It is believed to be the only prominent Nazi residence still standing in Germany, yet there are no signs to denote its ominous past. Instead the lakeside villa used by Joseph Goebbels as a secret "love nest" lies empty, anonymous, and hidden in idyllic beech woods some 45 minutes' drive north of Berlin.
The Haus am Bogensee was Berlin's "gift" to Adolf Hitler's club-footed propaganda minister. He used the property, completed in 1939, to consummate his affairs and as a retreat where he wrote some of his virulent anti-Semitic tirades.
Sixty-nine years after Goebbels and his wife, Magda, murdered their six children then committed suicide outside Hitler's Berlin bunker, a seemingly desperate third attempt is being made to sell the place. Two previous efforts were made since 1990, but both failed.
Yet despite its unsavoury past and fears that neo-Nazis might try to purchase it, the Berlin city government which owns the 42-acre complex claims that it has at last attracted a few bidders. "We are not disclosing who they are or how much we are asking, because we don't want to upset prospective buyers," Marlies Masche of the Berlin Property Fund agency told The Independent on Sunday.
The Haus am Bogensee is a listed building. After the war it formed part of an elaborate 70-room complex used to school East Germany's Communist Party youth movement. But since 1990 the site, estimated to be worth ¤15m (£12m), has been mostly empty and an expensive millstone.
Visiting it is like taking an excursion into recent German history. It stands on a street named after Nikolai Ostrovsky, the prominent Soviet proletarian writer. Its villa was used as the school's kindergarten after 1945. Werner Binder, 76, the site's carpenter in the 1960s, said the whole complex was heavily guarded. "But once inside it was like being in a holiday camp," he said.
The villa, its original "Haus am Bogensee" name arching over the entrance, has an overhanging Nordic roof and the rough stone columns typical of Nazi-era "Germanic" architecture, a similar style to Hitler's now destroyed "Berghof" retreat in the Bavarian mountains.
The villa has the remains of an underground bunker and a cinema, and a peek through its rear windows reveals a still fully intact and elaborate banqueting hall, complete with open fireplace, oak panelled ceiling and French windows which sink into the floor allowing access to a large outdoor terrace. "It is a place of idyllic solitude," Goebbels said.
He used that solitude to indulge a voracious sexual appetite which won him the nickname "Der Bock [randy goat] von Babelberg" (the film studio over which he reigned). Goebbels sacked Babelsberg's Jewish actresses, then seduced the Aryan starlets who replaced them. His escapades finally caught Hitler's disapproving attention after one affair prompted Magda Goebbels to threaten divorce.
The Berlin city government now hopes the complex will be turned into a hotel, a wellness spa or a boarding school. "We want total use of the site," insisted a spokeswoman. "The Goebbels villa is very difficult to separate from the rest."