Odd as it may seem, my overwhelming impression of Wewelsburg was one of pity for the castle itself. It occurred to me as I toured its rebuilt hallways and read about its violent history that the castle was as much a victim of that history as the prisoners who were eventually enslaved to rebuild it.
The tragic past of this impressive castle goes back to the 1630’s, when its dungeon was used for witch trials, with the accused women being shackled and tortured until they confessed or died.
It was razed in 1646 , rebuilt after 1650, struck by lightning in 1815, fell into ruin for more than a century, and was eventually discovered by Heinrich Himmler, who leased the castle for use by the SS.
In 1945, as the allies advanced on the castle’s location, Himmler gave the order to have it destroyed. Efforts to blow up the castle were, however, thwarted by a lack of explosives and so the castle was burned.
Wewelsburg was reopened in 1950 as a museum and youth hostel. Although I knew even before my visit that the castle had been made into a museum, I was, nevertheless, a bit disappointed to discover that it was more a museum of natural and general history than it was of its own history. It reminded me of a mini Smithsonian. Sadly, the only history preserved of the structure itself were the tragic bits. Not surprising, I suppose, when you consider just how much of its beauty has been destroyed by its attackers over the centuries.
Despite the commonplace nature of the museum it has become, I still found the castle itself to be a wonderful inspiration for the home of the family von Burlau. I could easily imagine a container garden overflowing with blooms in the castle’s central courtyard.
The many twisting, spiral staircases, beautiful as they are on their own, impart a sense of intrigue that encourages further exploration.
More than anything though, I enjoyed the grounds of Wewelsburg, which were at once formal and welcoming.
To see more of this beautiful castle, please visit my photography page here:
I have also added the next chapter to The Aldana Incident here:
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