Fairy-tale location with a dark past for the G7 summit in Germany


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Elmau Castle (Germany) (AFP) – The G7 leaders will meet from Sunday in a quintessentially German venue handpicked by former Chancellor Angela Merkel and recycled by her successor Olaf Scholz – a luxury hotel with fairytale decor and a tumultuous past.

Elmau Castle, nestled in the Bavarian Alps, is a five-star resort-turned-fortress for the three-day Wealthy Nations Club meeting.

If the forecast for stormy weather holds, Scholz will have an appropriate context for the meeting which will have on the agenda the war in Ukraine, the global food crisis and the health of the democracies of the world and the planet.

“This conversation club started as the G6 with six countries (in the 1970s) to discuss how to deal with the oil crisis at that time,” Scholz said on Saturday.

“Now it’s important that we talk about the current situation and make sure that we stop man-made climate change.”

At the last summit here in 2015, US President Barack Obama agreed to a village walk with Merkel among the feather-capped farmers and dirndl-clad women for which Bavaria is famous, stopping for a soft pretzel and a large glass of beer.

Scholz, nicknamed Scholzomat for his often robotic style, is expected to stick to a tighter schedule given the crisis-heavy schedule.

Arson, derailment

G7 presidents typically choose postcard-worthy locations when planning their annual summit, ideally in a remote location that’s easier for police to cordon off than an urban center. Elmau Castle is no exception.

The lavish accommodation includes 115 rooms and suites, swimming pools and spas.

To maintain security, high-profile guests will be helicoptered to the castle, while a steel ring will hold off the thousands of anti-G7 protesters expected at the ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, 15 kilometers away ( nine miles) down the road.

Some 18,000 police were mobilized across Germany, some housed for days in mountain huts near the location.

Scholz will struggle to avoid the violent protests that marred the 2017 G20 summit in Hamburg and nearly cost him his job as the city’s mayor at the time.

Despite the heavy security presence, red-faced Bavarian authorities admitted this week that eight buses used by federal police for the summit were destroyed in an arson attack.

Interior Minister Joachim Hermann blamed “left-wing extremists” seeking to disrupt the event.

A train crash earlier this month on the Garmisch route that claimed the lives of five people also put local authorities on edge. Bavarian police said they had opened an investigation into suspected criminally negligent homicide against three railway workers during the derailment.

Home for Holocaust Survivors

Merkel said she chose Elmau Castle in part for how the site’s owners recognized its Nazi-era history.

Protestant theologian and philosopher Johannes Mueller built the castle during World War I and when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 Mueller pledged allegiance to the new Führer despite never joining the Nazi Party.

But he openly criticized the Nazis’ rabid anti-Semitism as a “shame on Germany”, according to the hotel’s website, which he said led to close surveillance by the Gestapo.

After the start of World War II, he prevented his beloved hotel from being seized by Nazi high brass for their own use by renting it out to the German army as a holiday resort for soldiers on leave from the front.

Mueller faced prosecution after the war for “glorifying Hitler both verbally and in writing” and was found guilty and lost ownership of the hotel.

Elmau Castle served as a US Army hospital and later a refuge for displaced persons and Holocaust survivors in the immediate post-war period.

He says he now frequently hosts “events that contribute to German-Israeli and German-American understanding,” including lectures and debates.


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