Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Neuschwanstein Castle Used by Nazis
What could be more natural than visiting a fairy tale castle and viewing lots of fabulous art? That’s what you would have seen had you been allowed to tour Neuschwanstein Castle in the summer of 1945.
In 1866, the state of Prussia conquered Austria and Bavaria in the “German War.” From then on, Bavaria’s foreign policy was dictated by Prussia and “Mad” King Ludwig, King of Bavaria from 1864 to 1886, was no longer a sovereign ruler. The following year, he began planning his own kingdom where he could be a real king, in the form of his castles and palaces. He created a fantasy world as a refuge from reality, designing Neuschwanstein to be a hideaway from people.
The Nazis appreciated the castle’s role as a hideaway. They hid a vast collection of pilfered art in the castle during World War II. Much of it came from France. The castle remained unfinished, making it easier to use rooms for storage.
Neuschwanstein’s location was ideal. Isolated high in the Bavarian Alps, it is near the Austrian border. Hitler planned to build his own museum in Linz, Austria, his birthplace, and fill it with the stolen art.
Many other places held stashes of art, including salt mines, monasteries, and castles. Heritage sites were spared from attack unless they held strategic importance. Neuschwanstein had no such importance except as a landmark for planes, which the Allies certainly appreciated.
Over 6,000 stolen works of art were hidden at the castle. French curator Rose Valland worked at one of the Germans’ central collection centers where the treasures were accumulated before shipment into Germany. She secretly kept records of their destinations, and pointed the Allies Monuments Men to Neuschwanstein.
The SS intended to destroy the castle and its stored treasures to keep them from the Allies. Seventy years ago, the treasures were recovered. The castle remained undamaged and continues to attract millions of visitors. Ever been there?