Geoff Walden


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   In order to show off the growth and strength of his new Reich, Adolf Hitler pulled out all the stops for the 1936 Olympic Games to be held in Germany (the location had already been decided before Hitler became Chancellor in 1933). The summer Olympics were held in Berlin, but first, in February, the IV. Winter Games were held in the Bavarian alpine venue of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. An Olympic ice stadium was built in Garmisch, and a ski stadium was built in its sister village of Partenkirchen (the two municipalities are on either side of the Partnach River), in the shadow of Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Both stadiums are still in use today.   (MapQuest Map Link)

   The Garmisch area was also the location of two tunnel systems used to manufacture aircraft in the final months of World War II - click here to see photos of these sites.


The Kunsteisstadion (on the left) was the venue for the ice skating, hockey, and speed skating events. The Festhalle or Festsaalbau (on the right) was built to support the Olympic festivities. The Ice Stadium field was covered over in 1962, and the Fest Hall was torn down several years ago.  (Bundesarchiv)


The Olympic Ski Stadium was built for up to 100,000 spectators. In the center, directly in front of the ski jumps, was the Olympiahaus, with a restaurant and VIP viewing area. The stadium exists today much as it was in 1936.


Hitler viewed the 1936 Olympic ski jump events from his special covered area on the balcony of the Olympiahaus. Seen at far left above are Dr. Wilhelm Frick and Dr. Robert Ley. These scenes were all from the opening ceremony on 6 February 1936.  (above - "Olympia" cigarette-card album, 1936; below - Bundesarchiv)


Hitler leaves the main entrance of the Olympiahaus. The Olympic Rings and building name still appear above the doorway.  (Bundesarchiv)


Left - the 1936 Winter Games are declared open by Dr. Karl Ritter von Halt, president of the Winter Olympics Committee. Right - Hitler and entourage view the Olympic events. Seated with Hitler on the front row are Press Chief Otto Dietrich, Gauleiter Adolf Wagner, and adjutant Wilhelm Brückner (facing away). Note also Eva Braun in the row behind, sitting next to Sofie Stork.  ("Olympia" cigarette-card album, 1936)


Above - Hitler's viewpoint toward the ski jumps, and a view from a period postcard - note the swastika design in the grass of the longer jump. Below - my father took an almost identical view in the winter of 1945-46, and the view has changed very little today. 2007 note - The existing ski jump, some of which was rebuilt in the 1950s, was torn down in April 2007 to allow a new jump to be built that would comply with current European standards. So this view is somewhat different now.  (above - "Olympia" cigarette-card album, 1936; below - collection of G.R. and G.A. Walden)


View of the ski stadium entrance and grandstands, taken in winter 1945-46 by my father, Army Air Forces Lt. Delbert R. Walden. The view today has hardly changed at all. Only the U.S. Third Army signs above the entrance reliefs are missing.  (collection of G.R. and G.A. Walden)  (MapQuest Map Link)


The Olympiahaus in the center was flanked by the two main entrances for the spectators, featuring large sculptures of a woman holding a falcon or eagle, a flag bearer, torch bearer, and a woman holding a victors wreath.


On the outside of the entrances was the 5-ring Olympics symbol. Flagpoles ringed the stadium grandstands.


Ludwigstraße on the Partenkirchen side of town was decorated for the 1936 Olympics, as was the Garmisch train station (Bahnhof), below. The bottom photo shows a later military parade of the local Mountain Troops.  (Bundesarchiv)


The Garmisch-Partenkirchen Rathaus (city hall) was built in 1935 by Oswald Bieber, with sculptures and painted decorations by noted artist Josef Wackerle.


On the left is a postcard view showing the Garmisch post office decorated with a Nazi sign over the street.


One of the central areas in the town of Garmisch was named Adolf Wagner Platz after the Gauleiter of München-Oberbayern (today's Marienplatz). The views below show the Haus der Nationalsozialisten on Adolf Wagner Platz, the Nazi headquarters in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  (Bundesarchiv)


The U.S. Army moved into Garmisch on 29 April 1945. The photos above show Sherman tanks of the 10th Armored Division moving through Adolf Wagner Platz following the town's surrender. Below - more tanks move along the nearby Am Kurpark street - the view is largely unchanged today - even the original display cases outside the shop windows remain.  (U.S. Army Signal Corps photos)


On the left is the Garmisch Standort Lazarett, or garrison hospital. The photo on the right shows the U.S. Army Abrams Hotel in the 1970s (building at the left in the period photo). The hotel was closed in 2007 and the complex is used today to house refugees (see also here).  (left - Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im Neuen Reich," Vol. 2, Bayreuth, 1943; right - courtesy Gerald Stephenson; 2010 info courtesy Robert Newton)


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Another remainder of the period that could be seen in Garmisch is this wall mural in a stairwell of the U.S. Army Post Exchange (PX) building (actually in Partenkirchen). Garmisch was the headquarters of the German Gebirgstruppen (Mountain Troops), and the Americans took over their military facilities in 1945. (Note - This post has now been closed, and this building has been torn down - thanks to Tim Heck and John Mann for this news.)

Olympia Tunnel at Eschenlohe

   In preparation for the 1936 Olympics, two road tunnels were driven through the Vestbühl hill at Eschenlohe for highway B2, the main highway going south into Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In March 1944 these tunnels were closed to traffic and used as an underground factory site to build parts for the Messerschmidt Me-109 fighters and Me-262 jet aircraft. Parts assembly was done in workshops inside the northern tunnel and barracks buildings were also set up in the area between the two tunnels. This underground factory site operated under the codename "Ente" (Duck).

The southern entrance to the northern tunnel is seen here in the summer of 1945 (looking north). Auxiliary tunnels, largely of unfinished bare rock, were drilled beside both main road tunnels. Most of these tunnels are sealed today (left below). The northern entrance to the main road tunnel (right below) retains more of its original concrete face.  (above - courtesy Ray and Gilda Northcott)  (Google Maps link)


The tunnel interiors preserve their period appearance. The northern road tunnel had a series of large work chambers built into the side. These side chambers were added in 1944 as the main work area for Messerschmidt aircraft parts construction. The entrances to this two-story work area can be seen on the right below (the lower entrances, at the road level, are blocked today).


These photos show the top of the northern road tunnel and the large concrete structure at the northern end. The small bunker-like structure below (of unknown purpose) sits on the concrete tunnel roof.


The northern entrance to the southern road tunnel has a "false" front that is detached from the hillside behind (center). This tunnel also has an auxiliary tunnel bored into the rock beside the main road tunnel.


Messerschmidt Test Facility Tunnels at Oberammergau

Adjacent to the Mountain Troops post in Oberammergau (today's NATO School) was a small tunnel system built in 1944 for Messerschmidt company development and testing of advance aircraft designs, as well as production of the Me-262 and P.1101 jet aircraft. The code name of the tunnel system was "Cerusit." Six tunnel entrances led to eight tunnels with two cross tunnels. After the war, all tunnel entrances were collapsed and/or sealed with concrete. Below are the two main entrances, sealed with concrete today.  (Google Maps link)


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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.