After Munich, we set off for Berchtesgaden and the Obersalzberg area which was once the heart of the 3rd Reich.
Driving through the outskirts of Munich we soon hit the German countryside and what a stunning country this is, we had left the sunshine behind in Munich but I’m sure it would return.
The Bavarian Alps loomed in the distance our excitement grew at the sight of mother natures beauty, the sound of cattle bells rang out through the valleys, stereotypical alpine homes dotted the countryside clinging to the slopes of the towering alps with window boxes overflowing with brightly coloured flowers all that was missing was Julie Andrews belting out “The Hills are Alive”.
Chugging along we climbed higher and higher our hotel was getting close and with one last steep climb, we urged Kitty on with words of encouragement she listened and dug in for the 5KM hike up to the heart of what was once a play ground for the NAZI leaders and where many of the war time decisions were made.
To Kitty’s relief, we arrived at our base camp for the next 3 days, Hotel Zum Turken a place that oozes history and my lord was we in for a treat.
Legend says the “Türkenhäusl” was named after a veteran returning from a war against the Turks in 1683. Local inn keeper Karl Schuster bought the “Little Turk House” in 1911 and converted it to a guesthouse. It soon became one of the most popular stops in the region, entertaining the likes of Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Bavarian Prince-Regent Luitpold, and the Crown Prince and Princess of Prussia.
Schuster was a somewhat outspoken critic of the Nazi takeover of the Obersalzberg, since this ruined his business, and he joined the majority of his neighbour’s who were forced to sell out to the Nazis and leave the area in late 1933. The building was first used by the SS-Führerleibwache, Hitler’s personal bodyguard. Bormann later assigned the building to the Reichssicherheitsdienst (RSD), the high-level Security Service responsible for Hitler’s safeguarding (some references say the Haus Türken housed the Gestapo, but the RSD was a separate organization). In practice, the ex-hotel served as a headquarters for the round-the-clock SS guard detachment, and also as a telephone communications centre. Prisoner cells were maintained in the basement, above the bunker system.
The building was severely damaged in the April 1945 bombing attack (being immediately adjacent to Hitler’s Berghof), and heavily plundered by the local population and Allied soldiers. Nevertheless, Karl Schuster’s widow and their daughter Therese Partner were determined to get the family’s property back. Against opposition from the authorities, Therese Partner began to rebuild, and in 1949, she was finally rewarded by being permitted to repurchase the building (the building was not given back to the family by the government). She immediately set about refurbishing and reopening the Hotel Zum Türken, which has again taken its place as one of the most popular guest houses in the area.
In the rooms we unpacked and Lily and Liam were really worried that a ghostly SS officer would visit us in the night, I laughed but to be honest the thought had crossed my mind.
First stop the bunker system under the hotel, a warren of passage ways that once linked Martin Bormann’s air raid shelter to Adolf Hitlers Berghof shelter and other high ranking Nazi leaders
When the Allied bombing campaign over the Third Reich became a reality in 1943, Reichsleiter Martin Bormann was forced to order the construction of a series of air raid shelters and command posts for the residents and military staff of the Obersalzberg. These tunnels are often called “bunkers” today, but they are not technically so since they were not meant as defensive positions from which to fight (even though their entrances were protected by machine guns), but simply as shelters in case of air attacks. They were used successfully for this purpose during the Royal Air Force bombing attack on 25 April 1945.
Elaborate shelter systems were built beneath the hill behind the Berghof, with tastefully furnished rooms for Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun; behind the Platterhof, with a shaft linking to Hitler’s bunker; and into the high hill near Göring’s house (sometimes called the Göring Hill or Adolf Hitler Hill). The latter included Bormann’s private shelter system, another private bunker for Göring and his adjutant (which Bormann would not allow to be connected to the rest of the bunker system), and a command and communications center for the Obersalzberg anti-aircraft defense. Bormann had a connecting tunnel built between his own shelter and Hitler’s, running beneath the RSD headquarters at Haus Türken. There were also other less elaborate (or less finished) complexes in the periphery of the area (SS Kaserne, SS munitions storage tunnel, Antenberg, Hintereck/Klaushöhe, Buchenhöhe). A further tunnel system, much deeper beneath the Obersalzberg, was under construction in 1945 (Gutshof and Obertal).
The bunker systems consisted of multi-level tunnels lined with concrete and bricks, with associated power, heating, and ventilation systems, and anti-gas protection systems. Most entrances and emergency exits were covered by protected machine gun positions, and some of these were quite elaborate. It would have been difficult for any enemy to fight his way into these systems, although naturally, the defenders could not have held out indefinitely. The anti-aircraft defence centre included armoured mounts for radio antennas and a periscope at ground level, beside the top of a ventilation shaft.
It should be noted that in addition to the traditional air raid tunnel systems, there were access tunnels linking several of the buildings on the Obersalzberg, as well as tunnels for ventilation, water, and sewage pipes. Most of these smaller secondary tunnels do not appear on any published maps. Click here and here to see some of these access tunnels beneath the SS Kaserne, and here to see an access tunnel between the Hotel Zum Türken and the Filmarchiv building. See the Bibliography page for information of Florian Beierl’s book on the tunnel systems, “Hitler’s Berg.”
Most of the underground systems are now sealed and not accessible to the public, but a very interesting tour of some of the system can be had at the Hotel Zum Türken, and the unfinished complex for the Platterhof and Gästehaus can be visited from the Dokumentation Obersalzberg display near the Platterhof site.
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Leaving the cold damp tunnels behind us, time to check out Hitlers Berghof or what is left of it.
Hitler’s retreat in the mountains of Bavaria was one of the most important centers of government in the Third Reich. Hitler spent more time in the Berghof than in his Berlin office.
It was in this oversized chalet that Hitler planned the invasions of Poland, France and Russia and the events that would change the lives of millions.
Adolf Hitler’s interest in the hills above Berchtesgaden began in 1923 when he came to visit his friend and mentor, Dietrich Eckart, who was living at the Platterhof Hotel. Hitler traveled there under the name of “Herr Wolf” and held meetings with supporters in local guesthouses.
After he was released from Landsberg prison in 1926, following his unsuccessful coup in Munich, he came back to the Obersalzberg.
He stayed in a small cabin (no longer there) on the mountain near the Platterhof. The remainder of Mein Kampf was written during his visit there.
In 1928, Hitler rented a pretty, Alpine-style vacation home, Haus Wachenfeld, next door to the Hotel Zum Türken.
After becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler purchased the house from the money he had made from Mein Kampf (a best seller) and lived there for a couple of years before starting a major expansion of the building.
The expansion of the house was carried out in 1935 and 1936. The result was another larger, Alpine-style residence that he named “The Berghof”, or “mountain farm”.
A large area of the mountain was taken over by the Nazis and numerous buildings were built on the rolling farmland. The neighbours for miles around were bought out, including families who had lived on the mountain for generations.
Those who refused to sell were forced out, including the owner of the Hotel Zum Türken, who spent three weeks in Dachau before “agreeing” to sell.
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.
The Next day would see us catching a bus to The Eagles Nest, so a good nights sleep was required….just hoping that SS officer didn’t start walking the corridors.
Part 4 The Eagles Nest coming soon