Leaders of G-7 Summit Gather to Meet in Hitler's Bavarian Castle
June 7, 2015
Agence France-Presse & Business Day Live & Carlo Angerer / NBC News
As the world stands on the verge of total war, on June 6, Western leaders are preparing to meet at one of Adolph Hitler’s favorite estates -- Elmau Castle in the Bavarian Alps, Germany -- surrounded by 25,000 police and military forces to protect them from their own citizens. A ring of steel will keep the expected tens of thousands of anti-G-7 protesters at bay in the ski resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 15km down the road.
Castle with Dark Past Makes for Ideal Venue for G-7 Meeting
Agence France-Presse & Business Day Live>
(June 5, 2015) -- Elmau Castle, nestled in the Bavarian Alps, is a five-star resort that will be transformed into a fortress for the two-day meeting of the club of rich nations. If the forecast for sunny, hot weather holds, the German leader can look forward to an enchanting backdrop for the meeting that will have on the agenda the world’s most pressing crises.
US President Barack Obama has agreed to a village walkabout on Sunday among the feather-capped farmers and dirndl-clad women who make Bavaria famous, complete with a stop for a soft pretzel and frothy beer.
G-7 presidents typically choose picture-postcard spots when planning their annual summit, ideally in a remote location that is easier for police to secure than an urban centre. Ms Merkel was no exception.
"We want to show our guests a beautiful corner of Germany and we are meeting in such a place -- it is an important aspect for the success of these type of summits," she said recently.
But Ms Merkel has also said that she picked the spot for the way the castle’s proprietors have owned up to its Nazi-era history.
Protestant theologian and philosopher Johannes Mueller built the castle during the First World War and when Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933, Mr. Mueller pledged allegiance to the new Fuehrer although he never joined the Nazi party.
But he openly criticised the Nazis’ rabid anti-Semitism as a "disgrace for Germany", according to the hotel’s website, which it says led to tight surveillance by the Gestapo.
After the start of the Second World War, he prevented his beloved hotel from being seized by the Nazi top brass for their own use by renting it out to the German army as a resort for soldiers on leave from the front.
Mr. Mueller faced prosecution after the war for "glorification of Hitler both verbally and in writing" and was convicted and lost ownership of the hotel.
Schloss Elmau served as a US army hospital and later as a refuge for displaced people and Holocaust survivors in the immediate post-war years.
Ms Merkel’s office noted last year when she selected the venue that it now frequently hosted "events that contribute to German-Israeli and German-American understanding," including lectures and debates. The sumptuous accommodation comes complete with 123 rooms and suites, swimming pools and spas.
To maintain security, high-level guests will be whisked by helicopter to the castle, while a ring of steel will keep the expected tens of thousands of anti-G-7 protesters at bay in the ski resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 15km down the road.
Bavaria estimates the total cost of the two-day gathering will reach $147 million, with around 25,000 police officers deployed to keep the peace.
The state is hoping for a powerful knock-on effect for tourism. Local leaders are even lighting up nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty palace, in the colours of the G-7 countries.
G-7 Summit: Huge Security Operation
Around Castle Elmau, Germany
Carlo Angerer / NBC News
(June 5, 2015) -- ELMAU, Germany - World leaders including President Barack Obama will be guarded by 17,000 police officers when they arrive high in the southern German Alps for two days of meetings at the G-7 summit this weekend.
Located at more than 3,000 feet above sea level, Castle Elmau has created special challenges for organizers of this year's global conference, which begins on Sunday.
The luxury hotel is surrounded by lush green fields, dense forests and Alpine mountains and has only with only one paved road leading up to it.
Major highways are shut down and temporary border posts have been set up on at least one mountain trail in Bavaria's largest ever police operation.
"WE HAVE PREPARED FOR ALL POSSIBLE SCENARIOS"
Police spokesman Peter Reichl said that the limited infrastructure made the location challenging for security officials.
"It makes it substantially more difficult," he told NBC News. "Of course we have a tactical advantage that Castle Elmau is difficult to reach, but we also have big logistical problems."
Reichl said the movement of security workers -- many of whom have to be accommodated miles away in Munich or across the Austrian border -- would take a long time, not only because of the many control posts along the way but also because of the lack of paved roads in the immediate area. "We have mostly dirt roads, which are very difficult and steep," he said.
A police car drives past Castle Elmau, which will host the G-7 summit beginning Sunday. Christof Stache / AFP via Getty Images
Some police officers are deployed on foot patrolling the forests around the summit site. Karl Schulz, a mountain specialist with the Bavarian police, said the force was prepared for protesters trying to get close to the castle, but did not expect a big turnout.
"I think that the area will stay relatively calm, because the goal of the opposition is to be seen, and the places where we go, you won't be seen," he said. Schulz said his team was also preparing to rescue any summit visitors who might get lost on the trails.
A major demonstration in Munich on Thursday drew about 40,000 people, organizers said.
Critics have said that scale of the security operation at Castle Elmau is overblown. But officials insist that they have to be ready for all eventualities after some a protest in March against the opening of the new European Central Bank building in Frankfurt turned violent, with police cars set on fire.
"We have prepared for all possible scenarios, we also think that violence-prone protesters will travel to the area," Reichl said.
The General Abrams Complex, a former U.S. Army facility, will be used as a detention and processing facility for any arrested protesters.