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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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 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.
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.
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