Berlin government offers to transfer ownership of villa once owned by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, officials say

Berlin’s government is offering to give away a villa once owned by Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, hoping to end a decades-long debate on whether to repurpose or bulldoze a sprawling disused site in the countryside north of the city. “I offer to anyone who would like to take over the site, to take it over as a gift from the state of Berlin,” Berlin’s finance minister, Stefan Evers, told the state parliament on Thursday, dpa reported. Berlin has repeatedly tried to hand off the site to federal authorities or the state of Brandenburg, where the villa lies, rather than continue to pay for maintenance and security at the complex, which has become overgrown and fallen into disrepair. Evers renewed that offer on Thursday, calling for proposals that reflected the ideals. He didn’t say if proposals from private individuals would also be considered. “If we fail again, as in the past decades, then Berlin has no other option but to carry out the demolition that we have already prepared for,” Evers said. Goebbels, one of Hitler’s closest allies, had the luxury villa built in 1939 on a wooded site overlooking the Bogensee lake near the town of Wandlitz, about 25 miles north of Berlin. A retreat from Berlin, where he lived with his wife and six children, Goebbels used the villa and an earlier house on the site to entertain Nazi leaders, artists and actors — and reputedly as a love-nest for secret affairs. After the war, the 42-acre site was used briefly as a hospital, then taken over by the youth wing of the East German communist party, which constructed a training center, including several large accommodation blocks. After German reunification in 1990, ownership of the site returned to the state of Berlin. However, the city found no use for it. The site has since become an attraction for day-trippers who can pick their way through the overgrown grounds and peer through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the villa. Goebbels moved back to Berlin in the final phase of the war. He and his wife killed themselves and their children with cyanide capsules in Hitler’s bunker as Soviet troops closed in. The family’s opulent home on an island in Berlin was sold at auction in 2011.