The Hitler Trail
- Published: 13 June 2010 13 June 2010
- Last Updated: 07 March 2013 07 March 2013
by Adam Carr
The contemporary photos in this thread were taken by me on three trips to Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland, between 2006 and 2008.
For someone with historical interests travelling around Germany and Austria, places associated with Adolf Hitler are hard to avoid. I didn’t go out of my way to find them, but when they were nearby, I went to see. So I didn’t go to Braunau-am-Inn, in Austria, where he was born. But I did go to Leonding, a suburb of Linz, where he spent most of his childhood. This is the house where his family lived. There is nothing to mark this fact. It now houses the administration office for the Leonding cemetery.
Across the road from the Hitler house are the Leonding church and cemetery, where Hitler’s parents, Alois and Klara Hitler, are buried. Alois Hitler was an Austrian customs official who lived in a number of towns along the German-Austrian border. Linz was his last posting and from there he retired to Leonding, where lived until his death. The Hitlers’ grave has survived unscathed for over a century, and is still carefully maintained today. Someone regularly adds flowers and the devotional candles in glass jars which one frequently sees on graves in Catholic Europe.
Alois Hitler was by all accounts a drunk and a bully (as was Stalin’s father), and Hitler cannot have been much upset by his death in 1903. But he idolised his mother, and was greatly distressed by her death from breast cancer in 1907. He kept a picture of her beside his bed for the rest of his life. This photo (borrowed with thanks from Geoff Walden’s “Third Reich in Ruins” website) shows Hitler visiting the grave on his return to Austria in March 1938. It’s noticeable that the Christian cross above the headstone has been covered up with wreaths.
This is Linz town square, featuring the baroque memorial giving thanks for the town’s deliverance from the plague. Hitler regarded Linz as his home town, but after his mother’s death he left for Vienna and did not return. He showed no interest in the fate of his orphaned sister Paula, although she remained devoted to him.
Thirty years later, in March 1938, Hitler returned to Linz as the triumphant leader of the German Reich. Greeted by hysterical crowds, he spoke from the balcony of the Town Hall, proclaiming the union of Germany and Austria in the Greater German Reich. In this photo the balcony Hitler spoke from is obscured by the hoarding announcing the city’s May 1 celebrations, organised by its Social Democratic city council.
Hitler had grand plans for Linz, including a giant gallery to house the artworks he had looted from all over Europe, and a huge mausoleum for himself. As it was, his only lasting contribution to the city was the Nibelungen Bridge, of which the stone pillars and the stone approaches at the ends survive. The bridge itself, however, appears to be a postwar replacement. During the Allied occupation of Austria this bridge was the border between the US and Soviet zones. It was also a crossing points for ethnic German refugees expelled from Czechoslovakia.
Hitler arrived in Vienna with plans to be an artist. At this time Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, full of grandiose buildings in gothic, baroque and neo-classical styles. The Austrian parliament building, seen here, is a prime example of overblown Viennese classicism. Hitler’s taste for monumental classicism dates from his youthful experiences in Vienna, and this was the style he wanted his court architects, Paul Troost and later Albert Speer, to emulate.
When Hitler arrived in Vienna, aged 19, he was entitled to an orphan’s pension and was able to live reasonably comfortably. He and a friend from Linz, August Kubizek, lived in an apartment block in Stumpergasse. In his memoirs Kubizek says it was at number 29, while Hitler’s most recent biographer Ian Kershaw says it was at 31. This photo shows both buildings, with the more opulent-looking number 29 (now “World of Reptiles”) at left.
Hitler’s desire to be an artist was thwarted when his applications to study at the Vienna Academy of Visual Arts (whose grand building is seen here), were twice rejected. The story that the director who rejected his applications was Jewish, and that this was the source of Hitler’s anti-Semitism, seems to be a myth. Following his rejection Hitler cut himself off from his family and drifted into a life of aimless poverty.
Hitler was unable to admit to Kubizek (a music student) that he had been rejected by the Academy. So he simply moved out without a word, and Kubizek didn’t see him again until 1938. After moving out of the Stumpergasse apartment, he found a cheaper apartment at Felberstrasse 22, seen here (the facade appears to have been remodelled since the war). This is a very seedy area today, and probably was then.
In 1909 Hitler moved again, to an even cheaper apartment at Sechshauserstrasse 58, seen here, above “Cafe Maxx”. In September 1909 he finally ran out of money and could no longer pay rent. It never occurred to him to look for work – he still thought of himself as an artist. The postwar stories that he worked as a housepainter or a paper-hanger are incorrect.
Between 1909 and 1912 Hitler lived in several homes for men in different parts of Vienna. He scraped a living by painting and selling small cards with views of Vienna. He also painted larger watercolours but was unable to sell many of them. In 1909 and 1910 he lived in this home in Kastanienallee, which is still a homeless shelter today. The home Hitler lived in from 1910 to 1912, the Männerheim in Meldemann Strasse, no longer exists.
Hitler’s basic political ideas were formed during his years as a drifter in Vienna: pan-German nationalism, anti-Marxism and anti-Semitism. The most important influence on his politics was Dr Karl Lueger, Mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910. Lueger’s Christian Social party combined populist welfareism with anti-Semitism. Lueger’s anti-Semitism was largely opportunist. When criticised for having Jewish friends, he famously replied: “I decide who is a Jew.” It is surprising to find a part of Vienna’s famous Ring is still named for Lueger.
In 1913, to avoid Austrian military service, Hitler moved to Munich in Germany, which he later came to regard as his home. There he pursued the same aimless life he had followed in Vienna, earning a meagre living as a painter. He rented an apartment owned by a tailor named Joseph Popp in this apartment block on Schleissheimerstrasse. The facade has been remodelled in to a “modern” style since the war.
Hitler was rescued from his aimless existence by the outbreak of was in 1914. A famous photograph by Heinrich Hoffman (later Hitler’s court photographer) captured Hitler in the crowd celebrating the outbreak of war in the Odeonsplatz, in front of the Feldherrenhalle war memorial. It was in this same square that the Beer Hall Putsch ended in a bloody melee in November 1923.
The Odeonsplatz today. In the Hoffman photo, Hitler was standing roughly on the circular decoration in the square, in front of the stone lion which forms part of the front of the Feldherrenhalle. The yellow building behind is the Theatinerkirche (1690).
Hitler immediately joined the German Army, serving with the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment (known as the List Regiment) on the western front in Belgium and France. He took part in the actions at Ypres, on the Somme, again at Ypres and at Passchendaele. My grandfather, Major Ernest Chenery MC, fought in the Australian Army at Ypres at the same time Hitler was there. This is the Birr Cross Roads military cemetery at Ypres, where my grandmother’s first cousin, Driver George Eddington, is buried.
In 1918 Hitler was temporarily blinded in an Allied poison gas attack. (It should be noted that the Germans were the first to use gas as a weapon of war, at Ypres.) He was sent to recuperate in a military hospital in Pasewalk, in western Pomerania. He was still in the hospital when the war ended in November 1918. This is the railway station at Pasewalk, which I passed through on my way from Peenemünde to Szczecin.
On his return to Munich in 1919, Hitler rented an apartment in this building on Thierschstrasse. Since he was still receiving Army pay, it was of a somewhat higher standard than his earlier abodes, but it was a basic bachelor apartment and after 1925 increasingly unsuitable for a rising party leader. Hitler lived here until 1929, apart from the year he spent in prison after the Beer Hall Putsch.
Hitler never acquired regular work habits and spent much of his time hanging out in various Munich coffee shops and bars, although he was a very moderate drinker even then. This was the Osteria Bavaria, today the Osteria Italiana, one his favourite haunts. Its external appearance has hardly changed. It was here that he met his English aristocratic admirers, Unity and Diana Mitford (later Lady Mosley).
In the early years of the Nazi Party, the party held its meetings in various beer halls around Munich, and also used them to hold agitational rallies, which frequently led to riots. The SA and later the SS were founded to protect Nazi speakers and beat up their enemies. The most famous of these beer halls was the Bürgerbraukeller, where the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch was launched. The Bürgerbraukeller was demolished in 1979. This is the Hofbräuhaus, where Hitler made his first public speeches. Here in July 1921 Hitler became Leader (Führer) of the Nazi Party.
This is the Löwenbraukeller, another beer hall where Nazi rallies were frequently held and where Hitler often spoke. After the bomb attempt on his life at the Bürgerbraukeller in 1939, Hitler used the Löwenbraukeller for his Munich speeches. He last spoke here in 1943, on the 20th anniversary of the Beer Hall Putsch.
The Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 marked the climax of Hitler’s career as a revolutionary agitator. The march ended here, at the Feldherrenhalle on Odeonsplatz, when the Munich police opened fire on the Nazi marchers, killing 16. Four police were also killed. In Nazi times there was a large memorial to the fallen putschists here. Now there is a plaque to the four police.
Munich remained the “Capital of the Movement” through the Nazi period. The party headquarters were in the Brown House (Braune Haus), in Brienner Strasse. The building was destroyed by American bombers in 1945 and the site has sat empty ever since. In 2006 the foundations were excavated and it was proposed to turn the site into a memorial, but by 2008 it had been covered up again.
In 1929 some of the Nazi Party’s wealthy supporters bought Hitler a large furnished apartment on Prinzregentenplatz, in the most fashionable part of Munich – it is still a very affluent area today. Hitler lived here until he became Chancellor in 1933. It remained his legal residence until his death, and then, like all his property, passed to the State of Bavaria, which has kept it locked up ever since. The apartment is on the first floor. Hitler’s half-niece, Geli Raubal, with whom he was infatuated, killed herself in this apartment in 1931.
Once Hitler came to power he set about building a new Nazi government precinct in Munich, near the Braune Haus. This is the Führer’s Building (Führerbau), where Hitler had his Munich offices. The building was designed by Professor Paul Troost and completed in 1936. Today it is a music school. Above the entrance, the holes left by the bolts which held a large Nazi eagle can still be seen.
The 1938 Munich Conference, which handed Czechoslovakia over to Hitler, was held in the Führerbau. From left to right: Neville Chamberlain, Paul Daladier, Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano. Behind Hitler’s shoulder: Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Another favourite project of Hitler’s designed by Paul Troost was the House of German Art (Haus der deutschen Kunst), a large art gallery in the “monumental classicist” style which became characteristic of the Third Reich. Munich people called it the “Athens railways station.” Today vines and trees serve to soften the ugliness of its stark exterior. The gallery opened in 1937 with the “Great German Art Exhibition.”
Here Hitler, Albert Speer (right) and Professor Leonhard Gall (left), who supervised the construction after Troost’s death in 1934, inspect the progress of building. Speer became Hitler’s favourite architect following Troost’s death.
In 1928 Hitler rented a house on the Obersalzberg, above the town of Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. In 1935-36 it was replaced by a large house called the Berghof, where Hitler spent long periods and which became an alternative centre of government. The Berghof was a large and luxurious house which accommodated not only Hitler but also his large entourage of servants and adjutants. It had a huge picture window with a spectacular view of the Bavarian Alps and a large terrace where Hitler and his entourage sat in fine weather. This photo shows the sloping hillside on which the house stood.
Between 1936 and 1941 Hitler spent much of his time at the Berghof, and it became an alternative seat of the German government. Hitler’s personal life was also centred here. His girlfriend Eva Braun lived here, although her existence was kept secret from the German people and only known to Hitler’s immediate circle. This photo shows Hitler and Eva Braun at the Berghof, with Hitler’s dog Blondi.
The Berghof was reduced to a burned out shell by a British air-raid in 1945. The ruins stood empty until they were finally removed by the US occupation forces in 1953. The hillside where the house once stood, shown here, is now overgrown with trees.
The only remaining relic of the Berghof is this retaining wall, which stood behind the house. Over recent years the Bavarian authorities have been clearing away any remaining relics of the Nazi occupation of the Obersalzberg, hoping to discourage “Nazi tourism.” At the same time a Documentation Centre has been established further up the hill.
The main focus of tourist interest in the area is now the Kehlsteinhaus, usually known as the “eagle’s nest”, built in 1939 on top of Mount Kehlstein as a 50th birthday present for Hitler from the Nazi Party. It is about 6km south of the Berghof and is reached by bus and then via an elevator built into the mountain. The building is visible from Berchtesgaden town, as seen here, but is closed for half the year since the road is impassable during winter.
Today the Kehlsteinhaus, which is little changed from the 1930s, is run by a charitable trust and operates as a restaurant. During the summer it averages 5,000 visitors a day. As well as its historical interest it offers spectacular views of the Bavarian Alps. This photo was taken in the first week of June, but there was still snow on the ground and it was very cold.
Hitler had only one full sibling who lived to adulthood, his younger sister Paula. Regarded as somewhat “simple,” she lived during the Nazis years in Munich under the name Paula Wolf and took no part in politics. After the war she settled in Berchtesgaden and died there in 1960. Until recently her grave was marked with the name Paula Hitler and attracted many visitors. Recently a local couple have been buried in the same grave plot and their names now appear on the grave.
When the National Socialist party revived in the late ’20s, Hitler began to travel all over Germany, campaigning in the series of elections that took place between 1928 and 1933. He often visited Weimar, a town he liked because of its associations with Goethe and Schiller. Here he is campaigning on the Theaterplatz in Weimar. Behind him is the Deutsches Nationaltheater, where the German republic’s constitution was drafted. The twin statues of Goethe and Schiller in front of the Nationaltheater can be seen in the background.
The Theaterplatz in Weimar today. On the front of the Nationaltheater is a plaque commemorating the drafting of the Weimar Republic’s constitution in this building. It was put up in the 1920s, taken down by the Nazis, put back up after the war, taken down again by the Communists and put back up again after reunification.
One of Hitler’s favourite hotels was the Elephant in Weimar. He often spoke from this balcony. The statue on the balcony is apparently of Thomas Mann, whose novel “Lotte in Weimar” is set in the hotel.
Nuremberg, ancient seat of the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire, was an early stronghold of the Nazi Party, partly because of its energetic local leader (Gauleiter), Julius Streicher. It’s not often realised outside Germany that although Nuremberg has been part of Bavaria since 1806, it is a Protestant city. Catholic Bavaria never fully embraced Nazism, but the Nurembergers were early converts. Here we see Hitler and Göring, at the 1928 NSDAP party rally (Parteitag), posing in front of the 14th century Frauenkirche on the Hauptmarkt.
The same site today. The church was heavily damaged by the United States air raids on Nuremberg in 1945, but was restored after the war.
Once the Nazis came to power in 1933, the annual Nuremberg rallies became massive state-funded events. Hitler gave Speer his first major commission when he asked him to redesign the rally grounds outside Munich, including the monumental reviewing stand with the “Führer podium” from which Hitler spoke. In this photo Hilter is reviewing German Labour Front (DAF) men from his car beneath the podium.
The remains of the reviewing stand today. The Nazi eagle above the stand was blown up by American troops in 1945 and the colonnades at the sides of the stand were demolished in the 1960s when they became unsafe. The Zeppelin field in front of the viewing stand has been grassed over and is used for sporting events.
In the nearby Luitpoldarena the Nazis appropriated the Nuremberg war memorial and built another forum for mass rallies. This photo is taken from the top of the war memorial and looks across to the Luitpoldhalle. Hitler is in the foreground centre, saluting, flanked by SS leader Heinrich Himmer (left) and SA leader Viktor Lutze.
The same spot today. The Luitpoldhalle was demolished after the war, and the paved rally area has reverted to parkland. The war memorial is still in use, now dedicated to “the victims of war and dictatorship.”
Hitler commissioned a huge congress centre, the Kongresshalle, in the Nuremberg party rally grounds. It was modelled on the Colosseum in Rome and was to become the venue for future party rallies. Here Hitler is studying a model of the hall.
Only the outer shell of the Kongresshalle was finished before the outbreak of war in 1939 ended construction work, leaving it looking rather more like the Colosseum than was intended. Today part of it is used as a museum, while the interior space is used for rock concerts.
In Nuremberg Hitler stayed at the Deutscher Hof hotel. In Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the 1934 party rally, “Triumph of the Will,” Hitler is seen saluting a crowd from a window of this hotel, as seen here.
The Deutscher Hof hotel today. I was told in Nuremberg that the hotel is now closed and will soon be demolished. The window from which Hitler saluted is the second from the right of the four on the first floor in the centre of the facade, directly above the dark blue car in the foreground.
Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. While President Paul von Hindenburg was alive, Hitler had to show due deference to the head of state and national hero. This is clear at this service at the national war memorial, the Neue Wache on Unter den Linden. Hitler, followed by Defence Minister Werner von Blomberg and Prussian Prime Minister Hermann Göring, walks several paces behind Hindenburg.
The Neue Wache today. Built for Frederick the Great by Karl-Friedrich Schinkel as a royal guardhouse, it has been Germany’s principal war memorial since 1918.
In Berlin, public areas were appropriated by the Nazi regime. The Lustgarten, originally a royal garden and later a public park, was cleared and converted into a parade ground. Here Hitler is leaving a mass rally in the Lustgarten. In the background is Schinkel’s Old Museum.
The Lustgarten today. The Communist regime kept it as a parade ground, but since reunification is has again become a public park. The Old Museum was heavily damaged by Allied bombs but has been restored and re-opened.
In 1936 Berlin hosted the Olympic Games, which were used by the Nazi regime as a propaganda opportunity. Here Hitler and (at right) Rudolf Hess are watching events from the “Führer’s box” in the grand Olympic Stadium built for the games.
The interior of the stadium today, showing the VIP area which occupies the same spot as the “Führer’s box.” Although the interior of the stadium has been modernised several times, the exterior looks exactly as it did in 1936.
Hitler inherited the 18th century Schulenberg Palace in Wilhelmstrasse, Berlin’s government precinct, as his Reich Chancellery, but he considered it undistinguished. In 1937 he commissioned Speer to design and build a new Chancellery. The New Reich Chancellery opened in 1939, a grandiose monster in an intimidating “Nazi classicist” style. This photo shows the frontage along Vossstrasse, looking towards the corner of Wilhelmstrasse.
Opposite the Chancellery on the far side of Wilhelmsplatz was the Kaiserhof Hotel. This was where Hitler stayed in Berlin before he became Chancellor. In this postcard the Wilhelmstrasse facade of Chancellery can be seen in the distance. The hotel was bombed out in 1945 and later demolished. The site is now occupied by the North Korean embassy.
Here I am standing outside the Mohrenstrasse U-bahn station in a hailstorm. Before the war this was Wilhelmsplatz, the square in front the Chancellery. Behind me are the apartment blocks on Wilhelmstrasse which occupy the site of the Chancellery.
The Chancellery was damaged by Allied bombs in 1945, but could have been restored. Instead the Soviets chose to demolish it in 1948 as a symbol of the Nazi state. The site, which was close to the Berlin Wall, sat empty for 40 years until late 1980s, when the East Germans built apartment blocks along Wilhelmstrasse. This is the corner of Wilhelmstrasse and Vossstrasse today.
This photo shows the Chancellery site as it was in April 2008, looking eastwards along Vossstrasse towards Wilhelmstrasse. The rear of the apartments blocks on Wilhelmstrasse can be seen. The vacant area along Vossstrasse, where it is still possible to find bits of brick and tile from the Chancellery building, will soon be built on.
In April 1938 Hitler reurned to Vienna in triumph. As a pan-Germanist he had always disliked the Habsburg monarchy, but he admired their tradition of grandiose state buildings. In the Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square), in front of the Hofburg palace complex of the Habsburgs, he addressed 200,000 ecstatic Viennese soon after entering the city.
The Heldenplatz today. The square features the equestrian statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy.
In November 1938, following the Anglo-French capitulation to Hitler at Munich, Germany occupied the German-speaking Sudetenland areas of Czechoslovakia, and soon after he toured the region. In the historic spa town of Karlsbad, he spoke from the balcony of the ornate Habsburg-era theatre, shown here. The Sudeten Germans were expelled after the war, and today the town is Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.
In January 1939, ignoring his pledges to Britain and France, Hitler occupied Prague. He set up headquarters in Hradcany Castle, seat of the Kings of Bohemia. Here Hitler is saluting a crowd, presumably of German residents of Prague, from a second-storey window in the outer facade of the castle, near the gates.
The gates of Hradcany Castle today. The window at which Hitler appeared is at the top right corner of the photo.
Finally, in September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland. Shortly after the invasion, he made a triumphal visit to Danzig, which had been detached from Germany in 1919 and made a “Free City” under a League of Nations commissioner. Here he is driving in triumph down the Lange Markt.
The view from Dlugy (Lange Gasse) into Dlugy Targ (Lange Markt) in Gdansk, Poland, today.
Shortly before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler ordered the construction of a new military headquarters in the east. This was the Wolfsschanze (Wolf’s Lair), near Rastenburg in East Prussia. Today Rastenburg is Ketrzyn in north-eastern Poland. In January 1945, as the Red Army approached, the large concrete bunkers were destroyed, but their shells can still be seen. Here I am standing outside the entrance to Hitler’s bunker.
On 22 June 1944, Colonel Klaus von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler with a bomb in a briefcase planted in a conference room at the Wolf’s Lair. The bomb did not kill Hitler and the plot failed, costing Stauffenberg and many others their lives. This is the site of the explosion today, marked by a number of commemorative plaques.
This photo shows Hitler walking with his entourage at the Wolf’s Lair. From left: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring, Hitler, Party Secretary Martin Bormann.
After abandoning the Wolf’s Lair in January 1945, Hitler retreated to the Chancellery building in Berlin, but Allied bombing soon forced him to move into a bunker deep under the garden of the Old Chancellery building, the Führerbunker. It was here that Hitler killed himself on 30 April 1945. The concrete shell of the bunker is buried deep under this carpark, behind the apartment blocks which now line Wilhelmstrasse. This sign has recently been erected at the site.
The bodies of Hitler and his wife Eva Braun were brought to the surface by Hitler’s aides and burned in a shell-crater in the Chancellery garden. The spot is approximately in the middle of this intersection, directly in front of the sign shown in the previous photo. (These streets did not exist in 1945.) His incinerated remains were found by the Soviets. In 1970, after being kept for 25 years, they, along with the remains of Eva Braun and of Joseph Goebbels and his family, were cremated and thrown in the River Elbe.
For fifty years after 1945, the names, images and symbols of Hitler and the Third Reich were erased from the face of Germany. Since German reunification, however, some limited memorialisation of Third Reich sites has been permitted for the benefit of tourists. Along Wilhelmstrasse, a series of historical markers shows the sites of the former government buildings. This one, at the site of the Old Reich Chancellery, is one of the few legal public images of Hitler to be seen in Germany.
Anything that might be construed as Nazi propaganda is strictly illegal in Germany. The use of Hitler’s face in advertising would certainly not be tolerated. This poster for a left-wing theatre production slyly subverts this prohibition by using a photo of Hitler as a baby – next to the face of the Jewish socialist Rosa Luxemburg. “I’ll be back,” the poster says (in English). Will he be back? I don’t think so. The left in Germany as elsewhere still uses the bogey of fascism to rally support, but as serious political movements fascism and national socialism have been dead since 1945.