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Ein weiterer Artikel aus "off-duty" Oktober 1974

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"Munich - a city with a past"
(München, eine Stadt mit Vergangenheit.)

By JOHN DORNBERG -  aus Off Duty / Europe / October 1974

ADOLF HITLER is now dead for almost 30 years and the Thousand Year Reich of which he dreamed in Munich's coffee houses and beer gardens has been relegated to the trash pile of history.

But Hitler's Munich - the Munich in which he lived and loved (?), railed and ranted, plotted and conspired - has, for the most part, survived. It has withstood the passage of time, the onslaughts of war and bombardment and the architectural upheaval of postwar reconstruction and urban renewal.

Keine Plakete oder Tafeln zeigen den Weg

No Hitler-was-here plaques or memorial tablets point the way. The average Münchner, when asked, will turn away with a silence which you can read any way you wish: as fear, contempt, nostalgia or boredom. But most of Hitler's Munich is still there to be seen.

All you need is a map; a history of the Third Reich and biography of Hitler; well-soled shoes; resilient feet; strong legs, and a pocketful of change (Kleingeld) for subways and S-bahn tickets.

The logical way to make such a tour is by sections and districts. The railway station - Hauptbahnhof - is a good place to start.

That's where Hitler, an impoverished 23-year-old dodging the Austrian draft, started when he first arrived in Munich from Vienna in 1913.

Am Hauptbahnhof geht es los ...

Coming out of the station, he turned left and walked up Dachauer Strasse as far as Stiglmair Platz. Crossing the square, he turned into Schleissheimer Strasse, which was then and still is, a long street with rows and rows of gray rooming houses.

At No. 34, on the right hand side, Hitler spotted a small sign in the window: "Furnished rooms to let for respectable gentlemen."

The house belonged to Josef Popp, a tailor who had his shop on the ground floor, lived with his wife and children on the second and third and rented out the rooms on the fourth.

Die meistverkaufte Biographie von Robert Payne

In his best-selling biography of Hitler, Robert Payne has given an excellent description of Hitler's life with the Popps.

The building is still there and virtually unchanged - only seedier. The tenants today are mostly foreign workers with names that would have aroused Hitler's Germanic ire: Addonizio, Janneli, Domenico and Cinco.

Coming away from the house, turn right and continue up Schleissheimer Strasse for four blocks, then turn right again into Schelling Strasse, a street that played an important role in Hitler's early Munich days.

Hitler's favorite hangout

At No. 62, on the corner of Schraudolph Strasse, is one of the city's best Italian restaurants, the Osteria Italiana, which throughout the 1920s and even later was Hitler's favorite hangout.

It was in the Osteria that he usually met his political cronies - for lunch or afternoon coffee - either at his favorite table in one of the corner booths or, when the weather was nice, in the Italian-style courtyard in the back. The restaurant has hardly changed over the years. Any of the elderly waitresses will still show you the table where "Herr Hitler" used to sit.

Four houses farther, at No. 54, is the Schelling Salon, one of Munich's most unique coffee houses and restaurants.

Schwabing - the students' and artists' quarter

Now you are in Schwabing - the students' and artists' quarter. The Schelling Salon was Hitler's hangout for a while until the proprietor, "Silvester Mehr", cut off the future Fiihrer's credit. The atmosphere hasn't changed much here since "Mehr" opened it at the turn of the century. Its patrons play cards, chess, billiards, table tennis and bowl and the major daily newspapers hang from the hooks on the wall.

Even the proprietor still has the same name - he is a grandson of the founder. It is still a students' and artists' place which, as Mehr Jr. suggests, never actually suited Hitler's personality. "He didn't really like Schwabing," says Mehr. "And you can imagine what he'd do to the long-haired hippie types who are around here now."

Hitler's headquarter from 1925 to 1931

Two house numbers farther, at No. 50, is where Hitler maintained the party headquarters from 1925 to 1931. The building, largely unchanged, now houses offices and a printshop. There is one ominous reminder of what it once was. Over the archway leading to the courtyard and the rear building, in which the Nazi offices were located, there is a weather-beaten, concrete bas relief of an eagle from which a swastika emblem has been chiseled away.

From there, continue on Schelling Strasse to Ludwig Strasse and the Universitat (university) subway stop. Take the U-3 or U-6 to Marien Platz, in front of City Hall. The archway of the "Old City Hall" leads you directly into one of Munich's oldest streets - the Tal, which means valley. The Tal takes you to Maderbrau Strasse and the famous Hofbrauhaus.

Die ersten SA-Schlägereien im "Hofbrauhaus"

The Hofbrauhaus is one of several Munich beerhalls in which Hitler rose to prominence. Most of the larger, more famous, beerhalls have ballrooms and auditoriums seating up to 2,000 people.

Here in the Hofbrauhaus on Feb. 24, 1920 - the hall was filled to capacity - Hitler first read out his "Twenty-five Points," the political platform that became his blueprint for power.

During another Hofbrauhaus rally - on Nov. 2, 1921 - Hitler first introduced his private army of sluggers, the SA, or storm troopers, who fought it out with a group of Communist hecklers in the hall. On that occasion the SA were still a ragged crew wearing leather breeches, embroidered Bavarian jackets, Tyrolean hats, ski caps and swastika armbands. About 40 of them battled frontier-saloon style with the Communists for 20 minutes, leaving the place in shambles.

"The Sterneckerbrau" in der Sternecker Gasse

Returning to the Tal, continue along the street until you reach No. 54, at the corner of Sternecker Gasse. The entrance, in fact, is in this short, narrow little alley. This used to be a beerhall - the Sterneckerbrau, one of the smallest and humblest in Munich, but vital to Hitler's early career.

In a dingy back room here, on Sept. 12, 1919, Hitler first attended a meeting of the party he was eventually to lead. After World War I, Hitler - who had won an Iron Cross on the Western Front - remained in the army as an undercover agent spying on political parties. There were new political parties all over Munich.

Bavaria had just gone through a Red revolution and reign of terror, followed by reaction and an anti-Red reign of terror. The party meeting in the Sterneckerbrau was then called the German Workers' Party and had only about two dozen members, nearly all of which were in the room.

When Hitler became the party's chief a few months later, he set up its headquarters in a small, dark-vaulted room in the same tavern.

Today the building houses a furniture store, some apartments, a doctor's office and a pedicurist. But the the exterior in Sternecker Gasse is virtually unchanged.

A Mercedes-Benz and a chauffeur

In 1920, Hitler rented an apartment at Thiersch Strasse 41, not far from the Sterneckerbrau headquarters, retaining it until 1929. He lived here modestly, his only extravagances being a Mercedes-Benz and a chauffeur. No. 41 has survived the years unscathed.

With an imitation Renaissance facade dating to the turn of the century, the building is now easily recognizable by the coat of green paint it was given recently. A carpentry shop now occupies the ground floor.

From here the search for Hitler's Munich turns to the drama of the beerhalls again and two, not too far from each other, are musts for this kind of tour. One is the Hofbrau-keller, not to be confused with the Hofbrauhaus. The other is the famous Burgerbraukeller, scene of the 1923 putsch and of a 1938 bomb plot against Hitler that left the interior in rubble.

The Hofbraukeller is on Wiener Platz

To get to the Burgerbraukeller, follow Thiersch Strasse to the S-bahn stop underneath Isartor Square. Take any train that comes along toward Ostbahnhof and ride one stop to Rosenheimer Platz. By taking the left exit you come out on the street right in front of the Burgerbraukeller. The Hofbraukeller is on Wiener Platz, a couple of streets away.

The putsch Hitler attempted in the Burgerbraukeller on the night of Nov. 8, 1923, was one of the crucial events in his rise to power.

In the autumn of 1923 Germany was in a crisis, with inflation, unemployment and political murder rampant. The government in Berlin had declared a state of national emergency, and Bavaria, seeking to make political capital out of the situation, had instituted its own state of emergency.

Dictatorial power was vested in a triumvirate consisting of Lt. Gen. Otto von Lossow, commander of the Reichswehr divisions in Bavaria; Col. Hans von Seisser, chief of the state police, and Gustav von Kahr, a former Bavarian premier who was named general state "commissioner.1'

Hitler's party acquired 55,000 members

Hitler's Nazi party had by then acquired 55,000 members. He was plotting to take over the government of Bavaria and declare himself dictator of all Germany. Using his private army of 100,000 bullies, militant nationalists and disgruntled war veterans, he then planned to march on Berlin just as Mussolini had marched on Rome a year before.

He chose the night of Nov. 8 1923 to make his move. Original plans had called for the action to take place two days later, on the weekend of Nov. 10-11, the fifth anniversary of Germany's surrender after World War I.

Hitler delighted to think of the effect this would create. Bands would play march music in the streets as the Nazis hauled down the red-black-and-gold flag of the Weimar Republic and replaced it with the red-black-and-white banner of imperial Germany. An ignominious defeat for the "November criminals", as Germany's extreme right had labeled the founders of the Republic.

Jetzt kommen Fragen auf ....

Why did Hitler change his mind and stage the putsch on Nov. 8th ? He had received an invitation to attend a meeting on the evening of Nov. 8 in the Burgerbraukeller.

Von Kahr was to make an important speech outlining his plans for the future. Nearly all of Bavaria's leading citizens and government officials would be there - some 3,000 people.

About 20 minutes after von Kahr had begun speaking, Hitler pulled up to the beerhall in a red Benz touring car which the party had recently acquired. Dressed in a trench coat covering his ill-fitting black frock coat, he entered the building and waited for the signal.

As von Kahr droned on, Hermann Goring, leading the Nazi storm troopers, burst into the hall. This was the signal Hitler had been waiting for. He forced his way to the stage and called for quiet.

He didn't get it. Pulling a pistol out of his pocket, he fired at the ceiling. When the noise stopped, he proclaimed the "national revolution." Von Kahr, Lossow and Seisser were forced at gunpoint to join him in the formation of a new German government.

Hitler was to be named dictator and Gen. Erich Ludendorff, a great World War I leader and Hitler's staunch supporter, head of its new army.

The 1923 putsch collapsed during the night

For a variety of reasons - mostly bad planning - the putsch collapsed during the night. The Nazis had forgotten to seize control of the city's communications network (die Kontrolle über die Telefonzentrale). Von Kahr retracted his promise to form a government with Hitler.

The Reichswehr began moving on Hitler's storm troops, one contingent of which, under Ernst Rohm, had captured the Bavarian war ministry building, now the Voice of America studios, on Ludwig Strasse.

On the morning of Nov. 9, Hitler and Ludendorff made a desperate bid to salvage what they could by marching with their armed rabble into downtown Munich. You can trace that historic march through the streets and squares surrounding the Bürgerbräukeller.

The march got started around noon, in front of the Bürgerbräukeller. There had been a band playing earlier, writes Richard Hanser in his book "Putsch!", but "having been given neither breakfast nor pay, it disappeared after a half-hearted rendition of the Badenweiler march, Hitler's favorite tune."

Die Marschierer - eine merkwürdige Truppe oder Crew

The marchers were a motley crew, some wearing regular, some improvised uniforms. Others were in civilian dress, their only identification a swastika armband.

Ludendorff, who had first learned of the march when he was picked up at home by Hitler's envoys, didn't march in his uniform and spiked helmet but wore a brown hunting jacket.

Hitler had pulled his trenchcoat over his black frock coat and sported a swastika armband on his sleeve. Most of the marchers had weapons of some sort. Just before the march began, orders were given for all rifles to be unloaded. But in the confusion, the orders didn't reach every man carrying a loaded weapon.

Der Marsch begann in der Rosenheimer Strasse

The march led from the beerhall down Rosenheimer Strasse, then left past the Deutsches Museum to the Ludwig Bridge across the Isar river. At the bridge, Nazi marchers skirmished with green-uniformed security police and won. The police contingent was forced back to the beer-hall, accompanied by jeers from the mob.

Loudly singing "Deutschland über Alles" and other patriotic or Nazi songs, the marchers crossed the bridge and made their way down Zweibrucken Strasse, across Isartor Platz to the Tal, toward Marien Platz.

From there they turned right up Wein Strasse, Perusa Strasse and Residenz Strasse, where the Wittelsbach Palace or Residenz, is located. The march was finally halted at the Feldherrnhalle on Odeons Platz, a memorial to 18th- and 19th-century Bavarian heroes.

It has never been determined who fired first, the Nazis or the police. One decisive shot rang out, followed by a volley of gunfire. When it was all over, at least 16 people were dead, three of them policemen. One of the victims was a waiter at the Cafe Rottenhofer, an exclusive coffee and pastry salon in Residenz Strasse.

Als der Marsch schief ging

Richard Hanser in "Putsch!" describes what happened during the commotion at the Feldherrnhalle: "In the front column there was panic. The front surged back, pressing on the people behind and crushing them. Many threw themselves to the ground. There was shouting and screaming ... Men were throwing away their weapons and running wherever they found an opening in the pack."

Hitler fell to the ground as one of his party chiefs, with whom he had linked arms, was hit by a bullet and fatally wounded. Hitler at first thought he, too, had been hit, but he had suffered only a dislocated shoulder.

His bodyguard threw himself on top of the prostrate Hitler and was seriously wounded. Taking advantage of the general confusion, Hitler sneaked away, climbed into a yellow Fiat driven by the chief SA doctor, and escaped to the country home of one of his followers, Harvard-educated Dr. Ernest ("Putzi") Hanfstaengl.

Als Hitler verhaftet wurde

Here he was arrested two days later and carted off to prison. Ludendorff didn't wait to be caught. The old soldier marched stiffly up to a policeman and allowed himself to be arrested.

The Nazi party was outlawed, Hitler and some of its leaders tried for treason. (Ludendorff was acquitted.) Hitler served a short term in Landsberg prison where he wrote Mein Kampf.

Released at the end of 1924, he reorganized the party and launched his successful drive to power through constitutional means.

The Feldherrnhalle later became a sort of Nazi Mecca. A plaque marked the spot where the "Nazi martyrs" had fallen and all who passed by had to give the Hitler salute.

Those opposed to the Nazi regime would turn left into Viscardi Gasse, a small lane connecting Residenz Strasse with Theatiner Strasse. Viscardi Gasse became known as "Driickeberger Gasse," (literally. "Bug Out Alley").

Es geht weiter durch Münchens Strassen

About half a mile from Odeons Platz and the Feldherrnhalle is Konigs Platz, an area important after Hitler came to power. To get there, follow Brienner Strasse, the main street from the square.

The first important landmark on your way is Karolinen Platz, a square easily recognized by a tall black obelisk in its center and the Amerika Haus on its periphery.

Just past the square, on the right hand side of Brienner Strasse, is an empty lot, site of the famous Braunes Haus (Brown House), the Nazi Party's headquarters from 1931 until bombs destroyed it during a wartime air raid.

Continuing toward the end of the block, you will see massive concrete foundations on both sides of Brienner Strasse. These were the foundations of two bombastic Temples of Honor, built by Hitler's architect, Ernst Troost, in which the "martyrs" of the 1923 putsch were entombed. The temples were blasted away in 1947 but the foundations proved too massive for the charge and remain.

Ein Monument für das 1000-jährige Reich

Troost tried to build for the duration of the Thousand Year Reich. Two of his most monstrous structures, the so-called Führer Buildings, used by the party for administrative purposes, have also survived. The one to the right at the corner of Brienner and Arcis streets is now the Mosic Conservatory, the other, to the left, is the directorate of the Bavarian State Art Galleries.

The Konigs Platz itself, just beyond this intersection, also bears witness to Hitler's mad architectural schemes. Built by Leo von Klenze, King Ludwig I's master architect in the early 19th century, the square was once one of the most beautiful in Europe. It was supposed to represent the Elysian Fields of Greek mythology.

A collection of ancient art is housed in the neo-classical building on the left, Greek sculpture in the one on the right. A propylaeum (gateway) closes in the square at the far end. Until Hitler came along, it was covered, in Greek style, with grass.

But the Führer saw the square's potential for his mass propaganda rallies and ordered it covered with the stone slabs that are there today. For a number of years, city planners have intended to restore the original 19th-century appearance and this will probably be done by 1980.

Das "Haus der Kunst"

Ernst Troost's architectural legacy lives on elsewhere - in the "Haus der Kunst" on the corner of Prinzregenten Strasse and Konigin Strasse, across from the U.S. consulate.

In Hitler's day this museum served to display Nazi art. Though still one of Munich's chief galleries, its collection now is mainly modern (Moderne Kunst) or what would have been called "decadent" (entartete) art in the Third Reich.

A nine-room apartment from 1929 on

At the far end of Prinzregenten Strasse - across the river and up the hill - is Prinzregenten Platz, where Hitler rented a nine-room apartment from 1929 on. It was located in the gray building - house No. 16 - at the corner of Prinzregenten Platz and Grillparzer Strasse.

Here he installed his half-sister, Angelika Raubal, to supervise the household, and here, in one of the half dozen bedrooms, Hitler's half-niece and supposed mistress, Geli Raubal, was found shot on Sept. 19, 1931.

The apparent suicide took place after Hitler and Geli had quarreled violently and Hitler had stormed out of the apartment. As long as Hitler lived, Geli's room was closed to all but the Führer himself and his maid, Annie Winter, who put fresh flowers in the room every day.

The building, in excellent condition, is occupied today by offices - like so many of the villas and grand apartment houses in Bogenhausen, once Munich's plushest district.

A whiff of the Hitler era

Even the early-19th-century Prinz Karl Palace, across the street from the U.S. Consulate-General and the Haus der Kunst and now the official residence of Bavaria's prime ministers, has a whiff of the Hitler era. Benito Mussolini lived there in 1944 after SS Col. Otto Skorzeny had rescued him from the clutches of Italian anti-Fascists.

There is also grim old Stadelheim Prison, within sight of what is now EES Headquarters. Ernst Rohm was murdered in this prison in June 1934, during the Night of the Long Knives, when Hitler purged his erstwhile cronies and early associates.

Much of Munich was destroyed during the war and much of what looks or seems old today actually has been meticulously reconstructed over the years. But ironically, much of Hitler's Munich survived without so much as a broken window pane. It is still there to be seen.
By JOHN DORNBERG -  aus Off Duty / Europe / October 1974


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