Hitler’s retreat in the mountains of Bavaria was one of the most important centers of government in the Third Reich. Hitler spent more time in the Berghof than in his Berlin office.
The Berghof began as a much smaller chalet called Haus Wachenfeld, a holiday home built in 1916 (or 1917) by Kommerzienrat Otto Winter, a businessman from Buxtehude. This was located near the Platterhof , the former Pension Moritz where Hitler had stayed in 1922–23. By 1926, the family running the Pension had left and Hitler did not like the new owner. He moved first to the Marineheim and then to a hotel in Berchtesgaden, the Deutsches Haus, where he dictated the second volume of Mein Kampf in the summer of 1926. Hitler met his alleged lover Maria “Mimi” Reiter, who worked in a shop on the ground floor of the hotel, during another visit in autumn 1926. In 1928, Winter’s widow rented Haus Wachenfeld to Hitler and his half-sister Angela came to live there as housekeeper, although she left soon after her daughter Geli Raubal’s 1931 death in Hitler’s Munich apartment
By 1933 Hitler had purchased Haus Wachenfeld with funds he received from the sale of his political manifesto Mein Kampf.
The small chalet-style building was refurbished and much expanded during 1935–36 by architect Alois Degano when it was renamed The Berghof. A large terrace was built and featured big, colorful, resort-style canvas umbrellas.
It was in this over sized chalet that Hitler planned the invasions of Poland, France and Russia and the events that would change the lives of millions.
Adolf Hitler’s interest in the hills above Berchtesgaden began in 1923, when he came to visit his friend and mentor, Dietrich Eckart, who was living at the Platterhof Hotel. Hitler traveled there under the name of “Herr Wolf” and held meetings with supporters in local guesthouses.
After he was released from Landsberg prison in 1926, following his unsuccessful coup in Munich, he came back to the Obersalzberg.
He stayed in a small cabin (no longer there) on the mountain near the Platterhof. The remainder of Mein Kampf was written during his visit there.
In 1928, Hitler rented a pretty, alpine-style vacation home, Haus Wachenfeld, next door to the Hotel zum Türken.
After becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler purchased the house from the money he had made from Mein Kampf (a best seller) and lived there for a couple of years, with his mistress Eva Braun and their dogs, before starting a major expansion of the building.
The expansion of the house was carried out in 1935 and 1936. The result was another larger, alpine-style residence that he named “The Berghof”, or “mountain farm”.
A large area of the mountain was taken over by the Nazis and numerous buildings were built on the rolling farmland. The neighbors for miles around were bought out, including families who had lived on the mountain for generations.
Hitler Greets the Public.
Hitler’s home became quite a tourist attraction. Crowds of admirers used to wait at the end of the driveway for a chance to greet the Führer. Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s official photographer, took lots of photos of these scenes.
He especially liked greeting the children, who came to visit in the thousands. Various youth groups would visit the Berghof and meet the Führer. Below, Hitler got a visit from the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM), or League of German Girls, the feminine version of the Hitler Youth, in July, 1939. They had tea on the Berghof terrace.
The SS guarding Hitler were stationed in the barracks further up the hill (now an open field with a Segway track for guests of the Kempinski Hotel Berchtesgaden, formerly the Intercontinental). The SS withdrew just hours before the American soldiers arrived. Barracks Square, as it was called, was heavily damaged in the bombing; no traces are left now.
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler at the Berghof in 1938 during the negotiations that lead to the signing of the Munich Agreement handing part of Czechoslovakia over to Germany (“peace for our time”). Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had met with Hitler at the Berghof in 1936. Other important guests were received there as well, including Benito Mussolini and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Dogs and Children.
Other favorite photographic themes at the Berghof, some produced for public consumption and others just candid shots, were photos of Hitler with small children and Hitler with his dog, Blondi.
The Führer and the Children.
According to those who knew him, Hitler was genuinely fond of children and enjoyed having them visit at his mountain home. When the war ended, the Berghof was damaged but mostly intact in spite of the heaving bombing raid on the Obersalzberg on April 25, 1945.