Tuesday, September 2, 2014

War matters

Gazing out on the incomparable Austrian Tyrol landscape from Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden two weeks ago focused my mind on what was planned there. The Eagle's Nest is part of the former health resort that was converted into the "Fuhrersperrgebeit" or "Fuhrer's off-limits area", which in the end became a second seat of power alongside Berlin for Hitler and his cronies. The Eagle’s Nest itself was a 50th birthday present from Martin Bormann to Hitler in 1939, and remains the only relic of this large area in OberSalzburg, which centred around the Berghof, Hitler’s country retreat. The Berghof itself was bombed at the end of the war and then the ruins razed to the ground when the area was finally handed back to the state of Bavaria in 1952 to avoid it becoming a centre for neo-Nazi activity. Rather incongruously an Inter Continental Hotel now stands on the site of the Berghof. Up on the mountain above it, the Eagle’s Nest remains unscathed apart from missing chips of marble taken by allied troops as mementoes from the vast fireplace that Goering had given Hitler.

The US army were first to the site on 10th May 1945, 11 days after Hitler’s death in the Berlin bunker, and found amongst other things a collection of burnt paintings. Why they had been burnt and whether they were destined for Hitler’s proposed Fuhrermuseum in Linz, Austria is unclear. I blogged in March about the work of the Monuments Men in saving the looted art treasures of Europe, and I am looking forward to revisiting the issue again when I am part of a panel discussion at the Australian National Maritime Museum this Friday as part of the launch of the DVD of the film.

The War was of course a world one, and its tentacles reached all the way to Australia. We are currently working on the conservation of an air raid shelter sign at Sydney’s Town Hall station, reflecting how concerned the population was that Sydney would be bombed.

You don’t need to scratch the surface very hard to find more evidence - I came across another sign in a back corridor of the Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo only last week, which reads 'A.R.P' standing for Air Raid Precautions.

There is a great summary of how Sydney responded to the threat of invasion at http://scratchingsydneyssurface.wordpress.com/tag/town-hall-station

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