Hitler and the Mysteries of the Gran Hotel Viena

Despite all the evidence in this regard, many refused to accept that the Führer had died. Shortly after the war and for several years, rumors of a live Hitler shook the front pages of newspapers around the world, especially during the 1950s, denied the facts and even today there are people who continue to deny.  "Hitler did not die in the Bunker," they say.  "He managed to escape just before the Russians arrived. He hid. He stayed away from everything and - last but not least - he lived in Argentina for many years".

Gradually, major newspapers  relegated the story to the inside pages, devoting less and less space and attention to it.  The story was taken over by sensationalist magazines that continued to exploit it story with relative success. 

As a result of this, Hitler ceased to be in a particular place and began to be seen everywhere.  The dream world soared, becoming infinite, inexhaustible.

When World War II ended in 1945, the Legend that Adolf Hitler had escaped Berlin were spread far and wide.  The collective imagination began to work on all kinds of rumors and allied intelligence services were added to the disinformation campaign, leaving open the possibility that such escape were true.  They did not lack "reliable witnesses" who swore they had seen the Führer in different parts of the world, but especially in Argentina, a country that was labeled by the American ambassador Spruille Braden as a "Nazi Nest" in the mid-1940s.

That rumor turned out to be powerful and durable. Even now, in the early twenty-first century books are still published that talk about it;  Abel Basti wrote "Bariloche Nazi.  Related to National Historic Sites", a travel guide where on a map are marked 'Nazi' sites. The book explicitly announces, in a subtitle: 'It includes the places where they lived Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun lived after they escaped from Berlin. " 

The legend of a South American escape of the Führer sells well.  It generates an atmosphere of mystery that attracts people.  And it is at this point that comes the well-known Viena Grand Hotel Miramar, Cordoba, comes in.

But before penetrating that world of masquerades and deception,  the causes and mechanisms behind the rumors and stories like that needs to be analyzed.  

When the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa drowned on 10 June 1190, while trying to cross the river Kydnos, in Asia Minor, after having won substantial military victories over the Muslims, his death was not accepted by his subjects.  They rejected the "dumb" way to die of such a famous warrior who, in the name of God, marched into a Crusade.  They had awaited his return for years and dozens of stories were told that the Emperor would return one day to rid the world of heretics. There was no shortage of people saying 'I have seen, or have been told them that he had seen".  Frederick was defending Christianity.  It could not be otherwise.

Closer in time, something similar happened with Elvis Presley.  When he died on 16 August 1977 at his mansion in Memphis, conspiracy theories spread worldwide.  Once again, fans of the singer refused to accept his death and Elvis, the King of Rock became a secret agent for the CIA or the DEA, thwarting a powerful Mafia group, he had to change his identity to save his skin and that of his family. There was no shortage of tabloids that published for years that the old idol was still alive, supposed photos of the composer and singer (all, of course, blurry and taken from away) were edited to certify the theory..

The legend of Hitler wandering in the world has fueled the imagination since the moment when he shot himself.  Oral Tradition locates him in different places.  Some argue he fled to Bolivia fled, others Paraguay or Chile.  There are those who have seen him in advertised in Tibet or in Antarctica and, of course, there are those who placed him in Argentina. 

Who is that in the Green Coat with the Hat?

The figure in the hat and green coat is "Sleepy" Tripp, Chairman
of Pan American Airways, and a great rival of Howard Hughes.
The picture itself is from a brochure or press release, circa 1954, on the topic of the first Boeing StratoCruiser airliner (basically a B29 civilian brother) to land at the (then) Idlewild Air Terminal in New York.
Idlewild is today JFK International Airport.

The man in the green overcoat

One of the most ardent "believers" of Hitler's revived Argentine is journalist Abel Basti, author of several books and articles in which he tries to prove the hectic travel of the Führer in South America.  Guided by assumptions and oral testimonies of some foundation, Basti reconstructed the route of the former German Chancellor.

According to Basti, Hitler landed from a submarine in Caleta de los Loros [a section of the Rio Negro coast between the city of Viedma and San Antonio].  After touring the region, he moved to the Estancia San Ramon, 30 kilometers east of Bariloche, owned by a German family named Lahusen.  Afterwards he relocated to Inalco Bay, close to Villa La Angostura, a bleak and isolated place in the 1940s. From there he left for La Falda, home of his good friends, the Eichhorns, staying in their Eden Hotel. [See: Basti, Abel, "Hitler in Argentina"]

But it is also said that by the end of 1945 some residents of Miramar (Cordoba) gave witness, with great conviction, to having seen him in the vicinity of the Gran Hotel Viena, walking very early by the Ansenuza Sea coast (Aguna Mar Chiquita), a mysterious old man, withered and trembling,  someone that clearly was not from the village.

He wore a long green overcoat and a beret of the same color.  Lonely and brooding, the old spoke to no one, but early Miramar risers had seen him somewhere, and after some search of their memory, identification came quickly: the old man was none other than the defeated Führer of Germany, Adolf Hitler.

What was it that gave him away?  Was it his unique mustache or did he inadvertently slip a salute with his right arm extended?  Nobody knows.  There are no photographs or evidence that irrefutably certify the presence of such a character in that remote corner Cordoba.  The only thing that there is are rumors, stories circulating by word of mouth, confirming the biggest conspiracy ever organized after World War II.

What could  Adolf Hitler have been up to in Miramar?  What relationship did the Führer have with the Grand Hotel Viena?  Was he to be permanently installed at that location or was he passing through on the way to the Eden Hotel, La Falda?  Did he intent to reorganize a Fourth Reich from the basement of a hotel built with German capital or did he simply like the huge Pink Flamingo Lagoon Hotel?

There are no certain answers any of these questions, in trying to explain the reasons many people came together in continuing to believe that the legend is true.

First is the isolation.

Remote locations have always aroused a certain attraction.  There imagination and reality are often confused, becoming custodians of the most ambivalent fantasies.  There one can find aspects that range from the sublime and heavenly (health sites, relaxation, peace and harmony, away from the big cities) to the most heinous and horrible (such as the existence of a war criminal wandering freely and without feart).  Therefore, the isolated regions are disturbing "Terra Inconita" of dreams and nightmares, distorting the boundaries between real and invented.

The isolation of the Grand Hotel Viena, by the mid-1940s, helped to sustain the legend of being a "safe place, out of reach of the curious."

Its location, about twenty blocks from the Village Mall, and in small towns know that mean twenty blocks are an enormous distance,  gave it an air of mystery.  "The hotel area was always forbidden for Miramar inhabitants", said Patricia Zapata, a member of the 'Civil Association of Friends of the Gran Hotel Viena-area'. "No one came very close to the building.  This was 'the German area'.  We were very afraid, especially when we were kids".

Of course beyond the youthful fantasies, the objective fact is that the town itself was quite far from any major national route. However, this lack of communication was not absolute.  The Administrators Complex had organized a modern telephone system connecting guests with the rest of the world.  Furthermore, repeating the suspect phenomenon of Eden Hotel de La Falda, the Grand Hotel Vienna possessed a telecommunications antenna on the water tower of over 20 meters, allowing it to send and receive messages and at the same time increasing the suspicions the population.

Did they send or receive encrypted messages during World War?

Contrary to what happened in La Falda [Ernesto Guevara Lynch, father of the famed revolutionary, wrote in his book ("My Son Che". Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, 1987) that the anti-Nazi organization to which he belonged ('Action Argentina') had confirmed, following secret intelligence work, that thanks to two big antennas on the roof, the Eden Hotel had not only received live broadcasts of the speeches of Hitler's Germany, but also, that its owners (the Eichhorns) operated as Nazi spies, transmitting vital information to Berlin] there is no evidence in this regard, only conjectures.  But, as we know, these are the most important raw material of legends. 

Another aspect, which may be plausible, for the presence of Hitler in the region, are the health benefits of the Grand Hotel Viena.

The resort provided a two-story building adjacent to the VIP area, which served as a place where mud treatments, massage and other muscle relaxation techniques were practiced, served by a doctor and several nurses. This fact is  suggestive that the hotel had connections with the suspected Nazis, who made use of the medical services provided.

According to some testimonies collected at the hotel itself, and the unsystematic review of "artifacts" found at the site, ended with the rescue of "certain surgical instruments" gives rise to the hypothesis that that a Surgery had been there.  Why would there be an operating room in a luxury hotel?

According to the opinion of some neighbors, some Germans, were rehabilitated for war wounds there.  One theory is, that the boat ports were used to ferry in the patients from U-boats that remained further out.

A Nazi clinic?  Had Hitler been there for an operation?  A change of face, perhaps?

Walter and Ida Eichhorn, maintained close contact with the Gran Hotel Viena on the shores of Mar Chiquita; they owned a property just 150 yards from the hotel. They would have met Hitler and Eva there while he was convalescing in 1946. [Whatever the Nazi's long-term plans were for the Gran Hotel Viena, they never came to much]. After the Hitler's second visit in early 1948, the property was virtually abandoned. (see "Grey Wolf – The Escape of Adolf Hitler").

It is within the universe of all possible conspiracies. 

The wave of rumors does not stop with the "old green overcoat."  For instance, it is stated that "... at least three sailors from the 'Graf Spee' secretly stayed in the hotel" or that in 1945 three black official cars arrived at the hotel  and evicted all licensed service personnel, so an important and mysterious meeting took place at the hotel.

Unanswered questions immediately arise.

Who came to the hotel that night?  What issues were discussed at the secret conclave?  Was Hitler involved in the meeting or Juan Peron? Or was it both?  Was there talk of "Nazi Gold" or was the entry of war criminals to Argentina planned?  And what about the story that has circulated for more than 64 years speaks of "mysterious guests hidden in the basement of the Vienna ?" Was the last hotel manager  as polite host to Nazi leaders who came across the sea?  And if so, why accommodate them in the basement if he had a vast and empty spaces available in the hotel.

Again, no one has definitive answers.

Every possibility is still open.  And that is precisely what continues to intrigue and sells delusional conspiracies.

Final words

Anonymous testimonies, stories proven impossible, capricious associations, sensationalism, conspiracy theories, imagination and an absolute lack of scientific rigor are the main components of urban legends.  Considering the hypothesis of a Hitler wandering Argentina is a matter of faith.  And believers are not historians, but history buffs who simply know how much people like to hear and believe in stories of that caliber.  Something similar happens in a field very fashionable in recent time: Cryptozoology, a pseudoscience that is responsible for searching for mythological animals, based on thee oral testimonies of witnesses who claim to have seen the Yeti, Bigfoot, the monster of Loch Ness, the Mokele Mbembe, the Chupacabras and other imaginary beings.

-- Fernando Jorge Soto Roland
History Professor at the National University of Mar del Plata 
2009 August 2000


Grand Hotel Vienna, the Giant surrounded by Luxury and Mystery
Patricia Angelleti
The Nation
11 February 2006

MAR CHIQUITA. In the mythical town of Miramar, that portion of land that suffered the flooding of the lagoon Mar Chiquita and now tries to recover its tourism brightness, there survives a mute witness to the times of splendor of the area: the Grand Hotel Vienna.

It had all kinds of luxuries and comforts that distinguished its from others it was a genuine five stars Hotel, in a town of just 1,600 inhabitants.

Much has been said about it, and the truth is that, amid the splendor and decline of its ruins there survive mysteries, beauty, and luxury.

The Grand Hotel Vienna disappeared in 1980; its origins are related to the Second World War and its aftermath, and many accounts state that it was built with Nazi capital.

Today, the Hotel with its "legs" wet with lagoon salt water, is in great disrepair.

Currently, the 'Club of Friends of the Gran Hotel Viena' is working on its reconstruction and provides visiting tours of great attraction for the participants.  What remains of this hotel is almost eerie, but it also radiates magic and mystery.  Even destroyed it exudes ineffable beauty, wonder and respect.

The  Gran Hotel Viena,  history begins with a German named Max Pahlke in 1904, who traveled to Argentina in search of work. Max met and married an Austrian woman named Melita in Uruguay about ten years later. The couple had two children, Max Jr. and Ingrid.

His wife Melita suffered from bad asthma and his son Max dealt with psoriasis. Seeking relief from their ailments in Europe was rather dangerous due to the pending World War II. Doctors suggested they visit Laguna de Mar Chiquita due to its curative baths and mud applications. The family took a trip to this location in 1938 and stayed a couple of weeks. They participated in healing treatments, balneotherapy, and mud therapy. After returning to Buenos Aires, that winter, Max noticed an improvement in his wife and son's health.

Max was in good economic standing, being the CEO of Mannesmann company, and decided to invest in Miramar. Thus began construction, done by a German company, of the first of several stages of the 5-star luxurious Gran Hotel Viena, named after his wife's birth place,  in 1940. The hotel contained 84 rooms, a medical facility equipped with doctors, nurses and massage therapists, a library, bank, dining room sitting 200, granite floors, walls lined with Carrera marble, bronze chandeliers, wine cellar, slaughterhouse, and bakery. It was the only hotel with air conditioning and heating systems in each facility, a large pool divided into saltwater and freshwater (that is if you didn't want to visit the lagoon), electricity generating plant, garages with their own fuel supply and food warehouse. It was completed in December 1945.

Argentina declared war on Germany 10 days before it surrendered. Because of the Allied victory, Max was asked to leave his position in the Mannesmann Company. This along with several cases of abuse associated with employees of the hotel forced Max to close down the hotel and move his family in March of 1946.

After Pahlke's departure, the hotel continued to be under his ownership. Max Jr. continued treatments there until 1963 when his parents mutually agreed to reopen the hotel. Max Jr. or Dr. Pahlke refurbished and added on to the hotel with Dr. Koloman Kolomi Geraldini as service and administration manager. It remained opened until the mid 1980s, when a series of floods damaged the Gran Hotel Viena along with other parts of the village. Since then, the waters have receded, exposing the hotel and other buildings that weren't demolished during the flood.

The Pahlke family are currently in the legal process of reclaiming the hotel.

-- Andrea Allison
30 December 2009