|Hitler's Mountain Home:
A Visit to 'Haus Wachenfeld in the Bavarian Alps
Appearing in the November 1938 issue of the English magazine Home & Gardens.
by IGNATIUS PHAYRE
It is over twelve years since Herr Hitler fixed on the site of his one and only home. It had to be close to the Austrian border, barely ten miles from Mozart's own medieval Salzburg. At first no more than a hunter's shack, "Haus Wachenfeld" has grown, until it is today quite a handsome Bavarian chalet, 2,000 feet on the Obersalzberg amid pinewoods and cherry orchards.
Here, in the early days, Hitler's widowed sister, Frau Angela Raubal, kept house for him on a "peasant" scale. Then, as his famous book, Mein Kampf ("My Struggle"), became a bestseller of astonishing power (4,500,000 copies of it have been sold), Hitler began to think of replacing that humble shack by a house and garden of suitable scope. In this matter he has throughout been his own architect.
There is nothing pretentious about the Führer's little estate. It is one that any merchant of Munich or Nuremberg might possess in these lovely hills.
The entrance hall is filled with a curious display of cactus plants in majolica pots. Herr Hitler's study is fitted as a modern office, and leading out of this is a telephone exchange. From here it is possible for the Führer to invite his friends or ministers to fly over to Berchtes-gaden, landing on his own aerodrome just below the chalet lawns.
Fairest View in All of Europe
The site commands the fairest view in all of Europe. This is to say much, I know. But in these Bavarian Alps there is a peculiar softness of greenery, with snow-white cascades and forest-clad pinnacles, like the Schönfeldspitze and Teufelshörner.
Hitler's home looks out upon his native Austria. Meals are often served on the terrace on little tables shaded by big canvas umbrellas. From this viewpoint a chain of drowsy lakes is seen far below, with ancient shrine chapels hidden in ferny folds of towering rocks. And since the Reichs-führer settle here as "Squire of Wachenfeld," the whole region has been starred with motor speedways, even as far as Oberammergau.
The color scheme throughout this bright, airy chalet is a light jade green. In outside rooms, like the sun parlor, chairs and tables are of white plaited cane. Here Herr Hitler will read the home and foreign papers which his own air pilot, Hänsel Baur, brings him every day from Berlin before lunch.
At this altitude the Bavarian sun is at its most genial. Even at Christ-mastime when deep snows are out, Haus Wachenfeld basks in warmth like the Engadines. The effect of light and air in the house is heightened by the rolling trilling of many Hartz mountain canaries in gilded cages which hang or stand in most of the rooms.
Delights in the Company of Foreign Guests
The curtains are of printed linen, or fine damask in the softer shades. The Führer is his own decorator, designer and furnisher, as well as architect. He is constantly enlarging the place, building on new guest annexes and arranging in these his favorite antiques chiefly German furniture of the eighteenth century, for which agents in Munich are on the lookout.
It is a mistake to suppose that weekend guests are all, or even mainly, State officials. Hitler delights in the company of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, singers and musicians. As host he is a droll raconteur; we all know how surprised were Mr. Lloyd George and his party when they accepted an invitation to Hause Wachenfeld.
The guest bedrooms are hung with old engravings. But more interesting than any of these to the visitor are the Führer's own water-color sketches. Time was when a hungry Hitler was glad to raise a few marks by selling these little works; none measures more than about eight inches square, and each is signed "A. Hitler" unmistakably, if also illegibly!
The gardens are laid out simply enough. Lawns at different levels are planted with flowering shrubs, as well as roses and other blooms in due season. The Führer, I may add, has a passion for cut flowers in his home, as well as for music.
Every morning at nine he goes out for a talk with his gardeners about their day's work. These men, like the chauffeur and air pilot, are not so much servants as loyal friends. A lifelong vegetarian at table, Hitler's kitchen plots are both varied and heavy in produce. Even in his meatless diet Hitler is something of a gourmet as Sir John Simon and Mr. Anthony Eden were surprised to note when they dined with him in the Presidial Palace at Berlin. His Bavarian chef, Herr Kannenberg, contrives an imposing array of vegetarian dishes, savory and rich, pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate, and all conforming to the dietic standards which Hitler exacts.
But at Haus Wachenfeld he keeps a generous table for guests of normal tastes. Here bons vivants like Field Marshals Göring and von Blomberg, and Joachim von Ribbentrip will forgather at dinner. Elaborate dishes like Caneton à la presse and fruite saumoné à la Monseigneur will then be served, with fine wines and liqueurs of von Ribbentrop's expert choosing. Cigars and cigarettes are duly lighted at this terrace feast though Hitler himself never smokes, nor does he take alcohol in any form.
All guests are shown their host's model kennels, where he breeds magnificent Alsatians. Some of his pedigree pets are allowed the run of the house, especially on days when Herr Hitler gives a "Fun Fair" to the local children. On such a day, when State affairs are over, the Squire himself, attended by some of his guests, will stroll through the woods into hamlets above and below.
Coffee, Cakes, Sweets and Mozart
These rustics sit at cottage doors carving trinkets and toys in wood, ivory and bone. It is then the little ones are invited to the house. Coffee, cakes, fruit and sweets are laid for them on trestle tables in the grassy orchards. Then Frauen Goebbels and Göring, in dainty Bavarian dress, arrange dances and folksongs, while the bolder spirits are given joyrides in Herr Hitler's private airplane.
Nor must I forget to mention the archery butts at the back of the chalet. It is strange to watch the burly Field Marshal Göring, as chef of the most formidable air force in Europe, taking a turn with the bow and arrow at straw targets of twenty-five yards' range. There is as much to-do about those scarlet bulls'-eyes as though the fate of nations depended on a full score!
But I have said enough to convey the idea of a sunny sub-Alpine home, hundreds of miles from Berlin's uproar, and set amid an unsophisticated peasantry of carvers and hunters. This is the only home in which Hitler can laugh and take his ease or even "conduct tours" by means of the tripod telescope which he himself operates on the terrace for his visitors.
"This place is mine," he says simply. "I build it with money that I earned." Then he takes you into his library, where you note that quite half the books are on history, painting, architecture and music.
When it is fine enough to dine in the open air, one sees a piano made ready for the after-dinner concert. Local talent will supply violin and cello for pieces by Mozart or Brahms. But at the piano itself it is always that English-speaking giant (he is 6 ft. 4 ins.), Dr. Ernst ("Putzi") Hanfstaengl, who presides as a composer of all-German renown.
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