Memories of Alfons Schulz,
former telephonist in Hitler’s HQ
Selected excerpts from “Drei Jahre in der Nachrichtenzentrale des Führerhauptquartiers” (“Three years at the telephone office of Hitler’s headquarters”);
“The weekday in the headquarters was typical for military and well organised structures. The monotony of the weekday residents of the Wolf’s Lair tried to prevent in a variety of ways. Many people, especially senior officers, associated high hope with the coming spring. Most of them went for walks to located around Rastenburg, picturesque forests or for horse rides, rented from the neighboring landowners (bauers). Some officers preferred swimming in the lakes Siercze and Tuchel, while others preferred boat rides, sailing or fishing. From June many residents went to the lake Moj, where they spent nice time in the company of pretty local ladies.”
I could never understand how these ladies could get to this lake (as it was isolated). I have never, like many of us, inquired: who would like to possibly give up some variety in our monotonous life? My colleagues made long-term acquaintances here, some of whom were only seasonal, probably on the occasion of baking potatoes together.
[…] In the last days of October 1942 – Hitler was in Vinnytsia in Ukraine at the time – there was a unique opportunity to see our boss’s sleeping room (that was what we called Hitler at the time). It was just after the night shift, when passing by the shelter of Hitler, I noticed that one of the soldiers I was serving at the bunker, whom I had known quite well for a long time. After a short conversation, I persuaded him – now I do not remember how – to show me the bedroom of our boss quickly.
Of course we both risked our heads.
Hitler’s room was decorated in Spartan style: there was one field bed, a bookcase with two books, a wardrobe, toilet area, table and two chairs. I was interested in what books my boss read. They were two works: both dealing with stomach diseases …. I thanked my colleague quickly and left the shelter.
[…] Unlike Hitler, Martin Bormann and some officers led a very lavish and luxurious lifestyle. It was known to the “initiates” that Bormann paid special attention to the luxurious furnishings of his shelter and that he did not despise fancy dishes, drinks and … charming ladies.
[…] Bormann imported particularly attractive ladies and employed them as his secretaries, which he replaced after a short or long period. I can’t clearly confirm the rumors of that time that they were released because of pregnancy. Bormann’s wife allegedly knew about her husband’s adventures, but she approved of his conduct, claiming that her husband needed it.
[…] Martin Bormann treated his subordinates extremely brutally. Even senior officials could be rush to hurry by him. He was hated by his immediate surroundings, even by his brother Albert, Hitler’s adjutant.
Christmas and New Year 1944
This year (Christmas 1943, ed.) The first Christmas ceremony was held in the casino, which was shared by all soldiers of the communications service. It was unthinkable before. Because my service did not start until the next afternoon, I asked my supervisor to let me go to a festive service at the church in Kętrzyn, which was to start at 22.00. My supervisor reacted spontaneously: “We have a certain follower of Christ here who wants to go to the service, do we still have some idiots of this kind?” I remember that five more of my colleagues checked in. “All right,” my boss responded, “today I am generous, you can go! No less stupid must be punished, so take over service tomorrow morning at 8:00 am! “I said briefly:” Yes, sir, “and went on foot with my friends to Rastenburg.
Shortly before the guardhouse I met an off-road vehicle in which, to our surprise, General Walter Warlimont was. The general’s car stopped directly in front of us. I officially reported to the general that I was going to Rastenburg for a festive Christmas service. “What?” Said the major, “such a thing is possible in 1943 and that it still takes place in the headquarters !?” I replied briefly: “Yes, General!” To this general: “You know what, unfortunately I have to go for a council, otherwise I would go with you. It would do me good “and turning to his driver:” Please, take these gentlemen to the service and bring them back, and I will go on a meeting on foot, hence not far away.” On the occasion of the approaching Christmas and New Year 1944 we made wishes and we went to the city.
[…] How the mood in the Wolf’s Lair has changed over the years is clearly demonstrated by the event that took place in our barrack on New Year’s Eve from 1943 to 1944. – The ceremony took place in the telephone exchange. Officers and privates of the communications service arrived. In the morning, when everyone was drunk, one of the participants began to sing International. Soon everyone picked up “Stand up, who is hungry …” – Suddenly the door opened and a soldier from the headquarters battalion roared: “Are you crazy, do you realize what will happen to you if someone hears it?” There was a dead silence at that moment. We were aware that if it would come out, a corp marshall awaited us at best. – Nothing like that happened. Thank God, Captain Möllendoff, taking a very high risk, turned a blind eye. Even a year earlier, such a thing would have been unthinkable: there is no doubt that far-reaching consequences would have been drawn for those guilty of such “shameful excesses.”
Mysterious information about crimes
[…] One day – it must have happened in the middle of May 1942 – our colleague Walter Meiendresch came to us, completely pale after night service. He looked very tired; for the next few days he was completely incapable of work. “It turned out that Walter had overheard the telephone conversation last night while he was on duty between Himmler and Bormann.“
Reichsleiter Himmler informed Bormann that he had optimistic information for Hitler about Auschwitz (Oświęcim), which showed that 20,000 Jews were exterminated (“evacuated”). Bormann, according to Walter M., was furious and scolded Himmler for having given this type of information by phone.
Bormann emphatically pleaded for the use of this type of practice in the future, instructing Himmler that he should send such reports only in writing by couriers, SS officers. The conversation overheard by Walter M. was the reason for his complete breakdown.
[…] we realized that there were extermination camps. We have limited our knowledge on this subject to the closest circle of people. That so many frightening things happened in the concentration camps, many thought. We learned about the full scale of the crimes committed only after the war, thanks to the fact that the Nazi executioners had no time to cover up the traces of the crime. “
Karl Otto Wendel’s memories,
soldier of communications service
Memories of a soldier of the communications service.
“In October 1940 I was called up for military service in artillery. From the beginning of February to the end of March 1941 I was trained as a communications service specialist and delegated to the Wehrmacht High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) in Berlin. After further training, On August 13, 1941, i was directed to the communications department at Hitler’s headquarters, in which I served until the end of the war.
I was accommodated in one of the wooden barracks in the 2nd zone. The modest equipment of the barrack included bunk wooden beds, wardrobes, tables, stools and radio. We went to zone 1 for work. Each of us had a special pass, which was often exchanged. Our military books had annotations of general Schmundt. There was a note about the need to replace the booklet in case of leaving the borders of the Third Reich.
Justification: as communications service employees at Hitler’s headquarters, we knew a lot of secrets and in the event of being captured we could be exposed to arduous and difficult to bear interrogations. The communications bunker was a windowless building and consisted of three departments: On one side of the building there were radiotelegraphic services, telephones on the other, and a telephone exchange inside. The latter was divided into three boxes: Each of them had 150 disconnection sockets. The middle box in which I served served the most important connections.
Here the principle of hierarchy was in force: connections with the Führer, instant conversations of the supreme command, the Reich Marshal Göring, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Keitel and other command centers. Hitler’s conversations were subordinated to all others. They were carried out by two “inverters” – special coding devices. One of them was located at the exit from the exchange, the other at the target exchange. The first task was to distort, somehow coding the content of the conversation, while the second – to restore its original shape. This type of solution prevented effective spying on calls on the line. The codes were changed every day. They were delivered to our headquarters from the Main Post Office of the Third Reich by special couriers and treated as strictly secret.
I remind you that I often connected the headquarters with Field Marshal von Kluge, the Wehrmacht command, the command of the land forces, the special office (Sonderamt) in Berlin and army staffs on all fronts. Hitler was well aware of the importance of communications service.
During one of Mussolini’s visits – at the time I was in HQ – passing through the communication shelter, the Führer said: “This is the most important bunker, this is where the brain of the whole headquarters is located“. Sometimes, although it was illegal and technically extremely difficult, I had the opportunity to eavesdrop on Hitler’s private conversations with Ewa Braun, Field Marshal Keitel, generals Jodel, Warlimont, Hitler’s adjutants and others.
The internal rooms of the communications bunker were entered through three metal doors spaced a few meters apart. The rooms between the doors served as air chambers. Although the shelter was ventilated with the help of fans, the rooms felt unpleasant stuffy. Those who worked here for a long time suffered from cardiovascular disease. Smoking was also popular and excessive drinking of black coffee too. We received coffee, as well as excellent food, good wines and cognacs from the casino staff and some important personalities of the Wolf’s Lair, who in this way repaid us for private, in principle prohibited phone calls to their friends or families. “
Memories of Heinz Kettner,
“In mid-April 1944, as an 18-year-old soldier after graduating from anti-aircraft artillery school, I received the order to report to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin to receive a ticket to Hitler’s headquarters. As far as I remember, I was the youngest soldier in the 12th anti-aircraft artillery unit.
I was accommodated in A wooden barrack next to the artillery stand in Security Zone 2. It served as a flat for 20 soldiers and was close to the Hermann Göring shelter and an auxiliary landing site for ‘Fieseler-Storch’ aircraft (‘Stork’). My duty was to serve two hour shifts (threesome) with a four-hour break around the clock at one of the artillery stands. After ten days I had one day off.
Then I went to Kętrzyn, where my favorite entertainment was: the cinema. To pass the 2nd security zone you had to show a special pass. It was a gray-blue document the size of a military booklet. One page contained personal data. The name, rank and unit had to match the details in the military booklet. On the reverse side the pass was provided with a special stamp. On the first day of each month, the pass was exchanged;
I saw Hitler only twice from a further distance, because as an ordinary soldier I was never allowed to go from the 2nd to the 1st security zone. Soldiers of Hitler’s side battalion wore armbands bearing the inscription FÜHRERHAUPTQUARTIER (Hitler’s Headquarters). At the end of March 1944 – in order to keep in secret the places of stationing of special units (security reasons) – the bands were abandoned.
At the beginning of July 1944 I was transferred to the Eastern Front so that I could gain front experience here, which I was not supposed to have because of my age. I was assigned to the group of Major von Werthern. On 20 July 1944 at about 14.00 near Vilnius, I learned about the assassination attempt on Hitler. We were informed that we must return to the Wolf’s Lair. Around 16:00, however, the order came that we remained at the front: Hitler survived, the situation in the Wolf’s Lair was supposedly normalized. We did not receive any detailed information about the assassination.
Due to my injuries on the front, in September 1944 I was sent back to the Wolf’s Lair. It has changed a bit here – Colonel Ernst Otto Remer took over responsibility for internal and external security in the headquarters. Lieutenant Colonel Streve, former commander of the GKH, had nothing to say. SS soldiers also stood guard next to the watchtowers leading to the Wolf’s Lair. Next to soldiers from Großdeutschland (Greater Germany).
I served in the 2nd security zone and never saw Hitler again. At the end of November 1944, when the Eastern Front was quickly approaching the Wolf’s Lair and the cannonade of cannons was heard, they left the quarters. Cannons were removed from the bunkers, loaded onto railway wagons and transported for anti-aircraft defense near Olsztyn.
– We slept next to artillery canonc. If you could only think of sleep, it was in a sitting position. When we were a little lucky, we could wash in a bucket of water. There was a shortage of food, we usually ate bread and potatoes with shells. The Fuhrer side battalion was enlarged to the size of a division and on December 16, 1944, and it was moved to the Western Front (the Armenian offensive).
The command now belonged to Brigadier General Otto Remer, former commandant of Hitler’s headquarters. As a division, we fought on many front sections. On April 22, 1945, I was captured by Russian captivity near Berlin – I was 19 then – and as a prisoner of war I had to work in Russian captivity for five years in Saratov. “
Wilhelma Gerke’s memories,
16 Feb 1994.
Fifty years later again in the Wolf’s Lair.
“I remembered a lot about my stay in the Wolf’s Lair, although after 50 years many details escaped my memory. From mid-February 1944 I served in the FBB, i.e. the Führer Begleit-Bataillon (Hitler’s Personal Battalion). Here I would like to explain that FBB was a unit of the German Wehrmacht, not an SS.
First, I had training at the training ground in Orzysz, and from 1st April to the end of June 1944 I was in the Wolf’s Lair “0” safety zone (a special “zero” safety zone in which Hitler lived). The whole HQ consisted of three safety zones. Safety zones II, I and 0 were separated from each other by a 2.5-meter wire mesh fence. Each zone was heavily guarded by patrols and sentry posts.
The Fuhrer side battalion consisted of 7 companies: three grenadier companies, 1 light gun company, 1 tank company, 1 anti-tank company and 1 quick response company. The latter was equipped with amphibians. My seventh company was responsible for security inside the headquarters when Hitler was in the Wolf’s Lair. In the event of a threat, we were to immediately find ourselves in the zero security zone and defend Hitler’s shelter.
In the spring and summer of 1944 (Hitler stayed from March 20 to July 14, 1944 in Obersalzberg, in the Alps) our unit was responsible for protecting the extension area. This meant service in 48 or even 72 hours. It looked like this: 3 hours of duty and 3 hours break, then 24 hours off. The soldiers, who were on duty, had a machine gun with 6 magazines and two hand grenades. At 16.00 there was a change of guard, followed by the maintenance of weapons, dinner, exit.
We lived in a 50-person barrack, which was located right next to the first security zone, near Hitler’s shelter. In the morning at 7.00 there was an appeal followed by classes and exercises. In our free time, we were able to drive a trolley to Kętrzyn. In the morning, four or five buses of workers from the “Todt Organization” (OT) were brought to the Wolf’s Lair. Most often they came from East Prussia, prisoners and forced laborers were not there.
While serving as a guard at the western post, we served about 200 OT workers; in addition, some people came by train. Freight rail traffic through the quarters – from the station in Parcz to the station in Czerniki – was escorted. I don’t remember any passenger trains passing through the forest, of course, apart from special ones (Sonderzüge). In the summer of 1944 a new Hitler’s bunker was being built. The building material was delivered by train. From the stopping place of the train, this material was taken by a field train and brought to a concrete mixer, located near the Führer shelter. The new Führer bunker was built from scratch in less than 6 weeks, in May and June 1944. I saw it ready. I don’t remember, however, how one of the local guides told me that there were gun or machine gun positions on it. Maybe they were built later after I left the quarters.
Many of the barracks of the quarter were reinforced with brick walls and reinforced concrete ceilings, among others a wooden council barrack, in which on July 20, 1944 a historic assassination attempt was carried out on Hitler. Firstly, because there was a strong anti-aircraft defense, and secondly – the headquarters area was well camouflaged and difficult to detect by existing means.
I think it was unreachable for English and American bombers. However, it is hard to imagine that the English and American intelligence services were not aware of the existence of the Wolf’s Lair. I remind you that we were constantly warned about the possibility of the partisans from the Białystok forests starting the operation.
Once i read in some tourist guide that the camouflage nets were changed according to season of the year. I clearly state that they were only green and never changed. This is not true.”
Memories of Gebhard Schramm,
son of Major Percy Schramm, January 1997.
“My father took part in the staff councils every day, during which preliminary decisions and actions on all fronts were discussed and made. Generals of three types of weapons and one general of the so-called “homeland front” went after the meeting to Hitler to attend the main conference and to make a final decision in his presence. I handed over the prepared materials to my supervisor at the end of each year (he was General Jodl), in order to protect them from destruction as a result of possible air raids.
In the sixties on the basis of that materials prepared by my father and his predecessor Geiner’s “War Diaries” were published. From my father’s stories I know that Hitler’s headquarters was never a “monolith.” In its central part, extremely hermetically isolated from the rest by the security service, Hitler resided with several generals. My father lived over 1,5 years in the second zone, and he never crossed the railway tracks separating the first safety zone from the rest of the quarter. Significantly, he could see Hitler only twice in a responsible role. This was the first time it was thanks to General Jodl, who, as his superior, he asked him to take him with him to the place where he could see the Führer from a distance of about 3 meters.
Another time, quite by accident, standing on the side of the road, he saw Hitler crossing the main road through the Wolf’s Lair. I think that 95% of the former residents of the headquarters could not see Hitler or saw him extremely rarely. After the assasination attempt, the opportunity to see Hitler became almost impossible for the ordinary inhabitant of the Wolf’s Lair. From that moment on, Hitler became extremely distrustful, even towards generals and field marshals who, when visiting him, had to give up their personal weapons.
My father, commenting on the material he prepared during the war, and there were over 1000 pages of archival typescript, called himself as a notary of permanent disasters. He didn’t have to be ashamed! he was proud that in his materials for future “War Diaries” there was not a single word glorifying Hitler, his paladins or NSDAP. “