ARTICLE WRITTEN BY Tom Chesshyre
PUBLISHED ON AF-E
Paderborn is a small cathedral city which is well-served by Air Berlin flights from the UK. The reason for this is that it is home to a big UK military presence. There are about 4,500 troops in local army camps & a British population of 12,000. The cathedral is stunning and it is here, in 799, that Charlemagne was made the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. There is a bustling market, a Tractor Museum, “Germany’s smallest river” (so says the tourist board) & – on the outskirts, near the airport – a very strange castle that has a scary past.
We arrive at Wewelsburg Castle. It is shaped like a triangle, a yellow-stone structure with two towers topped by bell-like domes & one wider fortified tower, sitting on a hill overlooking fields spreading towards the airport. There are leaded windows with curtains drawn inside, dark dirt stains spreading across the yellow-stone walls from gutters, thin sprinklings of snow on the northern faces of the bell towers, plus a definite sense of menace.
Kirsten, my guide, is a bright-eyed thirtysomething, with trendy dark-framed glasses, a multicoloured scarf, red jumper, & bright red lipstick.
We enter the guard house museum, a two-storey stone building with an aubergine tiled roof. Inside, schoolchildren are being shown round a series of displays explaining the freakish plans Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, had in mind at Wewelsburg. There’s a grainy black & white picture of Himmler taken at the castle, with his pudgy gerbil face, glasses, thin moustache & double chin.
“He wanted to make Wewelsburg the centre of the SS world,” says Kirsten, as we pause by a sturdy medieval-looking chair whose leather back is inscribed with a jagged ‘SS’. “He had a plan for a huge ring of buildings on the slopes above the castle. We don’t know exactly what he wanted to do with them. But it appears he wanted to make the north tower of the castle into an SS shrine of some sort. Where people could remember the SS dead. It would be at the centre of a new SS village. This would be where the Germanic elite group would live. Himmler wanted to create the cult of ideology here.” [Read More]