The image of Hitler as we usually see him

The image of Hitler as we usually see him

Today (7/16/13), we headed up to Obersalzburg in Berchtesgaden, Germany, to the Documentation Museum. I think mom expected it to be a shorter trip than it ended up being, but I have been fascinated with the plight of Jews in World War II almost as long as I can remember. (I did my eighth grade research paper on Jewish persecution.) So, the opportunity to “get inside Hitler’s head,” if you will, was one I couldn’t take for granted. Additionally, understanding ethnocentrism as I do, I wanted to see how the Germans would portray their own history. Would they gloss over the ugly parts? Would Hitler be venerated or despised? It was a chance of a lifetime for me, and I took full advantage of it (about 5 1/2 hours worth.)

The unseen faces of Hitler

The unseen faces of Hitler

Rick Steves recommends giving yourself an hour and a half for the tour. I’d say it depends on how interested you are in the subject. We chose to pay the $2 Euro cost for an audio tour (in addition to the $3 Euro entrance fee–parking was free in the section we were in–P2) The audio tour itself recommends two hours. The tour intentionally starts you on a higher, lighter level and then moves you down through time into the dark, dankness of the bunker. A large section is devoted to Hitler’s decision to make Obersalzburg his “second home” and how that impacted the people who were living there. What I appreciated most is that it shows Hitler as an entire person. You see him smiling at children, lounging in his home, throwing dinner parties, studying for speeches, and a million other mundane activities.

Propaganda aimed at young people

Propaganda aimed at young people

But, in the next area, you see the propaganda techniques used to portray these images. It shows the hard truth of how many people lost their generational homes in the area to accommodate Hitler’s compound. It traces his journey from his portrayal of himself as the people’s chancellor to his portrayal of strength and brutality.

Three of the founding members of the White Rose--all were beheaded

Three of the founding members of the White Rose–all were beheaded

Because I work with youth for a living, I was especially fascinated with the role of young people. True, there are a number of images of young people looking adoringly at Hitler, but the displays were also brutally honest about the lengths Hitler went to to court such adoration. For one season of time, it was only the youth who were allowed to visit his Obersalzburg home. Yet, there are also those who stood against Hitler and his ideas. Most notably among the young people were the members of the White Rose, an organization made up of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. Hans Scholl (left in the picture) read a sermon by an outspoken preacher on the evils of Hitler’s use of euthanasia and was incensed, as was his sister Sophie. The two obtained permission to reprint parts of the sermon, and the White Rose began. The group believed that if people were informed of the truth, they would do something to change the situation. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. The prominent group members were eventually caught and beheaded by the Nazi party. Hans’s last words were (translated) “Long live freedom!” The words of these passionate young people should challenge us today as our rights are being taken: “…why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanised state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right – or rather, your moral duty – to eliminate this system?” (From Leaflet 3)

Entrance to Hitler's Bunker

Entrance to Hitler’s Bunker

Finally, after the exhibits, we made our way into the bunker. It is indeed a creepy place, as one would expect from the location from which Hitler planned a lot of his strategies for world dominance. There is a small display of pictures in the beginning of the bunker which chronicle items found in the bunker when Allied troops arrived. Inside, you are able to see the different chambers where officials stayed, as well as the guard posts equipped with three machine gun holes to “dissuade” anyone who entered the bunker unwelcomed. It was an incredible experience, though thoroughly chilling.

The Eagle's Nest viewed from the Documentation Museum

The Eagle’s Nest viewed from the Documentation Museum

We had the choice (for an additional $21.50 Euros) of going up to the Eagle’s Nest. This house was a gift from the Nazi party (planned by SS leader and Hitler’s private secretary Martin Bormann) to celebrate Hitler’s 50th birthday. We opted not to take the trip, since the Eagle’s Nest was only visited by Hitler between 10 and 14 times, due to his fear of heights. His mistress Eva Braun loved to go there and sunbathe. Additionally, the Eagle’s Nest is now a restaurant, though parts of the lower levels can be seen on private tours. Mostly, the only thing remaining is a mantle given to Hitler by Mussolini, parts of which were chipped away as souvenirs by Allied troops. The house Hitler lived in which was near the bunker was destroyed by Allied forces, much to the joy of the townspeople.

From the Documentation Museum, we went to Konigssee, where incidentally Eva also liked to sunbathe–apparently, she did that a lot. It boasts a beautiful lake and a boat ride you can take (for $13 Euros) to see beautiful scenery and St. Bartholomä Cathedral. Unfortunately, since I spent too much time at Hitler’s bunker, we arrived just after the last boat had departed.

Front of the von Trapp family home used in the movie

Front of the von Trapp family home used in the movie

On the way home, we decided to drive through Salzburg and try to find the house used for the front of the von Trapp family home in The Sound of Music. This time we were successful! I had gotten the address off the internet, and, after driving down a pedestrian and bikes only lane, we parked on a street we COULD drive on and walked down. The house is The Mozarteum Music Academy, but the gates were open, so we decided to look around 🙂 Another beautiful day!

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