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History of the Obersalzberg

The Obersalzberg sits 1200 feet above the alpine village of Berchtesgaden. During the Third Reich, this beautiful, pastoral community became known as Hitler's mountain headquarters.

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Hotel zum Türken
Prior to 1933, this area was the scene of rustic mountain farms and modest guesthouses where visitors would come to enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of this little corner of the Bavarian Alps.

This had been a well-known vacation spot for many years. Sigmund Freud, Johannes Brahms, Robert and Clara Schumann, Theodor Fontane, Caspar David Friedrich and Bavarian royalty all visited the Berchtesgaden area.

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View of the Untersberg
According to legend, Charlemagne is sleeping in a cave in the Untersberg mountain across the valley from the Obersalzberg; the story says he will return for the final battle between good and evil at the end of the world.

The Nazis Arrive

Under Hitler's Germany, this peaceful vacation spot became the hangout of some of the most notorious leaders of the Third Reich.
hitlers berghof, obersalzberg
Hitler's Berghof

Adolf Hitler first arrived on the Obersalzberg in 1923, staying with a friend after his release from prison, then returning to rent a farmhouse (Haus Wachenfeld) on the mountain in 1928. He finished writing Mein Kampf here.

Hitler bought the farmhouse in 1933 and remodeled it into a large, ostentatious country mansion he called the Berghof, or "mountain farm", which he visited frequently during his years as German Chancellor.

Hermann Goering and Martin Bormann also acquired homes on the Obersalzberg near Hitler's.

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View from the Berghof
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Hitler's Berghof

The property owners on the hill were either bought out or forced out and a massive building program was organized by Martin Bormann.

Administrative buildings, barracks and workers' housing covered the area and below ground the entire hill was honeycombed with a maze of tunnels and bunkers.

Famous Visitors at the Berghof

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler at the Berghof in 1938 during the negotiations that lead to the signing of the Munich Agreement handing part of Czechoslovakia over to Germany ("peace for our time"). Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had met with Hitler at the Berghof in 1936.

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Duke and Duchess of Windsor
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Mussolini and Hitler

Other important guests were received there as well, including Benito Mussolini and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Eva Braun, Hitler's mistress, spent much of her time at the Berghof.

The Hotel zum Türken

Right next door to Hitler's Berghof stood the Hotel zum Türken, which began as an inn in 1630; the current building was begun in 1911 and was still operating as a hotel in 1933 when Hitler purchased the house right beside it.

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Hotel zum Türken and the Berghof

The hotel was confiscated in 1933 and used to house the security service (SD) guarding the Führer. Largely destroyed during the bombing, it was returned to the original owners after the war and is still serving visitors to the Obersalzberg.

The bunker system under the Türken connects to Hitler's walled-off bunker; the tunnels under the hotel are open to the public.

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Hitler greeting visitors
The photo at right shows Hitler standing at the end of the Berghof driveway with the Hotel zum Türken above. Many propaganda photos were taken showing Hitler as a "man of the people", here greeting members of the League of German Maidens.

The Bavarian Redoubt

Bunker under Berghof
The massive bunker network under the Obersalzberg was actually built as a collection of interconnecting air raid shelters, not as a military defense system. The construction started in 1943 after Allied bombing was becoming a serious problem. See map of bunkers.

Towards the end of the war, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels tried to create the impression that the Nazis had an unshakeable grip on the alpine area that would make it impossible, or extremely costly in lives, to dislodge them.

The purpose was to influence the Allies to agree to a negotiated end to the war; some in Berlin even hoped to persuade the Americans to join them in their battle against the Russians.

General Eisenhower believed that the Berchtesgaden area might be the scene of Hitler's last stand and this was one reason why the Western Allies fought their way across Bavaria to Berchtesgaden instead of hurrying on to Berlin.

It turned out to be false; the Allies were met with almost no resistance and Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on April 30, 1945. His last visit to the Berghof had been in July of 1944.

Bombs on the Obersalzberg

On April 25, 1945, The RAF launched a massive bombing raid on the Obersalzberg.

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Ruins on the Obersalzberg
Click to Enlarge
Most of the building were damaged or destroyed, including the houses belonging to Goering and Bormann, but the Berghof was only partly damaged and the mountain's bunker system survived intact.

In the photo, the Türken is up the road and a little to the left of the Berghof.

The "before and after" photos below show the Berghof and Hotel zum Türken on the lower right, with the SS barracks on the left. Above the barracks in the center is the Platterhof Hotel (now the parking lot for the Documentation Center).

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Obersalzberg 1941

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Obersalzberg Ruins
Click to Enlarge

The Allies Arrive

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Soldiers enter Berchtesgaden
American soldiers of the Third Infantry Division were the first to arrive on the Obersalzberg on the morning of May 4, 1945, followed by French soldiers later that evening; the Americans arrived only four hours after the SS had set fire to the Berghof and left the area.

Soldiers from Easy Company, 101st Airborne, came in the next day, contrary to the scenario in Band of Brothers. For more details about these events, see The Race for Berchtesgaden.

surrender of berchtesgaden
Surrender of Berchtesgaden
On May 4, 1945, the local government representative surrendered the town of Berchtesgaden to the American officer in command, Lt. Col. Kenneth Wallace.

There was no resistance in the town or on the Obersalzberg. The SS commander on the Obersalzberg had informed the mayor that there would be no resistance on the mountain.

The Occupation

Berchtesgaden was in the sector of Germany assigned to the U.S. forces. After an initial period of lawlessness, in which the Moroccan troops from the French army were noted to be the worst offenders, things settled down.

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Obersalzberg May 5, 1945
Parts of the Obersalzberg itself remained under control of the U.S. Army until the 1990's when the some of the buildings associated with the Third Reich were returned to the government of Bavaria.

Hitler's Berghof was mostly intact until 1952 when the West German government destroyed it to deter pilgrimages by Nazis. The houses belonging to Goering and Bormann were heavily damaged in the raid and were later razed, along with the ruins of the SS barracks above the Berghof.

The Platterhof Hotel, on the hill above the Berghof, was damaged but later fixed up, renamed the General Walker Hotel, and used for many years as a low-cost vacation spot for American service members stationed in Germany.

In 1999 the hotel was returned to the Bavarian government and it was torn down in 2000. The area is now a parking lot for the Documentation Center.

Across the little valley (now a golf course) in front of the Berghof, was Hitler's Tea House, a small building that Hitler used to walk to daily from the Berghof. It survived the bombing, but was later destroyed. All traces of the ruins were removed in 2007; the Tea House was in the woods just off the 13th hole.

For more details on the history and lots of fascinating historical photographs, see

You might also be interested in:

The Obersalzberg today. Visit the former Nazi stronghold above Berchtesgaden and explore the ruins and bunker system. The Documentation Center has a fascinating exhibit on the history of the Third Reich.

Hitler's Berghof. The Führer's home on the Obersalzberg, then and now.

Berchtesgaden. Things to do in the town and ideas for exploring the area, including a boat trip on the crystal-clear Konigssee.

The Eagle's Nest. How to get up there, what there is to see. Have lunch in the same room Hitler and Eva Braun entertained their guests.
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