In the heart of (one of) central Europe’s largest nature reserves – the Schorfheide – lie the ruins of Herrmann Göring’s luxurious villa, attracting treasure hunters, Neo-Nazis and the curious alike. While nature has reclaimed what belongs to it over the past 72 years, traces of the former splendour which hosted the likes of Mussolini, the king of Siam, and the Duke of Windsor (who later, albeit for a very short time became the King of the United Kingdom) can still be found.
Unfortunatley, the bulk of photos of Carinhall are blocked by heavy licensing fees. While you can look at them for free online, the cost to embed them here are too high. Ive sourced as many license free photos as possible – but Ive also linked out to the respective sources so you can have a better picture of what the estate looked like while it still stood.
Reichsmarschall Göring was neither the first nor last prominent German to have been drawn in the fast wilderness of the Schorfheide. King Frederick William IV of Prussia had a hunting lodge – the Jagdschloss Hubertusstock – built on the edge of the Schorfheide in 1849. It was here were he organized lavish hunting parties, and over the years the residence morphed into the official hunting lodge of the Heads of state during the Kaiserreich and Weimar republic. After the occupation and division of Germany, the Hubertusstock fell into the hands of the East German State and became the favourite hunting lodge of Erich Honecker.
When Herrmann Göring was appointed Minister-President of Prussia in 1933, the Schorfheide fell under his jurisdiction. As Hitler’s de facto “second man”, Göring was on the lookout for an appropriate abode and it was no coincidence that he set his eyes on the Jagdschloss Hubertusstock. The Hubertusstock was the symbol of the aristocratic ruling class, and Göring felt that it would only be appropriate if he took it over. As it turns out, the Jagdschloss Hubertusstock wasn’t representative enough for him, but also Kaiser Wilhelm II refused to let Göring use the lodge for his purposes.
Göring found a nice new plot of land in the Schorfheide next to the Großdöllner See. As his luck would have it, the Prussian state handed over 120 hectares to fulfil his ambitions. For free of course. And for life. In the spring of 1934, Göring moved into his newly built Swedish style blockhouse. The architect was none other than Werner March, the man who designed the Berlin Olympic Stadium. This wasn’t an ordinary blockhouse of course – this was a two story, 230 square meter wooden palace. The interior was naturally decked out lavishly, along with a large painting of his first (dead) wife Carin. It was after her that he named the complex – Carinhall. Despite always trying to portray himself as a man of the common people, he soon gated off his realm and ordered all curious visitors to stay away. He even went so far as to forbid map makers from mentioning the place. Hitler approved the funding for the lavish estate in return for having Göring take over the task of hosting state guests and foreign dignitaries.
Göring also had a crypt built for his first wife Carin, who had died of tuberculosis in 1931 in her native Sweden. The transfer of her body to Carinhall in a newly crafted zinc coffin (made in Eberswalde) was so lavish that it could have been mistaken for a state funeral. All of the Nazi elite were present, including Hitler. The whole scene gave off the impression as if Carin Göring had only died days or weeks prior – but in fact she had already been dead for over 3 years. Herrmann Göring had planned to be laid to rest in the crypt as well – but history had a different plan for him.Carinhall soon turned more and more into Göring’s primary residence. It was close enough to Berlin, only roughly an hour’s drive away, but yet secluded enough so he could escape into his own fantasies. His Swedish relatives (from Carin’s side of the family) also came over on a regular basis to spend their vacation by the lake. By this time, Göring had already been eloped to Emma Sonnemann for two or so years, and they both got married on the 10th of April, 1935. As Hitler preferred his bachelor lifestyle, Emma became the so-called first lady of Nazi Germany. As a late wedding gift, the Association of the Automotive Industry gifted the happy couple a luxurious yacht named “Carin II”. The yacht still exists today and is currently moored somewhere in the red sea.
The Göring’s now officially decided to move to Carinhall full time, and orders were given to massively extend the Carinhall property. Göring wanted to convert the property from a “blockhouse” into a second Führerbau. The work was completed around 1936, and was as ostentatious as one would expect. The new Carinhall has its own lion cage (for lions which he “borrowed” from the Berlin Zoo), a massive library, hunting hall and every other modern luxury one could want. The loft of Carinhall was decked out with a gigantic model train set, equipped with model airplanes that could drop little wooden bombs. Such was the draw of Carinhall and the installation, that even King Edward VIII was photographed with Göring playing with the set.
With his new majestic villa, Nazi politics (partially) moved from Berlin to the Schorfheide. Diplomats and foreign dignitaries were frequent guests and happily accepted invitations to visit Carinhall, not just for the luxurious setting, but also for the fact that Göring was the most direct channel to Hitler.
Hitler was also a frequent visitor to Carinhall, though he wasn’t too fond of the nature surrounding the villa. One of his most notable visit was for the Baptism of Göring’s daughter Edda in 1938 (it was rumoured that she was named after Mussolini’s daughter). Hitler wasn’t just a prominent guest to the party, but also Edda’s godfather. She’s still alive today and lives in Munich – and is rather unrepentant about the legacy of her family.
The birth of Edda (amongst other things) prompted Göring to extend and double the size of Carinhall. One of the new highlights of the extended Carinhall was the 400-sq. large mess hall with a gigantic panorama window – similar to the one on that Hitler had in Obersalzberg, but just slightly bigger. A pool was added, as well as a new library wing and a large ballroom. And again, the state payed for everything. Göring even added a “miniature” version of the Schloss Sanssouci for Edda to play in.
Heres a very nice collection of photos from the second construction phase of Carinhall
Göring, who along with various other positions, was Head of the Luftwaffe had slowly begun to make Carinhall his unofficial ministry headquarters. Despite having a massive ministry building in the middle of Berlin (which today houses the German Ministry of Finance), his entire staff would trek out to meet him in Carinhall. With the victory over France in 1940, Hitler promoted Göring to the position of Reichsmarschall. It was also in Carinhall that Göring ordered Reinhard Heydrich in 1941 to come up with a final solution for the “Jewish question”.
Göring was a fanatical art hoarder, already having amassed a giant collection over the years from artists classified as “degenerate” as well as from collectors forced to flee the country and other sources. But this was not enough. When Nazi Germany conquered Belgium, France and the Netherlands, he saw the opportunity to increase his personal collection. He travelled to Paris no less than 20 times for this reason. He had the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg and his own so called Devisenschutzkommandos to systematically loot and catalogue art. With over 4000 pieces of art, Göring was soon running out of space to showcase his looted treasures. It was said that his cellar was stacked full of painting and statues that he had no room for to present. But behind this was all a master plan. Göring had planned to turn Carinhall into a gigantic art museum the – Norddeutsche Galerie – by 1953 (in time for his 60th birthday), but the fall of the Reich scuppered his plans.Göring had used the chance when the war broke out to fortify his forest palace, building massive underground bunkers. With the tide of the war changing ever for the worse, and more bombing raids over Germany – Göring decide to increase the security of Carinhall. At one point, over 200 soldiers guarded Carinhall. Three flak towers were built around Carinhall, and another six joined them later. If that wasn’t enough, Göring ordered that a decoy Carinhall be built 8 kilometres to the north to fool any possible allied bombing raids. A small pioneer unit had the unlucky task of manning the decoy site and creating enough convincing distractions to fool the oncoming bombers that they had the right target. While Berlin was being bombed to ashes, Carinhall managed to survive unscathed.
Göring must have already had a feeling in 1943 that the war wasn’t going too well, as he decided to move a large part of his private collection to a converted Salt mine in Altausee, Austria. In January 1945, Göring decided to move most of the remaining art to the tunnels of Berchtesgaden. Göring left Carinhall on the 20th of April 1945 to attend to Hitler’s birthday, and then headed towards Berchtesgaden – stating that “important tasks were awaiting him in southern Germany”. Before he left Carinhall, he gave a small unit of Luftwaffe soldiers the orders that as soon as the Red Army was in sight, they should blow the estate up. The Soviets advanced on Carinhall on the 28th of April, 1945 – and the soldiers did their job blowing up Carinhall with the aid of over 80 aircraft bombs.The Americans who had advanced through Bavaria found parts of Göring’s art collection, though some of it had already been looted by others in the last days of the war. During the Nürnberg trials he still bragged about Carinhall and actively pushed rumours about a hidden secret treasure – all in hopes of cutting a deal with his captors. It seemed like Göring had so much art that he didn’t know where to hide it all. Rumours circulated about underground bunkers and art being dumped into the Großdöllner lake. What Göring couldn’t move or hide was blown up with Carinhall. The ruins of Carinhall weren’t left untouched after the German capitulation. The local population ventured out and salvaged anything and everything useful. Furniture, chandeliers, marble and anything else that could be used can still be found behind closed doors. Over the years Carinhall slowly disappeared, but the rumours about the hidden treasure remained. Even the East German Stasi spent some considerable time exploring the area, as they suspected that the legendary Amber Room was hidden here somewhere. Unsurprisingly they came up with nothing. Other artworks – most notably 2 sculptures turned up in quite public places. The Kämpfende Amazone – a large bronze work – turned up in a park in Eberswalde where it still remains today.
A large bronze sculpture of a deer called the “Kronenhirsch” by Johannes Darsow found an even more prominent location. Johannes Darsow created the sculpture for the international hunting exhibition in Berlin in 1937 – and was modelled after a stag called “Raufbold” which Göring shot on the 9th of February 1936. After the exhibition, it was moved to Carinhall. After the war, it ended up in the park of Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam, and was then moved to the Tierpark Berlin in 1969 where it can still be admired today.
In July 1990, when the East German state was about to cease to exist – the Ministry of the Interior decided to become active. The east Germans had known for years that there was most likely some art hidden in the lake, but most probably choose not haul them up due to political anxieties about their provenance. Divers pulled out multiple statues, many of which have since been moved into the Schorfheide museum.
The treasure story doesn’t end there though. Carinhall remained a magnet for treasure hunters and metal detectorists. Many of them found objects ranging from silver napkin rings and spoons, to medals, vases and buttons. What really kicked off the hysteria was the discovery that the Berliner Claus Funke made. Funke discovered the entrance to the Bunker under Carinhall – which remained mostly intact. Over the course of one and a half years, he sifted through the rubble and dirt and uncovered 300 kilos worth of Chinese, Roman, and Greek pottery shards – along with statues and golden dresser fittings. He handed his finds over to the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte in Berlin – who were more than happy to receive them, as they already had some other finds from Carinhall which could be matched with his pieces. To this day, people still roam the grounds digging up the earth in hopes to find remnants of Göring’s splendour.
The bunker itself has been converted into a bat sanctuary – and the entrance has been rudimentarily sealed off. This hasn’t stopped people from trying to venture in and explore it though in hopes of finding something. Sadly, Carinhall also attracts other unpleasant visitors – those who wish to turn it into a shrine of sorts. A large stone with the wrong inscription “Karinhall” was placed on the grounds where Göring’s Villa once stood, but was then replaced by another one with the correct spelling. Ironically, this stone marker was placed in conjunction with the local authorities. Another stone marker was placed, but the directions were just painted on rather than engraved. The local authorities seemed to have a change of heart over the past few years (neo Nazis visiting the property on Hitler’s birthday and such will do that to you) and ordered the stone markers to be removed. Sadly, a group Göring’s fan club repaints the Carinhall markings every time its removed from the stone.
The most visible parts left of Carinhall are the entry gates and the adjacent houses which once belonged to the guard troops. It’s worth pointing out that Göring’s insignia is still visible on the entry gates, the crossed Marshall batons. One of the Batons can be found in the National Infantry Museum, Fort Benning/Columbus, Georgia and the other one at the West Point Museum. If you go further down the road and venture into the brush close to the lake, you’ll find an indentation in the ground and some rubble where the crypt of Carin Göring once stood. Passers-by found a body in 1951, which was thought to be Carin’s. The body was cremated and laid to rest in Sweden. Treasure hunters found a coffin with human remnants in 1991, and after a DNA analysis – it was confirmed that this was indeed Carin’s body.
Other traces of Carinhall are rather easy to find. The entire ground is littered with holes and rubble, lots of metal fragments stick out from the earth. Here and there you can find brickwork, and if you walk towards the edge of the lake you can spot the uncovered emergency exit from the Bunker. Covered by the brush are some steps and what could possibly be parts of a fountain – but these traces are near impossible to find now as they are completely overgrown.
While it’s probably not worth driving all the way out to Carinhall solely to visit the ruins of Göring’s home, the scenery around the lake is quite pleasant and makes for a very nice spring/summer walk. If you’re in luck, one of the families living in the guard houses might even have some homemade honey or pickles on sale. For those that do feel like trying to find the remnants of whats left of Carinhall, heres a map of the locations.