Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hitler Residence at Berghof (Obersalzberg)

Inspired by poet and play writer Dietrich Eckart, Adolf Hitler was interested in the Obersalzberg Mountain in Bavaria, Germany. Still living in Münich, he left for the Obersalzberg whenever the opportunity presented itself. At first Hitler on the Obersalzberg stayed in hotels, but after the release of his imprisonment for the failed coup in 1923 he rented a small house. Still burdened with a speaking ban after his conviction, he rented this house to get peace of mind and concentrate on something he had been wanting to do for a long time. It is here that he dictated the second volume of “Mein Kampf” to Rudolf Hess. After this, the house was referred to as “the Kampfhaus” (English: Battle Hause) by the members of his National Socialist Party. And it was in this house where the political course of actions were discussed by Hitler and his followers of the first hour.

But Hitler was seeking permanent living space on the mountain. In 1928 he rented “Haus Wachenfeld” from the widow Winter, which he eventually bought from her on 17 September 1933, when he had already been appointed as Chancellor of Germany. He bought the house, which was only a few hundred meters away from the former Kampfhaus, for 40,000 Reichsmark. In 1920 the Obersalzberg was already a tourist attraction; there were farms, hotels, Inns and spas. After Hitler bought Haus Wachenfeld, he changed the name to “Berghof”, and the layout was altered quite a bit. It was rebuilt, twice. The huge window was installed to enjoy the stunning view on the Unterbergmassiv mountains, the famous stairs were added and so on.

Albert Speer, Martin Bormann and Herman Göring moved to the Obersalzberg as well. Bormann bought an area of 10,000 square meters of the mountain and started to rearrange the mountain to his Führers needs. Civilians were moved off the mountain, some volunteered to leave, others were bought out or received an emptied house of deported Jews elsewhere. The ones who refused were intimidated, or even ended up in concentration camp Dachau. Their houses were demolished and others built up as the Führer ordered.

In 1937 all former residents of the Obersalzberg had left the mountain. But the Obersalzberg wasn’t deserted, on the contrary. The number of people living on the mountain grew with 69% after the takeover by the Nazis. This government city had country homes, barracks, garages, botanic gardens, tea houses, hotels, guesthouses, districts for staff, cinemas and so on. On an average day about 3.000 labourers worked on the Obersalzberg, the total cost for rearranging the mountain came upon 980 million Reichsmark.

Adolf Hitler fled Berlin whenever he could for longer periods of time and lived at the Berghof with a complete staff, his half sister Angela Raubal and daughter Geli Raubal (The latter killed herself in Munich after rumors of an affair with Adolf Hitler). Later on Eva Braun stayed at the Berghof. Eva was the secret mistress of Adolf Hitler, which he kept from the German public for a number of reasons.

The Obersalzberg had 2.000 Waffen SS soldiers stationed there for guarding the mountain and keeping the Führer safe. The Obersalzberg became a tourist attraction during the Nazi heydays. On some days more than 5.000 fans visited the Obersalzberg to get a glimpse of the Führer. The hysteria these pilgrims caused was unimaginable. They even took the cobble stones were the Führer had walked as reminder back home!

Hitler frequently visited a tea-house at Mooslahnerkopf during his daily walks on the Obersalzberg. In 1938 a new tea-house, the Kehlsteinhaus, was built on top of the Obersalzberg mountain. Martin Bormann started this project as a gift from the Nazi Party, the NSDAP, to Adolf Hitler on his 50th anniversary. This Kehlsteinhaus is better known as the “Eagles Nest”. This new teahouse wasn’t liked much by Hitler. In fact he only visited it just a few times. The tea-house on the Mooslahnerkopf remained his favorite place. He kept on taking his daily walk toward this tea house and enjoyed to view on the Unterbergmassiv and Kneifelspitze, two mountains which were visible from here.

The Berghof was a political residence from 1936 on. From 1936 until 1941 every official visit took place at the Berghof. Queens, Princesses, Ministers, Presidents, Businessmen, Ambassadors and Bishops alike all came to the Berghof. The treaty of non aggression with the Russian minister Molotov was set up here. Or the promise made of not going to war to Prime Minister Chamberlain, a big lie to the British and the rest of the world, was signed here.

The Obersalzberg was bombed by hundreds of British Lancaster bombers, including aircraft from No. 617 Squadron RAF ("The Dam Busters"), on 25 April 1945, twelve days before the surrender of German forces on 7 May. At least two bombs struck the Berghof. On 4 May, four days after Hitler's suicide in Berlin, departing SS troops set fire to the villa. Only hours later, the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division arrived at Berchtesgaden along with the French 2nd Armoured Division. In his interview with the Library of Congress, Herman Louis Finnell of the 3rd Division, 7th Regiment, Company I, stated that he and his ammo carrier, Pfc. Fungerburg, were the first to enter Berghof, as well as the secret passages below the structure. Finnell stated that the hallway below the structure had rooms on either side filled with destroyed paintings, evening gowns, as well as destroyed medical equipment and a wine cellar. The Americans reportedly muddled Berchtesgaden with the Berghof and a French Army captain along with his driver were the first Allied personnel to reach the still-smoldering chalet. A French tank crew soon joined them. Over the next few days, Allied soldiers thoroughly looted and stripped the house. The American 1st Battalion of the 506th Infantry Regiment (led by Company C) arrived four days later, on 8 May. The 3rd Battalion of the 506th came into Berchtesgaden by a different route and sustained casualties in a skirmish with the crews of two German 88 mm guns. One of the most notable artifacts taken by American soldiers was Hitler's Globe.

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1 comment:

  1. "From 1936 until 1941 every official visit took place at the Berghof. Queens, Princesses, Ministers, Presidents, Businessmen, Ambassadors and Bishops alike all came to the Berghof."

    Well, meetings between Hitler and foreign leaders were held at other places as well, weren't they? Like Chamberlain at Munich and Bonn-Bad Godesberg for instance, and Mussolini and Horthy in Berlin.