“The Fuhrer’s Eagle’s Nest.
By early May 1945, it was clear to Americans and the British that the Soviets would take Berlin first. Anticipating the fierce battles in the streets of the city, the Allies did not hurry there. But Oberzalzberg, lurking in the Alps, was a target, a tidbit in every respect. Let’s see what attracted this resort area, first the Führer himself, and then the Anglo-American command, and at the same time “walk” on the residence of Adolf Hitler, which he left in January 1945.
There were persistent rumors in Allied intelligence and command circles about the fantastic riches looted across Europe that the Nazis were hiding in inaccessible mountain residences. But they had other, more down-to-earth reasons. The Allies were seriously concerned about the possible existence of the Alpine redoubt in Bavaria and Austria. The thought that in the near future thousands of adherents to Hitler’s regime would head into the mountains, set up in well-prepared bases and begin guerrilla warfare against the Allied troops alarmed the generals.
Adolf Hitler in a propaganda photo from the early 1930s looking around Oberzalzberg. planet-wissen.de
In reality, however, the redoubt existed more in the minds of Nazi propagandists and in the nightmares of Allied commanders than in the Bavarian or Austrian Alps. In May 1945 the Americans, the British, and the French faced very little resistance to the German army in the form of sluggish local fighting. The Wehrmacht fought fiercely against the “Bolshevik hordes” on the outskirts of Berlin, dreaming of going west and surrendering to the Anglo-Saxons. The road to the Berghof, a complex of buildings called the Eagle’s Nest, was virtually open.
The place soon turned from a strategic target to a prestigious one for Allied troops. Here Adolf Hitler planned the conquest of Europe and the world, received foreign politicians and Axis allies, rested and philosophized in the smallest circle of his party companions. Many guests visited here in 1936-1944: the head of the Ismaili sect Aga Khan, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnig and other dignitaries. Not surprisingly, every Allied unit moving toward the Alps sought to be the first to get to Berghof and thereby earn the title of the military unit that had captured the last stronghold of the Reich.
The birth of a legend
Let us immediately note one important linguistic peculiarity of the object of the Nazi infrastructure in question. In different sources, depending on the geographical reference it has different names: Berghof, Oberzalzberg, Berchtesgaden or Kielsteinhaus. In modern historiography, and in the memoirs of contemporaries this object is called “Eagle’s Nest” – as it was called by British journalist Ward Price, who visited the residence of the Fuhrer in September 1938. In October of the same year, the name was mentioned in reports of a visit to Berghof by the French ambassador to Germany, André François-Poncet, and it was picked up by Western politicians and journalists.
Adolf Hitler’s “nest” was located in the mountain resort area of Obersalzberg (Obersalzberg) near the small Bavarian town of Berchtesgaden. According to Nazi legend, the future Führer first visited the Bavarian Alps in April 1923, and he liked it so much that two years later, after his release from the Landzberg prison, Hitler settled in Obersalzberg in a small cottage, which was later called Kampfhäusl – House of Struggle. Here he worked on completing the second part of his book My Struggle.
Adolf Hitler at the House of Struggle. pinterest.com
In 1928 Adolf Hitler rented and later bought a small house called Haus Wachenfeld – Wachenfeld House – for 40,000 marks. When he became Reich Chancellor, he named the house Berghof and had the Munich architect Alois Degano reconstruct it, adding a solarium, a garage with a terrace, and various outbuildings.
This interesting aerial photo shows the Oberzalzberg neighborhood in the summer of 1936, after the conversion of Hitler’s Wachenfeld House to Berghof. View to the southeast, Berghof in the center. quialesavoiralepouvoir.blogspot.com
Hitler was very proud of his mountain estate, where everything was arranged according to his tastes and predilections. In 1938, when the Nazi leader still wanted to show himself to the world as an enlightened and progressive politician, Ignatius Fair, a journalist for the glamorous British magazine Homes & Gardens, was invited here. His article was entitled “Hitler’s Manor in the Bavarian Alps. It presented Hitler to European readers as a cordial, hospitable and kind man, a designer, artist and aesthete, rather than as a bloodthirsty dictator who by that time had already destroyed hundreds of thousands of human lives:
“This is the only place where Hitler could relax and have a good laugh and give ‘tours’ of his surroundings with a telescope on a tripod mounted on the visitor terrace. “This is my place,” the homesteader said, “I built it with money I earned myself.” He’s sure to show you his library, where you’ll see many books on history, painting, architecture and music. Weather permitting, the table is set up outdoors, with a piano set up there for an afternoon concert. Local musicians are happy to play something by Mozart or Brahms on violins and cellos, and at the piano you can see the composer Ernst Hanfstengl, known throughout Germany.”
Adolf Hitler and his sheepdog in his moments of rest. Photo from Homes & Gardens magazine (UK), #11 for 1938. pinterest.com.
The pages of the magazine present an idyllic picture of the life of a “true leader of the people,” moderately simple in conversation and exalted in spirit:
“The gardens surrounding the house are planned quite simply. Lawns on various levels are planted with flowering ornamental shrubs, roses, and other seasonal plants. Hitler also likes to have cut flowers standing in vases in his house. Every morning at nine o’clock he goes out into the garden and talks with the gardeners about their plans for the day ahead. These people, as well as his personal chauffeur and personal pilot, the Führer considers friends rather than mere servants. Throughout his life he maintains a vegetarian diet, but his meals are varied and difficult to replicate. They are always expertly prepared and elegantly served by the chef. The house does, however, provide a gourmet menu for guests who like to eat well and do not adhere to strict diets. For them, fine wines and liqueurs are often served for dinner, chosen by the expert in this matter, Mr. von Ribbentrop” .
Guest room at Berghof, 1938. pinterest.com
“The guest rooms of the house are decorated with antique engravings. But more interesting to visitors are the watercolors of the estate owner himself. It’s hard to believe that Hitler once made a living drawing and was happy to receive at least a few stamps for his work for sustenance. All of the works are small and each is signed “A. Hitler” .
One of Hitler’s early works from the Vienna period. Photo from the magazine Homes & Gardens (UK), №11 for 1938. ru.wikipedia.org.
The Nazi leader’s connection with the common people was not forgotten, nor was his fascination with traditional folk pastimes:
“On the day when state business ends early, Hitler and his guests visit a village whose inhabitants make crafts out of wood. The little ones are often invited to the farmstead – coffee, cookies, fruit and sweets await them on tables in the garden these days, and the housekeepers in Bavarian dresses dance and sing songs with them. It is impossible not to mention the passion of the host and his guests for archery. It was strange to see a large Field Marshal Goering, chief of the most powerful army in Europe, waiting in line with a bow and arrow in his hand to shoot at straw targets twenty-five yards away.
Nazi leaders amuse themselves with archery around Berghof. On the left, with his back to the viewer, stands Hermann Goering; on the right is Adolf Hitler. Photo from Homes & Gardens magazine (UK), #11 for 1938. historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de
A place of public worship.
Already from the beginning of the 1930s, extensive Nazi events were held in Berchtesgaden. On May 1, for example, they celebrated National Labor Day: While demonstrations and torchlight marches were held in the city, people in the countryside held dances around the May Day tree and set up huge bonfires, and folk groups in traditional dress performed here. The leaders of the city of Berchtesgaden were very sympathetic to the activities of the NSDAP in their territory. In July 1932, it was in Berchtesgaden, in the presence of Adolf Hitler, that the great review and consecration procedure of the banners of the Sturmabteilung (SA) units took place. The oldest flag of the Austrian Nazi movement, called “Salzburg Erwache!” (“Salzburg, wake up!”) was ceremoniously carried before the formation of storm troopers.
Around the world on wheels
The Eagle’s Nest is Hitler’s summer residence in Bavaria on the Kelsteinhaus mountain at 1834 meters. It was a gift to Hitler from the National Socialist Workers’ Party for his fiftieth birthday. Serpentine, elevator, breathtaking views – it’s worth putting this place on the list of things to see in Bavaria.
Awesome place, honestly. Although at the current euro exchange rate is by no means budget-friendly – you can’t explore the Kelsteinhaus for free. But about the prices later.
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It’s been four years, and I periodically remember the overnight stay at the campsite at the Royal Lake, and the bright red buses, and the chatty German in golf, and the first tooth Tanya, which came out two days before visiting the Eagle’s Nest and not let sleep in Salzburg, neither us nor the other guests. I also remember the mountains. Because I don’t like walking, but when they bring you and take you, take you for a ride in an elevator and let you climb the rocks – it’s cool. From these rocks you can see far, far away… You can see not only Bavaria, but also Austria, which is very close. And do not give a damn from the bell, frankly, on the cowardly Hitler (why the cowardly – you’ll find out below). We’re talking about the Nest now, not him.
The official name of the Eagle’s Nest is Kielsteinhaus and we owe its “eagle” name to the Americans (they left a legacy here, too!) who seized this land after the war. When the Nest was given to Hitler, it was called the Tea House. It was a luxurious villa, equipped with all the latest technology. A bunker was built underneath the villa.
Tea House was built in 13 months and handed over to the customer in the summer of 1938. Borman long chose who to choose as chief architect and settled on Roderick Ficke.
It was one of the fastest, most complex and expensive construction projects in German history. The Führer’s gift cost Bormann and the Party 30,000,000 gold marks. But the most difficult thing was not the construction of the House, but the laying of the road to it. 2,000 workers built the road at an angle of 12 to 27 degrees and cut tunnels into the rocks. They worked around the clock in all kinds of weather (“Heil, Hitler!”).
And they looked at those kinds of views:
The Americans confiscated Eagle’s Nest on April 1, 1946. In 1951, they turned it over to the Bavarian government. The Bavarians decided to demolish the Lodge, but the Berchstegaden authorities resisted. Only the houses of the leaders of the Third Reich were blown up and the bunker was destroyed. The Tea House remained standing. It was opened to tourists in 1952.
The road to the Kelsteinhaus is a serpentine 6.5 kilometers long, where you will meet five tunnels and ends in a parking lot for tour buses and private cars. You will then be transferred to a red tour bus which will bring you to the parking lot at the tunnel entrance which is 124 meters long. You can, of course, save money and walk up…but the climb is hard and long. If your plans don’t include hiking, it’s better and faster to take the bus. Otherwise, you will spend most of the day on the serpentine.
The coordinates of the parking at Kelsteinhaus where you can leave your car and change to the bus: N 47°37.874′ E 13°2.549′. The parking fee (you have to search for a free space) is 3 euros per day (not by the hour!), the bus ticket is 15,5 euros for a round trip and 13 euros for a single one.
After running through the tunnel, you will find yourself in front of an elevator stylized as gold. In fact, it’s a shiny bronze elevator. Hitler also rode in an elevator – back then it had an armchair and a telephone. Now you can fit two dozen people on each other’s heads in an elevator. The elevator will take you up to the Eagle’s Nest and leave you gawking and looking out over the Alps. Because the residence is long gone. The former Eagle’s Nest has a restaurant, viewing platforms, and sells plenty of souvenirs. The restaurant is not cheap. But the lines there are still longer (and slower!) than at McDonald’s.
In the Eagle’s Nest, Eva Braun’s sister Gretel celebrated her wedding.
But Hitler himself was here only 8 times (though some sources mention numbers from 6 to 13). He simply did not like the gift. Rumor has it that the Fuhrer was afraid of heights. His favorite residence remained the Berghof, bombed during the war. But the Eagle’s Nest was not damaged at all. Paradox.
In good weather from the observation decks you can see the Austrian Salzburg and the German Konigssee (Royal Lake), near where we camped overnight. And at the very top of the Kelsteinhaus stands a cross.
Tourists who like to take pictures – take pictures. The most adventurous climbing the rocks. Those who have already climbed and photographed – sit in the restaurant.
You can visit the Eagle’s Nest from May to October (we were there in August). You can get to it either by car or from the railway station from Berchtesgaden by bus number 849. Surprisingly, there are no tours in German (the Germans feel guilty, they feel it!).
A beautiful place, huh? It makes me want to go there again… Just as long as the Euro doesn’t go completely insane.
See how much the flight to Salzburg (the nearest city with an airport, though in another country) costs right now: