Reading sample – Hitler Itinerar
Is there really anything left to say about Adolf Hitler? The answer may come as a surprise to some: yes! The German dictator lived 56 years and ten days. During his 4,473 days of rule, and even more so during the 2,068 days of World War Two until he committed suicide, he changed the world and brought misery, suffering and death to millions of people. More than 50 countries were at war with Nazi Germany by the end of the war in April 1945. These nations formed a powerful coalition that was able to defeat Hitler for the good of humankind; putting an end to both the biggest military conflict the world has ever seen and the most atrocious crime against humanity – the genocide of the European Jews. Historians have long asked fundamental questions about National Socialism, but they are increasingly turning their attention to other areas. Nevertheless, historical research is and will remain an indispensable requisite for a functional culture of remembrance. When studying history, the tendency is to work backwards – to start with the indescribable horror that took place in the extermination camp at Auschwitz, or with the end of the Second World War. Starting at the beginning and working in chronological order is of equal importance – starting with Adolf Hitler, the child. Working like this paves the way to questions like “How did it happen? How did Hitler, the son of an Austrian-Bulgarian civil servant, make it from a guest house in Braunau am Inn to a Männerheim in Vienna, to the trenches of the First World War in Belgium and France, the backrooms of a Munich beer hall and the Brown House, to the Reich Chancellery, and ultimately to the Führerbunker? From a hostel for homeless men to his status as one of the most revered, and at the same time, hated, people in world history: How did he do it? The man who would become the tyrant we think of today was not an enigmatic figure, but a person who lived in and moved around the country. Hitler regularly turned down office work and made decisions spontaneously – often affected by and according to the social conditions and environment in which he found himself. For this reason, the dictator’s ever-changing place of residence plays a significant role in his politics, more so than is the case for other historical figures. For such a high-ranking political and military figure, he led an odd private life.
Up until 1926/1927, the political centre of the Nazi party was wherever Hitler was – and he was constantly on the move. Hanna Arendt appropriately remarks: “The decisive character of totalitarianism is the ambiguity surrounding the centre of power. By geographically shifting power – other than the will embodied by the Führer – it is impossible to tell where the power centre of the administration lies.” Many towns and cities were keen to distance themselves from Hitler’s visits after 1945. Their focus was on quickly forgetting, on suppression, and creating fables behind which many towns and regions could hide and relativise their Nazi past. Only in recent years have some places have begun to reappraise this chapter of their history. To fill in the gaps, uncover mistakes and falsities, to speak out against the legends and suppression – and thereby serve our culture of remembrance – I have brought history and topography together by delving into the data. I do not comment on the events from this time; I only document them. It is important we remind ourselves that commemoration and remembrance have nothing to do with honour. This was made clear by the town of Fischlham in Upper Austria when it mounted a commemorative plaque at Hitler’s former school: “Not Heil – Unheil – He brought destruction and death to millions of people.” In the same spirit the motto of the Jewish-Austrian who survived the Holocaust as can be found in Simon Wiesenthal’s (1908-2005) words: “Enlightenment is defence.” I was particularly pleased when his daughter Dr Paulinka Kreisberg supported this book with a caricature of her father that conveys what lay at the core of a man who quite simply symbolises evil like no other. With its detailed reconstruction of his life, this work is a supplement to the most important biographies written about Hitler. It is a work unlike any other that has ever been published anywhere in the world.
Coburg, April 2016
Where exactly did Hitler reside from the time of his birth on 20 April 1889 in the Austrian village of Braunau Am Inn, then part of Austria-Hungary, until his suicide on 30 April 1945 in Berlin at a time when the Third Reich was almost entirely occupied? This book is an almost exhaustive account of the German dictator’s movements, and it answers this question. It first offers a summary of all the places he lived and stayed in, as well as his travel details, including information about the modes of transport. It then puts this data in its political, military and personal/private context. Extra information relating to the type of transport used, Hitler’s physical remains and the destruction he left behind are also included. Hitler biographers have researched sources dating back to the period between 1889 and 1918. Such biographers – especially in more recent times – were able to assess new material and correct the mistakes made by other authors in the past. Prominent examples include Anton Joachimsthaler and Brigitte Hamann whose books provide a valuable basis for research into the first three decades of Hitler’s life. Hitler became politically active in 1919. Sources from the early years are scarce and relatively neutral. However, soon after that, the tone of the sources is influenced heavily by the political attitudes of the contemporary journalism. Objective information waned, and reports were either glorified or highly disapproving. References to travel, the means of transport used, etc. do exist to some degree, but are often also contradictory. They were often produced in anticipation of or after events had taken place. Whether or not a reporter was present, or if the information had been passed on by a third party also plays an important role. This is evident when looking at information about Hitler’s speeches. It is not uncommon for reporters or historians to only use the dates on which articles about Hitler’s appearances appeared in the press, and this without actually taking into account that newspapers were typically printed the next day. The fact that some publications from certain towns and cities were published two or three times a day must also be taken into account. Because at this time the Nazi leader preferred not to be photographed for political reasons, there are few photographs dating back to Hitler’s early political career at the beginning of the 1920s. Reporters who still tried to take pictures could face problems with Hitler’s bodyguards in spring 1923. Hitler’s election campaign, which saw him fly around Germany in 1932, was cause for a previously unseen amount of organisational effort and propagandistic perfection. Despite extensive reporting at the time, details about departure and arrival times, overnight stops, etc. are often missing.
According to reports by the Nazi Party, Hitler had covered 1.5 million kilometres via car between 1924 and 1933 – proof of this, however, is not known to exist. Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” is wholly unsuitable since it contains as good as no actual dates, facts or geographical references. The sources dating back to Hitler’s first five years in government, from 1933 to 1938, are equally as unreliable. Reports in the state censored press, as well as in the contemporary literature and newspapers, are mostly glorified. Reports of Hitler’s achievements and the rapture of the people who waited for the arrival and procession of their godlike idol are almost endless. Only rarely are details given about the routes taken by processions in the many towns and cities Hitler visited. Even in the left-wing press, which existed in Germany until spring 1933, such details are lacking; articles in the publications are malice-filled, concentrating mainly on the way Hitler presented himself. They are open in their criticism of the objectionable content of his speeches. Contemporary reviews of the conformist press, especially those from the “Kampfzeit der Bewegung“ (Warring times of the Movement) until 1933, also often prove themselves to be flawed or in some cases even deliberately manipulated for personal political reasons. The rivalry between towns and cities to gain the Führer’s favour and affection is apparent in these reports. People were aware that, due to a lack of relevant recordings, nobody would be able to give a critical and factual analysis of such claims. On 31 March 1933, for example, the “Weimarer Zeitung” wrote about Weimar: “No other city has been visited by Hitler so often, there is no other German city in which Hitler has made such momentous speeches.” A similar claim was circulating in Hamburg. The “Goslarer Neueste Nachrichten” wrote on 1 August 1937: “There is no other German town or city like Goslar to which the leader of the Nazi Party is so closely connected and committed.” This gave the town appeal; it almost became a town marketing strategy. It also corresponded to the cult of personality around Hitler and was good for the reputation of the local party organisations. Such claims were often just wishful thinking. Essentially, decisions had to me made about official and unofficial trips made by Hitler. During longer, official trips that were not kept secret, news of the route was often passed from town to town via telephone by ecstatic members of the public. Sometimes a fanatic follower would race to the next town or city on a motorbike to share the most recent news with other followers. It was not uncommon for journalists to follow behind Hitler’s motorcade on trips that had been announced to the public – often leading to dangerous situations. There were also journalists who would travel alongside his train. They wanted to be close and able report in real-time on the places he had visited, where he looked out of the train window and also to try and guess what kind of mood he might be in.
Similar inaccuracies can be found in a series of programmes made by ZDF and presented by Guido Knopp. In a documentary by Johanna Kaack about Hitler’s cameraman and photographer Walter Frentz, a photograph is featured of Hitler in the cellar of the New Reich Chancellery as he inspects a model of the city of Linz. The accompanying text correctly points out that the image was captured by Frentz, but falsely goes on to claim this was the last photograph taken of Hitler. The last photograph of Hitler was actually taken ten weeks later in the ruins of the Old Chancellery. It is not known who took this last photograph, but it could not have been Frentz since he had already left Berlin by this time. In his work “Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen 1932 bis 1945“ (Hitler. Speeches and Proclamations 1932 to 1945), which is over 2,300 pages in length, Max Domarus showed meticulous attention to detail, but only took contemporary publications into account. He failed to mention, for example, a visit to Obersalzberg on 3 June 1943 by Boris III, Tsar of Bulgaria. Furthermore, Domarus also relied on data about the places Hitler visited from the censored press, where Berlin is often incorrectly cited. And so, he could not record the decisive meeting relating to Stalingrad that took place in Poltava on 1 June 1942 – it was top secret at this time. Domarus also sometimes even fails to mention published records. The state funeral of Karl Becker in Berlin on 12 April 1940, for example, is missing. In his otherwise detailed work “Hitler in Hamburg”, Werner John claims that “with the exceptions of Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg due to their advantageous positions within the German Reich, Hitler did not visit any city as often as he did Hamburg.” John was unable to prove this information. At the same time, rumours were circulating after the Second World War that Hitler had avoided Hamburg as he was reluctant of the city and its business people. In her Eva Braun biography, Heike Görtemaker writes Hitler spent “half his time in Munich” in February 1933. In reality, during this month of his chancellorship, Hitler only spent four entire days in Munich and was there for a short time on six further days. Franz Seidler and Dieter Zeigert claim in their book about the Führer Headquarters that Hitler spent no time in Pullach after 1939. They claim most of his wartime visits up until 1945 were to “Siedlung Sonnenwald”, built by Martin Bormann and later, for a few decades, home to the Federal Intelligence Service. Hitler is even claimed to have stayed here overnight. Florian Beierl writes that Hitler spent “more time of his life than anywhere else” in Obersalzberg. This, however, is not correct. He further claimed that Hitler had “never graced a German city with his presence after 1939,” which is also not true.
Anton Joachimsthaler, who works with great precision, claims Hitler travelled “370,000 kilometres by car from March 1925 to 23. March 1929.” He fails to give a source for this claim. In the wonderfully compiled book that accompanies the permanent exhibition “Die tödliche Utopie” (The Deadly Utopia) in Obersalzberg, many of Hitler’s notable visits are documented. Unfortunately, the details taken from the literature were cited without first verifying them. As a result, more than a third of the 56 entries are false. It comes as no surprise to find out that many historical facts found on internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia are often incorrect – something which does not deter many people from using it to look up information. According to the site, Hitler’s first appearance outside Bayern took place on 22 March 1925. In reality, the Nazi agitator had already spoken in Stuttgart on 7 May 1920. In Wikipedia’s German language entry “Tag der Nationalen Solidarität” (Day of National Solidarity), which describes the opening of the Winterhilfswerk (Winter Relief of the German Peoples), the following can be found (visited 22 July 2015): “On 11 October 1934, in a speech given at the Kroll Opera House, Adolf Hitler called for fundraising at the second Winter Relief of the German Peoples.” This, however, is also not true. This event actually took place on 9 October 1934, and a report on the event can be found in the “Völkische Beobachter” (Völkisch Observer), edition 282, published on 10 October 1934. The date for the start of the so-called “Deutschlandfluges” during the election campaign in 1932 is often mistakenly thought to be 16 April 1932. In reality, the propaganda tour began two days later with a flight from Munich to Bytom. The false date often found in literature is the date the Nazi Party claimed it had begun. There is also false information to be found at the German Submarine Museum: A photograph of Hitler boarding a submarine in Kiel is dated 28 September 1935. This cannot be true since Hitler was actually in Essen on this day visiting the Krupp company. He boarded the submarine on 28 August – the mistake here is the month.
About this itinerary
Many authors have cited false information about Adolf Hitler, some have even made up information. For a long time, checking such data has been impossible since no exhaustive itinerary exists – impossible at least without time-consuming visits to the archives to assess whatever information is accessible there. In 1992, the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute for Contemporary History) in Munich announced in their volume of “Hitler – Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen” (Hitler – Speeches, Scripts, Orders) that this important work in fundamental historical research was to be published “in conjunction with the production of a detailed itinerary.” Nevertheless, even 23 years later, it is nothing more than an announcement. The need for such an itinerary stems from the numerous mistakes, gaps, fallacies and conflicting reports in the hitherto published literature and television programmes. Works by well-known authors, the overall merit of which is not to be undermined, also contain such mistakes. As a consequence, many questions about historical reality can be raised: Where was Hitler really and when? Where was he when he made important political decisions? Where was he when he was giving war-related orders? Where did he make overnight stops? What did he do between his official engagements? What modes of transport did he use? Where did he relax? Which areas did he visit? What did he do while he travelled? The examples above show that an exhaustive and verifiable, well-researched documentation with such information had long been overdue. The aim of this publication is to get as close as possible to the reality of the past by meticulously analysing all the primary sources available. For this reason, it comes as no surprise to learn that no historian, above all no full-time historian, has undertaken this task; a task that has cost a considerable amount of time and money. With the exception of a few short breaks, this four-volume Hitler-Itinerary was written between 1983 and 2015. Three decades have been spent researching information, validating it and comparing it – this led to a virtual mountain of information. The first step was to gather all the dates to create a list and later on, a database. Whether or not they appeared to be credible, the source of these dates was also recorded in this list and the database. Even at this early stage, there were many conflicting dates. The second step was to systematically ask the respective archives when and how often Hitler was there. Some institutions referred to contemporary witnesses or private individuals who were familiar with the area. The material from these people also found its way into the itinerary – most of these people are no longer alive. Historical newspapers, with the obvious inclusion of the party publication “Völkischer Beobachter”, added to the mountain of information. Personal visits to the archives were also necessary in many cases – to the historical Krupp archive in Essen. These visits not only confirmed the most well-known trips Hitler made but also led to discovering three more trips previously unmentioned in any literature; they were top secret at the time. These documents also coincidentally brought to light Hitler’s visit to the firing range at Krupp AG in Meppen. The documents reveal an appointment in Berlin on the previous day and an appearance in Wilhelmshaven the following day. Hitler did not spend the day between on a train travelling through northwestern Germany; he actually made a stopover in Meppen. Furthermore, papers were found relating to previously unknown contracts by representatives of the company Krupp in the New Reich Chancellery and Obersalzberg. Significant events that were either influenced by Hitler himself or his surroundings or that the “Führer” himself triggered also appear in the itinerary as stand-alone entries. As far as they are known, the times of the events are also noted. Notes made by attendants Karl Wilhelm Krause and Heinz Linge were especially helpful here. It goes without saying that suitable records relating to Hitler’s whereabouts and stays for every day of his life do not exist. Sometimes probabilities have to be taken into account. If, for example, a verifiable event took place on a Monday in Munich, and another on the following Thursday, it is probable that Hitler also spent the Wednesday and the Thursday in Munich. This applies in particular to the time from 1932 when the people of Germany carefully followed the newspapers reports on each and every appearance Hitler made. Therefore if a gap in the data appeared that could be filled logically, and with almost absolute certainty with a particular place, it appears in the itinerary. In some instances, gaps filled using this method were later proved to be correct. On 28 and 30 March, for example, Hitler was in Berlin. For the 29 March, there was no evidence to support the claim he spent the day in Berlin. A photograph was later found of Hitler entering the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts) to visit an exhibition of Polish art. A look in the archives confirmed the opening of the exhibition took place on 29 March 1935. This photograph filled in the gap – there appears to be no other mention anywhere of Hitler’s visit to this exhibition. The exact place Hitler arrived in Berlin after the failed bomb assassination by Georg Elser is a similar case. The fact his special train arrived on the morning of 10 November 1939 at Anhalter Bahnhof could only by confirmed by a caption below a photograph. While selecting the photographic material for this itinerary, the primary focus is on previously unpublished photographs, except for when it seemed necessary to use a well-known photograph. To bridge the gap between past and present or to fill gaps where historical photographs were not available, modern images of the place or comparison images of the original venues round off the depiction. It is on this premise that Erna Hanfstaengl’s house in Uffing is seen for the very first time – the house where Hitler sought refuge after the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 and where he was arrested. It was, however, impossible to illustrate every event and to verify every source used. Doing so would have made the already massive endeavours made in this publication endless. The following example also shows the problems footnotes bring with them: In her book „Bitte mich als Untermieter bei Ihnen anzumelden”, Gunnhild Ruben uses a footnote to refer to part of this itinerary that was available for inspection in its first version at the time at the Institute of Contemporary History in Munch, as well as to Martin Bormann’s Diaries. She writes: “Spanning years, this work recorded Hitler’s exact movements including Hitler’s route to Braunschweig on the 16 and 17 July 1935.” The routes taken to Berlin, Potsdam and Brandenburg all the way to Braunschweig follow. G. Ruben is suggesting here that Bormann had documented the details of the route at that time. In his diary, the only information noted is “16.7.1935 trip M.B. with Führer to Braunschweig.” She failed to mention that it was the author of this itinerary who reconstructed the actual route. Dealing with Nazi history, and more so with the person that was Hitler, represents problems for every author. Lothar Machtan made an excellent analysis of this when he wrote: “Anyone who says anything new about Hitler faces trouble unless he or she takes care and pays attention to detail.”
The historian from Bremen refers to “a lasting irritation which is almost neurotic.” The quest for verified information is more important that the moral judgment of the crimes of the century committed in Hitler’s name. Johannes Haslauer, director at the Staatsarchiv, Coburg rightly concludes: “Sources do not speak for themselves, an academic approach must be taken to interpret them critically. In academia, there are no questions that can be conclusively answered and put to one side.”