What was it like to serve one of the most evil people in history? Elisabeth Kalhammer knows firsthand. When she was 19-years-old, Kalhammer began working at the Berghof, Adolf Hitler's private Bavarian Alps estate in the town of Obersalzberg, Germany. For two years, she worked as a maid, serving Hitler and his mistress Eva Braun.
Now 92-years-old, she has largely kept her former job a secret for the past 70 years. However, she has opened up in recent years and her interview with the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (set to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority), premiered last week.
Kalhammer said that her job at the estate was considered a high distinction, especially since she grew up poor in a small Austrian town.
The estate itself was decorated in what she described as an "ancient German style." Every day, staff would have to personally greet Eva Braun in their uniforms designed by her, saying "Heil, kind lady" and giving a Nazi salute.
She described how Hitler "never woke up before 2:00 p.m. and never went to sleep before 4:00 a.m."
His life at the resort centered around a series of late lavish dinners beginning around 10:00 p.m., where 10 to 15 guests were hosted nightly. Kalhammer said of the meals that she "never tasted food so delicious," recalling how staff would eat the leftovers.
Despite the large meals, she said that Hitler would often wake up in the middle of the night to eat a type of cake called "Fuhrer Cake."
Near the end of World War II, she recalls watching him from the estate window and how he "just stood there... broken. Bent. He walked so slowly." After an assassination attempt against him near the end of the war, Hitler stopped going to the Berghof.
As allied forces encroached, Kalhammer and other staff members were certain they would be killed and even wrote goodbye letters to their families. Eventually, she and a friend abandoned their jobs in the middle of the night and returned home.
Though at the time she was immensely proud, she noted that it "doesn't mean that I was proud about the other things. I didn't understand at the time." Indeed, the Berghof was a site where Hitler would conduct meetings and make decisions regarding World War II and the Holocaust. With tears in her eyes, Kalhammer said that she only learned about the horrors of the Holocaust upon returning to her hometown.
The estate was eventually destroyed by allied forces, in an attempt to prevent it from becoming a neo-Nazi shrine. A plaque stands in its place today.
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