Former Goebbels lake property for sale in Berlin

A view from Schwanenwerder island in Berlin. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A view from Schwanenwerder island in Berlin. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

BERLIN (AP) – A posh island property on a Berlin lake where Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, lived for almost a decade and held lavish parties with Nazi bigwigs is up for sale at auction.

Bids are now being taken for the 70,000-square foot plot on Schwanenwerder island, an exclusive area in western Berlin where Goebbels and his family lived from 1936 to 1943.

There is no minimum bid for the property, which has 272 feet of waterfront around the corner from Berlin’s popular Wannsee lake beach, and is dotted with tall oaks, pines and other trees.

“The market will decide what it sells for,” Irina Daehne, a spokeswoman for the real estate agency selling the property for the city, said Wednesday.

Berlin reserves the right, however, to decide not to sell if the bids are too low – or to reject the top bidder if it turns out they are somehow interested in glorifying the Goebbels past.

“We want to avoid a Nazi use or anything related,” Daehne said. “We can say no and we will say no; nobody wants the right-wing scene there.”

Schwanenwerder island was first developed at the end of the 19th century, and quickly became home for some of Berlin’s wealthiest families – many of them Jewish.

Shortly after the Nazis came to power in March 1933, the local chapter of the brown-shirted SA storm troopers raised a swastika flag atop a water tower on the island to intimidate the Jewish residents.

As they fled over the following years, members of the Nazi elite moved in, including Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, and Hitler’s personal doctor, Theodor Morell. Hitler himself entertained the idea of moving there, but never did.

Goebbels bought his property in 1936 from the chairman of the board of Deutsche Bank, Oscar Schlitter, paying 270,000 Reichsmarks – a tidy sum at the time, said Sabine Weissler, who is part of a group of researchers documenting the history of the island.

He lived there with his wife Magda and children until 1943, then moved to a villa near Bogensee outside of Berlin, but returned to Schwanenwerder in March, 1945, in the final phases of the war, Weissler said.

“Then he moved later into the Fuehrerbunker and after that everyone knows,” she said, referring to the Goebbels’ decision to murder their six children with cyanide before killing themselves the day after Hitler’s suicide.

After the war, the villa on the Schwanenwerder was ransacked first by Soviet, then American soldiers and eventually demolished.

On its foundation was built a modest-looking 7,650-square foot brick bungalow in the 1950s, which still sits on the site. It was the headquarters of Berlin’s Aspen Institute, an American think tank, from 1974 to 2010, which rented it from the city of Berlin before relocating downtown.

None of the buildings on the site – also including a large garage and a boat house – are considered historical landmarks, so the new owner can tear them down and begin again, Daehne said.

Bids are being accepted until Aug. 22.

Coincidentally, Goebbels’ villa near Bogensee, which belongs to the state of Brandenburg, is also to be sold as part of a larger tract of land, but it is not yet clear when it will go on the market, Daehne said.

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AP-WF-06-22-11 1636GMT