Hitler's Alpine Headquarters, James Wilson

Hitler's Alpine Headquarters, James Wilson

This book is a photographic history of the Nazi party's building works in Munich and in the Berchtesdagen and Obersalzberg, mainly using contemporary German postcards as its source. These postcards are fascinating, and give a good idea of the sort of propaganda that the German people were exposed to. They are generally well reproduced, and the author is clearly very knowledgeable about his topic, having worked as a tour guide in the area.

The downside is an utterly infuriating text. In the introduction the author makes two competing claims - first that he intends to 'present the facts and to allow the reader to draw their own conclusion' and second that each captions has been composed in a ' deliberate effort on my part in an attempt to replicate how these images would have been presented to the German public and the rest of the world at the time of their original release'. In my view he fails totally in the first effort, but does succeed in the second.

As a result there is very little balance in the captions. The many staged pictures of Hitler with children are taken at face value, when so many other sources confirm that Hitler was almost always awkward around children. A picture of the marble clad 'Great Hall' of the reconstructed Berghof is followed by a claim that there was 'nothing ostentatious' about the massive Nazi construction effort. The 4 miles of tunnels and bunkers built under the area are described as 'almost inconceivable that so much could have been achieved in so little time', clearly underestimating how much work 3,000 workers could do in twenty months! At the same time this rather disproves the idea that the generally positive tone of the captions is meant to reflect how they would have been seen at the time, as these areas were entirely secret. A visit to the buried command bunker was described as 'a treat', a really odd tone to take for a military facility designed to control the Nazi war machine. One hopes that this reflects the enthusiasm of a tour guide discovering a hidden area.

The best way to view the text is to see it as an example of the sort of propaganda that the German people would have been exposed to in the pre-war period. If that approach is taken then the pictures can be appreciated as a valuable historical record.

Chapters (four sections with many subsections)
Section One - early history
Section Two - Berghof as secondary seat of government
Section Three - The Buildings
Section Four - People at the Obersalzberg

Author: James Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2013 edition of 2005 original

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