Fire alarm at former Hitler retreat Eagle's Nest

26th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Hitler's former mountain retreat, now a popular spot for tourists, was pronounced safe after a fire broke out, causing tourists to be evacuated

Berchtesgaden -- A fire alarm hit Adolf Hitler's former mountaintop chalet, nicknamed the Eagle's Nest, on Saturday, triggering plans for a massive alpine rescue mission of 500 tourists stranded on the snow-capped peak before the all clear came.

Tourists can drive much of the way to the summit of the Kehlstein mountain, then ride to the top in Hitler's personal elevator and eat and drink at the chalet restaurant while enjoying the spectacular alpine view from 1,834 metres.

Police, who initially spoke of a fire in the elevator machinery room, said later that inspectors could not see evidence of a fire and believed some other technical problem had triggered the alarm.

With the elevator initially out of service for a safety check and no other easy way down the mountain, six helicopters and climbers with ropes were put on standby to pluck the visitors off the frigid peak.

The elevator was eventually pronounced safe and by dusk had shuttled the last of the tourists down to the car park from the chalet, known in German as the Kehlsteinhaus. The elevator is in a vertical rock tunnel.

The site was once part of Hitler's Obersalzberg private holiday retreat. It is the only building in the compound still existing in its original form. Snow on the mountain top was still several metres deep on Saturday, with the summer thaw still to come.

Police said the fire was probably caused by a technical malfunction.

The chalet was a present from Nazi acolytes to Hitler in 1939 on his 50th birthday and was promptly nicknamed the Eagle's Nest.

It has been managed by the Berchtesgadener Land Tourist Board since 1960, with the cafe leased to a private entrepreneur.

The various buildings of the Obersalzburg, in Germany's far southeast corner, were a place of pilgrimage for fanatical Nazis before World War II. A museum nearby depicts the crimes of the Nazis.

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