Our visit to the museum at The Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden a couple of years ago transported me to the year 1944-1945 when the world was at war and the powers of good and evil hung precariously in the balance. The museum pulls no punches, graphically showing the sinister and devastating impact on people and history by Adolph Hitler and his deranged cronies. Photograph after photograph chronicle the human misery incurred from the rise to the fall of the Third Reich. The early photographs of Hitler and his ascent to power show tens of thousands of ordinary smiling people, saluting him with unabashed patriotism and admiration. We kept asking ourselves how that could happen, especially after they had to have known of the terrible atrocities committed at the numerous concentration camps spread throughout Germany and Austria. The photographs taken at the end of the war of those who once smiled and saluted now showed the despair of disillusionment.
Beneath Hitler’s beautiful resort compound were carved many eerie tunnels, such as the one below, connecting each structure.
What a difference a year made (1944-1945).
The year before at this time we walked on the Normandy landing beaches. We saw the ensignia below not only at the Normandy museums, but also gratefully displayed in the towns’ restaurants and taverns. This D-Day, we find ourselves in Berchtesgarden, and see the ensignia again.
The 101st paratroopers who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 also liberated Berchtesgaden and seized Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, a symbol of his power, less than a year later.
(As an aside, that ensignia hangs on my den wall as my husband John had the privilege of serving with the same division in Vietnam.)
On this day, we are grateful for all those who participated in ending the terror and misery inflicted upon mankind by Hitler and his Third Reich.
The brave young soldiers who fought that day are few and fading.
But the memory of their heroism need not fade. If you are fortunate to know one of them, thank them. Listen to their stories. But above all, thank them.