Three thousand two hundred and eighty one feet above Berchtesgaden, a lawyer named Winter from Buxtehude near Hamburg, built the Bavarian style house called 'Haus Wachenfeld' (the maiden name of his wife was Wachenfeld). The house was rented to Hitler in 1928 for 100 marks per month. When he finally bought the property, after becoming Chancellor, it was shown on picture postcards as 'The little cottage of the People's Chancellor'. The architect, Alois Delgado, was called in to rebuild and enlarge the house which was then renamed 'The Berghof'.

After visiting these two places (Berchtesgaden and the Eagle's lair on Obersalzberg), you can easily understand how that within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived.

He had boundless ambitions for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way that he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him. He had in him the stuff of which legends are made.

'Prelude To Leadership: The European Diary of John F. Kennedy - Summer, 1945'. Regnery Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC.

the Berghof

Simon Waldman came across a copy of Homes and Gardens from 1938 which featured an article about Hitler's house, and posted it to his weblog. This started a bizarre series of events that saw him embroiled in legal wrangles and denounced as a Nazi sympathiser...

One evening in May, my father-in-law proudly took out an old magazine. It was a November 1938 edition of Homes and Gardens, featuring a modernist bungalow built in Wraysbury, on the banks of the Thames, designed by his father, Henry Carr. The 65-year-old magazine was, and still is, one of his proudest family heirlooms, but he had only ever looked at the article on his father's house. I started to flick through it and found something quite remarkable.

As a result of this casual browse through an old magazine, I have struck up a friendship with an amateur historian in Louisiana, been involved in a copyright tussle with the UK's biggest magazine publisher, been branded a Nazi sympathiser, been written about in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and the Jerusalem Post, and become the subject of a petition from 60 Holocaust scholars as well as protests from David Irving.

My discovery was an article headlined "Hitler's Mountain Home" - a breathless, three-page Hello!-style tour around Haus Wachenfeld, Hitler's chalet in the Bavarian Alps. In it, the author, the improbably named Ignatius Phayre, tells us that "it is over 12 years since Herr Hitler fixed on the site of his one and only home. It had to be close to the Austrian border". It was originally little more than a shed, but he was able to develop it "as his famous book Mein Kampf became a bestseller of astonishing power".

The great dictator, it seems, was quite the interiors wizard:

The colour scheme throughout this bright, airy chalet is light jade green. The Führer is his own decorator, designer and furnisher, as well as architect... [Hitler] has a passion about cut flowers in his home.

And he is seldom alone in his mountain hideaway, as he "delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, musicians and singers. As host, he is a droll raconteur... "

Oh, and look who's practising his archery in the garden:

It is strange to watch the burly Field-Marshal Göring, as chief of the most formidable air force in Europe, taking a turn with the bow-and-arrow at straw targets of 25 yards range.

And on it gushes, all accompanied by various photos of Hitler and friends admiring the view, examining plans for the house, and one delightful shot of Adolf relaxing on a deckchair with "one of his pedigree Alsatians beside him"

November 1938 was two years after Hitler had occupied the Rhineland and six months after "union" with Austria. He had just taken Czechoslovakia and Germany was weeks away from the horrors of Kristallnacht. Yet here was a British interiors magazine treating the architect of all this as if he were the Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen of his day.

I scanned the pages of the article, and put them up on my (not frequently visited) weblog. Nothing really happened, and I forgot about it. In August, I revamped my weblog, and wrote about the software I was using in the pages of Guardian Online. I also gave a bit of prominence again on my site to the Hitler scans. Within a week or so, I noticed I was getting about 10,000 page impressions a day on the Hitler pages. Given that I was used to about 300 on a good day on the whole site, this was quite remarkable. I emailed Isobel McKenzie-Price, the editor of Homes and Gardens, which is now published by the Time Warner-owned publishing giant, IPC. I told her about the piece, asked if she or anyone there knew anything about it, and whether they had any other copies.

Two weeks later, I received an email from McKenzie-Price saying:

This piece, text and photographs is still in copyright and any unauthorised reproduction is an infringement of copyright. In the circumstances I must request you to remove this article from your website.

This wasn't quite what I'd expected. But as I am responsible for the commercial side of the Guardian's websites, I am all too aware of copyright issues, and so begrudgingly accepted their stance. I sent a reply saying I was happy to take the pictures down, as I respected their claim for copyright. But a) as I wasn't making any money from it, I thought they were being a bit heavy-handed, b) as this was an important historical document, with much to tell us about both the past and present, they should really try to give it an official home on the internet, making all the copyright information clear, and c) that as it had already been online for several months, it was very likely to have been copied by other sites, so getting me to take it down wouldn't be the end of it. I never received a response.

I posted our correspondence on my site. Suddenly, I was deluged with comments from all sorts of people. Some were supportive, some dismissive. There was one accusing me of being a Nazi sympathiser wanting to promote Hitler as a decent human being, and threatening to report me to the anti-defamation league. (I'm Jewish, so this was mildly insulting.) There were a few bits of shocking anti-semitism from some neo-Nazis; and some very, very detailed debate about copyright. And, as I had predicted, the pages had already been copied and appeared on sites around the world - mainly in Israel and the USA. Unfortunately, one of these belonged to the Holocaust revisionist David Irving.

Journalists started to take an interest. The New York Times wrote about my copyright struggles, then syndicated it to the International Herald Tribune and the Jerusalem Post. Wired News covered it on the Internet, with a link to my site. And a US talk show host I've never heard of, Jeff Rense, wrote about it on his alternative news site, which sent thousands more people in my direction. Strangely, the story passed most of the UK media by. In all of this coverage, I was rather distressed to find David Irving arguing with me to make the article available. Not my ideal partner.

Then, one Friday, I was checking my website for comments, and I saw one from an EJ Brock, which read:

For the record, none of the photos in the article are original to the article. All were published previously in Germany and are in the public domain.

The next few hours saw a flurry of emails between myself and my new friend: Eric Brock, a Jewish Louisiana-based historian and amateur collector of Nazi memorabilia. It turned out that the photos were actually taken by Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's official publicity photographer. Homes and Gardens hadn't actually taken any photos, they had just called them in from the Nazi's press office. Some of them were taken years before the article had appeared.

Heinrich Hoffmann took thousands of publicity shots of Hitler. Most importantly for his bank balance, he took the photos of Hitler that appeared on Germany's stamps during the war, and Hitler kindly let him have a royalty on each stamp. As a result, after the war, he was imprisoned for being a Nazi profiteer. (There was another reason why Hitler favoured Hoffmann. He introduced the Führer to his assistant, a delightful young lady called Eva Braun) 

I put them back up on my site and quipped that if only I could find out that the text was written by Josef Göbbels, then I'd be able to publish that as well. Two weeks later, I received an email from Rachel Zuckerman, a journalist on the US Jewish newspaper, Forward. She told me that a group of 60 holocaust scholars organised by the Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies had signed a petition asking for IPC to make the article publicly available.

This took the whole story to a new level. IPC was no longer dealing with an irritating bloke with a blog, and it was no longer a simple matter of copyright. It was the subject of a full-on assault from the US Holocaust lobby. I was glad someone other than David Irving was now demanding it. After weeks of silence and guarded statements to journalists, IPC was prodded into action. I received an email from IPC, who forwarded me a statement it had sent to the Wyman Institute. It conceded that "after extensive research ... there is no way of ascertaining where copyright ownership lies after 65 years. Therefore, it is not in our gift to either agree or withdraw use of these images and words."

For me, this prompted a mix of victory and fury. Yes, I could put the scans back up on my site, but it was clear that they simply hadn't made any detailed checks on copyright when I first contacted them, and had hoped it would all go away with a single stern email.

Fortunately for me, in this internet age, such clumsy tactics don't work. Their attempt to squash the problem had simply amplified it. The Wyman institute, however, is still not entirely happy. It is glad that the article is now widely available, but would like an apology from IPC. The two sides are still in negotiations over this.

Personally, I have asked IPC if they will let my father-in-law have a free subscription to his favourite magazine, Practical Boat Owner, as compensation for the way they treated me. I'm still waiting to hear back.


Simon Waldman is the Guardian's director of digital publishing

Obersalzberg, a pen-and-ink drawing on vellum paper by Franz Weiss, 1941 




In the second half of the 19th century the humble mountain village of Obersalzberg was transformed into one of the most important health resorts in Germany.

The opening of a guesthouse called Pension Moritz by Mauritia Mayer in 1877 led to the rise of tourism at Obersalzberg. Bruno Büchner, a later owner, changed the name of the guesthouse to Platterhof in the Nineteen Twenties.

It was extended from 1936 to a hotel for "verdiente Volksgenossen" (members of the national community rewarded for commendable service). During the war the hotel was used as a Millitary hospital.

Adolf Hitler visited Obersalzberg for the first time in May 1923. After his premature release from imprisonment in the prison of Landsberg/Lech he repeatedly returned to Obersalzberg, where he also dictated the second part of "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle). After the "Seizure of Power" Obersalzberg became a place of pilgrimage for enthusiastic Hitler supporters from throughout the Reich. Soon the only people to be admitted were organized groups and guests of the Party and the government. Obersalzberg thus evolved into a major element in NS propaganda and the Hitler myth.

In 1933 Hitler acquired ownership of the Wachenfeld House, which he had been renting since 1928. In the following years the modest country house was converted into the pompous Berghof. Other leading NS figures settled there as well: Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, Albert Speer  (Hitler's favorite architect after the death of Paul Ludwig Troost). After the former inhabitants had been driven out, the erstwhile health resort was turned into the "Führersperrgebiet" (the "Führer’s off-limits area") with an infrastructure allowing the execution of government. The old village and its inhabitants, some of whom were families who had lived here for hundreds of years, had to yield to these new circumstances. Within a few short years the entire region of Berchtesgaden evolved into a second seat of government, a "Branch Office of Berlin".

Haus Wachenfeld
 This is a side view of the simple alpine home of the
Reichschancellor before the major remodeling of 1936

Berghof Wachenfeld
 This is a side view of the remodeled alpine home
of the Reichschancellor

Landhaus Göring after its final renovation, with the Untersberg mountains in the background.  
The view from Göring's house was the best of any of the Obersalzberg Third Reich homes.

Reichsleiter Martin Bormann took over "Haus Hudler," a small home owned by a Dr. Seitz. This house site was ideal for Bormann, as it overlooked Hitler's Berghof and much of the rest of the Obersalzberg complex.
From here, Bormann could keep an eye on everything, including the comings and goings at the Berghof.
Bormann later enlarged and modernized the house,

installing costly interior furnishings.

Bormann also had an extensive air raid shelter and bunker system built into the hill behind the house, connecting to the main air raid control and communications center underground.



As a second seat of power for the German Reich after Berlin, Obersalzberg is classified amongst the so-called "Täterorte" (sites of the perpetrators), which can be distinguished in the spectrum of National Socialist historical sites from the so-called "Opferorte" (sites of the victims). Whereas "Opferorte" – former concentration camps and other sites of murder and imprisonment, settings of massacres, etc. – are characterized by having had a concrete relationship to the victims, a site indelibly bound up with the suffering and death of people, "Täterorte" are those sites in which political crimes of violence were planned and organized. These include those sites, in which the perpetrators desired to be alone amongst themselves – sites such as Obersalzberg, but also assembly and cult sites such as the Nazi Party Rally grounds in Nuremberg or educational and training sites such as the so-called Ordensburgen. Although this distinction is not absolute, because "Opferorte" cannot exist without perpetrators, it does help to distinguish between the various National Socialist historical sites and prepare the ground for dealing with each of them in an appropriate manner.

Obersalzberg was a "Täterort" in two senses of the word: This is where a small number of people devised, discussed and planned crimes of the greatest magnitude, crimes that were to be committed elsewhere. Obersalzberg was not only a center from which power was exercised, it was also a political arena for the Cult of Hitler, through which the "Führer" Myth – legitimizing Hitler's personal dictatorship - was continually nurtured.

After the Berghof was completed in 1936, the "Führer" liked to receive guests of state and other high-ranking personalities here in order to present himself as a major, highly respected statesman of the world. Against the majestic mountain backdrop Hitler could be portrayed as a visionary far removed from the banalities of everyday life.

Above all, Obersalzberg added to the image of the brilliant "Führer" as a man with feelings and sensibilities. The cult ostensibly lifted the veil surrounding Hitler's private life and showed him here as a simple man of the people, as a friend of children, animals and nature, as a good neighbor, in short, as a normal, warm-hearted person whom one could trust blindly. The calculated and orchestrated scenario of ordinariness and normality, which even today is mistaken by many for historical reality, was to be exposed for what it really was: subtle propaganda that aided in consolidating Hitler's personal power and his regime.

On April 25, 1945 British and American long-range bombers bombed the compound and destroyed a large number of buildings. The ruins of the Berghof, the houses of Göring and Bormann and the SS barracks were demolished in 1952. Only a few buildings survived, including the Kehlstein House - the "Eagle's Nest" - and the bunker complex. From 1953 on sections of Obersalzberg were used by the American forces as a recreational area and were thus accessible only for those affiliated with the American military.

The Berghof was developed in stages from a much smaller house, named "Haus Wachenfeld". "Haus Wachenfeld" was a vacation home built by a businessman from Buxtehude, Otto Winter. Winter's widow originally rented the house to Hitler for 100 Reichsmarks in 1928. In 1933 Hitler was eventually able to purchase the house with funds he received through the sale of his book 'Mein Kampf. The site is breathtakingly scenic. The valley below appears by illusion to be a lake almost at one's feet.


View from the Kehlsteinhaus looking toward the Obersalzberg and Salzberg in the distance


An elevator built into the mountain goes up to the Kehlsteinhaus. A 3-ton marble slab above the door to the tunnel, which leads to the elevator, is engraved with the words "Erbaut 1938". The door to the tunnel has handles in the shape of a lion. The interior of the elevator has solid brass walls and mirrors to make it look less confining, since Hitler was known to suffer from claustrophobia. On his infrequent visits to the Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler would stand in the exact center of the elevator


The Kehlsteinhaus was designed by architect Roderich Fick as a wooden frame structure, but it consists of 80% concrete, particularly in the area of the octagonal main hall or reception room. The outside walls, as well as the interior walls, are covered by a facade of granite stones, which gives the impression that the building is a solid stone structure. The granite stones came from a quarry near Passau. 

Created with materials from all over
Germany, the Kehlsteinhaus project made use of the best architects, engineers and workers from across the country, and was to cost some thirty million Reichsmarks to construct, a figure that would amount to an amazing three-hundred million DM (around £100 million) today.

It is reached via the serpent-like Kehlsteinstraße, one of the most magnificent mountain roads in the world  and the highest in Germany is a work of engineering that is, in the opinion of a number of experts, years ahead of its time. The techniques used for building this road became benchmarks for future projects. It  has also required minimal maintenance, which attests to the quality of workmanship.

. Although the chief road inspector, Dr. Fritz Todt, gave the final OK to build the road, it was actually the state engineer August Michahelles, who planned it.
six and a half kilometres long road, had to be blasted out of the rock and constructed at the same time as the house - all in 13 months since  Bormann put incredible pressure on Michahelles to complete the project by the spring.


The road was completed in October 1938, although there were pitfalls that had to be overcome. The most significant one was the discovery that the rock in one section was not the correct type to ensure safety. Instead of building the road on top of the rock, a long 126 meter tunnel had to be constructed instead.


"The Führer has no Private Life"
was the slogan of Nazi propaganda

In order not to spoil the orchestrated illusion of a dictator far removed from all earthly things, so as to insinuate that the selfless Führer was sacrificing himself for German greatness,  his girlfriend had to remain a secret. This greatly increased his allure to German women, many of whom sent him love letters, presents and marriage offers. Eva Braun was condemned to a life of secrecy. At the age of 19, she became Hitler's mistress, received a house, expensive clothes, fast cars and French perfume - but no wedding ring. Officially, she went under the name of private secretary and drew a salary from party funds. He called her Tschapperl, she had to call him mein Führer. When state visitors came to Hitler's chalet Berghof, she was banished to her room. Only the entourage on the estate near Berchtesgaden really knew what was going on. It was not until he faced total defeat, in the underground world of the Chancellery bunker when the Red Army took Berlin, that he married Eva Braun. The burning of the bodies in the forecourt of the chancellery building not only marked the end of an era of terror, but also a relationship shrouded in mystery between the dictator and a woman whom he was prepared to marry only after taking the mutual decision to commit suicide.

Pictures of the Führer with his mistress, Eva Braun, were suppressed in Germany during his lifetime

The specs give Hitler a decidedly bourgeois aspect