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Hitler at Hintersee (Hardback)

Gerhard Bartels - The Boy in The Photograph

Military > By Century Military > Reference WWII World History

By James Wilson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 248
Illustrations: 140 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036100834
Published: 5th April 2024


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Hitler at Hintersee tells two stories. On the one hand there is Gerhard Bartels, who still lives at Hintersee outside Berchtesgaden. As a small boy Gerhard was photographed on a number of occasions with Adolf Hitler when the Führer visited Hintersee. Gerhard tell us about his life growing up in an area frequented by senior members of the Nazi hierarchy. He talks about the lives of ordinary local people and how the remaining German forces in the area considered putting up a last defence as the Allies advanced towards Berchtesgaden and Hintersee in April and May 1945. His family hotel was taken over as a last stand headquarters.

This fascinating book also examines the significance of the region to the ruthless all-powerful regime and why the Nazi leadership established a southern headquarters on the Obersalzberg above Berchtesgaden. It reveals Hitler’s connection to the area and looks at why he was initially drawn to this beautiful Alpine region in 1923.

Hitler’s close links with Berchtesgaden and the Obersalzberg endured for over twenty years during which time the area was transformed. Local sources together with a wealth of contemporary images provide a depth of previously unexplored information. Hitler at Hintersee provides a unique and fascinating insight into a little-known aspect of Hitler’s life and character.

Gerhard Bartels has lived at Hintersee for most of his life, including around the time of World War II. Hintersee, a village near Berchtesgaden, is a beautiful area of mountains & lakes & it was a destination popular with Hitler & many of his entourage in the lead-up to the war. This biography looks at the lives of the ordinary local people & how they changed with the arrival of the Nazi era.

This is a book about World War II but it looks at it from a different angle from most of the other books I've read on the subject. Instead of concentrating on the military aspects, this book looks at Hitler the politician & Hitler 'off duty', He was one of the first to use the now common political tropes of being photographed relaxing on holiday, & with children to appeal to the ordinary voter. The photographs in this book are fascinating examples of how his image was carefully choreographed in the early years with his visits to Hintersee being used on postcards etc. There are also lots of photographs of the area & the various buildings at the time... Overall, it's a unique & interesting addition to the plethora of information already out there.

NetGalley, Gayle Noble

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The author tells the local history of Hintersee, Zauberwald and the Berchtesgadener Land (Bavaria, south-west Germany). This includes the search for a little boy who appears in an all-too-familiar photograph with Hitler: Gerhard Bartels, the Nazi poster boy who, at the age of four, was unknowingly plastered all over postcards, books and posters.

Hitler visited the area regularly, often under the name 'Woff'. This was partly because a sergeant lived there, a friend of Hitler's who had served with him in the First World War.
He continues to do extensive research into the family history and the fate of the Bartels family during the Second World War.

I studied Germanistics, and have always been fascinated by the two world wars. I knew the picture of the little boy in lederhosen having his photograph taken with the Führer. But here the author goes a step further and explores the local - and family - history of the Bartels family. How the war - and the frequent visits of the Führer and the Nazi summit - affected their lives.
The book is a rich visual record. It explores not only the family history of the four-year-old boy in the photograph, but also the local history of the area, the buildings and the members of the Nazi summit who came there. Many postcards are included in the book, giving a face to the story and the people.
Gerhard Bartels himself feels victimised by the regime, as his image was everywhere as the blond boy with blue eyes who became part of a whole Nazi campaign.

A moving, poignant and fascinating book with very detailed source material.
A must read for anyone visiting the region and interested in the local history of the area and its people.

NetGalley, Sandra van der Plaats

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Hitler at Hintersee by James Wilson is a remarkably intriguing book about Germany during World War II, especially pertaining to Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and those they crushed, and a boy in a photograph. The many photographs are important to show perspectives, propaganda of the day and the juxtaposed beautiful scenery in the Berchtesgaden area in Germany in a time of pure evil. Many ordinary Germans at first got caught up in the "feel-good factor" and fervor with the up and coming Hitler. Then the world changed. Author James Watson describes his connection to Gerhard Bartels, a boy in a photograph with a smiling Hitler at Hintersee near Berchtesgaden. The author's quest was to learn more about the context of the photo and the people in it. Hitler felt Berchtesgaden was the most beautiful place in the world (I know it and attest to its glorious prettiness, though punctuated by horrors of the past). Though he officially only visited Eagle's Nest fourteen times, it had historical and personal significance. Today it remains a terrible but important part of history.

Gerd related his story to the author and recalled Hitler's hold on people, the feeling of elation when Hitler died and postcards of Hitler and children used as propaganda. Amongst my favourite stories Gerd told include the roofing story at Alpenhof, the Obersalzberg smoke generators and he and a friend discovering one of Hitler's special Mercedes. Also mentioned is Paula, Adolf's sister. It must have been an odd feeling in retrospect to have been held by the same Hitler at whose behest millions of innocents were killed during the Holocaust. Gerd is one of those fascinating people one would happily sit with awe and rapt attention, listening to story after story.

If you are keen to learn more about people who knew Hitler behind the scenes, especially Gerd, this book is for you. The interconnections are amazing. What people near Hitler wanted, they got. They could make anything happen...and unfortunately did.

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

This is a neat micro-history of Gerhard Bartels, a boy who appeared in photographs with Hitler while he was in Hintersee, a picturesque Alpine German town. Herr Bartels is still alive and reminds us that WWII wasn’t that long ago. Hintersee played an essential role in the Third Reich; it was a southern headquarters. This book has a ton of information and photographs (primary sources!), and I enjoyed learning about this area.

NetGalley, Andrea Smith

This book offers an interesting insight into how normal things became during Hitler’s regime, which now seem so hard to fathom. Taking a regional focus, waders are shown how the locals adapted to the presence of the Nazis in a role of other than oppressor. I enjoyed reading the details of the young boy’s experiences, including how things progressed as the situation worsened for the Nazis. A very interesting perspective and a new one for me.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

About James Wilson

James Wilson has written Hitler’s Alpine Retreat, Propaganda Postcards of the Luftwaffe,The Nazis’ Nuremberg Rallies, and Hitler’s Alpine Headquarters. He is an expert on theBerchtesgaden area and an avid collector of postcards. He currently lives in Lancashire.

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