HOLIDAY IN RUHPOLDING - Germany and Austria

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

Jane and John decide to take a holiday in Bavaria - which is a bit odd in 1959,
and Pete meets a German family, goes to the Eagles Nest, and gets a present from Eva Braun's Uncle

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

London Victory Parade - June 1946
It was over Christmas 1957 that Jane and John decided that their next holiday would be a trip to Germany ! 
Now this is very, very strange !
Remember that the war had been over for only thirtteen years.
The memories of those wartime years had been seared into the minds of all who had taken part in that appalling conflict.
The belief that the Germans, (the Hun) were the enemy had been made very clear by the awful propaganda that had come from the First World War.

Remember Belgium
'Rape of Belgium'
The 'Rape of Belgium' is a wartime propaganda term describing the 1914 German invasion of Belgium. The term initially had a figurative meaning, referring to the violation of Belgian neutrality, but embellished reports of German atrocities soon gave it a literal significance, describing a series of supposed German war crimes in the opening months of the War (4 August through September 1914).
The neutrality of Belgium had been guaranteed by the Treaty of London (1839), which had been signed by Prussia. 
The Treaty of London was confirmed in 1871, and at the Hague Conference in 1907by the German Empire, which largely inherited and reaffirmed Prussia’s diplomatic obligations. 

Deutsch Reichskanzler
Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg
The German Schlieffen Plan, however, required that German armed forces violate Belgium’s neutrality in order to outflank the French Army, concentrated in eastern France. The German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg dismissed the treaty of 1839 as a "scrap of paper".

In the Second World War there had been similar propaganda, culminating in the reports of the SS 'death camps' and the 'Holocaust'.

Adolf Hitler
To put things in a more personal context, Jane Crawford held the belief that the War (Second World War) was an event that had ended her hopes of happiness and fulfillment.
It seems that she was convinced that Herr Hitler had actually planned and executed the war with the express purpose of ruining her life.
This, of course, says a lot more about Jane's psychology that it does about Adolf's.
The mechanics of this odd assertion by Jane Crawford are as follows.
If there had been no war, then John would not have been away for so many years, and Jane would not have met the American officer, and Jane would not have become pregnant, and Joe would not have had to arrange an abortion, and Jane would have been able to have had her own children, and John would have been able to be a real father, and Jane would not have had to live through the terrible guilt, which she felt every single day.
So Jane hated Adolf, and the Germans who helped him fight the war.
So - why decide to go to Germany - of all places ?
Well, there may have been a reason - but that can only be revealed a little later on in the story.
So where did this all begin - this strange connection with Germany and Austria ?

Jane Crawford and Pete
Inwood Park 1950s
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Die Wappen von Deutschland
und Österreich
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Well - we have to go back to a cloudy, rainy day in January 1959, when Jane Crawford and Pete, (see left in 1955), made their way along the Hanworth Road to the local travel agents.
There Jane booked a holiday to Bavaria.
Now this was odd.
Firstly because travel abroad was relatively rare in the 1950s, mainly because of the rigid currency controls which only allowed individuals to take relatively small sums of money out of the United Kingdom.
And secondly it must remembered that the Second World War had only ended in 1945, and Germany was not a particularly popular destination at that time - as we have described earlier.
Pete was very excited, although he had little idea of where Bavaria was, or what the place was like.

1950s British Passport
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Soon, however, the excitement was forgotten, and it was only with a trip to the photographers on Hounslow Broadway, opposite the Bus Garage, in the early summer, that the enthusiasm was rekindled.
The photographs were for a new passport, and in those days British Passports were 'real passports', with hard covers of a royal blue, beautifully embossed and gilded with the Royal Arms.
The next step was John Crawford visit to the Bank Manager, armed with his passport, in order to change some English sterling into Deutschmarks.
Then it was time for new clothes, with shirts and shorts for Pete, in Jane's favorite pale green.
Then the school Summer Holidays came in August, and it was time to go on holiday.
Now Pete had been abroad before - to France to Calais and Paris - and by air - which was a real adventure in the 1950s.
Bavaria, was like Ruritania, however, - a strange place in the middle of Europe, high among the mountain peaks - so this was to be a real adventure !

The Prisoner of Zenda
And Peter had seen the prisoner of Zenda a few years earlier - one of his favourite films - and also had a copy of the book - so he knew what to expect The Prisoner of Zenda (1952)—Starring Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Louis Calhern, Jane Greer, Lewis Stone, Robert Douglas, James Mason and Robert Coote. It was adapted by Edward Rose, (dramatization) Wells Root, John L. Balderston, Noel Langley and Donald Ogden Stewart (additional dialogue, originally uncredited). It was directed by Richard Thorpe.It is a shot-for-shot copy of the 1937 film, the only difference being that it was made in Technicolor.

(what 'Our Peter' didn't know about Germany and Austria)

But now - on with the story !

Harwich - Gateway to Europe
So - the summer came, and with it for Pete, came the summer holidays from school.
And the holiday began, but not with a trip to the airport - currency restrictions made that too expensive - so it was off to Liverpool Street station, and a train to the coast and a ferry to the continent.

Liverpool Street Station - London
Then it was a journey by train across Europe - and a long journey  - and this was the most exciting adventure that Peter had ever had - apart from flying to France perhaps.
And this involved a crossing of the North Sea by British Rail Ferries (later known as Sealink - which is, of course, nothing like the original - the original being luxurious and 'classy')' and then the train journey provided by a company called 'Blue Cars' - which was a reference to the Pullman cars.

Liverpool Street to Harwich
Arriving at Harwich
Liverpool Street station, in London, was still a place of soot, steam and noise, as the boilers of huge locomotives were fired up in preparation for their journeys.
For Pete, this was the start of a momentous journey, and it was also Pete's first journey on a Pullman train - where you actually slept on the train.
But there was no sleeping to begin with - because first there was a rather boring journey to Harwich.

SS Amsterdam
British Railways Logo - 1950s
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
As the train steamed into Parkston Quay in Harwich the atmosphere changed completely.
There is nothing like the crisp smell of sea salt and marine diesel, which for many years, for Pete, meant the beginning of an adventure.

Hoek van Holland - 1950s
The next step was to board the SS Amsterdam, one of British Rail's newest ships, and then settle down and prepare for the sea crossing.
This was a daytime crossing, for the trip from Harwich to the Hoek van Holland.
The crossing in those days, took about seven hours, and the SS Amsterdam would reach the Hoek in the late afternoon.
After a good look round the ship, Pete, Jane and John Decided to have lunch.

Dining on Board the Ferry
The SS Amsterdam was a large, new ferry, and had a magnificent dining salon.
Arrival at the Hoek involved disembarkation and customs - remember that this was in that 'golden time' before the pathetic European Common Market, and border restrictions were scrupulously enforced on the continent by imposing and intimidating customs officers, in resplendent uniforms, and carrying side-arms.
Jane, John and Pete then re-boarded the Pullman, and prepared for the journey across Europe.

British Railways Dining Car
The Train started its journey, passing through the incredibly flat countryside, dotted with the inevitable windmills, which reminded Pete of the Norfolk Broads.
By then it was getting dark so, before retiring for the night, Pete, Jane and John decided to go to the restaurant car for dinner.
After dinner it was time to go to bed - and for Pete, the first 'bedtime' on a train.
Obviously Pete found it difficult to sleep.
Obviously there was the noise and the movement, and the dim blue light that remained on in the compartment throughout the night - (ever after, Pete associated that dim blue light with adventure and foreign places) but Pete also had the urge to peek out through the curtains to glimpse the twinkling lights of the occasional town, village and station.
Then came the oblivion of sleep.......

 © Copyright Peter Crawford 2017
 Rhupolding in Bayern

Now while Pete is sleeping we may consider the strange circumstances of this holiday to Bavaria - or Bayern as it is called in German.
We have already explained how Jane had an antipathy to Germans, and in particular Herr Hitler, as a result of what had happened during the war.
Well now we must consider a little of the recent history of the particular alpine resort that Peter's parents had decided to use as the base for their first continental holiday.
Remember as you read this that there were many other places in Germany that they could have visited, and more significantly many places in Europe other than Germany.
We mention this because Ruhpolding had some rather interesting recent history.

Ruhpolding Hauptplatz
Celebration of the Austrian Anchluß
Ruhpolding Hauptplatz Feb 1936
We know that in 1938, a year after Jane and John married, and the year of the Anchluß  that there was a celebration in the main square in Ruhpolding.
We know this because there is photographic evidence.
Of course, almost everybody that Peter ever met in Germany, (with the exception of Eva Braun's uncle and Adolf Lördermann, who we will meet later), made it very clear that they had nothing to do with the National Socialists or the Third Reich, (and if you believ that hen you can believe anything), so it's interesting to see evidence of the villagers giving enthusiastic Nazi salutes - and it makes one wonder just who were all those enthusiastic people in the Nürnberg Stadium, (remember Nürnberg is also in Bavaria).

Finnish SS - Ruhpolding
23rd of May 1943
SS - Ruhpolding - 1943

Equally, later in the war the Finnish SS were stationed in Ruhpolding.
That is as it may be, but even more interesting is the link that Ruhpolding had with the highest echelons of the Third Reich hierarchy.
While, in the 1950s, most of the leaders of the Reich, and individuals closely associated with Hitler were either dead, or had gone into hiding, usually in some obscure South American state, some of those closest to Jane's much reviled Herr Hitler were actually living in Ruhpolding.

Family of Eva Braun
We are referring  of course, to Adolf Hitler's in-laws.
Yes, - members of Eva Braun's family were living openly and unmolested in Ruhpolding.
And these people were pillars of the community, and were regular visitors to the local Kurhaus where, in fact, they met Pete, Jane and John.
An it was from a member of this family that Pete received a very strange present.
So this makes this holiday very strange.

Friedrich Braun (also known as 'Fritz'; a School teacher; - Parents: Phillip Braun, Christina Heyser)
Birth: Neckargmund, Germany - Death: 22 January 1964 in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany
Franziska Kronberger - Birth:1880 - Death: January 1976 in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany
Occupation: Seamstress ; Father: Unidentified Veterinarian b: in of Oberpfalz, Germany
Their Children: - Eva Anna Paula Braun b: 6 February 1912 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Margarete (Gretl) Braun (married SS-Gruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein 3 June 1944. born 30 October 1906 in Ansbach, Germany, and died 29 April 1945 in Berlin, Germany.

And then, to cap it all, John arranged for a visit to Berchtesgaden, the ruins of the Berghof, the  Gasthof Zum Türken, and the Adlerhorst (Eagles Nest) on the Kehlstein.

But, of course, while Pete slept he knew nothing of this.
So back to the story ...

Chiemgau Alps - Bayern
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2017
Peter woke up early - he could see the sun shining brilliantly through the curtains.
Bleary eyed, Pete opened the curtain just a little, only to get one of the biggest shocks of his life.
Outside the window, above the passing forest were huge, snow-capped mountains.
So then, after dressing, Pete, Jane and John went to the dining car for breakfast, and this would be the last English meal that Pete would have for two weeks.
So it was breakfast while watching the beautiful Bavarian Alps.
By the time breakfast was over the final destination was approaching, and so it was time to return to the compartment and get ready to leave the train.


Ruhpolding Bahnhof - Bayern
Tirolean Band - Ruhpolding Bahnhof
And so the final destination came into view.
A tiny little station, without a proper platform, (on the continent then you either climbed up or climbed down to enter or leave a train).
And on the low platform were a group of Bavarian villagers, and a Tirolean Band.
There, amid the raucous sounds of the 'oompah' band, and the chatter of the villagers, was a very small, dark haired woman, probably in her sixties.

She was looking for 'Herr Crawford', because this was to be our hostess for the next two weeks.
This was Frau Agnes - a sweet little old lady, with dark, 'frizzy' hair, who was dragging a small trolley.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2017

She insisted on loading the cases onto the little trolley, despite John's protestations to the contrary.

She then began dragging the trolley from the station to the road, chatting away all the time in broken English, as they all made their way through the village.
Agness, as Pete learned later, had been married, but her husband, a forester, had been killed in the First World War.
Agness had then inherited a remarkably large house in the center of the village.
What she had done during the Third Reich and the Second World War Pete never discovered, (but then that was the case with most of the people he met in Austria and Germany), but in the fifties she had supported herself by renting her spacious home to tourists.
And that, of course, is how Pete, Jane and John met her.

Die Gebrüder Grimm
To Pete, Ruhpolding was like a setting for a Brothers Grimm story.

Die Gebrüder Grimm (The BrothersGrimm) - Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who together collected folklore. They are among the most well-known storytellers of European folk tales, and their work popularized such stories as "Cinderella", "The Frog Prince" (Der Froschkönig), "Hansel and Gretel" (Hänsel und Gretel), "Rapunzel", "Rumpelstiltskin" (Rumpelstilzchen), and "Snow White" (Schneewittchen). Their first collection of folk tales, Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), was published in 1812.

Ortszentrum Ruhpolding - 1950s
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2017
The quaint houses, in most case with painted stucco façades and carved wooden, flower bedecked balconies, were set in a lush landscape of pasture of gentle, green hills overlooked by some magnificent mountains.
In the center of the town was a water trough, undoubtedly originally used for the passing dairy herds, and a strange object which reminded Peter of an Indian Totem pole indicated the various amenities of the village and the surrounding area.
There had, of course, been very little bombing during the Second World War in the rural areas of Bavaria, with the obvious exception of the Obersalzburg, and so all the houses were pristine.
It should be remembered that only fourteen years had passed since the end of the Second World War - and yet, nobody ever spoke of those years of conflict - except an Austrian taxi driver (but that story is yet to come).
And so - what do you do on holiday in the Bavarian Alps in 1959 ?
Well today, of course, there are many leisure facilities in the Chiemgau.

Ruhpolding - Lower Slopes
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Chiemgau is the common name of a geographic area in Upper Bavaria. It refers to the foothills of the Alps between the rivers Inn and Traun, with lake Chiemsee at its center. The political districts that contain the Chiemgau are Rosenheim and Traunstein. Wendelstein is the name of a famous mountain close by but not strictly in the Chiemgau, while Kampenwand is actually the most inviting peak south of Chiemsee.

In 1959, however, the only option was hiking, or more precisely, walking.
But it was, (and still is), a wonderful place to walk.
And the walking did not require any mountaineering skills.
The foot-hills of the Bavarian Alps are gently sloping, and covered in deeply shaded pine forests.
If, however, one longed for the mountain  summits, then there was always a cable-car to take you gently the the cloud-capped silence of the majestic peaks.

'Wanderkarte' - Ruhpolding
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The Chiemgau, in the 1950s, was predominately a tourist destination for people from Germany, Austria and Holland, and these tourists were often inveterate hikers.
For their benefit and convenience markers had been inscribed on trees and rocks  -  color-coded - to indicate various popular trails through the wooded hills.
And so it was possible to go for long walks through the forest without any fear of getting lost.
So the first thing that John bought was a 'Wanderkarte' - a Walking Map of the area around Ruhpolding.


Armed with their map, Pete, Jane and John set off, for the first few days, exploring the environs of the village.
The longest 'hike' they made was to Maria Eck.
And what is at Maria Eck ?

Pilgrimage Church of Maria Eck
Pilgrimage Church of Maria Eck
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Well - very little - but there is a beautiful pilgrimage church - a little gem, hidden in the depth of the forest.
The establishment of the pilgrimage church of Maria Eck goes back to an old legend.
A lumberjack is said to have repeatedly seen a light phenomena in this area, and subsequently the local people built a wooden chapel on the site of the .unexplained phenomena.
The first small chapel on the site of the present church was built in 1618-35 by the monastery.
In 1803, the pilgrimage church of Maria Eck, in the process of secularization, was dissolved, and much of the interior of the church was either sold or destroyed.
In 1810, the church, and the surrounding land, was auctioned to private individuals, but the auction was actually cancelled a month later.
The church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is a superb example of South German Baroque.
When Pete, Jane and John entered the church they were totally overwhelmed.
Up until that time they had not been inside any Bavarian churches, and they were amazed at the wealth of gold and color inside the church.
The outside of the church was plain and simple, but the interior was a riot of gold leafed plaster, and columns painted to imitate all kinds of rare and exotic colored marbles.
In addition there were Baroque statues and paintings representing scenes from the bible and local saints.


Pete was very surprised at how adventurous Jane and John were when they were on holiday.
After Maria Eck there were other expeditions.
These were by train, as this area of Bavaria was well served by train-lines.
There were trips to Rosenheim and Traunstein.

Rosenheim is located in the centre of the district of Rosenheim (Upper Bavaria), and is also the seat of administration of this region.
It is located on the west bank of the river Inn, at the confluence of the rivers Inn and Mangfall, in the Bavarian Alpine Foreland.
It is the third largest city in Upper Bavaria with over 61,000 inhabitants and one of 23 administrative centers in Bavaria.
Rosenheim is therefore the economic center and the busiest place in the region.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Rosenheim had nine breweries which are still preserved in the names of some restaurants (Duschl-, Hof-, Mail-, Pernloher-, Stern-, Weißbräu).
The only survivors being "Auerbräu" and "Flötzinger Bräu", and supply, among others, the "Märzenbier" for the "Rosenheimer Herbstfest", as well as the 'Bierbichler Weißbräu'.
Traunstein is the administrative center of a district by the same name.
It is situated at the heart of a region called Chiemgau, approximately 11 km east of Lake Chiemsee between Munich and Salzburg, 15 km north of the Alps, and 30 km west of Salzburg. 
Salt production, as a result of the construction of the brine pipeline from Bad Reichenhall from 1616 to 1619 by the master builder of the court, Hans Reiffenstuel, was for a long time the most important industrial branch, and brought an enormous wealth to the town.
Oddly, (or inevitably) both towns had a close association with Adolf Hitler and National Socialism.

Rosenheim - the banner reads
'Here Jews are not wanted'
Hitler held a speech in the Hofbräuhaus, in Rosenheim, on May 2, 1920.
Just after the first NSDAP-division outside München was founded, Hitler spoke in Rosenheim again (on July 21, 1920).
He also spoke in the Hofbräusaal on June 17, 1920.

On August 6, 1920 Hitler spoke at the Pernlohnerkellern.
On the 26th of that month and year he also spoke in Rosenheim.
Hitler spoke at the Flötzingersaal on April 21, 1921.
He celebrated his birthday here on April 20, 1925.
The first time Hitler spoke in public after a critical throat operation was during a mass meeting in Rosenheim on August 11, 1935, in the Flötzingersaal.
Located near the Austrian border in Bavaria, Germany's largely rural and most politically conservative region, Traunstein was for years a stronghold of political parties tied to Catholicism, but the Nazi Party did well here in its formative years in the 1920s because of its opposition to the Versailles Treaty that enshrined Germany's humiliating defeat at the end of World War I, and its perceived championing of nationalist and rural values.

Adolf Hitler - marked with an X
Adolf Hitler was guarding Russian prisoners of war at Traunstein camp after the first world war.
After returning to München, he became a part of the local army organization, which consisted of a group of people (the Thule Gesellschaft) who did not want the soldiers to turn towards communism or pacifism.
He had to influence the returning soldiers to become anti-socialist patriots.
His first political speeches were held for the soldiers in Lechfeld, nearby.
Later on Hitler held three speeches in Traunstein, the first one on 8 December 1922, in a crowded hall of the gym-club.
So much for politics and history.
Now back to the mountains.


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

Pete's first trip up a mountain was to the Rauschberg - the mountain that overlooks Ruhpolding.
A short trip by bus was needed to arrive at the valley station of the Rauschbergbahn.
From there it was just a matter of buying a ticket and getting on the cable car.
In the twenty-first century it requires a long wait on a fine day to get onto the cable car.
In the nineteen-fifties it was just a matter of stepping on.
The Rauschbergbahn takes the ascent in one run, with no middle station.

Rauschberg Lake
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The Rauschberg is 1,671 m (5,482 ft) high, and on the summit there is a restaurant and viewing galleries.
The views from the summit are, not surprisingly, breathtaking, and for a boy who had previously been frightened of climbing the stairs in a double-decker bus, Pete had no problem with the height.
What he did find most noticeable was the strange silence that pervades the atmosphere on the mountain peaks.
One image that always haunted Pete after his holiday was that of the Rauschberg lake - a tiny little lake near the valley station, which on a fine day sparkles like a brilliant turquoise jewel, as one descends in the Rauschbergbahn car from the heights.


Going further afield, John then proposed a trip to Berchtesgaden - of all places !
Now for the few that do not know, Berchtesgaden was Hitler's favorite town in Germany, and the place where he had his famous mountain retreat - the Berghof.

Adolf Hitler at the Berghof
The trip to Berchtesgaden involved a train ride through the valleys.
Berchtesgaden was a beautiful little place - more a village that a town - full of people pretending that they had never heard of Hitler - (remember that this was only fourteen years after the end of the second world war).

The Watzmann
Berchtesgaden is located in the south district of Berchtesgadener Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km south of 

SA am Brunnen Berchtesgaden
Salzburg and 180 km southeast of Munich.
Berchtesgaden is often associated with the Watzmann, at 2,713 m the third-highest mountain in Germany (after Zugspitze and Hochwanner), which is renowned in the rock climbing community for its Ostwand (East Face), and a deep glacial lake by the name of Königssee (5.2 km²).
Another notable peak is the Kehlstein mountain (1,835 m) with its Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle's Nest), which offers spectacular views to its visitors.

Hitler's involvement with Berchtesgaden began with his friendship with Dietrich Eckart - the dramatist - who had a home called the 'Sonnenhauesl', or as Hitler called it, the "Sonnenkopfl," at Lockstein.
Subsequently, Hitler rented 'Haus Wachenfeld', a small vacation villa across the valley from Mount Untersberg, for four years.

'Haus Wachenfeld',
The Berghof
In 1932, with proceeds earned from royalties from 'Mein Kampf', Adolf Hitler purchased 'Haus Wachenfeld', which would later be known as the 'Berghof'.
Some typical Third Reich buildings which remained in Berchtesgaden in the nineteen-fifties included the railway station, that had a reception area for Hitler and his guests, and the post office next to the railway station.
The Berchtesgadener Hof Hotel was a hotel where famous visitors stayed, such as Eva Braun, Erwin Rommel, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, as well as Neville Chamberlain and David Lloyd George.
(The hotel was demolished in 2006).
Much to Pete's disappointment there was nothing left of the Berghof, because, somewhat like the Berchtesgadener Hof Hotel, it had been demolished by the American Army in 1945.
Apparently the Americans were afraid that the Berghof would become a shrine to Hitler's memory.
Oddly enough, however, the Americans decided not to demolish Hitler's other house, which was situated on the Kehlstein summit, known as the 'Kehlsteinhaus' or 'Adlerhorst' (Eagle's nest), which subsequently did become a shrine to Hitler's memory.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Now the great thing about Berchtesgaden, for Pete anyway, was the fact that there was a 'chair-lift' from the valley to the summit of the Jenner Berg.
This was not like the Rauchberg, with a single cable and an large, enclosed car.
Instead it was a cable on a series of supports, with a number of small, enclosed cars, each one looking, to Pete, suspiciously like little UFOs.
The views from the Jenner were amazing, although not as dramatic as the views from the Rauchberg.

Blick zum Obersalzburg
The Jenner was ascended in the morning, but after lunch, there was a trip to the nearby Obersalzburg.
It is easy to understand why Hitler chose the Obersalzburg as his mountain 'home'.
The beauty of the whole area is quite breathtaking.
Of the Berghof there were only ruins.
It seemed strange, to Pete, that a place of such historical significance should have been wantonly destroyed.

The Berghof was Adolf Hitler's home in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany. 
Rebuilt, much expanded and renamed in 1935, the Berghof was Hitler's vacation residence for ten years. In late April 1945 the house was damaged by British aerial bombs, set on fire by retreating SS troops in early May, and looted after Allied troops reached the area. The burnt out shell was demolished by the Bavarian government in 1952.

Haus Wachenfeld
The Berghof began as a much smaller chalet called Haus Wachenfeld, a holiday home built in 1916 by Otto Winter, a businessman from Buxtehude. Winter's widow rented the house to Hitler in 1928, and his half-sister Angela came to live there as housekeeper, although she left soon after her daughter Geli'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 der Berghof.

der Berghof
A large terrace was built and featured big, colourful, resort-style canvas umbrellas.  A dining room was panelled with very costly cembra pine. Hitler's large study had a telephone switchboard room. The library contained books "on history, painting, architecture and music."

A great hall was furnished with expensive Teutonic furniture, a large globe and an expansive red marble fireplace mantel. Behind one wall was a projection booth for evening screenings of films. A huge picture window could be lowered into the wall to give a sweeping, open air view of the snow-capped mountains.
The Berghof survived until 1952 when the Bavarian government blew it up on 30 April.  This had been part of an agreement under which the Americans handed the area back to the Bavarian authorities. There was fear that the ruins would become a neo-Nazi shrine and sight-seeing attraction.

So - there were only trees and some crumbling foundations for Pete to see.

Kehlsteinhaus - on Completion 1938
And as for the famous Kehlsteinhaus - the Adlerhorst (Eagle's Nest), so often confused with the Berghof, - well that was still controlled by the US Army - but Pete would get to see it some years later.

The Kehlsteinhaus is a chalet-style structure erected on a sub-peak of the Hoher Göll known as the Kehlstein. It was built as an extension of the Obersalzberg complex erected in the mountains above Berchtesgaden. The Kehlsteinhaus was intended as a 50th birthday present for Adolf Hitler to serve as a retreat, and a place for him to entertain visiting dignitaries.


The next trip was across the border to Österreich (Austria - also known, during the third Reich as die Ostmark - the Eastern Province).
The object of this trip was to visit the city of Salzburg.
This, of course, was before the film, 'The Sound of Music', which was released in 1965.

Stadtwappen Salzburg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Salzburg viewed from the Festung Hohensalzburg
Salzburg - (literally 'Salt Fortress') is the fourth-largest city in Austria and the capital of the federal state of Salzburg.
Salzburg's "Old Town" (Altstadt) has internationally renowned baroque architecture and one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps. Host to three universities, and a large population of students, Salzburg is noted for its attractive setting and scenic Alpine backdrop.
Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the mid‑20th century, the city was the setting for parts of the musical play and film "The Sound of Music".

Festung Hohensalzburg - the High Fortress of Salzburg
The First place to visit was the Festung Hohensalzburg - the High Fortress of Salzburg.
The fortress, while not architecturally significant, dominates the whole town - a brooding presence.
Erected at the behest of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg with a length of 250 m (820 ft) and a width of 150 m (490 ft), it is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.
Now although it is possible to climb up the the festung, it is easier, and more fun to use the Festungsbahn, and this is how Pete, Jane and John reached the great fortress.

The Festungsbahn opened in 1892 as a water balance funicular operated by the Salzburger Eisenbahn- und Tramwaygesellschaft. Previously used as barracks, the line made the castle available to a broader range of visitors. The line was rebuilt with new cars and an electric drive in 1960, whilst the lower and upper stations were rebuilt in 1975 and 1976 respectively. In 1991 the line was again modernised, with the provision of new cars with an increased passenger capacity and a faster line speed. Between January and April of 2011, the funicular was again modernized, at a cost of €4 million. Two new vehicles were provided and the electrical equipment replaced. Panoramic windows offer a better view of the city.

Festung Hohensalzburg
When Pete, Jane and John used the Festungsbahn it was still the old-style water balance funicular.
For Pete, the Fortress was not particularly interesting.
It was dark and brooding, and it was only on the battlements, when it was possible to view the city and the surrounding mountains, that this sense of gloom was relieved.
John spent most of his time studying the various exhibits of medieval and renaissance weapons.
There was a very pleasant restaurant in the fortress, and so Pete Jane and John had lunch looking over the beautiful city of Salzburg.
After walking down from the Festung, the next port of call was the Domplatz - Cathedral Square - and, of course, the Cathedral.

Salzburger Dom is a seventeenth-century Baroque cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Salzburg in the city of Salzburg, Austria, dedicated to Saint Rupert and Saint Vergilius. Founded by Saint Rupert in 774 on the remnants of a Roman town, the cathedral was rebuilt in 1181 after a fire. In the seventeenth century, the cathedral was completely rebuilt in the Baroque style under Prince-Bishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau to its present appearance. Salzburg Cathedral still contains the baptismal font in which composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized.

The cathedral was beautifully baroque, in a uniquely Austrian manner, like much of Salzburg, but for Pete the most interesting part of the cathedral was the mysterious, and rather 'spooky' crypt.

Mozart's house was, for Peter anyway, a bore - and had little significance as he didn't know any of Mozart's music.

Eventually the afternoon wore on, and it was time to get a taxi back to the Hauptbahnhof.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
The taxi driver was a man about John's age, and a long time resident of Salzburg.

He told a little of his life in Salzburg and, unlike most Germans and Austrians at the time, he actually mentioned the war.

He explained that he had served in the army, as a private soldier, on the Russian front, and his description of the grey snow and the intense cold contrasted sharply with the late afternoon sun, which was dappling the full leaved trees with various shades of pink, red and purple.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

It was a sad account, and seemed, very poignantly, to highlight the futility of war - and it was a strange note on which to end what had been an enchanting visit to Salzburg.

And while Jane and John would never return to the tranquil city, Peter would, in later years, visit it many times.


At the beginning of the second week in Rhupolding there were some new guests in Tant Agnes' house – but these were not English holidaymakers.
They were holidaymakers, however.
A German family, and in fact Agnes' sister, and her husband, and two grown-up children.
The father – Gerhard Friedag was not a Bavarian, and in fact he was from North Germany, from a small city in the north-western state of Westfalen, close to the border with Holland, called Münster, and this was where the family now lived.
Agnes' sister was called Ursula, and her two children were called Gerd (short for Gerhard), and Karen.
Both the children were blonde and blue-eyed – the boy, Gerd, stunningly handsome, and Karen, beautiful, with a touch of Marlene Dietrich in her looks.
'Mutty', spoke no English, but Gerhard, an apparently cultured, cigar smoking 'man of the world', prided himself on what he considered was his good command of English.
Karen and Gerd had both learned English at school, and while Gerd's English was good, Karen's was excellent, and later in life, back in Münster, she became an English teacher.
They were remarkably friendly, although Pete felt that the family was a little put off by his dark looks – Pete, although good-looking, and well built, was far from the Nordic 'Aryan' ideal.
And so, much of the rest of the holiday was spent as a 'group'.
Gerhard and Ursula had met before the war (that's the 1939-1945 war).
Kraft durch Freude (KdF)
Münster - City Arms
Perhaps, for Gerhard, it was a 'Kraft durch Freude' (Strength through Joy) jaunt – who knows ?
Regardless, Gerhard had taken his canoe (yes canoe – an odd thing to take to the Alps), for a 'canoeing holiday' in Bayern, and there he had met the comely Ursula, and whisked her back to to his home town of Münster – far away from the mountain meadows, to the flat lands of the North German Plain.
Since then they had returned regularly in the warm, welcoming Summer to sleepy little Rhupolding.
Gerhard, it seemed was connected to the Opera House in Münster.
Unlike England, every city, or even large town in Germany had/has an opera house.
The opera house in Münster had been bombed to bits during the war - with only one wall left standing.
Subsequently that 'one wall' was incorporated into the new modern opera house, completed within about twelve years of the war - (and where did the money come from for that - and almost the entire rebuilding of a practically flattened Münster.
The ruined wall of the opera house was meant to be a memorial to 'Deutsch Kultur', and a reminder of the 'barbarism' of Germany's uncultured and philistine enemies.
Now just exactly what Herr Friedag did in the opera House was difficult to tell.
At first it seemed that he was the 'Direktor' - whether of the whole opera house, or just one department was unclear - however, the family didn't seem to be affluent enough for the 'breadwinner' to have such a well paid position.
Even many years later, after Herr Friedag had died, it was never too clear to Pete what he really did.
Equally, to begin with - and you must remember that on that trip Pete was still very young - Pete could never work out why the family was so friendly - after all, John had been rounding up German spies in Cairo only a relatively short time before this holiday.
As to what Herr Friedag had been doing from 1933 until 1945, not a word was ever said.
For all Pete knew he could have been a high ranking SS officer, now posing as a bespectacled, and somewhat overweight family man, working in the management of a provincial opera house.
SS in Rhupolding - 1943
it looks exactly like a younger version of
'tante' Agness making eyes at the SS boy
- could it be ?
Probably not - but stranger things have happened.
Which brings us to the SS - once again.
On a number of evenings Pete, Jane and John had accompanied the Friedags to the Kurhaus (a Kurhaus  - 'cure house' serves as the social center of the village, many events throughout the year.)
Kurhaus - Ruhpolding - 1950s
One evening, towards the end of the holiday Gerhard introduced John to someone he thought that John would be interesting in meeting.
So there, over drinks of schnapps, John and Pete (who had tagged along, out of curiosity) were introduced to the brother of Adolf Hitler's father-in law - the uncle of Eva Braun, (Frau Hitler, as she had been for a few hours).
Apparently members of the Braun family had been living quite openly in Ruhpolding since the end of the war.
Regardless, John and the uncle had a long conversation, with Gerhard translating.
Obviously, there were many things that John wanted to know on meeting someone who had some connection with Hitler and his associates.
Much of the conversation Pete did not fully understand.
Towards the end of their talk, Eva Braun's uncle produced his wallet, taking out a couple of large, 'silver' coins and a 'silver ring' .
Apparently he wanted to give them to Pete - as an apparently 'friendly' gesture.
The coins were Reichsmarks, emblazoned with the Third Reich eagle and swastika, and the ring was also decorated with SS Runes and a swastika, along with some other runes.
And why was he giving away these 'trophies'.
Simply because at that time it was illegal for Germans to possess such items - and they were eager to get rid of them however they could.
Passing more valuable items to individuals who might be of some assistance to them, should there be any further 'troubles', (like the Russians invading - yes - the Germans at that time were terrified that the Soviets were about to invade the Federal Republic), was seen as a sensible move - and John (who was always addressed by Gerhard as 'Sir John' (why it was impossible to tell), might have been seen as a person of influence.
Franziska Braun and Friedrich "Fritz" Braun
So John, thinking that they could probably be of some value, and were, regardless, of historical interest, accepted them on behalf of Pete.
Later that evening, however, John made it clear to Pete that he should not wear the ring (unlikely - as it was far too big for Pete), or try to buy anything with the coins, as they were only 'souvenirs'.
And of course, we are left with the question - how was it that Gerhard was so 'pally' with the Braun family - and particularly the uncle - who just happened to have a Totenkopf ring ? - and was it his ring ? -
Well, no...
It was not his name inscribed on the inner surface - however - the husband of Eva Braun's sister, Gretl, was a member of the SS.......SS-Gruppenführer Hermann Fegelein.....
The SS-Ehrenring ("SS Honour Ring"), unofficially called Totenkopfring ("Death's Head Ring"), was an award of Heinrich Himmler's Schutzstaffel (SS). It was not a state decoration, but rather a personal gift bestowed by Himmler. It became a highly sought-after award, one which could not be bought or sold.
Oddly, something very similar happened to Pete a few years later, also involving some Third Reich memorabilia - but that's in another, later chapter.
Eva Braun's mother, Franziska, died at age 96 in January 1976, having lived out her days in an old farmhouse in Ruhpolding, Bavaria. Her father, Fritz, died in 1964.

So the holiday went on, with more walks and more trips up into the mountains and more surprises.
Die Kirche des Hl. Georg - Ruhpolding - Bayern
Late in the holiday Karen asked Peter to accompany here to church - not that she really wanted Pete's company - in fact that was the last thing she wanted.
Pete - not realizing at the time - was simply there to reassure Herr Friedag that Karen was really going to church, and not intending to have an assignation with a young man.
Construction of this hilltop church began in 1738, though it was not consecrated by Bishop Franz Truchsess of Chiemsee until 1754. Gunezrhainer, the court’s master architect, kept the exterior façade simple. Yet everyone is certain to be touched by the harmony which radiates from the interior of this house of worship, by the monumental power of the high altar, and by the artistic beauty of the carved saintly figures. The crowning glory of the shimmering golden Rococo interior of George's is undoubtedly on the left side of the chancel, a feature unmatched anywhere else in Bavaria. The golden case of the right-hand side altar houses the church’s most significant sculpture, the Romanesque Madonna from the 12th century. Its creator and origins are unknown.
Of course an 'assignation' was exactly what Karen had in mind, and Pete was left kicking his heels while Karen 'dallied' with her handsome young man (well, boy really).
Karen, it seemed, was a willful girl, fond of 'stringing the boys along', while her father seemed to be possessive, domineering and jealous.
Only later would Pete understand how many fathers had a rather 'unwholesome' attachment to one, or some, or all of their daughters (depending on the size of the family) - and it seemed quite probable, (as later events would indicate), that Gerhard was one of those fathers.
And, of course, it rained, so Karen and Pete returned to the center of the village quite soggy.
Peter, however, never told of that morning, spent under a dripping tree, waiting for Karen to tire of her 'dalliance' with a poor, unsuspecting boy.


But, like all good things (and most bad things), the holiday had to come to an end.
The Friedags, 'tante' Agness and little Claus (in his very short Lederhosen) all came to the station.
What was odd was that, as the goodbyes were said, the Friedags and Agnes were crying.
Pete, Jane and John, being English and reserved, kept 'stiff upper lips', and didn't cry.
Pete didn't even feel like crying, but he was sad to leave the beautiful mountains.
The Friegdags insisted that Jane and John should come to Münster the following year (did they really mean to leave Pete out?).
Now holiday friends often say such thing, but with the village band playing 'Auf Wiedersehen' and all the tears, it was hard not to believe that they were sincere.
And so the Pullman carriages rolled out of the tiny station - and Pete knew that he would never be the same again.....
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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

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