratulatory telegram to Admiral Miklos Horthy on the occasion of the ‘State Foundation Day of Hungary’. As early as August 21, 1942, the German military unit raised a swastika flag on Elbrus, the highest peak of the Caucasus mountains and the farthest point of the Wehrmacht offensive.
In the proximity of only four days (August 23) the German Luftwaffe undertook the first mass air raid on Stalingrad, a city which would be beforehand announced as conquered, with a swastika banner on the top of a building in the center. September 24, a day after the visit of Mihai Antonescu, witnessed the visit of Ante Pavelic, the Croatian commander. On the same day, Hitler relieved Franz Halder, the chief of staff of the Army High Command (OKH), from his duties and assigned general Kurt Zeitzler to take the post, simultaneously promoting Zeitzler to Colonel General. On September 27 the anniversary of the Tripartite Pact was specified by Hitler’s telegrams from Wehrwolf to Mussolini, King Victor Emmanuel, Japanese Emperor, and Japanese Prime Minister. As sooner as on October 18, three days after a decree on abandoning the duels between the German officers, Hitler would commission the infamous ‘Commandos order’ while residence in ‘Wehrwolf’. An order, which prescribed the immediate shooting of the captured commandos. Prior to his leaving Ukraine on November 2, Hitler discovered the start of the Second Battle for El Alamein, which would lead to the defeat of the Afrika Korps.
- February 19 — February 23 and February 26 — March 13, 1943
Subsequent to the three months of absence and a bit of a break on the security arrangements, Adolf Hitler had chosen the later-half of February 1943 to accommodate his Ukrainian field headquarters. To that moment of the WW2 timeline, the Allied forces had already landed in North Africa, pushing back the troops of the emotionally devastated Erwin Rommel. The German cities had been successively devastated by the ‘1000-bombers’ air raids. The 6th army under Friedrich von Paulus, actually what had left from it after three months in a siege, finally capitulated to the Soviet army in Stalingrad. It was this period of time that would be memoired (by Hitler’s political and military environment) after the war with the recallings on Hitler’s fatigue appearance, poor physical state, remoteness, and suspiciousness. The first 1943 of Hitler to ‘Wehrwolf’ would last only 4 days and the second phase for another two weeks. On February 21, Hitler promoted general Heinz Guderian as the ‘Inspector General of the Panzer forces’. On March 5, 1943, the German counteroffensive nullified the previous military successes of the Soviet army near Charkov and would occupy the city once again in a span of the next six days. On March 7, Albert Speer, the Minister of Armaments, took a flight to Ukraine to discuss a new plan for the expansion of the man force of the industry by releasing 800 000 foreign workers to the needs of the munitions industry.
As soon as on March 13, 1943, Hitler left the Ukrainian HQ once again to come back for as much as only one day almost a half year later. The day is historically known as the start of the mass deportation of the Jewish population from the Krakow Ghetto, generally recognized due to the scenes from the legendary ‘Schindler’s list’ movie by Steven Spielberg. On his flight back to Rastenburg, Hitler made a short stop within the headquarters of the ‘Army Group Center’ near Smolensk. This very day is well-known for the fact, that Colonel von Tresckow succeded in delivering a bomb to the plane, later failed to detonate.
- August 27, 1943
As soon as on August 27, 1943, and less than a month after the fail of the last grandiose advance of the Wehrmacht on the East (Operation Citadel), Hitler made another and in fact his last journey to the Eastern front. By then, the Allied forces had already conquered the beaches Sicily, now complete under German control. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arranged a political conference in Quebec and no later than on August 23 the Red Army liberated Charkov for the last and final time. On the day of his visit on August 27, Hitler attended the HQ of Erich Von Manstein, the commander of the Army Group South at that time and later performed a short visit to his ‘Wehrwolf’ headquarters to leave it once and all the same late hours. He would leave ‘Wehrwolf’ headquarters for the ‘Wolfschanze’. As early as on September 8 Hitler would once again visit the ‘Heeresgruppe Sud’ (Army Group South) HQ neat Zaporizhya without a stop in Vinnytsa.
THE DESTRUCTION AND INEVITABILITY OF TIME
Regardless of the obvious fact, that Adolf Hitler had never used the ‘Wehrwolf’ HQ after August 27, 1943, the predestination of the facility was to continue. Progressively as the Soviet troops were advancing on the Eastern front, Field Marshal von Manstein experiences the necessity to move his Army Group ‘South’ headquarters back to the West. No later than in mid-September the army staff left Zaporizhzhia to move to Kirovograd until the early days of October brought Hitler’s admission to using the ‘Wehrwolf’ near Vinnytsia. Manstein would recall the infrastructure of the object, now guarded with no more than one reserve regiment, as ‘too exorbitant’. Over the next two months, the Fieldmarshal had been examining the threatening perspectives on his theater of war, as well as the rapid advance of the enemy forces toward Vinnytsia and his headquarters. On December 28, 1943, Manstein was present at the military briefing back in ‘Wolfsschanze’ and secured Hitler’s personal approval of leaving the ‘Wehrwolf’ in Ukraine to move the HQ far to the West to the city of Proskurov (the modern city of Khmelnytskyi), distanced 110 kilometers from the ‘Wehrwolf’. The logistic operation would be completed as soon as January 6, 1944. Within the same briefing, general Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler’s adjutant and Alpha-and-Omega of the ‘Wehrwolf’, made his statement, that the HQ near Vinnytsia has to be completely destroyed soon after the departure of Manstein. Hitler could nos stand with the horrifying visualization, that his personal belongings would be later exhibited in a Moscow museum.
It worth mentioning, that Rudolf Schmundt, the man, who had made decisions on placing Hitler’s military headquarters, was one of the closest associates among Fuhrer’s war-time entourage. Apart from his position as Hitler’s key military adjutant since January 1938, Schmundt was a dedicate nationalist and had enjoyed the credibility of his supreme commander. As far back as 1 October 1942, at the times of visiting Berlin from Wehrwolf, Hitler destituted Bodewin Claus Eduard Keitel, the younger brother of Wilhelm Keitel, from his position of Heerespersonalamt (Army Personnel Department). Hitler appointed his trustful adjutant Schmundt for a new desk, one of the most unevident influentials in Wehrmacht, with leverage on the personnel policy. The name of Rudolf Schmundt would be later associated with the 1944 ‘July plot’, the well-known failed attempt to kill Hitler and to seize power in Germany, brilliantly depicted in ‘Operation Valkyrie’ movie. Schmundt was less than a meter from the bomb, left by Claus von Stauffenberg and was badly wounded. Five days later, Hitler would visit his wounded adjutant to promote him to General of Infantry, which would make a little difference as Schmundt would die on October 1, 1944. Summing up, the Alfa and Omega of the Hitler’s headquarters had finally lost his life within one of the ‘Führerhauptquartier’ he had once chosen in the forestry of Rastenburg. The post of the ‘Chief of the Army Personnel Department’as well as the privilege of being Hitler’s main adjutant, was succeeded by Wilhelm Emanuel Burgdorf, a man who would be assigned to come to Erwin Rommel in Herrlingern (On October 14, two days after his official designation) near Ulm to sure the death of the Fieldmarchal. Burgdorf would also (as Schmundt did) perform his devoted duties for Hitler to the very end of both, as he would himself commit suicide at early hours of May 2, 1945, two days after his Fuhrer.
As soon as the last officers of the Army Group ‘South’ left the HQ to the North of Vinnytsia on January 6, 1944, the furniture and household objects, the commutators and provision were evacuated to the West within a column of trucks. The major part of the wooden construction within ‘Wehrwolf’ was scheduledly dismantled and the special unit brought the air bombs to the site, delivered from the former airfield, had been used by Hans Baur and his air unit. The charges were to be put into the concrete bunkers and the upcoming explosions devastated both the buildings with its wall of 3-m thickness, as well as did significant harm to the landscape of the former headquarters, had terminated hundreds of planted trees and bushes. Some of the fragments of the former concrete bunkers made its explosion way up to 60 meters from the initial location. The special unit wrecked the communication, sewerage and water pipe systems as well.
The city of Vinnytsia was finally liberated by the Soviet forces no sooner than on March 20, 1944, two months after the evacuations of the Manstein’s HQ and the devastation of the former facility. Soon after the liberation of the region, the site was visited and thoroughly examined by a special operational unit under NKGB (People’s Commissariat for State Security, a euphemism for the secret police). The investigators draw up a report on the remain ruins, not evacuated belongings and on the lack of any important documentation. The commission performed a photographic coverage of the site as well as interrogated the population of the nearest inhabited localities to reveal the former collaborators. Alongside the mass burial grounds with a mere 10 000 bodies of the killed Jews (executed largely in Autumn of 1941) were revealed near Vinnytsia. Regardless of unequaled access to the site, the NKGB report included superfruity of factual Invalides and mistakes, the greater part of which was at that time attributed to the time frames: periods of Hitler’s presence at ‘Wehrwolf’, the construction phases. The investigators failed to find any underground facilities and the speculations of such premises are now more than myths.
Once the detailed investigation on the site was finished, the former Hitler’s headquarters were destined to lose the remains of its outlook in the upcoming decades. The investigative actions on its own post-damaged the initial geography and the erections. In the years to come, the locals took the chimneys, telephony lines and the larger part of the drainage and pipe systems to the pieces. At the hands of time, even the wood boards of the former wooden erections were looted and reused. The kilometers of the wired fence around the ‘Wehrwolf’ was dismantled as well as pretty much every tree, planted back in 1942, were later rooted up. During the course of the next quarter of a century, the territory of the ‘Wehrwolf’ had been no more than ruins, drowned in the grass and the 1970s witnessed the setting of new pinewood forestry, which we can see nowadays. Summarizing the above facts, the modern pine forest on the site has a little in common with the pre-war forest to the North, as well as only a few of the trees can be indeed traced to the times of the ‘Wehrwolf’ and the German presence. It was as soon as the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fresh mass interest toward the historiography of the Second World War, that former Hitler’s headquarters near Vinnytsia (for decades had been used by the locals as a place for outers and barbeque, choked with trash) has become a site of interest. It would take another two decades until 2011 to witness the creation of the Museum.
THE RUINS IN GRASS, THAT WOULD MAKE SENSE TO YOU
The vast majority of the people, who make the beyond-touristic journey to the ‘Wehrwolf’ find nothing but disappointment among the pinewood forestry and the concrete fragments, which are undescriptive for a history-admirer without thorough preliminary research. The administration of the Memorial complex has once erected a number of informational boards with a general history of Ukraine in the Second World War and the region of Vinnytsia yet with minor facts on the war-time geography of the site and the lapsed erections. The ‘Sperrkreis I’ area (The main area, infrastructured for Hitler and military command) alone included 19 wooden structures and two concrete bunkers, yet only a few of the buildings can still make a historical sense for the comers. For this reason, I would like to touch upon the sites of the former compounds, which have preserved a kind of historical interest and could be still distinguished among the overall green landscape of the territory, which is now more like an under-maintained park for a dog walking.
THE PRIVATE WW2 MUSEUM
On your way next to the Vinnytsia-Zhytomyr highway exit, regardless of whether you cover the distance by car or bus+walking, you would inevitably pass the private museum, devoted to the history of Vinnytsia region during the Second World War, yet which has a little in common (in fact nothing factual) with the ‘Wehrwolf’ military headquarters. In the years after the fall of the Soviet Union a large part of the former Hitler’s HQ, Sperrkreis II (Zone II) was privatized by private individualsю. The very museum you face on the way to ‘Wehrwolf’ was fenced to commerce the proximity to the famous site and to take advantage of the associations. The traditionally modest Ukrainian museum fee of 1$ would access you to see the open-air collection of vehicles of different periods, as well as the indoor exhibition of a weapon, communicational equipment, banners, and uniforms, including the WW2 period and some modern conflicts. Any of these items come under the ‘Wehrwolf’ and have been bought and brought here from different parts of the country. Considering the pure nominal relationship to the ‘Wehrwolf’, the museum worth a shortstop, including a purpose to feed the local dogs.
ENTRANCE / MUSEUM
10 minutes of walk or 2 minutes of a car ride along the former Soviet children’s holiday-camp (also once cut the territory of the former Hitler’s headquarters) would lead you to the main (only) entrance to the site, which is now attributed as ‘WEHRWOLF’ Historical and Memorial Complex In Memory of the Victims of the Nazis’. The front-side information board worth a minute of your attention prior to the ticket office and a paper booklet for 0.2$. The first panorama inside the fenced territory includes the open field with minor trees, a temporary exhibition of modern vehicles and the portrait sculptures of the Soviet period. The one-room museum to the left allocates a tiny exposition on the History of Ukraine during the Second World War with the general-topic items and a few indeed excavated on the site of the former ‘Wehrwolf’.
THE RUINS OF THE BOMB-SHELTER
Once we find ourselves beyond the fence of the Memorial complex, we make into the former Zone 2 (Sperrkreis II), the largest of three zones in ‘Wehrwolf’, which once accommodated the administrative personnel and the guards of the headquarters. The area was a location home for the largest (of three) concrete bunker within ‘Wehrwolf’. The now-vanished erection was an air-raid shelter of one of the conventional types used in Wehrmacht, known as ‘DOPPELGRUPPENUNTERSTAND REGELBAU 102’, which can be translated as ‘The shelter with two sections of 102 building standard’. The bunker was 15 meters in length and 11.5 meters in width with the walls 2.5 meters in thickness and two proved premises with a ventilation system. The building-up (winter-spring 1942) of the shelter demanded no less than 795 cubic meters of concrete and it was later used to store provision and alcohol during the hot Ukrainian summer in the context of the close-to-minimum probability of the air raids, equally far from the frontlines on the East and West).
The large fragments of the reinforced concrete, spread across the open field in the center of the former ‘Sperrkreis II’ (Zone 2) in our days are nothing more than the ruins of the former concrete bunker. The intended detonation of a giant air bomb inside one of the premises had been so devastating, that the explosion not only terminated the erection but also diffused the multitone fragments dozens of meters from the initial foundation. Soon after the demolition of the bunker back in January 1944 by the Germans, the Soviet NKGB commission performed the failed efforts to reveal the elusive underground premises under the bunker and the modern pit along the foundation of the former shelter is not more than a reminder of that poor detective work. Indeed, the large concrete fragment within the foundation site is the former inforced roof. On the other hand, the largest and heaviest piece can be found 50 meters distanced from the foundation and identified as a part of the front wall, which still includes the remains of the former ventilation system.
THE FOUNDATION OF THE SHELTER IN ZONE I
The walking trail to the East (practically on the left hand) from the remains of the bunker takes the visitor to the territory, which was once constructed and assigned as the main zone within ‘Wehrwolf’, destined to accommodate Adolf Hitler, the highest-ranking officers of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht), Hitler’s closest social environment and the personal security units. These days, nothing reminds the former extraordinary security measures with the additional fenced cordon between Sperrkreis II (Zone 2) and Sperrkreis II (Zone 1). Once you come to the curve of the trail (in fact fit to the road of the ‘Wehrwolf’ times) a pit and ruins to the left can be identified as the second concrete bunker within the former Hitler’s headquarters near Vinnytsia. It was built to serve the air security of the officers, who were appointed to work inside the main zone. This air-shelter of the ‘REGELBAU’ type had one entrance, was smaller than the one in Sperrkreis II with 590 cubic meters of concrete, invested in its construction back in 1942. As a mere to preserve the high levels of the air-defense safety precautions the roof of this bunker was once planted with bushes and trees to fit the landscape. The pit around the foundation once again is a historical reference to the failed excavations of the Soviet investigators soon after taking control over the site. The fragments of the shelter have also made its after-explosion way within dozens of meters in all directions.
KASINO / OFFICERS CLUB
It should be stated, that the German world ‘CASINO’, in the context of Wehrmacht and the Second World War, in particular, had a little in common with gambling and roulette (yet also among the leisure) and on the other hand, can be attributed as the officer’s club, a premise for the officers to spend their free time. Such kind of the establishment lies beyond the prerogative of ‘Wehrwolf’ or any of purely Hitler’s headquarters and could be found in the historiography of the German concentration camps, including the large wooden Casino next to the Auschwitz-1, I have covered early this year. The ‘Wehrwolf’ version of the Casino was the largest erection on the facility, made, as it was, of three connected wooden buildings. In addition to the fact, that the officers used to perform their leisure within these walls, Adolf Hitler used to have an everyday lunch with the military command inside the Casino (until the infamous dispute, the arrival of stenographers in September 1942). Every piece of the provision, served at the table inside the Casino, was thoroughly tested by an assigned officer and later pre-tested before being brought to Hitler. The summer terrace of the Casino once faced Hitler’s personal house and a bunker, distanced of few dozens meters. The fragments and foundation of the former Casino are now covered with grass and trees and the multiple small pits were no more than post-war efforts of the locals to find some valuables and scrap metal.
HITLER’S HOME AND BUNKER
In no small way, the key construction of the former ‘Wehrwolf’ facility was once located to the right of the South-East in-road, less than 50 meters distanced from the Casino. Hitler’s residence was made as a wooden house 18.7 meters in length and 8.7 meters in width with a doorstep, a place for the fuhrer to have talkings with his surrounding (for instance Gobels, Borman, Hoffmann, or oversee his dog Blondie, being carried by a dog handler officer. Once tiding over the doorstep, one could enter either the personal accommodation of Adolf Hitler or his cabinet to the left. The history was sparing to preserve the photos of Heinrich Hoffmann and his assistants, which have once depicted Parwan Draganov (The Ambassador of Bulgaria), Saffet Arikan (Turkish Ambassador to Germany 1942-1944), Aldo Vidussoni (Secretary of the National Fascist Party of Italy) and Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani (The Former Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Iraq): all photos made within this building. Hitler’s house in ‘Wehrwolf’ was also made a part of history with the ceremonies of the inauguration of the German officers. On March 11, 1943, Erwin Rommel had left Africa once and all and made a transit visit to Wehrwolf in Ukraine to receive ‘The oak leaves with swords and diamonds’ to his Knight’s Cross (Ritterkreuz). Albert Kesselring was another field-marshal, who was awarded the Swords to his Knight’s Cross in front of the same fireplace on July 18, 1942m for his success at the Mediterranean and North Africa.
Hitler’s wooden residence was constructionally accompanied by a concrete bunker of nearly square shape 10.6 meters in length and 10 meters in width. The only entrance to the shelter was made-in within Hitler’s cabinet to secure the German leader against potential air raid. Similar to the two concrete bunkers I have given the account before, the fragments of the forced concrete walls were diffused over a distance of up to 50 meters.
FIRE POND / SWIMMING POOL
Heedless of the confusion that this water pond is sometimes called no less than ‘Hitler’s swimming-pool’, It used to have a more practical and grounded purpose, especially as Hitler had not ever used swimming-pools and had been a ‘bath-user’ for all his life within any of his accommodation or filed headquarters. The fire ponds could be generally identified within a great variety of the German military facilities, as well as within the concentration camps (I have portrayed such pond within Mauthausen). This ground cistern has been surprisingly preserved until nowadays as a pond of a 10*15 meters rectangular shape. The water was pipelined from the pond, with a mean of an underground utility system, to the fire hydrants in different parts of ‘Wehrwolf’. The fire unit of the headquarters was quartered within Zone 2 (Sperrkreis II) and used to maintain the training procedures on the regular basis with no less than three actual fire outbreaks in a span of one and a half year of the maintenance. The site once allocated a wooden depot used to store the firefighter equipment. The fire pond was covered with the camouflage net and the concrete walls, as well as the absence of direct sunlight, resulting in the cool water even in summer months, in fact so cold, that the idea to use the pond as a swimming-pool was not taken accustomed.
THE FORMER OKH HEADQUARTERS IN VINNYTSIA
In the midst of Hitler’s first and the most long-go period of presence within the ‘Wehrwolf’ between July and September 1942 no less than 9200 officers, soldiers, and administrative personnel had been quartered in a city of Vinnytsia. The area was codenamed as ‘WINNIZA-STADT’ (City of Vinnytsia) and was assigned to accommodate the ambitious staff of the German OKH. The officers were generally accommodated within the former residents of the citizens, had been previously disrooted from their homes or presented with a reality to live along with the occupants. Soldiers and minor officership were quartered within the military barracks, had been used by the Soviet army before the outbreak of the war. ‘Winniza-Stadt’ had minimum security protocols, practically taken for the high officers, such as Franz Halder, who used to maintain everyday car ride to ‘Wehrwolf’ up to his dismissal in September 1942. All while the logistic departments of the OKH were allocated within the local asylum, the operational staff made the University of Vinnytsia the headquarters. The modern ‘Vinnytsia Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky State Pedagogical University’ has preserved pretty the same look as it had at the times of the German OKH.