Ever wonder where Adolf Hitler lived?
He moved from place to place during his tenure as dictator of Nazi Germany, but the house where he spent the majority of his time during World War II – his happy place if you will – was called The Berghof. It was both his vacation home and his planning headquarters from 1935-1945. The Berghof was located in the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany.
After the Nazis were defeated in 1945, the house was bombed and looted by Allied troops. The shell remained but it was officially demolished by the Bavarian government in 1952 to persuade gawkers and neo-Nazis from having a shrine to their Führer.
Fortunately for us curious house-loving history buffs, the Berghof was widely photographed in the 1940’s so there are plenty of images of the now extinct home.
The Berghof started out as a much smaller, historic chalet called Haus Wachenfeld:
Haus Wachenfeld was built in 1916 or 1917 as a vacation home for a business man named Otto Winter. After Winter passed away in 1928, his widow rented Haus Wachenfeld to Hitler as a getaway cottage.
Below is an image of Hitler reading at a table at Haus Wachenfeld before renovations had begun:
Hitler was able to purchase the chalet outright in 1933 with the proceeds from the sale of his book Mein Kampf.
Hitler – who had a background in art and a finely tuned interest in architecture – helped draw up the designs to enlarge the home. The result was a greatly expanded complex that he named the Berghof.
The home under construction:
Hitler also made sure there was a security gate installed since he would make the Berghof not only his vacation home, but one of his two main headquarters.
Below is the front gatehouse:
Hitler had several headquarters throughout Europe but it was the Berghof that he preferred because of its scenic surrounds and vacation amenities. Even before the war, Hitler’s Berghof become somewhat of a tourist’s spectacle with curious onlookers peeking in the gate. Hilter had his guards establish a secure perimeter in the woods around the compound. On the property surrounding the Berghof, Hitler oversaw the building of several homes for his highest ranking officers. The area was increasingly fortified as the war progressed.
Occupants of the home included a full staff of servants and groundskeepers, various friends and family members of the Führer, and his mistress Eva Braun.
Hitler, his mistress Eva Braun, and his dog Blondi on the terrace of the Berghof
In the end, it was Eva Braun and Blondi the German Shepherd who died with Hitler in the Berlin bunker when the Nazi forces were defeated.
But during the war, Eva spent the majority of her time in seclusion at the Berghof, living quietly, but in relative luxury. The German public did not know about her until after the war so she spent her days either skiing nearby or sunbathing on the terrace of the Berghof.
There were a series of colorized photos taken by a LIFE photographer during the war in which you can see the colorful awnings of the resort-like umbrellas on the terrace:
In terms of the layout of the house, I was able to find this rendering of the main floor:
Let’s have a look inside the malevolent dictator’s diggs…
The Great Room:
Hitler reportedly chose most of the furnishings himself. The Great Hall had a red marble fireplace mantel and a projection wall & booth for screening films.
What did Hitler & company watch on the big screen? Mostly Hollywood movies that were banned everywhere else in Germany.
The style of decor that Hitler dictated is known as “the monumental style” which was intended to impress and even intimidate.
The Great Room was huge and had an enormous picture window that looked out at the Untersberg mountain in Austria. Hitler’s famous globe was also in this room. That globe was later taken by Allied troops before the home was completely demolished.
The Great Room with views:
The huge window could be lowered into the story below to give an open, Al fresco view of the snow-capped mountains.
Hitler also had a grand office at the Berghof:
The walls throughout the Berghof were adorned with old engravings and even some of Hitler’s small water-color sketches. The house was decorated with expensive Persian carpets, large tapestries and antique furniture – mainly 18th century German.
According to Wikipedia, caged Harz Roller canaries were kept in most of the rooms in gilded cages. Not quite sure what the significance of that was. If you know – please leave a comment below!
Some of the smaller rooms meant for personal use were decorated in a more traditional German manner, like the breakfast room:
Hitler’s personal valet later recounted that Hitler and Eva Braun had two bedrooms and two bathrooms with interconnecting doors. Hitler would end most days at the Berghof with Eva in his study, drinking tea.
A guest room:
Hitler allowed the Berghof to be featured in the November 1938 issue of British Homes and Gardens magazines. There were elaborate descriptions of the palatial mountain retreat, and one direct quote from the Führer himself:
“This place is mine – I built it with money that I earned.”
Hitler at his desk in the office room at the Bergof:
Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror came to an end on April 30th, 1945 when he committed suicide in the Führerbunker of the Reich Chancellery as Soviet Troops were within one block of his location.
In late April 1945 the Berghof house was damaged by British aerial bombs. It was then set on fire by retreating SS troops in early May. When Allied soldiers reached the area, the Berghof was looted and further stripped and destroyed.
The burnt out shell was demolished by the Bavarian government in 1952.
Today, all that remains of the Bergof is the back foundation wall…
The driveway has been preserved, but nature has overtaken most of what Hitler built.
Today, the Bergof is merely a ghost house with a tragic backstory.
It is always a shame to see a historic home destroyed. But the Berghof was the location of much of the planning for the genocide of the Holocaust. The site was simply too sullied to even be preserved for history’s sake. To that end, I categorized this house as a “crime scene house” because I thought it was important to remember the atrocities planned and implemented by the last inhabitants of this home.
For another perspective of the tragic WW2 era in house history, you can read about Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam.