This could be the worst real estate story ever, I thought as I turned a post in last week, five minutes before deadline. It wasn’t (obviously), but then I started thinking – what IS the worst real estate story ever? How would one even define something like that? It would have to be fluffy, disingenuous, morally repugnant, and yet guiltily mesmerizing – the real estate equivalent of that horrible OJ Simpson book, If I Did It. Imagine my surprise when, after a few hours of research, I actually found what is conclusively the WORST REAL ESTATE STORY OF ALL TIME – a breathless “Us Weekly”-style profile of Hitler’s mountainside villa.
In 1938, the British magazine “Homes and Gardens” (a name which casts the American magazine “Better Homes and Gardens” in a whole new, passive-aggressive light), sent a reporter named Ignatius Phayre to profile the then-Chancellor of Germany’s mountain getaway, Berghof. Like that fat dude on TMZ who’s always angrily defending Kim Kardashian’s “brilliant business sense” (what, it’s always playing at the gym), Phayre produced a masterpiece of thirst and fluffery. The first paragraph opens with Phayre implicitly comparing Hitler to Mozart, by noting how close Berghof is to Salzburg, Mozart’s birthplace. This might literally be the worst comparison of all time; I just sat here for ten minutes trying to think of one that’s worse or even equally bad, and failed. The article goes on to tell us that Hitler designed the house himself, an obvious lie that’s nevertheless reproduced in every single celebrity profile to this day. (Architects must be perpetually irritated that famous people are always like, “oh yeah, I could totally do an architect’s job even though I’ve had no formal training and know nothing about architecture.”)
“There’s nothing pretentious about the Fuhrer’s little estate,” Phayre says, and then tells us about the quirky cactus garden in the entryway, and his private helicopter landing pad on the roof. Nope, no pretension here! Just a regular non-psychotic guy doing regular non-psychotic guy things. “The color scheme throughout this bright, airy chalet is a light jade green,” the profile continues – oh, and Hitler has white wicker furniture, too. Basically he had the interior decorating sense of that aunt we all have who lives in Florida and drunkenly takes us aside every Thanksgiving and tells us to “never get married.” Also, throughout the house are “many Hartz mountain canaries in gilded cages which hang or stand in most of the rooms.” Would I find this detail sinister if it wasn’t about Hitler? Hard to say. But I definitely find this detail sinister.
“The Fuhrer is his own decorator, designer, furnisher, as well as architect,” Phayre states again, possibly at gunpoint. He is also, we learn, “a droll raconteur.” Why do bad, boring people always think they’re hilarious? Is it just that they’re so fiendishly narcissistic that they can’t imagine that there’s any human quality that they don’t possess? Or is it because people are always fake-laughing at their stupid jokes in hopes of gaining favor? (*cough*Trump*cough*) Oh and speaking of monstrous narcissists, what do you think decorates the wall of the villa? Hitler’s own paintings! Hoo boy, there are red flags left and right in this article. (And even I skipped the part about how his widowed sister lives with him as a “housekeeper.”) We also learn that Hitler likes flowers (so did my ex – probably not a coincidence!) and music. I only mention this last detail because when I look at my friends’ online dating profiles, and they’ve listed “music” as one of their likes/interests, I always scold them – liking music doesn’t mean anything, everyone likes music. And this article confirms it! Can we all agree that if Hitler liked music, we should all stop listing it on our dating profiles? Thank you.
The next section details Hitler’s nightly routine, specifying that the clean-livin’ Fuhrer didn’t drink, smoke, or eat meat. (The writer conveniently left out that Hitler received daily injections of pure amphetamine; it’s almost too perfect that the dude who obliterated Europe by inventing the Blitzkrieg was a meth fiend. Many scholars theorize that Hitler’s last days of command were so ineffectual and random because at that point he was just a strung-out junkie.) After dinner, the article continues, Hitler gave guests “joy rides” in his private plane – again, why do monstrous narcissistic dudes always have private planes that they fly themselves? “This is the only home in which Hitler can laugh and take his ease,” Phayre tells us in the closing paragraph – again, an ambiguously sinister passage in retrospect – before disclosing that Hitler also has a huge tripod telescope on his terrace that he uses to look out on the surrounding villagers. Yes, Hitler was a voyeuristic perv! Man, a psychologist could really go to town on this article. “I built this house with money that I earned,” Hitler is quoted as saying – of course, the whole story is somewhat more complicated. He bought out all the surrounding occupants, for miles around, some of whom had been living there for several generations. (Hot take – “Was Hitler the Original Gentrifier?”) When the guy who owned the luxury hotel next door declined Hitler’s buyout, Hitler threw him in the Dachau concentration camp until he agreed to sell.
So what happened to the villa? It was bombed by Allied forces, and then demolished by the German government in the 1950s to discourage neo-Nazi pilgrimages. (The notorious suicide bunker where Hitler took poison was under the villa.) After the war, the hotel owner who’d been forced to sell came back and reopened the hotel, and it’s still in operation today. I bet at least once a day, he’d go out on his balcony, point to the rubble of Hitler’s villa, and laugh.