The State of Bavaria said today that it had found an investor to turn the site of Hitler’s 262-acre retreat at Berchtesgaden, his official summer residence near the Austrian border, into a tourist attraction. — NY Times
Selections from the audiotape accompanying the walking tour of “Berchtesgaden: Hitler’s Summer Retreat”
“Welcome to Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s fabulous place in the country. Naturally, the Führer had his own special nickname for his beloved retreat, an Austrian folk expression that translates roughly to: “All the small birds are dead now.” Yes, Hitler loved folk expressions. And hated birds. [Pause] Stand straight! [Pause] the Führer would arrive here at the start of summer weekends, exhausted from tyranny and evil. Close your eyes and imagine how it must have been then, without the adjacent petting zoo. Hitler would arrive, gaze at his surroundings, and likely feel the beginnings of a smile, perhaps the first to creep across his cherubic face all week. For here, all the small birds were dead, exterminated actually, in 1938. Open your eyes now, and, at your own pace, walk ahead …
“The front door. Now, we’ll have to ask all Jews, Catholics and Macedonians to wait out front while the tour continues inside… Just kidding — all are welcome! Step in and see the wonders of this palatial home. Move along …
“Growl if you like sauerbraten! Welcome to The Jungle … Room. And you thought only Elvis liked panther-skin! This positively wild place is where Hitler would entertain some of the most fabulous Nazis in the world with lots of alcohol and late-night ‘winner-take-all’ Scrabble. Notice the custom-made swastika-shaped waterbed and accompanying shag rug. And dig that groovy mural! Walk ahead. Eyes forward.
“Hitler loved to surround himself with pretty things, and various kinds of poisons, especially here in his bedroom. The flower-print bedspread and matching snapdragon wallpaper are the perfect compliments to Hitler’s collection of hand-carved cat figurines. The shelves toward the back bay window — the Führer made those curtains himself! — hold a dizzying collection of flavor-infused arsenics. Truly, a room where both Laura Ashley, and a trained assassin hired to kill Laura Ashley, would feel right at home. Now, march.
“Hitler’s study, a refuge from his topsy-turvy world where he could jot down any little thought that popped into his head, say, a haiku to his dead mother, a nifty Polish joke, notes on an idea for a screenplay about cops, cops gone bad, or just a doodle of his imaginary friend, Sandy, who Hitler believed lived in the attic and came up with the strategy for invading Russia.
“When Hitler was stressed, more often than not this was where you could find him, in Berchtesgaden’s gym. He’d spend hours here, practicing karate with his bodyguards, screaming into a full-length mirror, enduring marathon Tae Bo workouts, whatever. Yes, Hitler was extremely flexible. Why not let one of our armed guards twist you into a pretzel? Ha!
“The yard. Nothing relaxed the Führer more than being astride a rideable lawnmower. An early proponent of organic fertilizers and home mulching, there were few things as important to Hitler as a green, healthy lawn. In fact, Hitler once said that if he had another life to live he would still try to conquer the world for the Aryan race, but first he’d conquer the menace that are dandelions and nasty weeds. Achtung! Time to go…
“Sure, Hitler loved human suffering, but he also liked music — for marching, for dancing, for making one feel less sexually inferior. Music. And this was his music room. Look, behind the vintage Moog synthesizer is Hitler’s old accordion. That’s right, as a teenager the Führer was in a rock band, albeit one that included an accordion player. The group, named Torchyr, after a joke Hitler’s uncle used to tell, actually grew quite renowned in the clubs of Munich with songs girded by knowing pop structure and meticulously crafted harmonies.
“Hitler’s garage. Here’s where the Führer would pour over ball bearings for his still-unfinished collection of kit ‘30s Fords’ sniff turpentine, or just fiddle at his workbench. That old fashioned loom — Hitler loved to loom — in the corner has the teeth marks of a madman, and behind that, are some really sharp knives. Indeed, here in the garage one can’t help but get a sense of just how creative a man Hitler really was, and, while at Berchtesgaden at least, how happy and at ease. [Pause] This concludes our tour. Thanks once again for coming. Peace.”