German Architecture-  top ten Nazi architecture

Nürnberger Kongreßhalle (Congress Hall)

architect

Albert Speer, Ludwig and Franz Ruff

location

Nuremburg Party Rally Grounds, Nuremburg, Germany.

date

1938

style

Fascist Stripped Classical (German)

construction

The facade of the Congress Hall is made of granite slabs, to make it appear as moumental as possible. The body of the building, which in its final form would been have completely concealed, consists of brick and reinforced concrete and this can be seen in the courtyard.

type

Congress Hall
 
 
  Congress hall, Arcade walk (Photo used with generous permission of Tobias Bär. Copyright Tobias Bär).
 
 
  As seen today, the incomplete structure.
 
 
 
  The Nazi Documentation Centre (a modern museum on the site).
 
Hitler conferred upon Nuremberg the title, "City of the Party Rallies" for mainly pragmatic reasons. Up to one million Party members would travel to Nuremberg for the week-long rallies, completely swamping the city, and the city, situated in the centre of Germany was easily accessible. Hitler also wanted to appropriate the city's history for the glorification of the Nazi party. A large auditorium was needed for this once a year event and so Hitler comissioned the Congress Hall. The Hall was designed to hold over 50,000 people, but was never finished. The horseshoe-shaped building covers a total area of about 300 x 300 metres. The scale of this structure is overwhelming with an immense arcade running around the lower level of the u-shaped structure. The arcade only serves to dwarf the visitor and make them feel more insignificant in the face of the Nazi system. The monumentality of the building is increased by the simplicity of the oversized architectural detailing. The facade of the Congress Hall is made of granite slabs, to make it appear as moumental as possible. The body of the building, which in its final form would been have completely concealed, consists of brick and reinforced concrete and this can be seen in the courtyard.

The interior was never completed, all that was completed was the exterior structure. The proposed auditorium space was used as a surface carpark for many years and indeed still is. After sitting empty for some years, various plans were mooted including conversion into a shopping complex. Recently a new museum has opened in the building - the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds.
 
Making Nuremberg's Past a Memorial
By Ruth Ellen GruberPublished: FRIDAY, JANUARY 30, 1998 Copyright IHT

NUREMBERG: Among the most enduring — and disturbing — images of Nazi Germany are the photographs and film footage of the party rallies in Nuremberg.

Held each September from 1933 to 1938 in the vast Rally Grounds south of the city center, the weeklong events involved hundreds of thousands of people in ritualistic celebrations of the Hitler cult, as epitomized in "Triumph of the Will," Leni Riefenstahl's film of the 1934 rally.

Hitler would stand enshrined on the podium of an immense colonnaded grandstand that was draped with swastika banners and topped by an enormous swastika insignia. Amid flaring torches, thundering drumrolls and powerful spotlights, he bathed in the adulation of ecstatic crowds raising their arms in the Nazi salute.

The atmosphere, wrote the French ambassador at the time, was "amazing and indescribable," a "peculiar state of euphoria in which hundreds of thousands of men and women are gripped, the romantic excitement, mystic ecstasy, a kind of holy mania to which they have become slaves."

Film images of the rallies are so potent — and so familiar — that it is almost a shock to come across the remnants of Rally Grounds structures, still standing amid the bustle of the modern city. These include Hitler's grandstand — the Zeppelin Grandstand — and an immense, never finished Congress Hall, modeled on the Colosseum in Rome but designed to seat 50,000. Scarcely signposted, they are nonetheless perfectly recognizable — not to mention rather creepy.

Today, as Nuremberg heads toward its 950th anniversary celebrations in the year 2000, city officials are grappling with the Rally Grounds' future.

The Nuremberg Municipal Museums administration has drawn up a detailed plan to integrate the buildings as part of a new state-of-the-art museum and educational center that will examine the psychology of the Nazi rise to power and Nuremberg's role in the process.

Franz Sonnenberger, the director of the Municipal Museums, said, "We want to create an exhibition that gives insights into the machinery of motivation, so we can study and analyze how the Nazis brought people to the point where they felt not as individuals but as small parts of a mass."

Funding for the 10 million Deutsche marks ($5.5 million) project, he said, is being sought from federal and Bavarian authorities as well as from city and private resources.

"It's clear that it's not just the city that should deal with this history, but that it is the job of the state and society in general, too," he said.

The Rally Grounds — the Reichsparteitagsgelaende — occupied a stretch of land considerably larger than downtown Nuremberg itself. Hitler in 1934 ordered Albert Speer to oversee construction of a monumental complex of structures that would express Nazi ideology in stone. Prison camp inmates did much of the labor.

The complex was to include a stadium that would seat more than 400,000 people, the Congress Hall, gargantuan grandstands and several parade grounds and camps. Few of the structures were completed.

For decades the site was treated with ambivalence, embarrassment and amnesia by a city that preferred to recognize more comfortable aspects of its history.

"For years after the war, the Nazi history of the place was a blank spot," said Eckhart Dietzfelbinger, a local historian. "There was no discussion of the Nazi past. Various structures were pulled down, and a new housing development was built on one part of the grounds. The grandstand was used for concerts and even religious revivals — Billy Graham preached there when I was a child."

What remained of the complex was finally put under protection as a historic monument in 1973, and in the late 1970s and early 1980s debate over the use and function of the buildings became part of the overall new questioning and examining of the past by younger Germans.

In 1985 an exhibit was opened in several rooms inside the grandstand. Called "Fascination and Violence," it examines the development of Nazi ideology and Nuremberg's role in Hitler's scheme. But, open only part of the year, it is little more than a display of photographs and panels.

"It is very limited and hard to find," Sonnenberger said. "We are a little ashamed of it — that's one reason why we need to replace it with the new museum we are planning."

Plans for the new museum call for it to be located in the U-shaped, uncompleted Congress Hall, which today, it is used as office and warehouse space. Ten years ago there was an abortive attempt to turn it into a shopping center.

Nearby, the two-kilometer Great Road, where soldiers once paraded in close formation, is used as a parking lot.

The Zeppelin Grandstand rises starkly above a lumpy field and an asphalt parking area. Only its central section remains — its towers and massive colonnade were demolished during the 1960s. The white stone facade is cracked and stained by water. Weeds grow in crevices. The stone bleachers are overgrown with shrubs. Rain comes through the roof.

Hitler's podium is still the centerpiece, however, and it draws a visitor like a powerful magnet; one stands on the spot and feels an undeniable frisson.

Graffiti on one of the walls nearby shows a swastika and the words, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."

Ruth Ellen Gruber is working on a book about Jewish culture in non-Jewish contexts.

links

http://www.thirdreichruins.com/nuernberg3.htm
www.essential-architecture.com