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English (英文原声） Isabell
WWII was a dark time in general, global destruction occurred between 1939-1945, displacing people and property. Adolf Hitler had risen to power in Germany and Austria and had pitted himself against European and American Allies. Throughout his reign of terror, he amassed hundreds of thousands of precious pieces of art, property and wine. During the war, he brought much of his stolen booty to his mountain property in Berchtesgaden, located in the south district of Berchtesgaden Land in Bavaria, near the border with Austria, some 30 km (19 mi) south of Salzburg and 180 km (110 mi) southeast of Munich. This was a luxurious mountain retreat where he and his most loyal generals had vacation homes.
The Kehlsteinhaus (known as the Eagle’s Nest in English-speaking countries) is a Third Reich-era building that had been erected atop the summit of the Kehlstein, above the Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden. This where Hitler had stashed over 500,000 bottles of stolen wines. It seems a bit excessive for someone who never drank, but he likely stole them as a sign of status and because he could. Hitler was famous for his lavish gatherings where he served this wine to his guests. But where did all this wine come from?
The wine came from all over Europe but, it was the French who had paid the dearest in terms of wine. The French regarded their wines as synonymous with their cultural heritage, to lose them was tantamount to sacrilege. When the German broke through the French lines in 1939, the wineries, and restaurants scrambled to hide their most precious vintages, however they were unable to hide them all. They began building walls to block off rooms with their most prized wines and champagne’s. In order to fool the Germans into missing these brand-new additions to their cellars and basements, they collected thousand’s spiders and placed them on the fresh walls to allow them to start weaving cobwebs. They also relabeled their newer less important wines, and then teamed up with the local carpet cleaners, collecting the dust from the carpets and sprinkling it over the newer wine bottles in order for it to seem like they had been placed there years earlier.
As the war progressed the Germans demanded as many as 400,000 bottles per week for Germany — a nearly impossible order to fill and often the French producers were barely paid in exchange. The resistance movement played a huge role in saving wines from the Germans, they would hijack shipments and replace the barrel contents with water, quite often landing these people in jail.
Finally, in 1945 when the war had drawn to a close, days after Hitler’s suicide, the French and the Americans started a race to get to Berchtesgaden and Hitler’s Eagles nest. The French were particularly driven to get their first since they knew that their cherished heritage had been hidden there – the wine. The French reached the Nest first and it is said that a 23-year old sergeant from the Champagne region was the first Allied soldier to make it to the ironclad door where he found half a million bottles of the finest wines known to man – including hundreds of cases of 1928 Salon champagne, which he himself had seen the Germans take five years earlier.
The real challenge became getting as many bottles as humanly possible down the steep mountain without breaking them. The soldiers got creative and used medical stretchers to carry the bottles down to the bottom, from there tanks, trucks, other vehicles were stripped bare to make room for the wine – soldiers threw out clothes, tools, ammunitions as well as emptied their canteens, refilling them with fabled wines like the Latour ’29, Mouton ’34 and Lafite ’37. Imagining this scene is quite exciting, as well as their lively trip home, probably drinking what they could of all that wine!