Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pictures From Our Trip to Germany and Austria: Obersalzburg

While staying in Salzburg, Alison and I took a day trip to Berchtesgarden to see Obersalzburg, where the Nazi leadership had their Alpine vacation homes, and the infamous Eagle's Nest. This place had a special significance for Alison because her paternal grandfather had served with the 101st Division during World War II and ended his European tour at Berchtesgarden.

This is the Hotel zum Turken, which dates back to 1911. During the years when the mountainside was the private reserve of the Nazis, the hotel was confiscated from its owners and used as the headquarters of Hitler's personal body guards and the SS troops that manned the security access points. The Berghof, Hitler's residence, was located behind the hotel in front of the clump of trees visible in the background. Nothing remains of the Berghof today except the rear retaining wall nestled amongst the woods.

The hotel is one of the few remaining above-ground structures from the war that still exists. By the mid-1930s, as the Nazi leadership took over control of Obersalzburg and transformed the area into their Alpine headquarters, the original inhabitants of the mountainside either sold their property to the party or had it confiscated. A bombing raid on 25 April 1945 destroyed or heavily damaged every building in the area. After the Americans returned Obersalzburg to the Bavarian Government in 1952, most Nazi-affiliated buildings were razed (except for the Platterhof Hotel, which was rebuilt and served as a resort for U.S. military personnel until 1995, then was returned to the Bavarian Government which promptly tore down the structure). The Hotel zum Turken is also the only building in Obersalzburg that was returned to its rightful owners, who rebuilt it in the 1950s; it is still used as hotel to this day.

This was the view from the Berghof's bay window of the Untersberg mountains. Legend has it that Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (or Charlemagne, depending on which version you believe) lies asleep at the base of the range and is waiting to be resurrected.

Still very prevalent on Obersalzberg is the vast array of underground bunkers dug into the mountainside to protect the leadership from Allied bombing raids. The tunnels stretch for six kilometers and many are open to the public (the tunnels reserved for Hitler and Eva Braun have been sealed off). This is part of the tunnel complex that was beneath the former Platterhof Hotel.

Left untouched by the war was the Eagle's Nest (Adlershorst), the tea house built by Martin Bormann at the peak of the mountain overlooking Obersalzberg for Hitler's fiftieth birthday. (Eagle's Nest is how the Americans refer to it; the Germans call this site Kehlsteinhaus, or the house on top of Kehlstein Mountain.) Unfortunately, the mountain top is closed to the public in winter because it's too difficult to maintain the winding road in snow and ice. This was as close as we could get.

Alison enjoying the snow on Obersalzburg.

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