July 27, 2007

Hitler's Forgotten Castle: Finishing School for Nazis to Become Museum

From Der Spiegel:

A forgotten monument to Hitler's ideology has emerged from a 70-year time warp -- a castle built in the 1930s to train a new Nazi elite. Vacated by the Belgian army last year, it sheds light on the systematic brainwashing that churned out a generation of fanatics. Now it's being spruced up to teach visitors about the perils of indoctrination.

Deep in the Eifel region of western Germany, a stone-clad reminder of Hitler's racist ideology towers above the surrounding wooded hills -- the remains of a training college for aspiring Nazi leaders that was built in the style of a medieval castle.

"NS-Ordensburg Vogelsang" (Vogelsang National Socialist Castle) is a dour arrangement of barracks, community halls and sports arenas hugging a steep slope down to a scenic reservoir. It was built between 1934 and 1936 to give selected Nazi party members aged between 25 and 30 a solid grounding in the superiority of the German race and its need for "Lebensraum" in the east.

Vogelsang, which means "Birdsong," was off limits to the public until last year when it was handed back to the German government by the Belgian army, which had used it as a barracks and training area for almost 50 years after World War II.

The handover has confronted the German government with the difficult question of how to handle a sprawling 50,000 square meter site filled with an embarrassing wealth of more or less intact Nazi symbols, murals and statues including a monstrous five-meter high Germanic "Torch Bearer."

The whole place is Nazi ideology hewn into stone. It shows how the Nazis stole from ancient Greek and Roman styles, Christian symbols and Germanic legends and mixed them up with modern functional designs. The result was an architectural mishmash that was as ludicrous as the pseudo-religious philosophy it was supposed to represent.
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