Geoff Walden

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"From Haus Wachenfeld to the Berghof"

Adolf Hitler's Home on the Obersalzberg, 1927-1945

Part 2  --  the Berghof, 1936-1952

 

     To befit the head of state of a rapidly emerging world power country, plans were made to remodel Haus Wachenfeld in 1935. The 1936 work actually involved a total conversion, with large masonry additions of a main house and added wing, and an enlarged garage. Further work took place in 1938.

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Haus Wachenfeld during its conversion into the Berghof, ca. June 1936. The west side of Haus Wachenfeld was retained, and the main part of the Berghof was simply added onto this. (U.S. National Archives RG 242-HB, 22443-22)

 

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These colorized versions of period photos show how the Berghof was built around Haus Wachenfeld, retaining the west side of the original house. In the view on the left, the large picture window has been lowered into the basement.  (from postcards in author's collection)

 

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These period color postcards show how Haus Wachenfeld with its small terrace (on the left) was incorporated into the Berghof, with its enlarged terrace added to the front and side, over the larger garage. Hitler's native Austria is visible in the middle distance, through the cleft in the mountains. (author's collection)

 

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After the initial 1936 reconstruction was finished, the eastward extension of the house was only about half as long as it eventually became. This part of the Berghof housed the kitchen, dining hall, and quarters and working areas for the staff. The view on the right shows the 1939 completed extension, with its auxiliary driveway allowing deliveries direct to the kitchen area.  (postcards in author's collection)

 

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The eastern part of the house was extended until it came almost beneath the Hotel zum Türken. The view on the left, from Martin Bormann's house, shows a good picture of the layout of these Obersalzberg buildings. Bormann's house overlooked both the Türken and the Berghof, so he could oversee the comings and goings of the RSD and Hitler's entourage.  (left - from "Hitler in seinen Bergen," 1938 ed.; right - period postcard; both in author's collection)

 

Two views from the covered balcony on the second floor of the Berghof (what Americans would call the third floor). In the view on the left, the main SS guard house can be seen near the bottom of the view.  (left - period postcard; right - from "Hitler abseits vom Alltag" by Heinrich Hoffmann, Berlin, 1937)

 

These two views were taken from down off the hill in front of the house. The wooden walkway that made its way down this hillside was the beginning of the path for Hitler's daily walk to the Mooslahnerkopf Teehaus(left - U.S. National Archives, RG242EB-11-11A; right - courtesy Harry von Gebhardt)

 

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The grand staircase led from the driveway to the Berghof entrance. This staircase was the scene of many famous photos, showing Hitler's visitors such as Mussolini, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Neville Chamberlain, and other national leaders, diplomats, and military figures. This is a post-war view dating probably from the summer of 1945. The wooden door in the distance in the right-hand photo led to a film projection room, for showing films in the Great Room. The open doorway was the entrance to the Berghof itself, directly behind the photographer's standpoint.  (left - U.S. Army photo; right - U.S. National Archives RG 242-EB)

 

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The exterior doorway opened into a vaulted corridor, from which one entered the Great Room, or went up the steps to the upper floors. In the left-hand photo, the door at the far end led into the Berghof dining hall. The door into the Great Room opened in the left-hand wall. The door in the center of the photo led into a men's lavatory. The stairway seen in the right-hand photo led to the right just before the far doorway in the left-hand photo.  (National Archives RG 242-EB)

 

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The doorway shown in these photos led off the corridor into the Great Room of the Berghof, which Hitler used as a reception and conference room. This room was lavishly decorated with Persian carpets, Gobelin tapestries, and original paintings and sculptures. These views show the right-rear corner of the room and the east wall; the large picture window is behind the viewer, and the marble fireplace is just out of view to the right, on the back (south) wall. The Gobelin tapestry on the east wall was removed to uncover the film projection openings, and the tapestry on the opposite wall was removed to use the wall behind as a screen.  (photo on left from a period postcard; photo on right from "Hitler abseits vom Alltag" by Heinrich Hoffmann, Berlin, 1937 (both in author's collection)

 

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Further views of the east side and rear of the Berghof Great Room, from period postcards.  (author's collection)

 

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Continuing around the Great Room, the doorway in the west side wall led into the living area of Haus Wachenfeld. The Gobelin tapestry was removed to use the wall as a screen for film showings.  (period postcards in author's collection)

 

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Completing the circuit around the Great Room led to the front (north) wall with its famous grand picture window. This window could be lowered into the basement, giving an open view of the mountains.  (left - National Archives RG 242-H; right - period postcard)

 

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Two views of Hitler's office on the first floor of the Berghof (second floor to Americans).  (period postcards)

 

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Two views of the sun room in the Berghof (the old "wintergarten" of Haus Wachenfeld).  (period postcards)

 

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On the left, one of the cozy guest rooms in the Berghof, complete with Bavarian tile Kachelofen. These rooms were occupied by Hitler's secretaries and a few close guests, mainly Eva's friends (diplomatic guests were housed in Villa Bechstein or the Gästehaus Hoher Göll on the Obersalzberg, or the Berchtesgadener Hof in town, or the Kleßheim Palace in Salzburg). On the right, the Berghof dining room, with its decorative cembra pine paneling (Swiss stone pine). The dining room was located in the eastern extension of the Berghof building. Hitler sat in the middle of the table on the right, facing the windows and the view of the Untersberg mountains.  (period postcards in author's collection)

 

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This room is sometimes identified as Eva Braun's living room in the Berghof, sometimes as a guest room. Some sources say the painting on the wall represented Eva, perhaps with her face painted onto a model's body by artist Adolf Ziegler. However, this original painting still exists, and the face doesn't really resemble Eva.  (left - period postcard; right - National Archives RG242)

 

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A few of Hitler's visitors at the Berghof  --  on the left, a visit on the terrace from the Goebbels family (the woman in the center is Heinrich Hoffmann's wife Erna). On the right, the Great Room was the scene for the Leibstandarte's congratulations on Hitler's 55th birthday in 1944, presented by SS-Obersturmbannführer Max Wünsche, commander of SS-Panzerregiment 12 "Hitler Jugend." Wünsche and Hitler shared the same birthday, April 20, and Wünsche had previously been one of Hitler's personal aides. SS chief Heinrich Himmler looks on.  (photo on left from "Hitler abseits vom Alltag" by Heinrich Hoffmann, Berlin, 1937; on right, U.S. National Archives RG 242H)

 

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A military staff conference in front of the fireplace. The western side of the Berghof was an Adjutancy building, where many of Hitler's military staff and personal adjutants lived while he was on the Obersalzberg. Thus, they were always immediately available for conferences or consultation.  (left - from Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler Was My Friend" (London, 1955); right - period postcard)

 

Details of the Berghof fireplace in the Great Room. The fireplace was of red marble from the Untersberg mountains (visible just across the valley in front of the Berghof), with interior panels dated 1928 (the date Hitler moved into Haus Wachenfeld) and 1936 (the date the Berghof was constructed). The panel on the left (1928) showed a farmer sewing seed, while that on the right (1936) showed a Lederhosen-clad man with a scythe. The close-up views above were taken in 1945, before the fireplace had been stripped by souvenir hunters.  (left, center - author's collection; right - period postcard)

 

On the left, Eva Braun and an unidentified friend stand on the terrace on the west side of the Berghof, in front of the side wing building that formed part of the Adjutancy. On the right, EB suns herself while Hanni Morrell and another friend join her on the main Berghof terrace, above the garage. Below, EB and Henriette von Schirach on the steps in front of the Adjutancy wing, leading down beside the garage.  (U.S. National Archives, Hoffmann Collection)

 

Click here to visit a page identifying other visitors to the Berghof.


"Bormann's Tree"

Before the outbreak of World War II, Hitler often greeted crowds of visitors to Haus Wachenfeld and the Berghof from the end of his driveway, either standing in the drive or on the retaining wall next to the road. These public "march past" reviews often lasted for hours, and in June 1937 Hitler complained to Martin Bormann about the lack of shade on the hot summer days. Bormann immediately procured a mature linden tree from Munich and had it planted near the end of the driveway.

The photo on the left above shows Hitler greeting the crowds at the end of the Berghof driveway - this location would later be shaded by the linden tree. The photo on the right shows the linden tree at the end of the main Berghof driveway (triangular-shaped tree without leaves).  (left - Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler in seinen Bergen," Munich, 1938; right - period postcard)

I have seen a couple period photos showing Hitler actually standing beneath Bormann's Tree, but I was unable to procure them for this webpage. If anyone would like to donate a good copy of such a view for this page, I'd be obliged (walden01(at)comcast.net). The photo on the left below shows Hitler and his entourage walking down the main drive, with the Bormann Tree seen at the right edge (the trunk was protected by a wrapping). On the right, Hitler greets a group of older BdM girls (probably a "Glaube und Schönheit" group) from the Berghof terrace. Bormann's Tree can be seen in the background.  (left - courtesy Robert Strobo; right - courtesy Harry von Gebhardt)

 

Further views of Bormann's Tree, also showing the details of the east wing of the Berghof.  (left - period postcard in author's collection; right - "Ich kämpfe," Munich, 1943)

 

These two U.S. Army photos show the Bormann Tree in 1945. On the left, GIs from the 3rd Infantry Division capture the Berghof on 4 May 1945 - the blasted remains of the Bormann Tree can be seen at the left. On the right, GIs touring the ruins in the summer of 1945 pass near the Bormann Tree, stripped bare of its leaves.  (US National Archives, RG 111-SC, left - #204347-S)

 

On the left, a GI guards the Berghof ruins in the summer of 1945 - the Bormann Tree is beginning to recover. When my father visited the site in early 1946 (right), the Bormann Tree was beginning to look like a healthy tree again.  (left - US National Archives; right - G.A. and G.R. Walden collection)

 

These views show the Bormann Tree fully leafed out again. On the right, dignitaries visit the Berghof ruin later in 1946. The Bormann Tree has a sign tacked onto it which reads EINTRITT FÜR ZIVIL VERBOTEN (Entry for Civilians Forbidden ... meaning German civilians).  (left - period postcard in author's collection; right - US National Archives, RG 111-SC)

 

The Bormann Tree survived the 1952 destruction of the Berghof ruins - it can still be seen shading the end of the driveway in the photos above, taken 1955-1960, after the destruction and burial of the Berghof ruins (the rebuilt Hotel zum Türken is at the upper left of the aerial view). The tree survived until at least 1964 but was cut down at some point; however, its remains can still be seen as shoots growing up from the stump near the end of the driveway - in the recent photo below, the linden tree shoots are just leafing out in the left-center of the photo.  (left - postcard in author's collection; right - UPI, 20 April 1955)  ("Bormann Tree" story and details thanks to Guy Dartois and Ralf Hornberger)
Note: Clean-up efforts along the mountain roadways occasionally result in cutting down these shoots, but so far they have always grown back. 

 


Destruction of the Berghof, 1945-1952

 

The Berghof was heavily damaged during the RAF bombing raid on 25 April 1945. This photo, taken
from a Lancaster bomber during the raid, shows most of the main Obersalzberg complex. The Berghof
appears at the bottom, showing at least two direct bomb hits.  (Royal Air Force photo, Hotel zum Türken)

 

This aerial reconnaissance photo taken shortly after the bombing shows the damage to the immediate Berghof area. The east wing
suffered a direct hit, and another bomb hit between the Adjutancy and the Haus Wachenfeld part. A bomb scored a direct hit on
the Hotel zum Türken next door, and the Kindergarten building was also hit. Note the huge crater in the hillside behind the Berghof
east wing - from a Tallboy or Blockbuster bomb. This crater can still be seen there today.  (U.S. National Archives)

 

Departing SS troops set the Berghof on fire on 4 May 1945, burning away the wooden parts and severely damaging the rest of the building. The ruins were still smoldering when soldiers of the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division arrived that afternoon. Note the the snow remaining from a light snowfall the night before.  (U.S. Army photos, National Archives RG 111-SC 204347-S, 204344-S)

 

GIs of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, the first Allied troops to arrive on the Obersalzberg (7th Infantry Regiment), haul down the swastika flag from in front of the smoldering Berghof. (Contrary to what you read in several books today (Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers is the best known example), the 101st Airborne Division were not the first Allied troops to reach Berchtesgaden or the Obersalzberg. However, it is possible that a vehicle or two from the Free French unit "Régiment de Marche du Tchad" were actually the first Allied soldiers to reach Berchtesgaden, and perhaps the Obersalzberg; however, if so, they did not stay but drove away and returned later as part of the Allied occupation force. Click here to read the story of the first Allied tank (French) to reach the Obersalzberg.)  (U.S. Army photo, National Archives RG 111-SC 205102)

 

This view, taken from the hill behind the Berghof, shows the burned-out ruin as it was found by the 3rd Infantry Division
soldiers.  (Rupert Prohme, "History of 30th Infantry Regiment World War II," Washington, Infantry Journal Press, 1947)

 

These two photos from Yank - The Army Weekly (22 June 1945) show the ruins of the Berghof from the conquerors' perspective. On the left, the still-smoldering ruins as seen from the terrace of the Hotel Zum Türken; on the right, GIs from the 3rd Infantry Division enjoy the Berghof stores of wine and cognac. They are sitting at the top of the grand staircase, just outside the Berghof entrance.  ("Yank," 22 June 1945; U.S. Army Signal Corps Collection, National Archives)

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Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division arrived the day after the 3rd Infantry Division. In this May 1945 photo,
it appears that someone has been taking pot-shots at the side of the Berghof.  (from "The Epic of the
101st Airborne," 101st Airborne Division Public Relations Office, Auxerre, France, 1945)

 

The Berghof dining wing following the occupation, exterior and interior views of the ruins.  (left - courtesy Ray Northcott; right - Life Collection)

 

Above, and below left - photos taken shortly after the end of the war by American and French soldiers. Much of the tin roof remained in May 1945, but was quickly plundered. The postcard view below right shows the appearance of the Berghof ruins ca. 1950.

 

 

     American soldiers walk toward the ruins of the Berghof during a visit in May 1945. The devastation from the bombing attack of the month before is obvious. Huge bomb craters had obliterated the Obersalzberg road in places, trees were blasted, and the very ground was churned up.

     (U.S. National Archives, RG342H-A49859)

 

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Appearance of the ruined Berghof in the late 1940s - early 1950s. The dangling remains of the tin roof, seen in the previous photos, have been removed. Some said that the smoke and weather stains on the side of the house resembled a grinning skull (see photo on right, and just below).  (author's collection)

 

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The view on the left, taken from the ruins of Bormann's house, shows the retaining wall in the back of the Berghof, which is all that remains aboveground today.  (author's collection)

 

This series of photos showing the ruins of the Berghof was taken in 1949 by a visiting American soldier. These views show either end of the eastern wing of the house - a large section of damage from a direct bomb hit separated these parts of the ruin.  (Westfield Athenaeum Collection, courtesy Frank Tompkins)

 

On the left, the visitors are standing in the doorway to the basement of the eastern wing, which was for deliveries to the storerooms and kitchen. They then proceeded inside, where they found this oven and other kitchen furnishings.  (Westfield Athenaeum Collection, courtesy Frank Tompkins)

 

These views show the western side of the Berghof, where Haus Wachenfeld had been. When the retreating SS staff set fire to the ruins on 4 May 1945, the wooden parts of the Haus Wachenfeld wing were burned away, leaving the brick and masonry foundations. The large doorway seen in these photos opened from a second floor hallway (first floor in German usage) in Haus Wachenfeld into the hallway in the Berghof second floor that held the doorways into Hitler's office, Eva Braun's bedroom, and storage rooms.  (Westfield Athenaeum Collection, courtesy Frank Tompkins)

 

The Berghof ruins looked like this when these color slides were made about 1950. The original wooden doors were still on the garage.  (photos by Col. John J. Tarsitano, courtesy Nancy Tarsitano Drake)

 

The Berghof ruins in early 1952, shortly before their demolition. The sign read "Keep Out, Building Unsafe, No Unauthorized Admittance."  ("Illustrated London News," 5 January 1952)

 

To deter tourists, sight-seers, and neo-Nazis, the Bavarian government blew up the ruins of the Berghof on 30 April 1952, the anniversary of Hitler's death. The garage remained after the 1952 destruction, but was removed in 1995, after the U.S. Army turned the Obersalzberg area back over to Bavaria.  (postcards in author's collection)

 

The ruin of the Berghof garage as it appeared in the 1980s. For many years after the main house ruins were demolished in 1952, the garage could still be seen on the hillside above the road that originally led to the Berghof (compare to the postcard view above, from a slightly different angle). The view of the garage front below can be compared to a photo taken during construction of the Berghof.  (below left - U.S. National Archives, RG 242HB-22443-18; many thanks to David Dionne for the modern photos)

 

Two more views of the garage remains in 1983 (left) and 1992 (right). The view on the left shows the top of the original doorway into the garage (most of the opening was blocked by rubble). The garage interior can be seen on the right. The garage ruin was torn down in 1995, but many of the stones were saved and used during the construction of the Wegmacher Kapelle wayside chapel, north of Berchtesgaden (below).  (above - courtesy David Dionne)

 


The Berghof Site Today

 

Remains of the Berghof site as it appears today. On the left, the site seen from the terrace of the Hotel zum Türken (compare to the 1945 Yank photo). (To get an idea of the size of the Berghof, the eastern wing of the building extended all the way out down the secondary drive seen here, to the point where the drive no longer appears rough (where it is covered by fill today), but turns smooth (this is the original drive surface) - almost to a point just beneath the Türken.) When the Hotel General Walker (former Platterhof) was torn down in 2000, debris was dumped at the top of the Berghof driveway areas. This and previous fill and debris has raised the ground level across much of the Berghof site, several feet higher than the original level. In July 2008 an interpretive marker was finally placed at the Berghof site, the historical significance of which had been ignored since 1952.  (MapQuest Map Link)

 

The Berghof main driveway (entrance seen on the left) has been mostly covered by fill, and trees have grown up all over the site. The photo on the right shows the site of the Berghof garage, which was demolished in 1995. Traces of the foundation at the front can be seen (compare to the construction photo and post-1952 photo of the garage ruin above).

 

All above-ground remains of the house have been removed from the site or buried (parts of the basement remain). The major remnant that can be seen at the site today is the concrete retaining wall that ran along the hillside in the back of the house. On the left is the two-tier retaining wall that ran behind the eastern wing. This connected at a right angle in the center to a curved section, which ran on behind the Adjutancy wing. The main part of the Berghof sat just in the foreground, and where the trees grow today. (As you stand with this viewpoint, the Great Room picture window was behind you.)

 

The period photo on the left was taken behind the house, looking down the eastward extension toward the Hotel zum Türken and Bormann's house. The retaining wall is seen at the right. The modern view is from a slightly different perspective, but still looking down the retaining wall on the eastern side. Much of the open space that existed between the back wall of the house and the retaining wall has been filled in with dirt and rubble.  (U.S. Library of Congress)

 

Beyond the curve is a lower retaining wall that was behind the Adjutancy. Various openings can be seen along this wall today; these are not blocked openings to a tunnel or cellar, but rather former drains for water that built up behind the retaining wall.

 

On the slope below the Adjutancy wing of the Berghof was an Alpinum, or Alpine rock garden. Some of the placed rocks can still be seen today, along with part of the curved concrete retaining wall.

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Various pieces of rubble, shaft openings, and pipes sticking out of the ground can also be found on the site today. The opening seen at the left above, which is located on the slope just above the retaining wall on the Adjutancy side, was an access point for electrical and communications cables that ran underground up the hillside behind the Berghof. The concrete object on the right is located higher on the hillside, directly behind and above the main Berghof site. It is thought to have been a water reservoir for the Berghof. The access opening in the top was open in the 1990s, allowing a view of the tiled interior, but was filled in ca. 2001. The top was once again open in 2012, allowing a view of the tiled walls (below right). NOTE: As of July 2013, this artifact was again filled, and sealed with cement.

 

Rstone.gif (1273 bytes)   Continue to other Obersalzberg sites - Bormann's and Göring's houses, Platterhof, Gästehaus and Kampfhäusl, Hotel Zum Türken, bunker system, Kehlsteinhaus, SS barracks, Gutshof and Teehaus, miscellaneous buildings, other miscellaneous area buildings.

Lstone.gif (1289 bytes)   Return to the Obersalzberg page

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For further information, including Internet links, check the Bibliography page.

 

My new guide book to Third Reich sites in the Berchtesgaden and Obersalzberg area has been published by Fonthill Media.
"Hitler's Berchtesgaden" is available now at Amazon and other retailers ( the Kindle version is also available from Amazon).

 

 

Third Reich in Ruins, http://www.thirdreichruins.com/

All contents copyright © 2000-2014, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.  All photos taken by or 
from the collection of Geoffrey R. Walden, except where specifically noted.  Please respect my property rights,
and the rights of others who have graciously allowed me to use their photos on this page,
and do not copy these photos or reproduce them in any other way.

This page is intended for historical research only, and no political or philosophical aims should be assumed. 
Nothing on this page should be construed as advice or directions to trespass on private or posted property.

This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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