Within the Wolf’s Lair
Vulpine planners are sowing
THE sleek Mercedes flying the Führer’s personal swastika standard passed through two camouflage-clad SS foot patrols on the road before arriving at flag-bedecked Rastenburg gate. The passenger saw it was manned by men of his old unit, Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, and smiled.
Helmeted and armed with Erma MP40 machine-pistols, unsmiling blackclad guardsmen checked the well-known car and the papers of all three men inside. One soldier recorded the occupants with an Arriflex before the gate swung wide. Everywhere skull-and-crossbones signs hung on barbed wire declaring: ‘Achtung! Minen!’ while dogs bayed far off in the woods.
At parade pace the car proceeded along a barbed-wire avenue of raw pine poles, passing through the deep mine-field which completely encircled the area, then through a formidable inner barrier of thickly coiled barbed-wire in orderly rust-brown concertinas.
To their left lay a rustic railway station built of logs, then the first internal checkpoint, as stern as the first, but with shots taken of the occupants with Leica 35 mm hand-cameras. Their cigarettes were doused, and Putzi handed his companion a vial.
“Kölnisches Wasser. For that old camel-dung problem.”
Both doused themselves with the brisk smell as the vehicle moved to the third and final checkpoint, and their last stern scrutiny. Saluted on their way into the heart of the security area, they passed along a paved road, cruising through tall conifers past a number of log buildings to a high-peaked lodge standing back among tall thin trees, its entrance guarded by two black-uniformed Leibstandarte troopers in white webbing. The car drew up silently before the solid timber structure.
“Wolfsschanze. The Wolf’s Lair, old chap!” declared Putzi, in impeccable upper-drawer English. “The heart of old Prussia, as ‘twere.”
On their approach to the door, the two sentries presented arms with a crash. Inside the entrance a few Wehrmacht generals were standing around drinking tea and coffee, a copse of green, red and gold. They gazed at the giant with faint interest as he entered. Nobody was smoking and the air was cooled by fans.
A guard took the visitor’s heavy greatcoat and cap, and he was directed to a washroom. After brushing down his fieldgray uniform and polishing his high boots, he emerged with hair slicked flat with water, to tower over everyone in the reception area. A cup of ersatz mokkefok coffee was placed in his hands.