In the afternoon of May 9th, 1940, Hitler’s Sonderzug [special train] left the railway station Finkenkrug in Berlin. Almost none of the passengers had been informed about the destination of this trip; for some of them it was just about a Whitsundays’ outing. But it concerned nothing of the sort. The trip which had been indicated to be a visit to the German troops in Denmark and Norway, took an interesting turn when, past Hamburg, the train headed west. From that moment onwards there was no more doubt about the purpose of the trip. Then, after adjutant Nicolaus von Below passed on the latest weather forecasts, Hitler announced that the attack on the West was definitive; it was clear: It would take only another few hours before France, The Netherlands and Belgium were going to be invaded by the German army.
The train in the meantime travelled onwards in the direction of southwest Germany, to the village of Euskirchen in Nordrhein-Westfalen. There Hitler boarded a car which took him to his favorite headquarters: the Felsennest [cliff side nest].
About Hitler’s whereabouts during the attack of the West (which had received the code name ‘Fall Gelb’ [Operation Yellow]) propaganda material exists, which has mainly been produced by Hitler’s personal photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. Once upon a time it has been published with the title "Hitler im Westen" [Hitler in the West]. By means of the chaotically arranged and assorted photo material, which is not dated, it may yet be reconstructed where Hitler was in May and June of 1940. The photographs do not only depict Hitler at the beginning of the Second World War but also during his short visits to the Belgian and Northern French sites he knew from the time of his military service in the First World war.
The Führer’s Headquarters the Felsennest
Hitler arrived in his headquarters in the Eiffel mountains at five a.m. on May the 10th. Thirty five minutes later the attack on the West started. The village of Rodert, close by the headquarters, from that moment onwards was mainly dominated by Hitler’s retinue , which consisted amongst others of staff members like Wilhelm Keitel, Julius Schaub, Alfred Jodl, Karl Brandt, Rudolf Schmundt, Nicolaus von Below and Karl-Jesco von Puttkammer. In the village, several houses provided boarding for soldiers and visitors and the village social center was turned into a movie theater which was almost daily visited by Hitler in order to watch movies about the progress of the battle. Many of the leaders of the German realm like Hermann Göring, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Erich Raeder and Joachim von Ribbentrop would be visiting the Felsennest in the days to come.
In a statement to the troops at the western front Hitler said that morning: "The hour of the decisive battle for the German Nation has commenced. Todays’ fight will decide about the future of the German Nation for thousand years to come!" A day later Hitler held a conference of about two hours with general commander Generaloberst Walther von Brauchitsch in the nearby Forsthaus Hülloch. Hitler has supposedly said already then that he was delighted with the good results up to that time.
|Hitler’s Führer headquarters|
Everywhere in Europe headquarters have been built for Hitler, which were intended to coordinate troop movements from a location which was closer to the frontline than Berlin was. During the campaign in Poland, Hitler used his private train for that purpose, but from the attack of the West onwards he mostly used headquarters that were especially constructed for him. A number of those has never or just briefly been used by Hitler himself.
The Führer headquarters consisted often out of various Sperrkreise [zones of defense]. Hitler’s bunker, barracks or housing was situated inside the innermost ring. Staff, guards and possible visitors stayed in the immediate vicinity. In that area anti-aircraft guns were installed, possibly bunkers and an aerodrome. This set up was not only valid for the famous Wolfsschanze in Eastern Prussia in present Poland, where Von Stauffenberg almost succeeded to terminate Hitler’s life on 20 July, 1944, [wolf trench] but also for Hitler’s villa on the Obersalzberg in the southern German Alps. The most famous Führer headquarters is without doubt the Führer bunker in the garden of the Reichskanzlei [Government seat] in Berlin where Hitler committed suicide. Further headquarters especially built for him were Tannenberg in the Schwarzwald, and Adelhorst in Hessen in Germany, Wolfsschlucht 1[wolf lair] in Belgium, Wolfsschlucht 2 and 3 in France and Wehrwolf in Ukraine. Also the Felsennest were such headquarters. On a hillside just outside Rodert, less than 100 km from the Dutch border the remains of these former headquarters can still be found. The bunkers that were situated on the Eselsberg outside the village have been demolished towards the end of the war, most probably by the Germans themselves.