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Obersalzberg is a mountainside retreat situated above the market town of Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany, located about 120 kilometres (75 mi) southeast of Munich, close to the border with Austria. The retreat is best known as the location of Adolf Hitler's mountain residence, the Berghof (demolished) with the nearby Mooslahnerkopf Teahouse (likewise), and the more elevated Kehlsteinhaus, popularly known as the 'Eagle's Nest'.
The name of the settlement area derives from the rock salt deposits in the former Berchtesgaden Provostry documented since the 12th century. It was part of the provostry's Salzberg locality (a so-called Gnotschaft), where the Berchtesgaden salt mine was established in 1517. With the provostry it was securalised in 1803 and became a Bavarian municipality in 1810. Plans by Nazi authorities to merge it with Berchtesgaden were not carried out and Salzberg was not incorporated into Berchtesgaden until 1972.
In the late 19th century German intellectuals like Richard Voss and industrialists like Carl von Linde began using the area as both a summer and winter vacation retreat. The scenic landscape and sweeping mountain views also attracted Adolf Hitler, who had learned of Berchtesgaden through his party fellow Dietrich Eckart in the course of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, just before his imprisonment at Landsberg. It was in a cabin in Obersalzberg that he dictated Part Two of Mein Kampf, which earned him large royalties. He became so fond of the area that by 1928 he began using his royalty income to rent a small chalet called Haus Wachenfeld from the widow of a Buxtehude manufacturer.
Several months after Hitler's 1933 appointment as Chancellor of Germany he purchased Haus Wachenfeld and began making a series of three important renovations. The first included window shutters and a small office, followed a year later by a winter garden and stonework; finally the most extensive in 1935-1936 when the once modest chalet was finally transformed into the sprawling landhaus known as the Berghof.
Around Hitler's home, several Nazi leaders such as Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann and Albert Speer acquired residences. By 1935-36 Party Secretary Bormann had all residents of Obersalzberg either bought out or evicted, and three security zones were installed that encompassed the entire area.[unreliable source?] The expropriation not only concerned the secondary residences, but also several Alpine farms local families had held for centuries. After the demolition of the existing development, the so-called Führersperrgebiet shielded Hitler and his staff from public access. Two other security zones protected the heavily expanded SS and SD barracks, support staff, guest houses, underground bunkers and air raid shelters.
From 1938 Bormann also had the Kehlsteinhaus lodge erected on a rocky promontory, including a lift system from the upper end of the access road. Presented to Hitler on his 50th birthday in 1939, he nevertheless seldom visited it, though he and his mistress Eva Braun spent much time at Obersalzberg. From 1937 the German Reich Chancellery maintained a second seat in the nearby village of Bischofswiesen with Hitler receiving numerous guests of state at the Berghof. His last known visit was in 1944, he left for his Wolf's Lair headquarters on July 14 (see: 1944 Adolf Hitler assassination attempt) and never returned.
The premises - except for the Kehlsteinhaus - were heavily damaged by an Allied air raid on 25 April 1945. The remains were set on fire by retreating SS troops and plundered by locals.
US troops occupied the area on May 4. The former Nazi Party realties officially passed to the State of Bavaria in 1947, which instead of restoring them to their original owners sold them to the Steigenberger Hotels company. However, the Obersalzberg remained in use as a recreation park by the US military. Several structures, like the later General Walker Hotel, were rebuilt, while the ruins of Hitler's, Göring's and Bormann's residences were eradicated. The contract with Steigenberger was reversed in 1964.
The Americans did not withdraw until 1996, whereafter the Bavarian state government facilitated the erection of a hotel (operated by the InterContinental Hotels Group since 2005) and the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg on the area's history, run by the Munich Institut für Zeitgeschichte.
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