Eagles Nest

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Sep 06, 2013

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Saturday, September 24, 2011

   This year's selection of books from book club includes lots of WW II related material.  I don’t really think that was the intent of the group, but somehow each year a theme seems to run through the books.  WW II is the backdrop for prejudice, or more often triumph over adversity for each of the protagonists in the books read.  Those books were running through my head as we visited Eagle’s Nest in Germany. 

    I also had a mental image from the TV series "Band of Brothers".  In the end two of the central characters are at what I thought was Eagle’s Nest.  The only similarity between the TV depiction in my mind and reality was the Alpine location.  Eagle’s Nest was a reception hall/tea room built for Adolph Hitler in honor of his 50th birthday.  The engineering marvel of the facility lies in its location; perched on the edge of a mountain; and the road built leading to the building.  Both were completed within 16 - 18 months demonstrating the precision and maybe you could say dedication of the German engineers.  Surprisingly none of it was built with slave labor, after all at the point of construction Germany had enslaved a good portion of Europe.  On reflection it sure seemed like a lot of money for a reception hall when you would have thought every penny collected would have been dedicated to their war effort.  The money came from “the party” which confused me because I didn’t know how the government was separated from the Nazi party.  It showed yet again that my knowledge of history and geography are both sadly lacking.

    During the bus ride between Garmisch and the town near Eagle’s Nest our tour guide explained what we saw in the countryside, a bit of background on Eagle’s Nest, and then showed us a video.  The video did a fairly thorough explanation on its construction and use.

    The bus to Eagle’s Nest leaves from an area that had been dedicated to personal homes of senior Nazi officials.  It was bombed during the final days of WW II in Europe, but was totally destroyed within the last 10 years to create a 5-star hotel resort complex.  You cannot deny the beauty of the natural surroundings.  But like Gettysburg ghosts, hatred still radiated from the place.  If you visit Gettysburg, especially after reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, you can see in your minds eye some of the chaos, but you can definitely feel the ghosts surrounding you. 

    We climbed on the bus and rode up the mountainside with only 2 switchbacks on the way between the area where Hitler and his generals had lived to the reception building/tea house of Eagle’s Nest.  You climb off the bus and head through a tunnel to a brass elevator.  I could imagine the number of SS officers that had stood in that same elevator.  I wondered if they were fearful about failure, proud of what they were doing, or just totally immune to the situation.  At the top, Randy and I immediately climbed over the rocks and paths leading around the building.  The views are spectacular.  The restaurant that now occupies the building was saved by a former government official.  There are a few photos on a wall about its former use, but otherwise there is little to no connection made to the people and era of its construction.

    From the video explanation we knew the fireplace mantle of Italian red marble was given by Mussolini as a birthday gift.  The hall where it is located diners jockeyed for a seat with a view of the TV suspended from the ceiling, rather than the outside, totally disassociating the present from the past.  We drifted downstairs into the panel lined room with a bay window that had been Eva Braun’s room.  I looked out the window, while Randy tried to get the picture of me he wanted lined up.  “Smile” he said to me.  My response shocked him, and put things back in perspective for him.  “No,” I said.  “This is Eva Braun’s room and I’m totally creeped out.”  It was only then that he realized how much the place meant to me, a Jewish American woman standing in the same spot that others had stood that hated me with such a passion.  I was appalled at those diners looking for a seat with a plate full of cheap food and an eye on TV.  I did want to sit and have a drink, just to thumb my nose at those that had come before me to say “I’m here enjoying myself because you lost, thank goodness.”  We ran out of time for that relaxed moment. 

So Randy had a beer anyways, because after all we were in Germany.  He ordered a large bottle at a shack on the hillside and two cups. 

And Randy adds…..we toasted,

“Eat dessert first”
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