Geoff Walden


Home ] Table of Contents ] Updates ] Berchtesgaden ] Berlin ] Buchenwald ] [ Chiemsee Autobahn Rasthaus ] Adolf Hitler Visits Austria ] Adolf Hitler Visits Czechoslovakia ] Ebensee ] Flossenburg KZ Site ] Garmisch ] Mauthausen ] Gusen/Bergkristall ] Auschwitz-Birkenau ] Thüringen ] Mittelwerk/Dora ] Munich ] Dachau Concentration Camp ] Tegernsee ] Nürnberg ] Muehldorf ] Thingplatz ] End of the War in the Main-Spessart ] s.Pzjr.Abt. 653 ] Schweinfurt ] Miscellaneous Sites ] Wolf's Lair ] Mauerwald ] Anlage Mitte ] Prora KdF Resort ] Project Riese (Giant) ] U.S. Army Posts ] Nazi Eagles ] Wehrmacht Kaserne ] Hitler Visits Vienna ] Ordensburg Vogelsang ] Weimar / Dresden ] Würzburg ] Haus der Deutschen Kunst, Part 1 ] Lost Sites ] German War Memorials ] Cold War Sites ] Links ]


Chiemsee Autobahn Rasthaus

   Chiemsee is a large resort lake in southern Bavaria, and was chosen by Adolf Hitler to be the site of the first Rest House of the Autobahn system. One of the earliest of Hitler's Autobahns was the route between Munich and Salzburg, since Hitler traveled this way often en route to his home on the Obersalzberg. Hitler wanted the best for this Autobahn, including a route that passed by the shore of Chiemsee lake. This required quite a bit of engineering work, as the planners wished to route the highway closer to the mountains where the land was firmer, and the lakeside route required additional roadbed preparation. However, Hitler's wishes were fulfilled, allowing a large Rasthaus complex to be built directly on the shore of the lake, which opened in 1938. This complex served its function for only a few years, before being used as a hospital during World War II.

   Following the end of the war, this complex was taken over by the U.S. Army and for many years this building was the Lake Hotel, part of the U.S. Armed Forces Recreation Center at Chiemsee. However, the AFRC closed its Chiemsee facilities in September 2003, and following the return to the German government, the facilities remained closed to the public for several years. In the fall of 2011 a health clinic was opened in the partially renovated main building. Unfortunately, the interior of this historic building was broken up into offices, and the complex is now closed to the general public.  (Google Maps link)


This plaque at the entrance to the Rasthaus explains the history. The English translation was installed by AFRC.  2012 note - This plaque has been reconditioned, as seen below, but the English translation plaque has been removed.


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Architectural model of the Chiemsee Rasthaus complex. The main building was on the lake shore, with associated buildings on the other side of the Autobahn.  (from Official Catalog of the 1st German Architecture and Crafts Exhibition, in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, January-March 1938 (author's collection)


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The Autobahn Rasthaus at Chiemsee in the late 1930s, and the same view in 2001. (period postcard)


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Similar views from a different angle, showing the entrance portico. (period photo from Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im neuen Reich," Bayreuth, 4th edition, 1938)


The entry area now looks like this, with considerable changes to the classic design done during the renovations.


A winter scene from a period postcard, with the same view in 2012.


Another period view of the main building of the Chiemsee Rasthaus, with a closer view of a secondary entryway and another history plaque.


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Views of the Rasthaus from the lake side, showing Hitler (below) in a boat at the Rasthaus dock, ca. 1939.  (above - from Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im neuen Reich," Bayreuth, 4th edition, 1938; below - National Archives, RG 242-HB; bottom - 1941-dated postcard in author's collection )

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This wing was completely renovated in 2011, and now bears little resemblance to its original appearance.


The Chiemsee Rasthaus as seen ca. 2008 from the lake. The rounded corner room was the Führerzimmer, Hitler's special dining area.  (above - courtesy Ralf Hornberger; below- donated)


On the left, Hitler's Führerzimmer; on the right, Hitler visits with his adjutants and staff.  (courtesy Ralf Hornberger; period postcard)


Further period postcard views of the interior area of Adolf Hitler's Führerzimmer dining area. It is now part of a larger dining room for the clinic patients. Below is a view of the room before the clinic was built.  (above - author's collection; below- photo donated)


Period postcard views of the main dining hall in 1938. This hall remained practically unchanged under use by the U.S. Army, with the large paintings preserved.  (author's collection)


Period postcard views of the main dining hall, showing more of the large paintings. These unique paintings were reportedly removed ca. 2006 and stored, when the Rasthaus (and especially this main hall) were used for modern pop and techno concerts and youth gatherings. Most of these paintings are back on display in the main dining hall, but the hall has been subdivided into offices for the clinic. When the U.S. Army left the Chiemsee Rasthaus, they retained two of the large paintings, which are now displayed in the American Forces Recreation Center Edelweiss Lodge in Garmisch. Below left - "Bergführer aus dem Wilden Kaiser" (Mountain Guide from the Wilder Kaiser Mountains), below right - "Geigenbauer aus Mittenwald" (Violin Maker from Mittenwald).  (above - author's collection)


Above - More period color postcard views of the main dining hall. Below is a view of the empty hall before the clinic was built.  (above - author's collection; below - photo donated)


The period color postcard views above show the Aufenthaltsraum, or main lounge. The view below shows the lounge before it was subdivided into offices for the clinic.  (above - author's collection; below - photo donated)


Period postcard views of the Aufenthaltsraum, or lounge. This was the primary hotel area for gatherings, relaxation, etc. The Aufenthaltsraum was also subdivided into offices in 2011. The Kamin fireplace is in a very small room today, used as an anteroom to the cafeteria (below).  (photo on right below courtesy Jacqueline Wilson)


The basement of the Rasthaus had a Luftschutzraum air raid shelter. The walls were painted with scenic and comical scenes, slogans and poems. The Luftschutzraum is used by the clinic today for file storage.  (photos donated)


More period postcard views of the Rasthaus, from 1938-41.  (author's collection and courtesy Ralf Hornberger)


A cupola / clock tower on the end of the main side wing retains its period "Mermaid" weather vane. On the right, the "mermaid" logo from a 1938 postcard.


On the other side of the Autobahn was a maintenance building with a filling station and garage. This building was used by AFRC as the Park Hotel, but since its return to the German government in 2003 it has remained unused. The site is today overgrown and in disrepair.  (Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im neuen Reich," Vol. 2, Bayreuth, 1943)


One obvious reminder of the American Forces Recreation Center remains today at the Chiemsee Rasthaus site.
American military personnel and their families could ride a special boat to the Herreninsel island to visit Schloß Herrenchiemsee.


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Surprisingly, under the AFRC the Chiemsee Lake Hotel still retained original Third Reich sculpture decoration (and as of 2019 it was still there). The statue seen in the photo at left, on the terrace overlooking the lake behind the hotel, is the Fritz Klimsch work "Die Schauende" (The Looker, modeled by Martha Nabel of Berlin), featured in the grand opening exhibition in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, July 1937 (more views here). Today this sculpture is known as the "Chiemsee Mermaid."  (postcard from the 1937 Haus der Deutschen Kunst exhibition)


It is unclear just when "Die Schauende" was placed on the Chiemsee terrace. Third Reich period photos do not show the work in this location, but it was apparently there shortly after the end of World War II. The photo at the left is undated, but it was in a collection of other photos dated to the summer of 1945. The photo on the right was taken in the 1950s. It may be that the American authorities moved the sculpture from its 1945 location (Munich?) to Chiemsee.  (left - Carl Campbell Collection; right - courtesy Frank Tompkins)


Click here to visit another Chiemsee site associated with the Third Reich.

Click here to visit a similar Autobahn Raststätte in Thüringen.


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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.