Young men were moulded into Nazi leaders of the future at Vogelsang Castle in the Rhineland. The complex is the best maintained example of Third Reich architecture in Germany, and since Jan. 1, 2006 it's open to the public.

Since the US Army occupied Burg Vogelsang, one of the Nazi's four elite schools, in 1945 hardly a civilian has had a chance to see it. British and later Belgian soldiers used the building and its 33-square meter (21-square mile) exercise grounds for training. Vogelsang's future took a new turn when the Eifel National Park was established there in 2004 and the Belgians evacuated and handed the lands to the public on Jan. 1, 2006.

Over the past 60 years, nature had its way in most of the 110-square kilometre (68-square mile) military zone between Bonn and the Belgian border. Hikers can take advantage of tours of the park or strike out on their own along the 50 kilometres of paths through grasslands, meadows and forests. However, leaving the paths is strictly forbidden as live ammunition could still be lying around after decades of military use.

Burg Vogelsang, an imposing complex of dozens of buildings perched above Lake Urft, was built between 1934 and 1936 by Cologne architect Clemens Klotz as a training centre for the Nazi leaders of the future. Young men attended classes there between 1936 and 1939, until they were sent home at the start of World War

At the heart of the park is the village of Wollseifen, whose 550 inhabitants were evicted by British soldiers after the war. Though shot up during military exercises, the remains of a church, a school and an electrical sub-station are still visible.

A visitors centre will be the first thing built to mark the changes at Burg Vogelsang. A Nazi documentation centre, a European youth centre and exhibitions about the park and regional history are also planned.

For now though, security guards patrol the grounds to prevent former Nazis and neo-Nazis from making "pilgrimages" to the Third Reich's old school.

For current visiting hours, please visit the website of the museum.

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Source

  • Text: Kevin Prenger
  • Photos: Frits Kruishaar