Oberammergau from the summit of Kofel
|Coordinates: 47°35′48″N 11°03′52″E / 47.59667°N 11.06444°ECoordinates: 47°35′48″N 11°03′52″E / 47.59667°N 11.06444°E|
|• Mayor||Arno Nunn|
|• Governing parties||CSU|
|• Total||30.06 km2 (11.61 sq mi)|
|Elevation||837 m (2,746 ft)|
|• Density||180/km2 (470/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)|
Oberammergau, or Upper Ammer Vale, is a municipality in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria, Germany. The small town on the Ammer River is known for its woodcarvers and woodcarvings, for its NATO School, and across the world for its 380-year tradition of mounting Passion Plays.
The Oberammergau Passion Play was first performed in 1634. It resulted from a vow made by the inhabitants of the village that if God spared them from the effects of the bubonic plague then sweeping the region they would perform a passion play every ten years. A man traveling back to the town for Christmas had accidentally brought the plague with him. The man died from the plague and it began spreading throughout Oberammergau. After the vow was made, not another inhabitant of the town died from the plague. All of the town members that were still suffering from the plague recovered.
The play is now performed in years ending with a zero, as well as in 1934 which was the 300th anniversary and 1984 which was the 350th anniversary (though the 1940 performance was cancelled due to the onset of the Second World War in 1939). It involves over 2000 actors, singers, instrumentalists and technicians, all residents of the village.
- German: Heut' kommt der Hans zu mir, / freut sich die Lies. / Ob er aber über Oberammergau, / oder aber über Unterammergau, / oder aber überhaupt nicht kommt, / ist nicht gewiß!
- English: Hans will come join with me, / rejoices Lies. / If he comes by way of Oberammergau / or by way of Unterammergau, / or if at all he comes, / that is not sure!
About half the inhabitants of Oberammergau took part in the once-a-decade Passion Play in 2010.
Over 2,000 villagers performed the story of the Passion of Jesus for the audiences from around the world. This was a labor-intensive community enterprise, in which only natives of the village could participate. Performances have taken place between mid-May and early October.
The play has a major economic impact on Oberammergau. There is a local expression "Die Passion zahlt" ("The Passion Play will pay for it") in explaining how the Oberammergau community financed construction of a new community swimming pool, community centre, and other civic improvements. Since 1930, the number of visitors has ranged from 420,000 to 530,000. Most tickets are sold as part of a package with one or two nights' accommodation.
The village is also known as the home of a long tradition of woodcarving; the Bavarian State Woodcarving School is located there. Among the celebrated former students is the German artist Wolfram Aichele. His processional church staff depicting Christ on a donkey can be seen in the church of St Peter and St Paul. The streets of central Oberammergau are home to dozens of woodcarver shops, with pieces ranging from religious subjects, to toys, to humorous portraits.
Oberammergau is also famous for its "Lüftlmalerei," or frescoes, of traditional Bavarian themes, fairy tales, religious scenes or architectural trompe-l'œil found on many homes and buildings. Lüftlmalerei is common in Upper Bavaria and its name may be derived from an Oberammergau house called Zum Lüftl, which was the home of facade painter Franz Seraph Zwinck (1748–1792).
The Conrad von Hötzendorf Kaserne was built just east of the village in 1935–37 as a base for the signals detachment (Gebirgs-Nachrichten-Abteilung 54) of the Mountain Brigade. In October 1943, the barracks were taken over by the Messerschmitt company as a research and development site; 37 km (23 mi) of tunnels were bored into the neighboring Laber mountain for engine production facilities, and a winter sports hotel was also taken over. In all, Messerschmitt had 500 employees in the design department and about 1,300 more in the factory. At the end of the Second World War, the Messerschmitt design department was visited by both U.S. and British scientific missions, as well as by teams from Bell (who stayed for five weeks) and de Havilland. Among the German staff interviewed by the Fedden Mission were Waldemar Voigt, Messerschmitt's chief designer, Hans Hornung, and Joseph Helmschrott.
After the war, the Americans occupied the barracks, renaming it Hawkins Barracks and making it the primary facility of U.S. Army School Europe; over the next three decades schools in specialties ranging from military police to nuclear weapons handling were located there. The base reverted to German Army control and its original name in 1974.
NATO School, formerly NATO Weapons Systems School, the alliance's principal training and education facility on the operational level, has been located at Hawkins Barracks/Hötzendorf Kaserne since 1953.
References in popular culture
Oberammergau's carved wooden crosses appear in Hugo Hamilton's novel The Speckled People.
In the GWAR album Violence Has Arrived, 'Oberammergau' is the name of a hell beast that they use to transport themselves around the world. It is mentioned in the songs 'Anti-Anti-Christ' and 'The Song of Words'.
In Pat Conroy's novel The Prince of Tides, Savannah Wingo writes a poem which celebrates the "shy Oberammergau of the itinerant barber"; her praise for her grandfather's tradition of walking around town carrying a 90-pound cross every Good Friday.
In Maud Hart Lovelace's novel Betsy and the Great World, Betsy visits Oberammergau and meets many of the people involved in the passion play.
Jerome K Jerome wrote 'The Diary of a Pilgrimage' about his journey to see the Passion Play.
Mike Ramsdell teaches at the NATO school in his 2005 novel A Train To Potevka.
A song 'Oberammergau' by UK musician Christopher Rye (featuring Chinese rock band Taikonauts) is based on a reference in the book Dark Side of the Moon by Gerard de Groot, to Oberammergau being the destination for the rocket scientists fleeing Nazi Germany at the end of the Second World War, who then helped build the US space programme.
In the 1976 film Network, at seeing an audition tape, the character Diana Christensen (played by Faye Dunaway) shouts "We don't want faith healers, evangelists or Oberammergau passion players!"
German Schlager singer Peter Wackel released a song called "Oberammergau" on the compilation album "Oktoberfest 2008".
The 2014 album Eulogy for the Living by the band Ghostrain references Oberammergau in the song Sound at 11.
In 2014 the Hebrew novel "Nazur", by Lior Couriel, includes several Mossad scenes occurring in Oberammergau.
- Johannes Kirchmayer (1860–1930) immigrated to the US in 1880, leading woodcarvers in Boston USA
- Maximilian Dasio (1865–1954) painter and medal engraver, died in the town.
- Ludwig Thoma (1867–1921) author, publisher and editor
- Alois Lang (1872–1954) immigrated to the US in 1890, a master woodcarver at the American Seating Company
- Franz-Zeno Diemer (1889–1954) flight pioneer in Bavaria,
- Max Streibl (1932–1998) CSU politician, eighth Minister President of Bavaria
- Erich Ott (born 1944) sculptor, engraver and designer
- Gregor Betz (born 1948) former swimmer, competed at the 1968 and 1972 Summer Olympics born in the town
- "Fortschreibung des Bevölkerungsstandes". Bayerisches Landesamt für Statistik und Datenverarbeitung (in German). January 2018.
- The ditty is geographically nonsense; since the two villages are just 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) apart in a narrow valley, it's not possible for Hans to come to anywhere by way of one but not the other.
- Christopher, John. The Race for Hitler's X-Planes (The Mill, Gloucestershire: History Press, 2013), p.91.
- Christopher, pp.155-6.
- Christopher, p.156.
- Christopher, p.157.
- Christopher, p.156.
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