By Mark McConville
CANDID video footage has re-emerged this week of Adolf Hitler relaxing at his vacation residence, the Berghof.
The fascinating footage was confiscated from the private collection of Hitler’s girlfriend Eva Braun at the end of World War Two and shows her enjoying herself as she waterboards behind a boat and practices gymnastics on a metal bar.
Other shots show Hitler relaxing on an armchair in his living room, greeting and talking to other Nazi leaders in his full uniform and petting and playing with his dog.
Among those identified in the film are Albert Speer, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Reinhard Heydrich and Karl Wolff.
The Berghof was Adolf Hitler’s home in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany. Other than the Wolfsschanze (“Wolf’s Lair”), his headquarters in East Prussia for the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler spent more time at the Berghof than anywhere else during World War II. It was also one of the most widely known of his headquarters, which were located throughout Europe.
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 Bavarian government demolished the burnt shell in 1952.
The area became something of a German tourist attraction during the mid-1930s. Visitors gathered at the end of the driveway or on nearby public paths in the hope of catching a glimpse of Hitler.
This led to the introduction of severe restrictions on access to the area and other security measures. With the outbreak of war extensive anti-aircraft defences were also installed, including smoke generating machines to conceal the Berghof complex from hostile aircraft.
Several Wehrmacht mountain troop units were also housed nearby. Hence, the British never planned a direct attack on the compound.
Guests at the Berghof included political figures, monarchs, heads of state and diplomats along with painters, singers and musicians. The important visitors personally greeted on the steps of the Berghof by Hitler included David Lloyd George (3 March 1936), the Aga Khan (20 October 1937), Duke and Duchess of Windsor (22 October 1937), Kurt von Schuschnigg (12 February 1938), Neville Chamberlain (15 September 1938) and Benito Mussolini (19 January 1941). On 11 May 1941 Karlheinz Pintsch visited the Berghof to deliver a letter from Rudolf Hess informing him of his illegal flight to Scotland.
Hitler’s social circle at his Berghof retreat – which his intimates referred to as “on the Berg” – included Eva Braun and her sister Gretl, Eva’s friend Marianne Schönmann, Herta Schneider and her children, Heinrich Hoffmann and the wives and children of other Nazi leaders and Hitler’s staff who would all pose for an annual group photograph on the occasion of Hitler’s birthday. The social scene at the Berghof ended on 14 July 1944 when Hitler left for his military headquarters in East Prussia, never to return.
Two guests planned to use a visit to the Berghof as an opportunity to assassinate Hitler. On 11 March 1944, Captain Eberhard von Breitenbuch arrived with a concealed pistol with the intention of shooting Hitler in the head, but guards would not allow him into the same room.
On 7 June 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg planned to detonate a bomb at a meeting there, but his fellow conspirators would not give him approval to do so because Himmler and Hermann Göring were not also present.