Background: This chapter from an illustrated book on Adolf Hitler discusses Hitler’s “private life.” There are a number of illustrated books like this published during the Nazi era. They were large books in which one pasted photographs received as premiums. The picture of Hitler’s mountain retreat is not from the book.
The source: Wilhelm Brückner, “Der Führer in seinem Privatleben,” Adolf Hitler. Bilder aus dem Leben des Führers (Hamburg: Cigaretten/Bilderdienst Hamburg/Bahrenfeld, 1936, pp. 35-43.
The Führer’s Private Life
It is obvious that a man so involved in political work as the Führer is must sacrifice his personal life. Even if he wants to escape the press of official business, political problems follow him to the most distant corner of the German homeland, be it only a small, quiet village in the dunes of the Baltic Sea or the Haus Wachenfeld on the Obersalzberg. They chase after him not only in the form of telephone calls, telegrams, letters, and files. Constant political work, a concern for Germany, cannot be banned from the heart. The Führer goes to bed late each night with these concerns, and awakens to them in the morning. He faces problems in foreign relations, the necessity for a new employment drive, challenges in finance, the need to guarantee the German people’s food supply, problems in educating the youth, questions about German culture, decisions on matters regarding the re-establishment of German military security — and on it goes. There is hardly a conversation that does not lead to central political questions, hardly an experience that does not recall important political decisions. Everything in Germany begins and ends with this man. Even when it appears he has withdrawn for a few days to relax, it is but to prepare for further major decisions, for new labors. Even in an airplane, messages reach him from his Reichsleiter and ministers.
The Führer’s private life therefore cannot be separated from his official duties, from his work for Germany. If one speaks of his private life, one can only say that it involves moving his political work from his office in the Reich Chancellery to less official quarters.
Nevertheless, he finds time to consider all the questions of art and science. He favorite way to relax from the stresses of the day’s work is music, in listening to an opera or a symphony concert. Only then is he freed from the stress of the day, and many major creative thoughts develop as he is absorbed in the powerful kingdom of sound.
From time to time, the Führer also invites leading German artists to his official dwelling in the Reich Chancellery. They tell him of the best creations of our day, and not infrequently the conversation then turns to music and drama, poetry and novels, architecture and philosophy, going on late into the night. No one leaves after such an evening without being filled with valuable ideas.
Besides music, theater and architecture, the Führer takes a particular interest in film, the youngest branch of the arts. A film projector in the great hall of the Reich Chancellery makes it possible, between the pressing questions of the day, to watch films from Germany and the world. The Führer also gives those in film many new ideas from his knowledge of things.
Often the Führer invites those who have come for an appointment with him to stay for lunch so that he has the time to go into more depth on particular matters that struck him during the discussion. These are people from every area, from the military, science, economy, the arts, leading party officials, and old fighting comrades from the early days of the war of the movement. They join the Führer for lunch, and receive new knowledge and ideas not only from him, but from the conversation.
The Führer likes to use weekends to learn what people are thinking, and to check on the progress of things without the trappings of an official visit. He uses the car he became so fond of during the period of struggle, driving though all parts of Germany. In almost every place, there is some kind of memory from the period of struggle. The enormous love people display toward him is always a new and moving experience for those who accompany him.
There are several places in Germany to which the Führer always returns to when he needs a brief time for relaxation. His favorite is the house on the Obersalzberg, familiar to every German, since it is so closely tied to the history of the movement. There are also a few places in the dunes along the Baltic Sea and the North Sea to which the Führer retires for a brief period of relaxation, or to conduct important discussions. Strolls through the beech forests along the coast have often provided both relaxation and led to important political decisions. Without any shyness, children come to greet the Führer, extend their hands, and tell him all their small, yet to them important, experiences. It sometimes happens that the Führer interrupts the most important conversations to spend a few minutes with the joys and sorrows of a child.
At major harbors, sailors gather round the Führer. A short, pleasant evening passes as they discuss the war, U-boat missions, and the battles at Skaggerak. It is the same at small garrisons in the countryside, where the Führer tells gripping and moving stories of his own experiences on the Western Front.
During his travels, he often has a short picnic at a scenic spot, be it on a bright summer day or a warm, lovely moonlit night. Often, berry pickers or wood gatherers are surprised to meet the Führer in a meadow, peeling an apple or eating a sandwich. He waves and invites them to join him.
Some people ask why the Führer chose the Obersalzberg. Anyone who has been there, however, knows that there is probably no place in Germany where one is so near to the mountains, yet has such a wide and open view of the world’s splendour. Through a gap in the mountains, the old bishop’s city of Salzburg lies. On a clear day, one can see the castle and the city. If there is no wind, a telescope enables one to see all the details of the buildings. The Untersberg towers to the left, its colors changing every day. Still further, one sees the Watzmann and other huge mountains, the view finally reaching to the Höhen Göll in the distance.
Every day here is different. One morning, the fog fights a desperate battle against the rising sun, until is it defeated and must rise from the valleys. Toward afternoon, the last clouds vanish from the azure blue sky. Other days begin with bright sunshine that reveals every last detail. The warm wind comes, filling the values with its warm, longing voice. Then rain and snow whip down from the mountains against the small, simple country house.
Here, in the middle of the beauties of nature, a parable of human events, the Führer comes when he is preparing his major speeches, which often give new direction to events not only in Germany, but throughout the world. Here important conversations occur before great decisions are made that will influence coming centuries.
A German-American from the Stueben Society visited this small country house during a visit to his old homeland. He captured it in these words: “We Germans in America did not know the new Germany. We knew only the old Germany, and visited the palaces and castles of earlier days. But now we have visited this house, and found a clear example of the difference between the Germany that Adolf Hitler has created and the old Germany. We also know the inexhaustible source from which he gathers the material for his speeches.”
And it is true that here, far from the confusing turmoil of everyday life, the searching spirit is led by the grandeur of the landscape to find the right paths for the people and the fatherland. Still, the Führer cannot enjoy the beauties of nature in the same way as a vacationer, who can leave all his daily concerns at home. Even as he arrives at the Obersalzberg, he finds a substantial number of letters and files, telegrams, and telephone calls, and every visit from the post office brings new work. Nearly every day, ministers and Reichsleiter want to know the Führer’s opinion on some important and immediate matter. Often they come to Berchtesgaden to talk with the Führer, even during his brief vacation. Party matters, which take second place to important political decisions in Berlin, are dealt with, and the Führer has time to study many works of literature and politics, both domestic and foreign, for which there is no time in the Reich Chancellery. The lights in his study burn late into the night. His staff has long since gone to bed. There is wonderful silence, and the Führer reads. These are his happiest hours. The next morning, however, the telegrams arrive again. There are dozens of telephone messages, stacks of files, piles of mail. That’s the way it is: When the Führer goes on vacation to the Obersalzberg, the postal and telephone offices in Berchtesgaden do a booming business. And the Führer’s staff has a lot to do as well, since good ideas flow and decisions are made quickly.
Before breakfast, the Führer has already read the newspapers. He goes through them himself rather than have his staff select things for him to read. Then his adjutant, his press chief, and others on his staff lay out the day’s schedule. Then there is breakfast, after which there are appointments with ministers, Reichsleiter, close aides, and party members. In between, there is the mail. The Führer outlines an answer, or dictates it himself. So the morning passes.
After a productive morning, there is a shorter or longer afternoon walk, or a trip in the area. In both winter and summer, the Führer particularly likes to walk to the Göll Hut, where Dietrich Eckart lived until death tore him from the Führer’s side.
Just as gladly, the Führer goes to the Königsee, that unique jewel of Germany’s mountains, with the vertical wall of the Watzmann and the always unforgettable splendor of idyllic St. Bartholomew’s.
If there is not time for a long walk, when there is work to be done immediately after lunch, there is often at least enough time for a visit to the guest house or to head over to Minister President Göring’s house when he is there. Party comrade Göring is pleased to arrange for target practice with the bow and arrow, at which he is an expert.
Afterwards, there are often only a few minutes left in the day. He may spend them in the garden with his wolf hounds, which have a deep love for him, or in winter he may thoughtfully watch the birds gathered at the large bird feeders, who devour what Adolf Hitler set out for them in the morning. The daily schedule varies. Only one thing is certain. Every day, hundreds and thousands of citizens gather along the path to see the Führer at noon. The Führer probably knows that they have come to Berchtesgaden not only to see him, but to express the love of the entire people. He always makes sure their deepest wish is fulfilled. It is always a moving experience to see the excitement that breaks out what the Führer joins them. Blue and white collar workers have come from everywhere in Germany. It is like a pilgrimage. Whether big or small, they all press forward toward the Führer. Their eyes gleam, they raise their hands, and many are so moved that they have tears in their eyes. As they pass, they should out their membership to every German tribe: “From Upper Silesia,” “from East Prussia,” “from Schleswig,” “from “Oldenbourg,” “from Saxony,” “from Hamburg,” and so on. Little Pimpfs [young boys who were members of the Hitler Youth] and BDM girls slide through the barriers like weasels to the Führer, handing them their carefully prepared bouquets, and are delighted when the Führer talks with them, and even happier if he invites several of them to lunch or to coffee.
At lunch, all his guests and his aides sit comfortably together Laughter often echoes through the room. These short minutes pass in a relaxed and confortable manner. Architects and artists frequently come to discuss their latest plans with the Führer. The Führer is interested in each and every new cultural project, and discusses the plans at length. Dr. Todt, the general inspector of the Reich Autobahn, always finds the Führer interested in his plans and photographs. And the Führer’s old comrades from the World War are always welcome guests at the Obersalzberg.
Even when the work at the Obersalzberg does not want to cease, the Führer finds new strength in a brief, vigorous walk. It makes no difference to him whether a hot summer sun is beaming down from the heavens, crunchy snow covers the mountains, rain falls, or fog covers everything. These walks are not always a complete pleasure for the Führer’s companions, who live in large cities and have forgotten how to climb mountains. The Führer keeps up a strong pace, and even people in good condition have trouble walking at his pace. His aides sometimes have trouble keeping up with him. While they are breathing heavily, the Führer keeps moving quickly and tirelessly.
As short as these vacations are, they are often made even shorter by unexpected events. But never does the Führer have such pleasant days as those few days he spends here in the mountains.
As the mountains are eternal over the millennia, so too the work the Führer has begun will be eternal, living on in his people through thousands of years.
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