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Lobby of the Imperial hotel
photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Red carpet and hallway of the Imperial Hotel
photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Restaurant and Bar area of the Imperial Hotel
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Cafe Mozart
photo by Rhonda Spivak


Imperial Hotel

Editor's Report from the Imperial Hotel-Where Hitler Stayed When In Vienna After the Anschluss

by Rhonda Spivak, October 14, 2014


Walking around Vienna I noticed the grand looking Imperial Hotel, a palatial "luxury collection hotel" which is where Adolf Hitler stayed following the 1938 Anschluss when the Nazis annexed Austria. 

The Hotel was really meant to be "imperial" in that it was planned as the city palace (Stadtpalais) and residence of Duke Philipp of Württemberg  in 1863.

I was, of course, curious to see this hotel and went inside as I came upon it. With its red carpets and Royal Staircase, ornate marble, hand-carved statues, and massive crystal chandeliers, the hotel epitomizes nineteenth century Viennese elegance and opulence. Hitler's history with the hotel went back to the days when as an 18-year-old, Hitler had moved to Vienna in 1908, where he tried to get into the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. However, his test drawings were so poor that he was not even allowed to take the formal exam. Hitler made no attempt to get regular employment, and eventually pawned all his possessions, slept on park benches and begged for money. He sold his paintings to mostly Jewish shop owners. In this youthful period as a virtual tramp in Vienna, Hitler had worked at the Hotel Imperial as a day laborer. But after the Anschluss Hitler returned as an honoured guest.


Walking around the lavish hotel, I noticed a business center on the second floor, with a bowl of green apples for guests to take. Realizing I was hungry, I took one, and a moment later a concierge asked me if I was a guest (the hotel is where guests of state normally stay). We came to the front desk of the hotel where I decided to reply to the concierge’s inquiry in a manner which would deflect the focus of our soon to be conversation away from the fact that I had stolen an apple intended for guests only. "No I am not a guest. I am a journalist and I came here to this Hotel because I wanted to see which room Adolf Hitler stayed in when he stayed here."


The facial expression of the front desk hotel employee changed dramatically when I said this. He looked up at me, raised his eyebrows and stumbled, "We don't even know if Hitler ever stayed here at all."

I was fascinated by his denial of what is a well-known historical fact, and would have loved to have left him with one of my business cards had I had any on me. 

"That's funny; I read on the internet that Hitler for sure stayed here. You should search the net and you'll see for yourself," I said, in between munching on my stolen apple. He was too stunned and speechless to suggest that I should not have taken the apple.

Outside the hotel, I went up to the two hotel employees who were stationed near the front door. "Hitler stayed here at this hotel, didn't he," I asked.

They both nodded. "Yes, he did," one answered.

Do you know which suite," I asked. "No, no one knows," he answered. How could no one know, I thought as I left.

It is only after leaving the hotel and researching its history online that I learned that before the Anschluss the Hotel  was part-owned by a Jew, Samuel Schallinger, who was forced to give up his shares. In 1942 Schallinger and his family were deported to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia where they all died.

After further research, I discovered that Hitler stayed in a small apartment on the frst floor of the Imerpial Hotel and the still unknown eva Braun had the room next to his. (You can see a photo of Hitler in the balcony of the hotel on March 14, 1938, . I would venture a guess that one of the reasons the Hotel does not tell people where Hitler's suite was is so as to ensure that Neo-Nazis don't try to flock ot the location in order to make it into a shrine.

It is only after doing even more research online, that I learned that in 1998, Simon Wiesenthal, a Jewish Austrian survivor of the Nazi death camps who dedicated his life to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice and documenting the crimes of the Holocaust, celebrated his 90th birthday at the Imperial Hotel with a kosher dinner party. “Look, even the chandeliers are shaking,” said Wiesenthal at the dinner. “Hitler is gone. The Nazis are no more. But we are still here, singing and dancing.”

As Rabbi Hier, the Weisenthal Centre's dean and founder recalled, Weisenthal had told him that he wanted to celebrate his 90th birthday at the Imperial because "it was Hitler’s favorite hotel" and “both he and Himmler had permanent suites there.  They built enormous bunkers beneath the hotel, which still exist today, because Hitler thought that this would serve as an ideal headquarters from where he could conduct the Second World War."


Had I known about the existence of the bunkers beneath the hotel, I would have enjoyed going back to the business center, stealing another apple, and asking the front desk clerk if he could show me where Hitler and Himmler had built the underground bunkers.

I might also have asked about Stefan Plank who was the general manager of the Imperial Hotel at the time of the Anschluss. Plank had outed himself as non-conformist and an opponent to the new ‘Führer’.  As general manager of the hotel, he had to prepare for the visit of Hitler and ensure Hitler’s stay at the hotel ran like clockwork. On 15 March 1938, only hours after  Hitler's departure, Plank received threats from a group of employees who said he was an anti-Nazi and accused accused him of being a ‘Friend of Jews’ and thus unfit to run the hotel . Plank was sent to prison, but due to a lack of evidence he was released one week later. Plank luckily escaped the Nazis but never worked at the hotel again during the war years.

Before coming across the Hotel Imperial, I stopped for a coffee and a piece of apple strudel at the Cafe Mozart considered a favourite with opera singers and dancers.  It was only after I had left Vienna that I discovered that Cafe Mozart belonged to a Jewish owner before being confiscation under the Nazis and Aryanised.  

There is a book (which I had not heard of until after I left Vienna) called " Unser Wien - Our Vienna" written by a journalist Stefan Templ and historian Tina Walzer which outlines in detail the extent to which Vienna's Jews were stripped of their property following the 1938 annexation of Austria, and the degree to which the ordinary Viennese profited from this plunder.

"The success of many Austrians today is based on the money and property stolen over 60 years ago," Templ told the Guardian in 2002. "A large number of politicians, lawyers, judges, doctors and artists improved their living standards after 1938."


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.