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A Breathtaking Backdrop*
ongoing project (2005)
Pia Lanzinger

Obersalzberg, the epitome of a stupendous spectacle of nature, has been dominated by a wide variety of tourist activities over the past hundred and fifty years or so. After a time when it was appreciated for its mountainous attractions, Adolf Hitler made use of nature by presenting the panorama window of his “Berghof” as the ultimate expression of power and strength to guests of the state. Obersalzberg was the ideal backdrop for his particular variety of pompously popular theatre of propaganda. In the end, the appeal of the “Führer” was even greater than that of nature’s attractions, and his vacation home became a pilgrimage site. As the “Führer tourism” grew too big, “Adolf Hitler Peak” became the “Führer restricted area.” In 1945, after its bombardment, the Americans declared the mountain off limits until 1951. When the “Führer tourism” began again after the ban was lifted, the Free State of Bavaria agreed to demolish the most important National Socialist buildings; in return the Americans agreed to leave the “Kehlsteinhaus” for “tourist use”. Over the next forty years five million Americans used the “General Walker Hotel”, formerly the “Volkshotel Platterhof”, as a vacation spot. And even today the tried-and-tested alpine panorama, with the nimbus of a guilty past and a helping of horror effects, is still being exploited for tourism. A luxury hotel was built on the former “Göringhügel”, and it invites its guests to immerse themselves in an “oasis of well-being . . . between heaven and earth, a thousand meters above sea level.” In order to be politically correct, the hotel rooms provide not only the Bible for bedside reading matter but also Die tödliche Utopie (The deadly utopia), the publication of the local documentation centre. The documentary centre was built together with this wellness palace, which was an order of the Free State of Bavaria. About half a million tourists a year want to see the “secret” of the “Kehlsteinhaus” and buy devotional souvenirs. In 1911, the Hotel “Zum Türken” also started its business here and profits from the nimbus of the place’s shady past — its advertising brochure announces that the hotel features the same view that Hitler once enjoyed from the “Berghof”0 — but is not trying to educate its visitors.

* Quotation from the speech of the Minister of Finance of Bavaria, Kurt Falthauser, at the opening of the InterContinental Hotel “Resort Berchtesgarden” given on July 15 2005.

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