Hitler planned and built the Autobahn. Or did he?
In reality, the first section of what would later become the legendary German autobahn network was constructed and built before Hitler came to power. Construction on the Köln-Bonn Autobahn began in 1929. During opening ceremonies on August 6, 1932, none other than Konrad Adenauer was on hand to inaugurate the 20 km (12 mi) section of autobahn running between Cologne and Bonn. Adenauer, then the Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Cologne, proclaimed: "So werden die Straßen der Zukunft aussehen." ("This is how the roads of the future will look.") Adenauer supported the autobahn project partly as a way to create jobs during hard economic times. Later he would become West Germany's first Bundeskanzler (chancellor, from 1949 to 1963).
AVUS and the World's First Autobahn
But the Cologne-Bonn superhighway was not the world's or Europe's first superhighway. The credit for that goes not to Hitler but to Benito Mussolini. The 80-mile autostrada from Milan (Mailand) to Varese was the world's first limited-access motorway. Designed and developed by Piero Puricelli, the Italian autostrada opened to traffic in 1924. Unlike the later autobahn, the Milan-Varese expressway was a toll road and did not have divided lanes until years later.
But the earliest precursor of the autobahn was German. Construction of the "intersection-free" AVUS (Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungsstraße) began in Berlin in 1912. Not fully completed until 1921, the AVUS was essentially a closed race and test track. The industrialist Hugo Stinnes later purchased the roadway and expanded it to four lanes running a distance of almost 20 km (12 mi). Only much later did the AVUS connect with Berlin's public road network. Today it is part of the A115 autobahn.
Those tales you've heard about German chocolate cake, Frau Blucher, jelly doughnuts, and Thomas Nast may not be true.