The Berchtesgadener Land is not only nowadays well-known as a popular tourist destination, there is also a dark part of the history of the reason. The Berghof (“Moutain Court” or “Mountain Farm”) on the Obersalzberg mountain was the private residence of Adolf Hitler. It subsequentially became something like the second seat of the government. The original building has been destroyed and plundered at the end of World War II – nowadays, the a nearby location hosts a memorial / documentation center. The adjacent bunker is, however, partially preserved.
Please note that parts of the exhibition and thus also this review document evidences of extreme violence.
Obersalzberg – Location & Admission
The original name of the memorial site is Documentation Obersalzberg, roughly meaning “Obersalzberg Documentation Center”. The center is located four kms East of Berchtesgaden, next to the B319 national route. The area features two major parking lots. There are also buses to the uphill Kehlsteinhaus, which is 1834 meters above sea level. However, during my visit in summer 2020, the Kehlsteinhaus was closed due to renovation. Especially due to the shortage of capacity due to the pandemic measures, there were significant queues to enter the museum. The museum is located at the former Gästehaus Hoher Göll (“Guesthouse High Göll”) location. I did not visit the original Berghof location, which is just a few walls in the middle of the forest nowadays.
The exhibition is opening in summer months from 9:00 to 17:00 daily. During winter (November to March), the times are 10:00 to 15:00, Mondays closed. Adult admission is 3 Euro, there are reductions on the admission as well as on the parking fee (3 Euro / day) if you stay in a regional hotel. At the time of my visit, they were already construction a major exhibition site next to the building. A bit of ironically, one of the best hotels of the region is just a short drive away and located on original Obersalzberg site grounds.
Obersalzberg – The Visit
Visiting the Obersalzberg Documentation Center can be split into three parts: on the upper level of the museum building, you learn about Obersalzberg and the Berghof and its history. The lower level gives a general overview on Nazi cruelties. Finally, you visit the bunker area. There are printed guides in multiple languages to illustrate the key exhibits. Furthermore, you may rent an audio guide.
Right after passing the entrance area, you however start with a portrait of Hitler as well accompanied by pictures of victims of the Nazi times. Then you head upstairs to the Berghof history area. To me there were two impressive key facts I took away from that part of the visit. First of all, I was impressed – and shocked – by the vast complexity and size of the area, especially the connections of the buildings by bunkers.Secondly, the way the locals and local press felt honored to host Hitler in their area was impressive to me, too. The exhibition is very illustrative, with blueprints, models, pictures and similar items.
The lower floor is illustrating the Nazi system. You learn, how / why Hitler could take over the governmental power in Germany. The key heads of the Nazi regime are shown and their roles are explained at one side of the exhibitions. Even though the museum building is compact, they give a really good overview. This includes topics like the political organization of the Dritte Reich as well as the concentration camps. You also see how victims were slaughtered / murdered.
Even though you can just visit a fraction of the original bunker area (including major parts which have not been completed), going below the surface is definitely the most memorable part of your visit at Obersalzberg. The nowadays public area is huge – and the museum does a great job to illustrate all the functions covered below the ground. I majorly remember the massive protection doors with machine gun outlets and a huge vertical tunnel, which is supposed to hold an elevator one day – which has never been built.
Obersalzberg – Services
The Obersalzberg Documentation Center hosts a small shop, where you can buy very good literature about the role of the Obersalzberg region during the Dritte Reich. At the lower parking lot (which also features the Kehlsteinhaus bus service), there seems to be a restaurant during non-pandemic times. While most of the original buildings of Nazi times have been destroyed, there is one guesthouse nearby which has been existing during the 1940’s already.
Obersalzberg – My View
Visiting the Dokumentation Obersalzberg is a must do when you visit the region. The area is just too closely linked to the darkest hours of German history. Visiting the bunker area is the most impressive part – but the whole exhibition is very well done. Again, please note that the exhibition is definitely not suitable for minor children in my point of view. I strongly support the philosophy of the Obersalzberg Documentation Center to be illustrative – which also means that there are some very hard to stand pictures in the exhibition.
Nazi Germany Memorials
Here are all places memorizing about the cruelties during the German Nazi leadership: