Monday, November 14, 2016

John Bennett #17 Sublime and Pastoral - a found poem

At first no more than a hunter's shack, "Haus Wachenfeld" has grown
until it is to-day quite a handsome Bavarian chalet, 2,000 feet
up on the Obersalzberg amid pinewoods and cherry orchards.

Here, in the early days, Hitler's widowed sister, Frau Angela Raubal,
kept house for him on a "peasant" scale. Then, as his famous book,
Mein Kampf ("My Struggle") became a best-seller of astonishing power

(4,500,000 copies of it have been sold), Hitler began to think
of replacing that humble shack by a house and garden of suitable scope.
In this matter he has throughout been his own architect.

The site commands the fairest view in all Europe.
This is to say much, I know. But in these Bavarian Alps
there is a peculiar softness of greenery, with snow-white cascades

and forest-clad pinnacles, like the Schönfeldspitze and Teufelshörner.
Hitler's home looks out upon his native Austria . . .  From this view-point
a chain of drowsy lakes is seen far below, with ancient shrine-chapels

hidden in ferny folds of towering rocks. And since the Reichsführer
settled here as "Squire of Wachenfeld," the whole region
has been starred with motor speedways, even as far as Oberammergau.

The effect of light and air in the house is heightened
by the rolling and trilling of many Hartz mountain canaries
in gilded cages which hang or stand in most of the rooms.

The curtains are of printed linen, or fine damask in the softer shades.
The Führer is his own decorator, designer, and furnisher,
as well as architect. He is constantly enlarging the place,

building on new guest-annexes, and arranging in these
his favourite antiques – chiefly German furniture of the eighteenth century,
for which agents in Munich are on the look out. It is a mistake

to suppose that week-end guests are all, or even mainly, State officials.
Hitler delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially
painters, singers, and musicians. As host he is a droll raconteur . . .

The Führer, I may add, has a passion for cut flowers in his home,
as well as for music. Every morning at nine he goes out
for a walk with his gardeners about their day's work.

These men, like the chauffeur and air-pilot, are not so much
servants as local friends. On such a day, when State affairs
are over, the Squire himself, attended by some of his guests,

will stroll through the woods into hamlets above and below.
There rustics sit at cottage doors carving trinkets and toys
in wood, ivory, and bone. It is then the little ones are invited to the house.

Coffee, cakes, fruits, and sweets are laid for them on trestle tables
in the grassy orchards. Then Frauen Goebbels and Göring,
in dainty Bavarian dress, perform dances and folk-songs,

while the bolder spirits are given joy-rides in Herr Hitler's
private airplane. ‘This place is mine,’ he says simply.
‘I built it with money that I earned.’

Ignatius Phayre, ‘Hitler's Mountain home, a visit to 'Haus Wachenfeld' in the Bavarian Alps’, Homes & Gardens, November, 1938. The accompanying photographs were supplied by Hitler's press agent. Ignatius Phayre was a pseudonym. The unknown author had already written a similar article for Country Life.

By 1936, the rented cottage had become the Berghof (‘mountain farm’) where Hitler spent more time than in Berlin. Like an English 18th C landowner who wanted a beautiful landscape garden, he expanded, forcing out many families who had lived on the mountain for generations. Next door was the Hotel Zum Türken whose owner spent three weeks in Dachau before agreeing to sell.

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