The automobile began taking over as the primary form of worldwide transportation in the early 1910’s. Most roads were dirt, cobblestone, or early versions of macadam. Automobiles using these roads had to dodge animals, children playing, people walking, and horse drawn conveyances. Most residents relied upon the train for long distance travel.
All over Europe, various private organizations were working to promote auto only roads. “Although Hitler has often been given credit for the autobahn, the real precursors were the Avus experimental highway in Berlin (built between 1913 and 1921), and Italy’s 130-kilometer autostrada tollway between Milan and the northern Italian lakes (completed in 1923). (http://www.german-way.com/) These early autobahns “featured limited-access and grade-separated crossings, but no medians. The first Reichsautobahnen did have narrow medians but lacked shoulders, and ramps and waysides had cobblestone surfaces. “ (http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/autobahn.shtml#design)
In Novemeber of 1926, ‘HAFRABA’ (the Planning Association for the Motorway linking the Hanseatic Towns, Frankfurt and Basle) was begun at the instigation of Willy Hof, Chairman of the Deutsche Handels-Gesellschaft in Frankfurt. (http://www.historytoday.com/uwe-oster/autobahn-myth#sthash.s3peRSKi.dpuf) There was not enough money to begin constructing the auto only roads because of the depression, but HAFRABA began laying out the first plans and began convincing Germans of the need for Auto Only roads.
When the Nazis came to power during the depression, they collaborated with the communists to oppose the auto only roads. In 1933 the opposition vanished when Hitler was elected. He took the idea of auto only roads and ran with it. Fritz Todt had authored the Brown Report, and Hitler read this to an audience at the February 11th Berlin Auto show. “A law establishing the Reichsautobahn project under that name was passed on June 27, 1933, and the Gesellschaft Reichsautobahnen (Reichsautobahns Association) was founded on August 25 as a subsidiary of the Reichsbahn, thereby removing its objections. Todt was named Generalinspektor für das deutsche Straßenwesen (Inspector-General for the German Road System) on June 30.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichsautobahn) Hitler rapidly wiped out any opposition, removed Jewish participants, and began construction on “Work Day” 1933.
Publicity began in August of 1933 with a radio play, “We are building a road.” In September, 720 workers marched to the Frankfort Stock Exchange and wereinvested with shovels as Reichautobahn workers. They followed Todt to the banks of the Main where Hitler was to ceremoniously move a shovelful of dirt and officially open the Autobahn. Todt wrote later, “again and again…(Hitler’s) shovel plunged into the mound [of dirt]. This was no symbolic shoveling; this was real construction work!” Two of the workers “sprang … to help him”, and they worked “until the mound had been dealt with in an orderly fashion and … the first drops of sweat were dripping from his brow onto the earth”. The image of Hitler shoveling was used many times in propaganda.” (Wiki Reichsautobahn) And propaganda was what it was all about in the beginning.
When asked, Todt would say that Hitler sketched out ideas for the Autobahn while he was in prison. With Todt’s backing, the myth of “Hitler’s Roads” grew. Publicity photographs of Hitler with a shovel were often used.
Driving the Autobahn tells us, “Although Germany’s depressed economy and hyperinflation of the late 1920s prevented plans for new autobahns from being carried out at the time, many miles of roadway were built during the time of the Third Reich. Hitler saw the construction of autobahns primarily as a military advantage; its benefit as a job-creation program in the 1930s was an added plus.”
http://www.fastcoexist.com/3040310/theyre-going-to-bury-a-stretch-of-german-autobahn-and-cover-it-in-parks>Covering the Autobahn
http://www.autobahn-online.de/images/gallerie_e.html>Autobahn Pictures Historic photos pg 2
Within six years after the completion of the first Cologne-Bonn autobahn in 1932, Germany added 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) of super highway to its road network. Although Hitler has often been given credit for the autobahn, the real precursors were the Avus experimental highway in Berlin (built between 1913 and 1921) and Italy’s 130-kilometer autostrada tollway between Milan and the northern Italian lakes (completed in 1923). Although Germany’s depressed economy and hyperinflation of the late 1920s prevented plans for new autobahns from being carried out at the time, many miles of roadway were built during the time of the Third Reich. Hitler saw the construction of autobahns primarily as a military advantage; its benefit as a job-creation program in the 1930s was an added plus.
Early Autobahns were rather crude by today’s standards. The first Autobahns, like their Italian counterparts, featured limited-access and grade-separated crossings, but no medians. The first Reichsautobahnen did have narrow medians but lacked shoulders, and ramps and waysides had cobblestone surfaces. When Germany was reunified in 1989, the Autobahns of East Germany
The run-up to the history of the German motorways goes back to the 1920s. Several organisations tried to convince Germans that their happiness no longer lay on the back of a horse, and the future belonged to the motor car. And cars would need straight stretches of road that allowed them to get up to top speed – unimpeded by horse-drawn vehicles, playing children and dusty road surfaces. The founding of ‘HAFRABA’ (the Planning Association for the Motorway linking the Hanseatic Towns, Frankfurt and Basle) in November 1926 at the instigation of Willy Hof, Chairman of the Deutsche Handels-Gesellschaft in Frankfurt, was crucial to the subsequent realisation of motorway dreams. Thus it was not initially a government initiative that lay behind the ‘motorway myth’, but an association whose members were prominent advocates of the idea of motorways from industry, commerce and the administration. This association was not in a position to put motorway construction on the political agenda – that would have gone well beyond its powers – but plans for construction were to be drawn up, and above all they were able to beat the publicity drum and convince the Germans of the need to build motorways.
- See more at: http://www.historytoday.com/uwe-oster/autobahn-myth#sthash.s3peRSKi.dpuf
Historians now say that Adolf Hitler simply jumped on the bandwagon of increasing mobility that was already gathering momentum across the world. He certainly recognized the potential for securing his own power and seducing an entire nation with what looked at first like a crazy enterprise. At the time, it seemed clear that very few Germans would be able to afford their own car in order to drive on the new motorways. So Nazi propaganda promised the people full mobility. The idea was to enable everybody to travel - not just the rich. This was how the idea of the Volkswagen - the “people’s car” - was born. Hitler also made the German national rail company introduce omnibus transport on the first sections of the new autobahns.
“Triebischtal-Tanneberg. Autobahn bei der Dammmühle”
Copyright: Deutsche Fotothek [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons