Fortress Boyen in Gizycko (former Lötzen) was built from 1844 to secure the borders of the province East Prussia against possible threats from the East and enlarged to a fortification system in the following years. The natural barrier of the large Masuria lakes left only few comfortable East-West passages. Lötzen had a strategically important location in the middle of the Lakeland and already formed an important street and train hub in the lake belt. So, fortress Boyen was the scene of fights in World War I and II and had to show its defensive potential on several occasions. Personalities like Emperor Wilhelm II, Prince Joachim of Prussia stayed here and biographies of Prussian generals as Hindenburg and Ludendorff are connected to Fortress Boyen.
Discover the interesting history of the comparatively young fortress system in the “Land of 1000 Lakes” with FORTE CULTURA®. Fortress Boyen and the city Gizycko today are touristic highlights in the region Masuria and attract many regional and international visitors each year with diverse cultural offers.
Monument and History
The strategic location of Lötzen as one of the few “gates” through the natural barrier of the Masuria lakes was obvious. It was an important passage for large landing forces, already during the Second Nordic War for the supremacy in the Baltic States 1655-60 and later the coalition wars (1807) and during Napoleon’s conquest of Russia in 1812.
At the beginning of the 19th century the German Empire started considerations to secure the East Prussian border against possible threats from the East and Lötzen was also in focus. With the cooling down of diplomatic relations to Russia there was no reluctance left. On 4th September 1844, ordered by king Frederic William IV, the foundation stone was laid at 6pm to build the fortress Boyen. During the works until 1860 a Prussian artillery stone block developed with six bastions (see architecture), which offered space for up to 2.500 soldiers.
In 1860 the first regiments moved festively into the fortress. Until around 1913 there were constant modernisation measures and a step-by-step rebuilding of the original independent fort to a strong artillery stone block. Before World War I massive field positions in the lake belt around Lötzen were built, the so-called Masuria lake position.
In the First World War, which started shortly after, many battles took place in and around Lötzen by the end of 1914, which were successfully defied. As things developed, the first battle at the Masuria Lakes took place in which Russia was defeated by German troops. The fortress Boyen was an important base and cornerstone of the East Prussian front. After that, the field positions were extended to 255 concrete buildings and resisted all Russian attacks. By the end of World War I fortress Boyen became a symbol of German resistance and famous personalities of the German Reich visited this location, among others Emperor William II, prince Joachim of Prussia, admiral Tirpitz and the Bavarian successor.
The works at the Southern and Eastern border of Germany were excluded from the demands for disarmament of the victorious allies of World War I. Fortress Boyen was preserved meticulously between the wars and served as a symbolic training location.
From 1936 the field positions were further fortified. In World War II the fortified area Lötzen served to secure the back land at the Eastern front. With bunker complexes Wolfsschanze, Mauerwald and Hochwald numerous leading locations developed in the North of Gizycko.
With the increasing successes of the Soviet forces and the gradual move from the East front to Germany, Lötzen was further fortified as an important location and equipped with staff, weapons and provisions by the end of 1944. The cold winter caused thick layers of ice on the Masuria Lakes on which even tanks could drive. That paved the way for the Russian offensive. Lötzen lost its defence value without its natural barriers. The location was evacuated, except some few defenders, and was conquered after short battles on 26th January 1945.
Until 1956 the fortress was a training location of the Polish army and base for mine clearance and systematic blasting of field positions. In 1957 fortress Boyes was taken out of service and was given to the civil administration. In 1973 it was listed as a monument, but also exposed to numerous thefts and arson attacks. From 1993 first preservations works started by the association Enthusiasts of Fortress Boyen.
Since 2009 the object is managed by the Giżyckie Centrum Kultury (Lötzen culture centre) and given a touristic value. With the membership in the European Fortress Tourism and Fortress Marketing Network 2019, fortress Boyen becomes a station on the European Culture Route FORTE CULTURA®.
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The star-formed New Prussian fortress was built after the design of General Ernst Ludwig von Aster and Colonel Johann von Bree-Winiary from 1844 until 1860. Three of the six bastions of the fortress were named after the General of Boyen: Hermann, Ludwig, Leopold and three were named after symbols of the family coat of arms Schwert, Recht and Licht. Four gates with new gothic elements allowed access, the Lötzen and the Rastenburg gate, the water, and the powder gate. On the inside of the fortress numerous function and economic buildings like the three-storey barrack, bakery, powder provision, weapon master workshops, etc. are located.
A 2303m long and 5m high free standing carnot wall with crenels surrounded the fortress. In front and behind were the inner and outer wall, separated by fortress trenches without water. Other elements were casemate bastions, artillery kennels in the bastion collars and the caponier at the Lötzen gate. From around 1870 a long process of extensive modernisation works began to fortify the fortress as a reaction to the fast-developing weapon technique and the introduction of explosive grenades. Walls and ramparts were additionally fortified, vaults were covered with concrete, stockrooms and infantry shelters were built and rotatable and armoured infantry watch towers were installed.
From the beginning of the 20th century the construction of the fortified field position began to secure the location and the region. The extensively pictured brochure by Robert Kempa “Fortress Boyen in Lötzen” (ISBN-13: 978-8361349167) describes the history and construction development of the fortress in detail.
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Fortress Boyen is not only strategically well located on a isthmus between the lakes, but also very centrally located in the middle of the land of 1000 lakes, one of the most attractive landscapes of Europe.
Gizycko is often called the “summer capital of Poland”. The attractive natural landscape is a great base for any kind of active recreation. There are offers for bike tours, sailing, houseboat and paddle tours, swims and hikes to the wisents in the bird paradise Borecka forest, horseback riding, trips to collect mushrooms or fishing complete the diverse program.
Directly at fortress Boyen a wake park and a high-rope course invite to an active nature experience. Even during the cold winter Gizyckos offers ice sailing, ice skating and snow mobile trips, ice fishing, ice diving or horse sleigh rides offer a natural pleasure, as well as the ski area 28km away in Okrągłe with ski tows.
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