A German history

from 1916 to the G7 Summit 2015

 

 

Johannes Müller, Elsa Gräfin von Waldersee, Carlo Sattler

1914-1916 Schloss Elmau was built by Dr Johannes Müller (1864–1949), a renowned Protestant theologian and philosopher of his time. Müller wanted Schloss Elmau to be a space for the development of personal and communal life free of any ideology, where those interested in his writing and lectures would come together to transcend the self-centeredness of their egos and become aware of silence as the essence of being by listening or dancing to classical music or beholding the beauty of untouched surroundings.

 

 

 

 

Construction was made possible with financial assistance from Elsa, Countess of Waldersee; Professor Carlos Sattler, Müller’s brother-in-law, served as architect. Critical of individualism, materialism and capitalism, Müller was also an ardent opponent of both the established church as well as anthroposophy, which he considered a particularly dangerous attempt of “divinisation of human beings by human beings”. For him, Jesus was the “Conqueror of Religions” and “childlike oblivion to self”, the prerequisite for fulfilling the promise of salvation on earth contained in the Sermon on the Mount. Thousands of people flocked to his lectures; his books, published by C. H. Beck, enjoyed massive print runs.

His greatest admirers included the founders of Cultural Protestantism, especially Adolf von Harnack, and Ernst Troeltsch, as well as Jewish leaders and thinkers like Walter Rathenau and Martin Buber. Prince Max von Baden, who called Müller his spiritual guide, presided over the opening of Schloss Elmau in 1916. His brother in law Carlo Sattler was his architect.

Schloss Elmau 1918

Prinz Max von Baden, Adolf von Harnack

In 1933 the great majority of the politically conformist elites of the bourgeoisie, who shared the resentment of Cultural Protestantism against capitalistic and individualistic western civilization in particular, immediately joined forces with the Nazi Regime after Hitler's sudden rise to power. The anti-civilizational imperative “Das Ich ist Nichts, das Volk ist alles” (or, “The I is nothing, the People is all”) of the German “Volksgemeinschaft” (“tribal brotherhood”) had also convinced Johannes Müller that Hitler, whom he had hitherto ignored completely, has become the leader of a “national revolution of the common good over self-interest” to fulfil the promise of the sermon of the mount.

However, since for Müller the success of a “community of brothers looking-after-one-another” depended on the inclusion of the Jews as the “most noble representatives of the intellectual elite”, he publicly criticised the Nazis’ anti-Semitism as a “disgrace for Germany”, one that “causes me to blush with shame”.

Indeed, his expressed respect for the German Jews as well as the Orthodox Jews, whom he admired for their adherence to tradition despite persecution, saw him branded “a friend of the Jews”; that in turn drew the ire of the propaganda ministry and provoked a smear campaign in the Bavarian provincial press.

 

 

 

The only reason Müller was not arrested immediately was that the Bavarian state chancellery was able to convince Joseph Goebbels that Müller’s public advocacy of German Jews lent moral value to his commitment to Hitler and was therefore more to the benefit of the Nazis than to their detriment. However, from then on Müller was constantly interrogated by the Gestapo and kept under tight surveillance.

He was permitted to publish his memoirs under the title “Gegen den Strom” (“Against the Current”)—but only up to 1933. And despite Müller’s allegiance to Hitler, whom he had never met, the Nazi salute was forbidden at Schloss Elmau. The Nazis’ anti-Semitism had in any case prevented him and his children from applying for membership of the party or affiliated organisations. Since Schloss Elmau, unlike most coastal resorts and holiday hotels, did not have a reputation for being anti-Semitic, it did not become one of the Nazi elite’s favorite hotels.

From 1935 onwards Dr Müller was forbidden to undertake lecture tours. Further, the University of Leipzig would have revoked his doctorate had it not been for the intervention of philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer.

In 1942, with the war under way, Johannes Müller managed to prevent Schloss Elmau from being requisitioned by either Göring or Himmler by instead renting it out to the German army as a vacation resort for soldiers returning from the front.

In 1943 the commandant of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp demanded the arrest of Müller “due to work greatly detrimental to the state under the pretence of being an honest, upright citizen”. The rationale: a prisoner had mentioned Müller’s name during interrogation. No action was taken, however, due to the respect Müller had earned with others over the years. Intervention in his favour came most probably from Reich interior minister Wilhelm Frick (who actually had never been to Schloss Elmau).

In 1945, immediately after the end of the war, Schloss Elmau was requisitioned by the US Army and used as a prison camp for occupants of a German military hospital. Later it served as a winter military training school.

Johannes Müller und Irene Sattler

In 1946 the Bavarian state commissioner for persons subject to racist, religious and political persecution, Dr Philip Auerbach, sued for a denazification case to be brought against Johannes Müller in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on the grounds of “glorification of Hitler both orally and in writing”. The case was found against Müller, based on the claim that his public criticism of the Nazis’ anti-Semitism had, paradoxically, reinforced the effect of his support for Hitler. But the verdict was seen as controversial, and a call for the immediate expropriation of his property failed—not only because Countess Waldersee refused to sell her share of the property, but also because Müller had been neither a member of the Nazi Party nor been involved in any acts of war. The laws governing liberation from National Socialism and militarism therefore provided no legal grounds for a conviction or punishment.

 

 

Dr. Auerbach took possession of Schloss Elmau in 1947 despite not holding title deeds. Until 1951 Schloss Elmau operated as a sanatorium for displaced persons and Shoah survivors. Tragedy had befallen Dr Auerbach: accused of misappropriation, he was imprisoned and then took his own life. Some years later all charges against him were dismissed and he was rehabilitated.

Dr.Philipp Auerbach

In 1951, two of Müller’s 11 children, whom he had named as his heirs, rented Schloss Elmau from the Office for Restitution. Under the auspices of Johannes Müller’s son Bernhard, his daughter Sieglinde and her husband Dr. Odoardo Mesirca, Schloss Elmau with the support of the legendary Amadeus Quartet quickly developed into an internationally renowned centre for Chamber Music favoured by world famous musicians such as Yehudi Menuhin, Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Julian Bream, Wilhelm Kempff, Gidon Kremer, Friedrich Gulda and Thomas Quasthoff. 

Since 1957 Schloss Elmau became a mekka for chamaber music thanks mainly to the initiative and support from jewish artists and the conductor Hans Oppenheim. The Who´s Who of chamber music started to visit Schloss Elmau first and foremost the legendary Amadeus Quartett, which founded the famous Chamber Music Festival in Januar (inintiatlly named the British-German Chamber Music Week) The Amadeus Quartett invited their musical friends such as Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, Emile Gilles, George Malcom, Julian Bream, Yehudi Menuhin, Antal Dorati, Alfred Brendel, but also germans such as Wilhelm Kempff and Ludwig Hoelscher.  The tradition was carried forward by such artists as Gidon Kremer, Friedrich Gulda, Melos Quartett, Thomas Quasthoff and many others.

In 1961 an appeal to legal proceedings regarding ownership was abandoned and Bernhard Müller-Elmau and Sieglinde Mesirca were declared owners of Schloss Elmau with a half share each.

The famous German humorist known as Loriot worked on all his film projects there. Former Federal President Johannes Rau, who referred to Schloss Elmau as his spiritual home, came to visit several times every year from the end of the 1950s.

Sieglinde und Dr. Odoardo Mesirca und Bernhard Müller-Elmau

Bep Müller-Elmau

Dietmar & Heidrun Mueller-Elmau

In 1997 Dietmar Müller-Elmau, a son of Bernhard, became proprietor of Schloss Elmau. He had created Fidelio and Opera, the world’s market leaders in hotel software, then sold his company to Micros in the US. He focused on renovating the castle as well as redefining Schloss Elmau as a “Cultural Hideaway”. He set out to create a space where high art could flourish as the foremost expression of a Jewish-American ideal of individual freedom and creativity.

Since 1998 Schloss Elmau has also become a regular meeting place for scholars from all over the world—thanks also to the cooperation of Professor Christoph Schmidt of the Hebrew University and Professor Gabriel Motzkin, Head of the van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, as well as Professor Dan Diner of the Simon Dubnow Institute in Leipzig and Professor Michael Brenner from the chair for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich. The Schloss Elmau Symposia on Political Theology and the History of Ideas have since received extraordinary media coverage.

The Schloss Elmau Symposium on “Globalisation without Migration?” in October 1998 opened up a wide public discussion about the necessity of introducing Green Cards, which at the turn of the 20th century was still rebutted by German politicians with the arguments of 19th-century criticism of civilisation and capitalism.

In 1999 philosopher Peter Sloterdijk gave a speech at the Schloss Elmau Symposium on Political Theology with the title “Beyond Being”, dealing with Emanuel Levinas’ criticism of the lack of ethics in Martin Heidegger’s ontology, entitled “Rules for the Human Park”, later referred to as “the Elmau Speech”. The reactions of Saul Friedländer and Jürgen Habermas led to an unparalleled public debate in the German-language press over several months about the ethical limits of genetic engineering. That resulted int he  establishment of a National Ethics Council by the Social Democrat government under Gerhard Schröder. The first and only public meeting of the Council then took place in Schloss Elmau.

Shortly before, Friedländer chaired the Schloss Elmau Symposium on “Wagner in the Third Reich”, at which for the first time almost all of the recognised pro- and anti-Wagner experts participated. The symposium was hailed by the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper as an overdue debate on the ideological roots of National Socialism and the politically fateful role of Bayreuth in the Third Reich. The lectures were subsequently published by C. H. Beck as a book with the same title.

Since 2001 Schloss Elmau has regularly hosted a Jewish Tarbut under the direction of Dr. Rachel Salamander and Professor Michael Brenner, where leading Jewish intellectuals from all over the world meet with members of the Jewish communities from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

 

 

 

 

Since 2002 regular Transatlantic Forums have been staged by the German Marshall Fund (GMF) of Washington led by Craig Kennedy and the late Dr Ron Asmus to bring together American with German and other European politicians. Just two months before her election in September 2005 to the post of Federal Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel gave a vigorously debated lecture about the relationship between Turkey and the European Union. The late Richard Holbrooke as well as Carl Bildt have made use of the GMF events for a series of informal meetings with presidents and politicians from Eastern European nations applying to become members of NATO and the EU.

In 2005 a major fire caused by a short circuit destroyed two thirds of the castle. Fortunately no one was injured. The fire made it possible for Dietmar Mueller-Elmau to create a completey new Schloss Elmau.

On June 21, 2007 the new Schloss Elmau opened after 14 months of construction and according to plans made by Christoph Sattler and Dietmar Mueller-Elmau as a "Luxury Spa & Cultural Hideaway" and member of The Leading Hotels of the World. Schloss Elmau has since received numerous awards as one of the best spa of Europe and the world.

On March 21, 2015 the Schloss Elmau Retreat opened after two years of construction, following plans made by Christoph Sattler and Dietmar Mueller-Elmau. The Retreat is a hotel within a hotel, as much part of Schloss Elmau as it is a world of its own with 47 suites, 2 restaurants and lounges, library, gym, yoga pavillon and Shantigiri Spa with separate areas and pools for adults, ladies and families.

On June 7 & 8, 2015 the G7 Summit took place in Schloss Elmau with the heads of state & goverment from the US, Canada, Japan, France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany.