Bavarian tainted ground: In a landscape scarred by history, is fresh paint an appropriate memorial?





In a lovely spot in Bavaria, surrounded by majestic mountains with snowy peaks, speckled with alpine roses and edelweiss, quaint white houses and onion-domed churches, stands a lovely hotel. Opened last March, the five-star Intercontinental Resort Berchtesgaden features a golf course, a superb wine cellar and first-class restaurant, an excellent sauna and fitness centre, and panoramic views from every room.

The fact that the view from the great window is almost identical to what Hitler saw from the Berghof, his country retreat nearby, as he brooded over plans to make Europe fit for the super race, and that Hermann Goering and Martin Bormann lived next door, and that a large SS barracks once stood where you park your car, and that under your feet is a warren of bunkers that housed the Nazi command centre, all this doesn't bother Dieter Krautzig, one of the developers. After all, he says, "the landscape can't help it that Hitler once walked around here."

True enough. And yet some people have doubts. Michel Friedman, vice-president of the German Jewish Council, finds building a luxury hotel in a place such as this "tasteless". Worse, he believes, it "robs the spot of its history". Although blameless, the landscape of Obersalzberg, in his view, is tainted, just as the picturesque village of Dachau, once an artists' colony, is tainted, as is, in the eyes of some, Ground Zero in New York. Reverence for the victims of evil dictates a certain piousness. You cannot pretend that life just continues on tainted ground. Sitting back in your comfortable chair at the wellness hotel, enjoying Hitler's view with a glass of fine wine, is a kind of sacrilege. Or is it?

Berchtesgaden, on the Obersalzberg, is just one of many places that raise the question of what to do with tainted ground. Do you destroy the traces, as often happens with houses where gruesome murders were committed? Or do you preserve the physical leftovers as memorials?


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