Chillin’ with der Fuhrer

Simon Waldman, who nowadays styles himself 50 Quid Bloke (spotlighted by 3 Quarks Daily) has dug up and scanned in some pages from the November 1938 issue of an English magazine called Homes & Gardens. The article has the same genteel starfucker tone recognizable to anyone who’s read Architectural Digest, with the creepy difference that here the subject is the country retreat of a statesman named Adolf Hitler.

It’s a quick read, and the pictures are fascinating. Bear in mind that the vapid, fawning descriptions of Hitler and his mountain abode were written after Germany’s participation in the Spanish Civil War, with its aerial bombardments of defenseless civilians (commemorated by Pablo Picasso in his painting Guernica, unveiled the summer before this article ran, at the International Exposition in Paris); less than a year after the Anschluss with Austria and only two months after the annexation of the Sudetendland districts of Czechoslovakia. Remember also that Kristallnacht, the state-sponsored pogrom throughout Germany and Austria, took place during the month this issue hit the news stands:

It is a mistake to guess that week-end guests are all, or even mainly, State officials. Hitler delights in the society of brilliant foreigners, especially painters, musicians and singers. As host, he is a droll raconteur; we all know how surprised were Mr. Lloyd George and his party when they accepted an invitation to Haus Wachenfeld.The guest bedrooms are hung with old engravings. But more interesting than any of these to the visitor are the Führer’s own water-colour sketches. Time was when a hungry Hitler was glad to raise a few marks by selling these little works; none measures more than about eight inches square, and each is signed “A. Hitler” – unmistakably, if also illegibly!

With the benefit of hindsight, even the most fatuous paragraphs give off a little chill of premonition:

Nor must I forget to mention the archery-butts at the back of the chalet. It is strange to watch the burly Field-Marshal Göring, as chief of the most formidable air force in Europe, taking a turn with the bow and arrow at straw targets of twenty-five yards range. There is as much to-do about those scarlet bulls-eyes as though the fate of nations depended on a perfect score!

Waldman first posted the pages in 2003 and got himself into a copyright dispute with the publisher that swelled into a cause celebre. Read his take on what happened here.

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