G8 summit venue has faced up to complex Nazi past: Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday she had chosen as the venue for next year's G8 summit an Alpine spa that had been exemplary in owning up to its murky Nazi past.
Merkel told reporters she would welcome world leaders to Schloss Elmau, a castle hotel in the ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, when Germany hosts the gathering in mid-2015 in its role as Group of Eight president.
No date has been set for the event at the five-star hotel, which has 123 rooms and suites as well as a concert hall and several restaurants.
Merkel’s office later highlighted in a statement the efforts the current proprietors of the venue had made in recent years to atone for the contradictory actions of its original owner, Protestant theologian and philosopher Johannes Mueller, under the Third Reich.
It said Schloss Elmau had “since the late 1990s become a renowned forum for international debates and inter-religious dialogue”.
“A particular focus is made on events that contribute to German-Israeli and German-American understanding,” Merkel’s office said.
“With this openness to the world, the owner family is consciously and openly facing up to the long history of Schloss Elmau, also in the years between 1933 and 1945, and the ambivalent stance of the builder of the establishment on National Socialism.”
Calling itself a “luxury spa and cultural hideaway”, Schloss Elmau outlines its turbulent history on its website.
Mueller built the castle during World War I, and when Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933, he pledged allegiance to the new Fuehrer although he never joined the Nazi party.
However he also openly criticised the Nazis’ rabid anti-Semitism as a “disgrace for Germany”, according to the website, which it said led to tight surveillance by the Gestapo.
After the start of World War II, he prevented his beloved hotel from being seized by the Nazi brass for their own use by renting it out to the German army as a resort for soldiers returning from the front.
Mueller faced prosecution after the war for “glorification of Hitler both orally and in writing”, was convicted and lost ownership of the hotel, though the verdict was seen as controversial because of his public defence of Jews, the website said.
Schloss Elmau, in the shadow of Germany’s highest mountain peak Zugspitze, served as a US army hospital and later as a refuge for displaced people and Holocaust survivors in the immediate post-war years.
The G8 has chosen remote venues for its annual summits for the last several years on security grounds.