Did you know that this fairy tale castle built high atop a hill in Southern Germany, in which Sleeping Beauty’s Castle was modeled, was almost blown up by the Nazis at the end of World War II?
Every once in a while, here on the blog, I like to highlight one of my favorite destinations, as it relates to history. Hopefully, you will find it as interesting as I do.
You can see the first installment about a church in Prague here.
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of my favorite places in the world. We visited during a road trip around Europe in 2017. It’s an easy drive from Munich and takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
This castle is well known as a tourist attraction, drawing 1.4 million visitors each year, but one of my favorite features of Neuschwanstein, in which many visitors are unaware, is its World War II history.
Located near the beautiful little town of Füssen in Southwest Bavaria, this amazing palace was commissioned by King Ludwig II, and construction was begun in 1869. Upon Ludwig’s mysterious death in 1886, the castle was still not completely finished.
After his death, the castle almost immediately became a tourist attraction, and the funds from the growing number of visitors were used to pay for the ongoing construction. Although it is arguably the most famous castle in the world, it remains unfinished to this day.
Neuschwanstein’s remote location, near the Austrian border, and fairly empty but huge interior rooms, made it a perfect spot for Hitler’s Nazis to store artworks and gold looted from countries across Europe during World War II. The art was intended to be displayed at Hitler’s planned Führer Museum after the war ended.
As depicted in the 2014 movie Monuments Men, the Nazis spent 12 years amassing a staggering number of artifacts while they terrorized their way across Europe. The looted art and other valuables were hidden in various spots across the region. After the liberation of Paris, and with the help of a French museum employee, the allies discovered over 21,000 stolen collectors items at Neuschwanstein Castle, including a bronze bust by the French sculpter Rodin, famous for “The Thinker”, abandoned nearby in the woods.
Along with the artwork, several leather bound books were found. It was discovered that these books contained photographs documenting the looted artwork. It was also discovered that some of these books, later used as evidence in the Nuremberg Trials, were one time birthday gifts given to Adolf Hitler.
As part of the “Nero Decree”, the castle fell under the order by Hitler, that if he were to die, or that it was evident that Germany would lose the war, all of the stolen artwork and storage facilities were to be destroyed.
If you decide to take the 30 minute tour of the interior of the castle, don’t expect to hear anything about Neuschwanstein’s Nazi connection, especially the fact that the order was given toward the end of the war to blow up the castle and all of its contents. These important historical details are curiously left out of the narration.
Luckily for travelers today, the Nero Decree was never carried out.