Polish officials are giving a makeover to the Wolf’s Lair, Adolf Hitler’s chief headquarters from 1941-44 and the site of an assassination attempt on the Nazi leader, in a move critics say could turn the site into a ghoulish “Disneyland” attracting neo-Nazi pilgrims.
The Srokowo Forest District’s spokesman Sebastian Trapik told the BBC that “every effort” would be made to maintain “due seriousness and respect for historical truth” at the complex in the attempt to bring in more tourists.
Nearly 300,000 tourists visit the complex annually, mostly Poles and Germans.
Renovations and new displays are planned at the site, as well as improved facilities, a hotel and a restaurant.
Trapik said there were plans for historical reenactments to be held at the site, starting this summer.
Polish war historian Pawel Machcewicz told the BBC that having actors in Nazi uniforms at the site would be “insane and outrageous,” adding that “the scars left by the war should be preserved and presented as a lesson, a warning… Exhibitions should explain the history, contextualize the place, but not completely overshadow it.”
Machcewicz noted that the Nazis made decisions about the Holocaust at the Wolf’s Lair and warned against creating “a moribund Disneyland, which could promote a sort of fascination with Nazi Germany and Hitler.”
The Wolf’s Lair was the largest of 10 command bases used by Hitler across Germany and occupied Europe.
It is at the Wolf’s Lair that Claus von Stauffenberg and other high-ranking conspirators within the Nazi regime tried to assassinate Hitler with a briefcase bomb on July 20, 1944.
The plot was to seize control of the regime and make peace with Western allies to end World War II. But Hitler survived the bombing and Stauffenberg and other key figures in Operation Valkyrie were executed the same night.
The bomb killed three officers and the stenographer but Hitler escaped with only light injuries.
Trapik said the site’s makeover would include a reconstruction of the scene of the bombing, including life-size “symbolic figures depicting those present at the time.”
Germany paid tribute last month to von Stauffenberg and others who sought to assassinate Hitler 75 years ago.
At a ceremony in Berlin where new German soldiers were sworn in, Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined the importance of remembering the anniversary of the assassination attempt at a time when far-right forces are once again gaining ground with their nationalist line.
It was important to “keep the conspirators’ memories alive,” as well as those of all Germans who resisted the Nazis, because their acts could be seen as a “warning” for today’s society, she said.
“They remind us that we have to be vigilant. They remind us that we must resolutely fight far-right extremism, anti-Semitism and racism in all their different forms.
“There are moments when disobedience can be a duty,” Merkel said.