Today the still intact Eagles Nest is merely a symbol of the arrogance of Hitler’s regime. The modern-day price of the building stands at 150 million euros! From the Eagles Nest, the whole world is literally at your feet. You feel on top of the world, above everything and everyone. Hitler himself only went there twelve times because he did not like the thin air and because of his fear of heights! Photo Paul Keyser, Edit International
“It is the Führer’s wish that a large hotel be built, which is what Berchtesgaden really needs. The Führer’s vision is of a hotel of 500-1,000 people.”... (Extract from a letter dated 25 February 1938 by Martin Bormann to Reichsleiter Dr. Robert Ley)
It is here on the Obersalzberg that Adolf Hitler played rough and tumble with his German shepherd, Blondie. And it is here at his mountain residence ‘Berghof’ that he flirted with Eva Braun. Here, in one of the most delightful places in Germany, the Nazi party leaders built luxurious villas for their Führer and for themselves. This is also the splendid location where the five star InterContinental Resort Berchtesgaden hotel recently opened its doors.
By PAUL KEYSERS
“That beautiful monstrosity” is what the local residents of Berchtesgaden call the InterContinental hotel on the Obersalzberg.
The circular building built on a base of natural stone, with its great expanses of glass, and fine quality woodwork, creates an awesome impression from the winding drive.
The view over the valley a mile below below with the Königssee and the surrounding mountains is breathtaking.
However, “the Obersalzberg is a location charged with history,” stated Kurt Falthauser, Bavaria’s minister for finance, in his speech to celebrate the launch of the prestigious hotel. "This unique panorama must also have inspired “him” 65 years ago.'
It is quite an experience to enter the hotel’s gigantic hallway with its sleek lines, with its enormous chandeliers emitting columns of light from the ceiling, and the central open fire with its cozy seating area.
As soon as I arrive, a graceful blond receptionist kindly but firmly invites me to take a seat at an enormous table. At this hotel, you don't check in standing in front of a reception desk. Instead, one is invited to sit down and relax in a comfortable leather chair.
My room oozes distinguished luxury. Along the wall there are modern sliding doors made from a coarse grained wood.
My room is equipped with a full-size flat screen TV. In addition, there are all manner of telephone and internet connections: Worldlink!
And let’s not forget the remotely controlled open fire place, and the ultra-fine damask sheets on the king size bed.
The enormous picture window, which leads onto a large balcony, provides a stunning panoramic view over the mountains.
My bathroom has been designed in a green-black color, with pink grained granite, and the shower is concealed behind a smoked glass shower door.
The hotel boasts a 1,500m2 wellness area where guests enjoy both inside and outside pools, fitness rooms, various saunas, Turkish baths... Briefly, this is a top luxury hotel with all the trimmings.
And yet… there is still something else…, the Germans use the word unheimlich (eerie), that hangs in the pure air above the Obersalzberg.
I just can’t help it but the neatly groomed blond receptionist immediately reminds me of the Arian race philosophy.
And the two Scottish terriers of a hotel guest immediately make me think of a photograph of Eva Braun and Hitler with two identical dogs on their terrace within a stone’s throw from here.
In January 1942, Hitler casually admitted: “For me the Obersalzberg has become something quite exquisite. I have totally fallen in love with this landscape… This is where my greatest plans were created”.
In the hotel restaurant, gloomy thoughts fill my mind when I fillet my sea-devil fish in a crunchy piece of black pudding: a daring but rather unfortunate culinary combination by the head chef.
Creepy! This is where the “Alpine seat of government” used to be located, this was the center of power of the Third Reich after Berlin! This was Hitler’s home and constituency. This is where, in the 1930’s, newlyweds would automatically receive a copy of Mein Kampf as a wedding present.
It is in this idyllic setting that Hitler managed to placate the Duke of Windsor and hoodwink the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain.
This is where he drew up sinister plans with Benito Mussolini, the fascist Italian leader. This is also where he decided to invade Poland, which ultimately made the Second World War inevitable.
Here, above the clouds, he signed the plans for the bloodiest military operation of WWII in 1940, Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia.
Here is a landscape that is more stunning than the most beautiful postcard, dazzling hotel architecture with 138 luxury rooms and suites, bars, libraries, ballrooms, restaurants, sunbathing terraces, inside and outside swimming pools, the largest whiskey selection and the highest golf course in the whole of Germany, with in addition a ski resort just outside of the door. But it's no match for it's cruel past. At the time of the Nazis, propaganda minister Goebbels orchestrated “stormtrooper or brownshirt” pilgrimages to this notorious mountain.
He even laid on special trains to Berchtesgaden. Crowds of enraptured people would stand outside Hitler’s house the “Berghof” chanting “Wir wollen unseren Führer sehen” [We want to see our Leader.]. Fanatical women would steal handfuls of the gravel on which Hitler had been standing whilst greeting them.
As Klaus Mann once mused “There will always be a stigma attached to this otherwise immaculately pure landscape”.
From October 1928, Adolf Hitler, who was then still a professional agitator, rented ‘Haus Wachenfeld’ on the Obersalzberg. That is where he completed his book Mein Kampf, and with its proceeds, he purchased the house in September 1932.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the pace accelerated. Project leader, Martin Bormann, called for the Obersalzberg to be declared a Führersperrgebiet [Führer Blockaded Area] and to close it off from the outside world.
All the original local residents, threatened with deportation to a concentration camp, were driven out and their properties were compulsorily purchased by the NSDAP [National Socialist German Workers’ Party].
Bormann arranged for the rather modest ‘Haus Wachenfeld’ to be converted and extended into Hitler’s grand ‘Berghof’. Soon, an army of workers built villas for all the Nazi top brass, such as Bormann himself, Herman Göring, and Albert Speer; an SS barracks, a party chancellery, service buildings, a theater, accommodation for VIP guests, and an enormous set of underground bunkers where the party bigwigs could hide away and survive for months if necessary.
The modern InterContinental Berchtesgaden Hotel now towers immediately above that Nazi bunker complex.
The pride and glory of Bormann’s project was ‘Kehlstein House’ or ‘Eagles Nest’, a real technical achievement on a 1,834 m high mountain top which was reputed to be inaccessible.
Kehlstein was a gift from the NSDAP to their Führer on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday on 20 April 1939.
Today the still intact Eagles Nest is merely a symbol of the arrogance of Hitler’s regime. The modern-day price of the building stands at 150 million euros!
From the Eagles Nest, the whole world is at your feet. You feel on top of the world, above everything and everyone. Hitler himself only went there twelve times because he did not like the thin air and because of his fear of heights!
On 25 April 1945, nearly 400 English Lancaster bombers raised the entire Obersalzberg to the ground – (see photograph) with the exception of the Kehlsteinhaus or Eagles Nest – shortly after which souvenir hunters and looters raided all the piles of rubble that were left smoldering.
As soon as the war ended, the area came under the command of American troops. They turned it into an Armed Forces Recreation Center by establishing the General Walker Hotel.
They built golf courses, tennis courts and ski pistes. Until 1995, more than five million American soldiers and their families holidayed on the Obersalzberg.
Over the years, the Free State of Bavaria [Freistaat Bayern], which has in the meantime become the legal owner of the area, has ensured that the last remains of the bombed Nazi buildings were cleared away.
“As if it were possible to simply blot out history by making the buildings disappear,” gibes a local retailer.
However, the Christian-Democratic Union CSU, which has consistently been in power in Bavaria since 1962, have taken their time over this spring cleaning.
It was not until 1995 that the last remains of Hitler’s Berghof’s terrace disappeared, and it was only in 2002 that the last bit of rubble was cleared away.
Nowhere has the commercial exploitation of the Nazi period been so huge and so blatantly visible as here.
The Kehlsteinhaus with its 400,000 visitors a year is an important source of income for this large German federal state.
For a fee, local guides have been guiding visitors from all over the world through the ruins and underground bunkers.
Making money from the Third Reich piles of rubble is still one of the favorite pastimes of the local middle class: A view of the former Kehlsteinhaus. Coin-operated binoculars advertise it as Hitler’s guest house for diplomats; Hitler now having become a shameless tourist attraction.
“The end of the first Gulf War, now that was a money-spinning time,” says one of the many souvenir traders at the bottom of Hitler’s mountain. Besides all the usual trinkets, he also sells glossy photograph books, depicting, for example, The Obersalzberg before and after the demolition, The History of the Kehlstein House, The Biography of the Third Reich…
“Before they were allowed to return to the US, all the American GI’s from Kuwait were first sent here to acclimatise for a month.
They had their pockets filled with thousands of dollars and we were only too happy to help them spend it.”
Was it purely for profit that the British hotel group InterContinental decided to specifically select the Obersalzberg as a location for their luxury hotel?
In 2003, 360,000 tourists visited the Berchtesgaden region, which is equivalent to 2,2 million overnight stays. “This region did not yet have a five star hotel,” says Petra Fülle, InterContinental’s PR Consultant.
“So the group grasped the opportunity in Berchtesgaden. After all, the group already has experience with historical locations. There is, for example, also an InterContinental in Bethlehem.
A frightening tale is that in Kabul in Afghanistan, a rocket once went right through the InterContinental, in through the front and out through the back.”
In any case, the revenue from this hotel on the Obersalzberg previously visualised by Hitler, is fed back to the English town of Windsor, where the hotel group has its head office.
At least if there is any profit to be made, because there were only very few visitors during my stay at the InterContinental. The website lists room prices which are 33% lower than those officially listed.
However, the presidential suite will still set you back 2,500 euros a night. It has to be said that the local population is not too keen on this highly controversial hotel.
According to the critics, the hotel employs far too few locals and hardly uses any local products. The hotel receives its international supplies from the InterContinental organisation.
Furthermore, it is rumored that the Federal State of Bavaria will subsidies the hotel in the event of losses. Because the local authority, in its capacity of lessor, hopes that this hotel with its modern neutral design will put an end to the hordes of national-socialist fanatics and neo-Nazis who come to view the Alpine fortress of the dictator.
However, any attempt to brush over history in this way is doomed to fail. Because apart from all this natural beauty, there is only one other reason to visit the Obersalzberg.
That reason is the Dokumentation Obersalzberg, which is a permanent exhibition which specifically covers this tainted past.
Under the motto “Only those who know history, can shape the future responsibly”, the exhibition explains the history of the Obersalzberg in images, films and documents, and this in a scientifically responsible way. The underground set of bunkers is also part of the exhibition and they are open for viewing by visitors.
And it is exactly to visit the documentation center that the economist, Kurt Kaminski from Berlin, is spending one night at the InterContinental. “I was born in March 1945, exactly one month before the bombings of nearby Traunstein,” explains Kaminski.
“My father then fled to the countryside with us, and just as well, because our house was demolished in the bombing. Once and for all, I want to know what happened here. That is why I spent half a day visiting the Documentation Centre.
"I was very impressed by the catalogued of the documentation center which can be found in every bedside table, Die tödliche Utopie, (Deadly Utopia). You want to know what I think of this hotel? The worst thing that they could have done was to incorporate this heavily tainted past into the architecture. Fortunately, this did not happen. This hotel accommodation is aimed at an international target audience and, architecturally speaking, it is a successful modern design with sleek lines. However, an overnight stay in this symbolic location will probably never be quite an ordinary thing to do.
•InterContinental Resort Berchtesgaden, Hintereck 1, D-83471 Berchtesgaden, Germany. Tel. +49 (0) 8652/9755-0 Fax +49 (0) 8652/9755-9999
Room prices per night: 269 euros for a standard room, 499 euros for a royal suite, 2,500 euros for a presidential suite.
•Dokumentation Obersalzberg, Orts- und Zeitgeschichte, Salzbergerstrasse 41, D-83471 Berchtesgaden, Germany.
Tel. +49 (0) 8652/947960 Fax +49 (0) 8652/947969
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org website : www.obersalzberg.de
•Berchtesgaden Tourismus GmbH, Königsseer Strasse, D-83471 Berchtesgaden, Germany. Tel. +49 (0) 8652/9670 Fax +49 (0) 8652/967402
•By Car: Take the motorway in the direction of Stuttgart and Munich, and then follow the A8 to Rosenheim and Salzburg. Take the exit Bad Reichenhall and then the B20 to Berchtesgaden. From Brussels it is approx. 1,100km.
•By train: Railway to Munich and then change trains to Salzburg/Vienna. Get off at Berchtesgaden. Then take the bus or taxi to the Obersalzberg.
•By airplane: Fly to the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart airport of Salzburg. This is 27km from Berchtesgaden. The Franz Josef Strauss airport of Munich lies at a distance of 185km. From the airport, take the shuttle bus, public transport, or hire a car to Berchtesgaden.
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