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Itter Castle
Schloss Itter
Itter, North Tyrol, Austria
Schloss Itter NW.JPG
Itter Castle seen from the north west, February 2010
Type Castle
Coordinates Latitude:
Privately owned
Open to
the public

Itter Castle (German language:Schloss Itter) is a small castle standing on a low knoll in Itter, a town in North Tyrol (Austria), 20 kilometres (12 mi) west of Kitzbühel and 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south of Worgl. During World War II, it was turned into a Nazi prison for French VIPs and was the site of an extraordinary instance of the U.S. Army, German Wehrmacht, Austrian Resistance, and the prisoners themselves fighting side-by-side against the Waffen SS in the Battle for Castle Itter.


Itter Castle is located atop a 666-metre (2,185 ft)[1] hill at the entrance to the Brixental Valley. It is first mentioned in 1240.[2] It belonged to Salzburg from 1312 until 1816, when it became part of Tyrol. The castle was purchased as a residence in 1884 by Sophie Menter, pianist, composer and student of Franz Liszt. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky orchestrated one of his compositions during a visit in 1892. The castle was extensively remodeled by later owners.

World War IIEdit

Schloss Itter in 1979

Itter Castle seen from the southeast, July 1979

After the Anschluss (the German annexation of Austria), the German government officially leased the castle in late 1940 from its owner, Franz Grüner[3]

The castle was seized from Grüner by SS Lieutenant General Oswald Pohl under the orders of Heinrich Himmler on February 7, 1943, and transformed into a prison by April 25, 1943. Established to incarcerate prominent French prisoners valuable to the Reich,[4][5] the facility was placed under the administration of the Dachau concentration camp.[3]

Notable prisoners included: former Prime Ministers Édouard Daladier and Paul Reynaud;[6] Generals Maurice Gamelin[7] and former commander-in-chief Maxime Weygand, who had been prominent during the Phoney War;[8] former tennis champion Jean Borotra, later General Commissioner of Sports in the Vichy regime;[9] right-wing leader François de La Rocque, leader of the right-wing Croix de Feu movement;[10] trade union leader Léon Jouhaux;[11] André François-Poncet, a politician and diplomat; and Michel Clemenceau, politician and son of Georges Clemenceau. The former republic president Albert Lebrun was held at Itter for three months in 1943, before being sent back to France for health reasons; Marie-Agnès de Gaulle, Resistance member and sister of General Charles de Gaulle, was interned in the castle at the very end of the war, in April 1945.[12]

Besides the French VIP prisoners, the Castle held a number of Eastern European prisoners detached from Dachau, who were used for maintenance and other menial work.[13]

Battle for Castle ItterEdit

On the afternoon of May 4 the prison's commander fled. Shortly after the SS-Totenkopfverbände guards followed, the prisoners arming themselves and awaiting rescue from anticipated attack from Waffen SS troops still aggressively resisting surrender. Two Sherman tanks of the 23rd Tank Battalion of the U.S. 12th Armored Division under the command of Capt. John C. ‘Jack’ Lee, Jr., and anti-Nazi elements of the Wehrmacht under the command of Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, arrived.[14] Together the three groups repelled probes by SS reconnaissance elements throughout the night. The battle continued through the morning of 5 May, with a strong force of 100-150 SS pressing the attack until reinforcements from the American 142nd Infantry Regiment arrived around 4 PM that day.[15][16]

Castle Itter todayEdit

After the war, the castle fell into disrepair until 1950 when Willi Woldrich acquired it and turned it into a luxury hotel. However, the hotel encountered financial problems and it was acquired by a holding company before it was sold to a private owner in 1985. Since that time, it has remained in private ownership and is not open to the public. It is owned by attorney Dr. Ernst Bosin from the town of Kufstein, Austria.[17][18]


  1. Itter Castle Elevation and Position
  2. Harding, Stephen (11 September 2008). "The Battle for Itter Castle". Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harding 2013, pp. 11–13.
  4. Harding 2013, pp. 21–22.
  5. Piekałkiewicz, Janusz (1974). Secret Agents, Spies, and Saboteurs: Famous Undercover Missions of World War II. William Morrow. 
  6. Harding 2013, pp. 43–44.
  7. Harding 2013, pp. 27–28.
  8. Harding 2013, pp. 53–55.
  9. Harding 2013, pp. 45–46.
  10. Harding 2013, p. 57.
  11. Harding 2013, pp. 36–37.
  12. Harding 2013, pp. 59–62.
  13. Harding 2013, pp. 72 and 181.
  14. Andrew Roberts (12 May 2013). "World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together". Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  15. "French Leaders Freed". Retrieved 2011-01-24. 
  16. Rice, Bernard L. (December 1997). "Recollections of a World War II Combat Medic". pp. 312–344. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  17. "Das Schicksalsschloss/A Castle Big with Fate". Summer 2015. pp. 20–25. 
  18. "Schloss Itter - Tyrol" (in German). Retrieved 9 May 2016. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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