“A Damnation of Memory” Monument Protection Agency criticizes “eradication of ruins”. Were Hitler’s stones built into a chapel?


On Friday, February 05, 2010 Richard Nemec, spokesperson for the Monument Protection Agency of the Free State of Bavaria presented the audience of the annual New Year’s reception with what he called “an example of our work that is particularly sensitive and timely:  Hitler’s Obersalzberg, then and now.”

>>> read more:: Op-Ed Article in the International Herald Tribune Feb 13, 2010

Nemec detailed the history of Obersalzberg. It was Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, who declared the entire area the "Führersperrgebiet" in 1935 and began to develop this for the "Volkskanzler". Almost immediately, a massive complex of buildings emerged at the center of which stood Hitlers alpine residence, the Berghof. The presentation included propaganda images of a visit by the Regensburg Choir Boys with Hitler as well as Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun with a rabbit and her dogs. It was "a sham paradise", because the Berghof essentially became the second operational center of power after Berlin, and Hitler stated himself once that all of his "great plans were made here", Nemec said. Shortly before the end of the war the area was bombed by the British Royal Airforce, then in 1945 used by the Americans for recreational purposes. In April 1952 the remnant portions of the Berghof were dynamited in an “act of material cleansing.” Only the house’s  garage installation, on which the Berghof terrace rested, remained in tact. In Nemec’s words it was nature that gradually reclaimed the mountain in the decades after, and Bavaria only started in the 1970s’s, shortly after the promulgation of the Bavarian Monument Protection Law, to recognize the significance of the structures as an historical monument. However, "the publication of the list of monuments was not permitted because of a political decision". Nemec mentioned that even today, there is no official registration of the area and that in "1995 the terrace and the garage installation of the Berghof was removed".

The spokesperson critically remarked that between 1999 and 2003, the "elimination of history" continued. The Finance Minister at the time – responsible for the real estate – had designated the Obersalzberg correctly as a "perpetrator site" but declared that the past was to be eliminated in so far as ruins were still represent. The official continued detailing further buildings on the Obersalzberg that "fell victim to the wrecking ball". The ground was, he commented, "eradicated of ruins to the last stone".  The task of remembrance was not to be left to the "monuments as witnesses" but rather to a historical interpretative Documentation Center which opened in 1999.

Nemec's list of damaged structures included:

--Demolition of the remnants of the SS Barracks, 2002
--Demolition of the remnants of Hitler’s former Green House, 2002
--Gutting of the western wing of the former Platterhof (General Walker Hotel), 2005
--Demolition of the eastern wing of the former Gutshof (Skytop Lodge), 2007

The presentation – which was carefully embedded in a series of brief descriptions about current projects of the preservation officials, showed images of heavy construction machinery devouring tons of valuable marble at Obersalzberg. Not a "scrap" of "contaminated masonry" was supposed to survive this "clean up operation" – the spokesperson went on. A complete "damnation of memory?" Nemec questioned this before he revealed that the material witnesses were nevertheless not completely extinguished. Hitler's large cinema hall for laborers at Obersalzberg was taken down and relocated to Munich after the war to replace the "Herz Jesu Church", which had been bombed during the war.
This former of "recycling" he called a result of the privations of the of postwar years, but Nemec wnt on to surprise the audience with a much more recent revelation which current research into the handling of the historic site has brought up:.

From 1995 to 1997, the State Construction Office in Traunstein erected the "Wegmacher" Chapel.  It is situated at Hallthurm on the side of the B 20 which was widened in 1990. Recycling was practiced here as well, also with materials from the Obersalzberg. The chapel was constructed as a stone sanctuary (cella) with a roof resting on four columns.  The wall consists of stone that comes from a depot with road construction materials from Hitler’s era; the flagstones – Nemec detailed "come from the Berghof, or so it appears".  The spokesperson commented that "on the road which Hitler used in 1938 to reach his sham paradise (Scheinidyll), there now stands a small, innocent house of God constructed from ‘contaminated’ stones".  He remarked: "There is nothing that suggests the origins of these enduring stones that have been, so to speak, exorcized, freed of their historical burden."

Besides this rather unexpected revelation Nemec also had some had some positive news to share with the audience. On October 20, 2009, the Bavarian State Ministry for Science, Research and Art announced that the State Office for Monument Protection should undertake the registration, i.e., the evaluation of those structures in the area of the Obersalzberg that might qualify as worthy of preservation to see if they should be retroactively included in the historical monument registry in 2010/2011.

“Finally, the registration of these historical monuments will now take place, in so far as they are still there”, Nemec closed his address.


The "Wegmacher" Chapel at Hallthurmer Berg - situated between Bayerisch Gmain and Bischofswiesen on the way to Berchtesgaden, Bavaria. (Photo: OI/ fb)