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Nazi-Era Bunker

DW staff (sac)September 4, 2007

A hotel in Adolf Hitler's mountain retreat in southern Germany is allowing guests to view a swastika-covered bunker from World War II in its cellar. Critics say the structure has been turned into a neo-Nazi shrine.

The Nazi-era bunker system in Obersalzberg
Anyone can view the Nazi-era bunker system in ObersalzbergImage: AP

The hotel "Zum Türken" in the southern German town of Obersalzberg is being strongly criticized for allowing visitors to view part of a Nazi-era bunker located beneath its restaurant.

According to research by German public broadcaster ARD, visitors can access the bunker via an advertised passageway at the hotel. ARD research showed that it had become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis, who come to see the Nazi propaganda, swastikas and anti-Semitic statements scrawled and carved on its walls.

Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden, located in Bavaria near the Austrian border, became Hitler's holiday retreat in 1923. It was expanded after 1933, becoming a second seat of government along with Berlin under the Nazi regime.

The hotel "Zum Türken" and adjoining bunker were once the quarters for Hitler's personal security staff and bodyguards from the Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers (SD). Visitors to the bunker can view SD detention cells and shooting ranges.

State government should be on the lookout

The ruins of Hitler's Berghof residence
The allies demolished the remains of Hitler's Berghof residence in 1952Image: dpa

Bavaria's Finance Minister Kurt Faltlhauser said the government had a clear responsibility to take in light of the bunker's growing popularity among neo-Nazis.

"We must take on the role of a sentinel," Faltlhauser said in a statement. "This shouldn't be covered up and, most importantly, there can't be any hidden or open glorification of the Nazi regime."

The ministry said it had recommended to the state prosecutor to file criminal charges. It has also appealed to local authorities to check whether it can revoke the hotel's restaurant and alcohol license.

Officials cannot close the site, however, as it is privately owned by the hotel. The hotel owner's attorney Jan de Haan said there had been problems in the past with right-wing extremists.

"The hotel owner is in no way pleased by this," de Haan said. He said that 95 percent of the hotel's guests were foreigners, many from the United States. The owner was not acquiring neo-Nazi customers, de Haan added.

Neighboring documentation center's hands are tied

The Bavarian state government, together with the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich and Berlin, set up a documentation center in Obersalzberg in 1999. A permanent exhibition informs the public of the town's past under Hitler.

The documentation center in Obersalzberg
The documentation center in Obersalzberg said it is severely underfundedImage: Institut für Zeitgeschichte

The center's head Volker Dahm said the hotel's bunker had been a nuisance for years.

"But we can't actually do anything about it," Dahm told ARD. "The problem is that a relic of the Third Reich is privately owned and commercially marketed by the owner."

According to Dahm, the documentation center has its own problems to deal with. It was too small and bursting at the seams, he said. There were also too few qualified personnel and parts of the exhibition were outdated.

"It looks as if we will not be able to sustain the exhibition's scientific and professional standards, as well as the quality of its presentation with these personnel," Dahm said.

Faltlhauser, however, said he was aware of Bavaria's obligation to the site.

"I have been very consistent in my responsibility and will continue to be so," Faltlhauser said.

The ministry said Faltlhauser in May doubled state funding for the site to 320,000 euros ($434,000) and promised further personnel.