The Bavarian castle where the G-7 is located was a Nazi holiday camp, a refuge for the Holocaust – The Washington Post

Reserved space while article actions are loading

BERLIN – Framed by snow-capped peaks of the German Bavarian Alps, the castle should host this year’s G7 summit starting on Sunday it has a history almost as dramatic as its background.

Built at the beginning of World War I by philosopher and theologian Johannes Müller as a common refuge for his followers, Schloss Elmau served as a Nazi military holiday camp, a Polish hospital, a refuge for Holocaust survivors and a place of the last German G-7 meeting.

The history of the castle is closely connected with the turbulent German history of the 20th century. Now a luxury hotel, it is still owned by the Müller family, despite it temporarily falling out of the hands of the family during the post-World War II denazification process due to the philosopher’s flattery to Adolf Hitler.

Although it was conceived as a mountain shrine, it was not always so for all those associated with it. Dietmar Müller-Elmau, Müller’s grandson and current hotel owner, was born in the hotel but said he had been at “war with it” for decades.

German ‘Watergate’: The chancellor spied on a rival party, the study reveals

“My grandfather wanted to create a place of living together where you can escape from yourself, from what he called selfish interest, egocentrism,” Müller-Elmau said. “The idea was to allow ‘freedom from myself’ – which is the opposite of what I want to allow: freedom for myself.”

Before Müller built the domed Schloss Elmau between 1914 and 1916, it was already filling lecture halls throughout Germany. He attracted followers among the German aristocracy, the business elite, and the Jewish community.

Fans of Müller’s work – who criticized individualism, materialism and capitalism, as well as the Christian church – flocked to the castle, where they were immersed in dance and music. It hosted prominent politicians and cultural figures of the Weimar Republic, the German government between 1919 and 1933.

When the Third Reich began, Müller had what the German government described in 2014 as “an ambivalent attitude toward the Nazi regime”.

A Holocaust survivor who fell in love with her American liberator

While the philosopher praised Hitler as “the organ that receives God’s government” and “the leader of the national revolution of the common good over his own interest,” he thought that Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy was “a disgrace to Germany.”

“He admired the Jews,” Müller-Elmau said, pointing to his grandfather’s close network of Jewish academic friends. ‘He thought they were’ better Germans. ‘ ”

Müller-Elmau said that his grandfather justified his paradoxical position by arguing that Hitler’s unexpected takeover could only be interpreted as the destiny God wants “and that a leader sent by God can be recognized precisely because he does not respond to rational and desired thinking.” ”

There was one particular Nazi slogan that struck Müller: “Du bist nichts; the people are all. ” (“You are nothing; your people are everything.”) Müller drew similarities between the Nazi collective nationalist ideology and his own emphasis on rejecting his own interests.

His opposition to anti-Semitism and a ban on the Nazi salute at the Schloss Elmau would bring most people to a concentration camp – but Müller’s unwavering support for Hitler left Nazi officials in a dilemma. Ultimately, his connections and followers protected him.

However, he was constantly interrogated by the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany, and in the end his actions were banned – although this did not shake Müller’s faith in Hitler.

In 1942, in an attempt to prevent the confiscation of the castle by the SS, a Nazi paramilitary group, Müller rented the castle to the Wehrmacht, the army of Nazi Germany, as a summer resort for soldiers returning from the front.

But two years later, Müller was placed under house arrest, and Schloss Elmau was turned into a military hospital for German soldiers. The following year, when the Nazis surrendered, the U.S. military took control of Elmau, and it briefly became a prison camp for the soldiers being treated there, and then a school for military training.

The war may have been over, but after that, Müller’s contradictory attitude toward the Third Reich remained problematic.

In 1946, Philipp Auerbach, the Bavarian state commissioner for persecuted people and Holocaust survivors, sued the denazification trial against Müller on the basis of his “glorification” of Hitler.

“My grandfather decided not to defend himself,” Müller-Elmau said. “He admitted his political mistake, but not the theological mistake on which it was based.” Since Müller was neither a member of the Nazi party nor involved in the war, his conviction was controversial.

Auerbach, frustrated that the legal appropriation of the castle took too long, took possession of it without a legal title. Between 1947 and 1951, the castle served as a sanatorium for Holocaust survivors and displaced persons.

Ernst Landauer, a Jewish journalist who survived several Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz, wrote about the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim in Elmau in an article published in 1946. There was silence during the religious readings, “occasionally interrupted by sobs,” he wrote.

“Purim used to be a joyous holiday and those who celebrated it did not suffer directly,” he wrote. “Those who celebrate it now have suffered. That is why the joy is muffled. For future generations, Purim will once again be a joyous holiday. However, it will be difficult for us to look forward to this life again. ”

Auerbach’s control of Elmau was short-lived. His vigorous pursuit of former Nazis irritated parts of the political establishment, and he was arrested on corruption charges. In 1952, he was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. Days after the verdict, she took her own life.

The reason for his condemnation was the anti-Semitism that was ubiquitous at the time, said German historian and writer Michael Brenner. “The three judges of the court were former members of the Nazi party,” he said. In 1954, two years after Auerbach’s death, an investigation cleared his name.

This soldier fought for Finland, Nazi Germany and American special forces

While Schloss Elmau reflects a complex German history, it also reflects the country’s efforts to reconcile with it, Brenner said. In a country that loves complex nouns, there is, of course, a word for the process: “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” or dealing with the past.

“Müller-Elmau and his family did not escape this past, but confronted it,” Brenner said.

The castle did not stay out of the hands of the family for long. Fearing a claim for damages from Müller’s family over an expected appeal against his conviction, the Bavarian state government leased the castle to Müller’s children in 1951. A decade later they became legal owners – the same year Müller’s sentence was overturned, 12 years after his death in 1949. .

Müller-Elmau became the owner in 1997 and intended to re-establish the Schloss Elmau as a “cultural hideout”, although he avoided his grandfather’s philosophy. Cutting common dining tables, he said, was as symbolic as it was practical for the hotel’s new mantra: freedom of choice.

“It used to be a forced community,” he said, adding, “For me, it’s all about individualism.”

The opportunity for the biggest changes came in 2005, when a fire engulfed the building. Most of the hotel had to be demolished and reconstructed.

“Watching the hotel on fire – well, it was a great relief,” Müller-Elmau said. “It was the best thing that could ever happen to me because I used to pour new wine into old bottles. And now I could make a new bottle for a new wine. I could design Elmau as a place for cosmopolitans and individualists. ”

Today, the castle hosts about 220 concerts each year, as it still attracts the biggest names in classical music from around the world. None of them expect a salary. They play to stay.

The secluded location makes Elmau the top place to host world leaders at this week’s G-7 summit. When it was last held here, in 2015, it was the scene for one particularly cult photo.

President Barack Obama was sitting on a wooden bench, relaxed, arms outstretched. In front of him was German Chancellor Angela Merkel gesturing with her arms outstretched against the backdrop of the majestic mountains.

“Every politician, every guest who comes here wants to be photographed on that bench,” Müller-Elmau said.

Loveday Morris in Berlin contributed to the reporting.

#Bavarian #castle #located #Nazi #holiday #camp #refuge #Holocaust #Washington #Post

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.