About a year after his introduction to Berchtesgaden, Hitler and a friend made a two mile hike up to Obersalzberg (High-salt-mountain). Dotted with a few small farms and summer guest-houses, the area offered some of the most spectacular scenic views of the German and Austrian Alps. Hitler described the region as "a countryside of indescribable beauty."* He soon began spending most of his free time there and normally took a room at the Pension Moritz.* There (after a stint in Landsberg prison for his attempted coup on Nov. 9, 1923), he would finish the first volume of Mein Kampf. A short walk below the Moritz was the Turken Inn (named after an innkeeper who fought the Turks) where Hitler and his friends enjoyed the "genuine goulash"* and often lingered in one of the small public rooms lost in conversation. It no doubt impressed Hitler to learn that the Moritz and Turken had once been the meeting places of such dignitaries as Prince-Regent Luitpold of Bavaria, the composer Johannes Brahms and even Crown prince Wilhelm of Prussia.*
Hitler and his friends soon adopted the old habit of the late 19th century gentry and, weather permitting, donned leisure clothes and took up hiking for entertainment and exercise. On one occasion Hitler and Eckart were hiking up the higher reaches of Hoher Goll mountain and got caught in a storm. They took shelter at the Purtscheller hut (today the Purtscheller haus). The wind was so fierce, Hitler later recalled, "we thought the hut was about to fly away."*
Not long after, a new owner took over the Moritz and Hitler became dissatisfied with the service. A stones throw away was the Marineheim and he began staying there. Again he became dissatisfied. Although the wealthy middle class have always spoken out against the "titled aristocracy" they have always done their best to follow in their steps and began to make Obersalzberg one of their stomping grounds. The Marineheim had become their guest house of choice. Hitler, who preferred the company of "unpretentious fellows,"* as he put it, found the clientele "intolerable....A society entirely lacking in naturalness, characters swollen with pretentiousness, the quintessence of everything that revolts us!"* Hitler moved out.
Hitler retreated back to Berchtesgaden and his new "free time" retreat tended to be the hotel Deutsche Haus on Maximilian Strasse. He stayed there for two years, "with breaks," and there he wrote the second volume of Mein Kampf.* "I had hours of leisure, in those days," he would later say, "and how many charming friends."*
Hitler's inner circle had grown rapidly after his takeover of the party and soon numbered over thirty. He had patched up the differences between himself and most of the old Committee. Even Drexler accompanied him to Berchtesgaden.* The stunning growth of the party (in 1923 there were 50,000 active members) had everyone optimistic and in high spirits. There were times when Hitler and his circle occupied an entire floor of the Deutsche Haus and they used to gather in one another's rooms or in the cafe. The "booming" of their laughter and voices, Hitler would later recall, "filled the house."*
Hitler and his friends also visited other beer gardens and cafes around the town.* As he would later recall: "I was very fond of visiting the Dreimaderlhaus where there were always pretty girls. This was a real treat for me. There was one of them, especially, who was a real beauty."**
A short distance north of the Deutsche Haus is Kurgarten where Hitler enjoyed walking his dog. One day, in 1926, a young girl of sixteen, blond, blue-eyed, attractive and "full-bosomed,"* caught his eye. He struck up a conversation and they soon became friends. Her name was Maria "Mitzi" Reiter and she and her older sister ran a dress shop across the street from the Deutsche Haus.* The friendship turned into a flirtation and Hitler invited "Miezel," as he called her,* to a concert. Mitzi's sister protested on the grounds that Hitler was twenty years older than her younger sister, but Mitzi would not be dissuaded. "He [Hitler]" she told her sister, "cuts a fine figure with those riding breeches and that riding crop."* Shortly after, Hitler wisely invited both sisters to a party meeting* at the Deutsche Haus* where he was scheduled to speak. Mitzi later stated that the speech was very "passionate" but she felt uncomfortable because Hitler, as she put it: "kept looking over at our table and fixed his eyes directly on me."* She nevertheless, enjoyed the speech and when she told Hitler, he was "happy as could be." Before the evening ended, Hitler "playfully" fed her cake with his fingers.* Afterward, Mitzi's sister ceased objecting to the budding romance.
Over the next few days Hitler and Mitzi drew closer. Hitler compared her blue eyes to his mothers* and it became obvious to her that Hitler's interest was much more than just platonic. One day, while on a walk, he suddenly stopped and kissed her. "He was full of wild passion," Mitzi later recounted, and before long they became lovers.*
They enjoyed hiking in the woods where, according to Mitzi, they "romped like children."* On one occasion Mitzi was standing near a tree and Hitler stepped back about ten steps and, according to Mitzi, "warned me to stay perfectly still like an artist's model....'A magnificent picture!' he exclaimed....He looked at my legs and at my face. His gaze went up to the top of the tree behind me. Then he stretched both arms out beckoning me to him. 'Do you know who you are now?" Hitler asked. "Now you are my woodland sprite."* After a few meaningless words, Hitler "smothered" her with kisses. "I was so happy," Mitzi later stated, "I wished I could die."* For Christmas they exchanged presents. She gave him some cushions, decorated with swastikas, she had embroidered herself. He gave her an autographed copy of Mein Kampf.*
About the only cruel thing Mitzi could remember that Hitler ever did (and historians drilled her hard looking for it) was that he "whipped" his dog on one occasion. When she reproached Hitler about it, he passed it off as a form of obedience training (his dog had attacked hers) and stated: "That was necessary."*
Mitzi had her heart set on marriage but all Hitler would agree to was renting an apartment in Munich where they could live together.* After nearly two years, news of the affair started circulating and it began to negatively affect Hitler's political career. Hitler broke off the relationship* and shortly after, when Mitzi learned that Hitler was seeing another women, she, "in a fit of jealousy," as she put it, attempted to hang herself. She was freed after losing consciousness but survived.*
Nearly four years later Hitler still had "Miezel" on his mind and sent Hess to ask her to come to him.* Although she had married an innkeeper in the meantime, she packed her bags, left her husband and ran off to join Hitler who by then was living in a splendid nine room apartment with balcony on Prinzregenten Platz. She tried her best to win him as a husband. "I let him do what he wanted. I was never so happy." she stated.* Hitler still refused to marry her. She returned to her husband but two years later (when Hitler was the Fuhrer of all Germany and Eva Braun was his mistress) she went to him for the second time. Again she attempted to win him back by repeating their earlier tryst.* In one of their conversations she asked Hitler if he was happy. "No," he replied, "if you mean with Eva."* Hitler still refused to marry Mitzi and again they parted. They never saw one another again but Mitzi kept Hitler's letters and a wrist watch he had given her for one of her birthdays.*
"Miezel was a delightful girl," Hitler would recollect years later when nearly all of Europe lay at his feet, "[but] there could be no question of marriage for me. I therefore had to renounce certain opportunities that offered themselves."* (When Hitler would learn in 1940 that her second husband had been killed, he sent her 100 red roses.*)
In the meantime, Hitler had "fallen in love with the landscape" at Obersalzberg.* "Every day," he would later recollect, "I went up to Obersalzberg, which took me two and a half hours' walking there and back."*
It was during his walks that Hitler noticed a little cottage on the side of a hill. Known as Wachenfeld (the maiden name of the builder's wife), the unpretentious cottage sat about a hundred yards below the Turken Inn. The cottage faced north toward Salzburg, Austria and sections of the Austrian Alps could also be seen in the distance. It was this view that appealed most to Hitler; "perhaps," he would later say, "out of nostalgia for my little fatherland."* When he heard that the cottage was up for rent he leased it.* He brought in his half-sister, Angela, who was living in Vienna at the time to "take over the part of mistress of the house." Worried that his political enemies might attempt to get at him through his sister, Hitler "procured two watch-dogs for her." He later stated: "Nothing ever happened to her."* (Hitler really worried about his sisters. As early as 1923 his younger sister Paula added Wolf to her name in order to avoid too close a link between herself and her brother.* There can be little doubt that her new name "Hitler-Wolf" was Hitler's idea.) Hitler later brought Wachenfeld, designed and enlarged it for comfort rather than splendor,* and renamed it the Berghof (Mountain Manor). He owned and maintained it until his death.
Although Hitler also had his rented apartment on Prinzregenten Platz, it was the Berchtesgaden area that he considered his home and whenever possible he retreated there. On the night of Jan. 16th, 1942, when, for over a month, Hitler's armies were being decimated on the snow covered plains before Moscow, Hitler stated: "The Berghof....How I'd like to be up there!...But how far away it is, terribly far!"*
That Hitler chose to make the Berchtesgaden area his home is not surprising. The area is not only one of the most beautiful spots in Germany but it harbored the same class of people that Hitler was exposed to in his boyhood towns of Hafeld, Lambach and Leonding. They were the kind of people he felt at ease with and from which he received much of his support.
Understanding his popularity among small town people, Hitler adapted the "circus tent" for political purposes to provide adequate room for those in small towns who wished to attend his meetings.* Food and beer was served to create a congenial atmosphere and the tents were usually filled to capacity. With his slogan "a job and bread," people of less modest means and backgrounds continued to flock to the Nazi banner.
In 1932 Hitler's party became the largest in Germany, which, under the terms of the Weimar constitution, entitled Hitler to the position of Chancellor. Although the government elite did everything possible to deny Hitler what was rightfully his, on Jan. 30, 1933 he finally took his position. A month later he called for a new round of Reichstag elections to counter those who thought they could "use" him. The party received 44% of the vote. Considering that Germany was awash with over twenty "respectable" parties, including seven major ones, Hitler's success was unprecedented in German voting history. With an alliance with the German National People's Party (headed by upper class Rightists) he achieved a majority of nearly 53%. The outcome produced one of the most optimistic periods Germany had seen in twenty years. The churches, trade unions, non-communist parties and even academic and professional associations hopped on the "national wave."* Party membership climbed to 2,500,000. Shortly after, Hitler was voted dictatorial powers over all Germans.
By placing a 6% cap on the profits on industrialists, by instituting huge public works projects, subsidizing home repairs, loans to newlyweds, and other government programs, Hitler was able to put two and a half million of the six million unemployed back to work in less than a year.* By locking up Communist leaders, forming "block watches" across the country, and coming down hard on criminals, the disorder and crime that infected German streets disappeared.
Ten months after coming to power Hitler held a "referendum" as to how he was doing and nine out of ten German voters gave him an approval rating.* Although many among the upper classes argued that the outcome was due to "intimidation," they and the Communists seemed to be the only ones who felt intimidated. As Hitler stated: "It was not by using police terror methods that we National Socialists won over the people, but by enlightening and educating them."* Nearly the whole German nation (made purer by the Allied policy of stripping away diverse regions after W.W.I) threw themselves behind Hitler. In time, even Hitler's staunchest opponents among "businessmen, academics and other persons of quality" hopped on the band wagon and talked about "changing times." In a 1989 PBS Bill Moyers interview, William Shirer stated that when he was leaving Germany (shortly after Hitler came to power) his elite circle assured him that they would resist the new government. When Shirer returned a few years later, he found them all supporting the "new order." Maybe Albert Speer, who also came from a privileged family, said it best: "...we threw ourselves on our bellies."*
Like Mitzi and others from the crowd, "persons of quality"* who Hitler despised,** also ran to him lovingly, "unreservedly and unthinkingly."* In the end they, like Mitzi, nearly killed themselves for him. But then, wasn't Der Fuhrer their making?