History of the ObersalzbergThe 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Bavarian Redoubt
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.
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).
The Allies Arrive
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.
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.
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.
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 www.thirdreichruins.com.
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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