We spent a night over at Vera’s grandparents cottage in the countryside this weekend, the location I have previously described as being almost James Bond like in it’s wonderful sixties vibe. I may have mentioned then, as I will also now, that the cottage is near the site of one of Hitler’s bunkers from the Second World War.
When one mentions Hitler’s bunker, the mind is usually drawn to the Berlin based complex where the last few days of the war panned out for the man himself. However, this wasn’t the only bunker that Hitler had, even if it was the most famous. Hitler had fourteen bunkers in total, situated in various strategic locations, which served as field headquarters during the war. He also had a train, which served as a mobile command post.
The bunker near the cottage was known as the Felsennest, or Rocky Eyrie, and it was one of Hitler's first field headquarters during the war. A fairly simple four room affair, it was used by him earlier on in the war, when things were going fairly well for the German army. It was from here that he coordinated the invasion of France and the other low countries on May 10, 1940. He was also here during the battle of Dunkirk. Key members of the German command visited during this period, including Goring and Himmler.
Of course, a bit of time and some high explosives have somewhat changed the site from it’s heyday in the 1940’s. It suffered allied aerial bombing twice and in 1945 the retreating German army laid charges and blew it up, prior to it being captured by US troops on the 7th of May, 1945.
These days therefore, quite a bit of imagination is required to get an idea of what the site may have looked like. What is left are giant boulders of concrete with steel reinforcement rods poking out haphazardly, spread across a wide area. Where the bunker itself was is merely a hole in the ground, the force of the explosion having pushed out all the concrete to form a vague rim.
The trees and shrubbery have come back with a vengeance, and moss coats nearly every surface. There are no signs or markings to indicate what happened here over half a century ago. There is a definite sense that the dereliction is intentional, that the events of the past are not worthy of any memorial. In time, the forest will entirely reclaim this spot and it will exist only in history books, photos and memories.
We left the bunker and returned to the cottage, quiet in our thoughts. On the way, we crossed the field which served as the airstrip to ferry dignitaries to and from the site. It was hard to believe the events that happened here, in what seemed to be a sleepy little village on a hillside, set in rolling fields with cows all around. Once these skies played host to heavily armed aircraft, and the hills to soldiers. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and reflect upon.