Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History
[ source: Wikipedia]
In the realm of the arcane and bizarre, Wewelsburg Castle counts as one of the more unusual sites associated with Nazi mysticism and ideology. This triangular-shaped, Renaissance castle in North Rhine Westfalia was built between 1603 and 1609 as a residence for the prince-bishops of Paderborn (Paderborn vacation rentals | Paderborn travel guide). In 1631, Wewelsburg Castle became infamous for at least two witch trials that took place there. According to legend, thousands of witches were imprisoned, tortured, and executed here. The castle fell into disrepair until 1925, when it was converted into a museum, youth hostel, banquet hall, and restaurant.
Wewelsburg's truly lasting infamy came from its association with Heinrich Himmler and the SS. In 1934, Himmler signed a 100-year 100-mark lease with the Paderborn district for the use of the castle. He intended to renovate the castle and turn it into a "Reich SS Leadership School." Despite Himmler's grand plans, no instruction was ever offered in Wewelsburg Castle. However, scientists in the SS worked here on the subject of "Germanic applied research," to help promote the racial doctrine of the SS. Furthermore, starting in 1935, Wewelsburg Castle became a center for archaeological excavation in the region. Also working at the castle were advocates of SS esotericism linked to racial doctrines, ancestral cults, Germanic mysticism, and the worship of runes. Himmler personally co-opted the mythology of the Holy Grail to create a mythology for the SS. After the renovation of the castle, the rooms were named after figures in the King Arthur legends and from Germany's "heroic" past. The new room ornamentation was informed by SS aesthetics and symbols, with a heavy emphasis on runes and swastikas. Furthermore, Himmler's private collection of weapons was housed in Wewelsburg Castle.
After 1936, Himmler wanted the castle to become an ideological and representative center for the SS. It functioned as a meeting place for the SS upper officer elites, and SS wedding consecrations were performed here. (Himmler forbade SS officers to have Christian weddings.) Also, according to legend, the Death's Head rings of fallen SS officers were sent to Wewelsburg after their deaths for preservation and honor. Contributing to the castle's mystic, Himmler forbade anything to be published about the site after 1939. By 1943, Himmler had spent 15 Reichsmarks for the the planning and construction at Wawelsburg. He intended to make Wewelsburg Castle and an elaborately planned estate around it into the "center of the new world" after the Nazis' "final victory." In the preparation of the site, Himmler utilized concentration camp prisoners from the Sachsenhausen (Sachsenhausen vacation rentals | Sachsenhausen travel guide) and Niederhagen camps. Niederhagen was located on the Wewelsburg property, and it contained about 3,900 Sinti, Roma, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Soviet POWs. Of this number, over 1,300 died before the dismantling of the camp.
When the "final victory" never came, Himmler ordered the destruction of Wewelsburg Castle. The SS troops, however, ran out of explosives, so only part of the castle complex was destroyed. The castle was restored between 1948 and 1949, and in 1950, it was reopened as a youth hostel and museum, which is how it still functions today.
[ source: wikipedia.org ]
About this Article
This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.
Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).
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