Oberammergau is a municipality in the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria, Germany. The town is famous for its production of a Passion Play, its woodcarvers, and the NATO School.
The Oberammergau Passion Play was first performed in 1634 and is the result of 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. 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 because of the intervention of the Second World War). It involves over 2000 actors, singers, instrumentalists and technicians, all residents of the village.
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 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 (named for an Austrian general) 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 1943 the kaserne was taken over by the Messerschmitt company as a jet engine development site; 37km (22 miles) of tunnels were bored into the neighboring Laber mountain for engine production facilities.
At the end of World War II the Americans occupied the kaserne, 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.