I grew up with an interest in architectural history and followed this interest with graduate work. After attending a convention in Minneapolis in 2000 and discovering the great swath of burned and abandoned early industrial inner city mills, I came away fascinated by these monumental ruins. Last week, while immobilized by a common cold, I was online looking for abandoned structures when I found a link to Geoff Walden’s Third Reich Ruins. There in front of me were hundreds of pages containing an abandoned and ruined powerful political architecture.
Following link after link, I learned that Hitler rejected the use of the popular, curvilinear “Moderne” as “intellectual Bolshevism” (www.nzetc.org/). He urged his architect, Paul Troost, a Bauhaus trained designer, (www.spiritus-temporis.com), to rethink the Roman influence and mix it with a bit of baroque. This new pared down Neo-Classical style was established as “the Fuhrer’s Style” before Speer or others became a part of the Hitler’s architectural hierarchy. This now focused design was used for the important municipal buildings and large ceremonial areas. The reshaping of Berlin into a neo-classical city began in early 1936 with the Olympic Stadium. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welthauptstadt_Germania) Speer’s plan to create a new German Capital, Germania, from the old Berlin were put on hold in 1939 to save strategic materials. (Speer, Albert (1970). Inside the Third Reich)
The simple lines and Roman influenced colonnades of the new Nazi formal architecture were often adorned with many-story-tall flags, and banners in striking red with the black swastika. Alexander Scobie writes in Hitler’s State Architecture: The Impact of Classical Antiquity, “Flags and insignia played an important part in Nazi ceremonial and in the decoration of buildings. The eagle-topped standards carried by the SA at Nuremberg rallies were reminiscent of Roman legionary standards, the uniformity of which Hitler admired.” (Hitler, Table Talk, 146) This Eagle, often seen gripping a wreath-enclosed swastika, was used to adorn many facades of Hitler’s more formal structures. Scobie continues, “There can be little doubt that Hitler’s state architecture, even when seen today in photographs of architectural models, conveys a sense of “Power and Force.” Albert Speer took these Roman themed symbols and liberally used them to reinforce the powerful propaganda uses of the buildings and spaces created for the Third Reich.
<center><font size="1">Flags flanking the Lustgarten and on top of the May Pole, Berlin. The Lustgarten is a large open area flanked by museums. The May Pole (Maibaum) can be seen with the with the Altes Museum in the background, during a May Day celebration. Photo and captions courtesy Geoff Walden, Third Reich Ruins.</font></center></center>
Scobie also quotes Speer saying, “The Romans built arches of triumph to celebrate the big victories won by the Roman Empire, while Hitler built them to celebrate victories he had not yet won” (Scobie 133-134).”
Leon Krier writes in his article The Suppression of Classical Architecture in Postwar Germany, “It is undeniable that Classical architecture was one of the most important and reliable of all the methods of Nazi propaganda.” The grand gathering places such as the Nuremberg Party Rally Grounds, the official buildings in Berlin, and the Tempelhof airport were dramatic in their designs and enhanced by over sized sculptures and giant banners which added to their propaganda factor.
Many of Hitler’s other grand plans were not started before the beginning of the war. Some massive groupings of buildings, such as the Prora KdF Resorts by architect Clement Klotz, remained incomplete by the end of the war. Geoff Walden writes in Third Reich in Ruins, “Among the most ambitious of the Third Reich construction projects were five planned seaside resort complexes for the Kraft durch Freude (KdF - Strength Through Joy) workers association…..these seaside resorts were meant to provide affordable vacations for [20,000 of] the average German worker[s].” Today the several kilometer long Prora Resort lies empty and crumbling along the seacoast and is classified as a historical monument. (http://www.inst.at/trans/15Nr/10_5/rostock15.htm)
<center><font size="1">The North arm of the Prora complex from the “Deutsche Wochenschau” weekly newsreel, from about 1941. Note the three foundations for Community Houses jutting out onto the beach. Photo and caption courtesy Geoff Walden, Third Reich Ruins.</font></center>
Many individual monumental buildings such as Hermann Göring’s Air Ministry complex, Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, and the Olympic Stadium by architect Werner March were completed and survived the war almost intact. Many other structures were damaged during the war and were destroyed, rather than rebuilt, post WWII by massive dynamiting in an attempt to remove all signs of this architectural propaganda. Leon Krier says, “Classical architecture has become both the unknown ghost and the tragic victim.” Jeffry Diefendorf writes In the Wake of War that “Krier admires and applauds the architectural monuments of the Third Reich as powerful, seductively beautiful objects of art….and “dares” his readers to “find a beauty in an architecture that has clearly and intentionally served to legitimize a political system we clearly despise.”
In National Socialism, there were two distinct architectural approaches. It took me longer to find a trail to the Volk style. A Thomas Zeller article about Alwin Seifert finally caught my eye. Almost at the same time as the neo-Classical style appeared in the German cities, Seifert began to mold the countryside into a new philosophical and political shape. Zeller wrote of Seifert in Molding the Landscape of Nazi Environmentalism, that the arrogant, brusque Seifert made all of Germany his garden. He believed that the connection between landscape and the human soul was uniquely German. He also believed that a particular type of human soul, Nordic, embodied the values of a specific community.
Anthony Storr in Dimensions, (vol.6, No 2), reviewing Guy Padfield’s Himmler says that, “The urge to create a mythical medieval Germany populated only by the Volk was already evident in the eighteenth century.” An expansion of Seifert’s ideas and beliefs helped create the second form of invented propaganda architecture. Seifert felt his ethnic view would capture the Germanic soul in landscape as well as in the new, deliberately designed folk buildings. Tom Fletcher, in nyc-architecture.com, wrote of this invented design, “The völkish style was primarily used in rural settings for accommodation or community structures like the Ordensburg in Krossinsee, the walls and watchtowers of KL Flossenbürg and KL Mauthausen. It was also to be applied to rural new towns as it represented a mythical medieval time when Germany was free of foreign and cosmopolitan influences. This style was also used in a limited way for buildings with modern uses like weather service broadcasting.” Other uses were the administration building for the federal post office, barracks, KdF hostels, and in any situation where the architectural form would strengthen the National Socialist philosophies. These were often homey structures, comfortably situated in their environments, with shutters, sometimes with murals, and always with deep eaves and steep roofs derived from the Bavarian.
While searching for these two types of Nazi fascist architectures, I found myself looking at these structural styles with a new eye. I noticed that many of the neo-classical buildings were destroyed, altered, or damaged by order of the Western occupying forces after WWII. The large neo-classical pieces, seen to be most representative of Hitler’s larger plan, policies, and propaganda, were most frequently vilified, dynamited, and bulldozed away. The Military Academy, one of the few architectural complexes fully completed by the end of the war, was buried under a mound of debris that is now the Teufelsberg in Berlin. Even into 1971, Speer’s elegant Berlin lampposts were strongly opposed and some even removed. (Oppositions, 404, 406).
Visible signs of wartime bombing of the folk style architecture can be seen, but many of these structures were repaired and put back into service. Some seem to have survived with little damage. Many murals and mosaics remain intact also with only the swastikas removed. Postwar, more of this invented folk architecture was rebuilt because it was truly needed as housing during the post war period. Although Hitler’s country home, and the homes of his closest followers were, in time, leveled to the ground and the materials used to create post war housing, his small tea house, the Eagles Nest, survived because Hitler didn’t like heights and visited it only 14 times. (http://www.kehlsteinhaus.com/)
After days of following leads and links, I returned to my computer in an attempt to make some sense of these political architectures. As I traced the remarkably rapid recovery of Post WWII Germany, “which had risen anew by the late 1950s in West Germany” (Diefendorf, In the Wake of War), I saw that this recovery utilized both new and the much older architectures while bulldozing Nazi structures through “moral necessity.” (Oppositions Reader: 404) Still in my mind the dichotomy of the pure power and clear lines of the Nazi neo-Classical and folk design contrasted strongly with the swaths of destruction symbolized for me by images from Oradour-Sur-Glane, (Massacres and Atrocities of WWII). There, in a quiet French villiage where all were massacred and the buildings burned by the hand of one over zealous Sturmbannführer, Adolf Diekmann, (http://www.oradour.info/), you see the true monument to Nazi Architecture in the silent miles of rubble that remain behind today.
Nazi Architecture-Wikipedia“The völkish style was primarily used in rural settings for accommodation or community structures like the Ordensburg in Krössinsee, the walls and watchtowers of KL Flossenbürg and KL Mauthausen. It was also to be applied to rural new towns as it represented a mythical medieval time when Germany was free of foreign and cosmopolitan influences. This style was also used in a limited way for buildings with modern uses like weather service broadcasting and the administration building for the federal post office.´wikipedia
LINKS AND FOOTNOTES:
“It so happens that Krier does admire some of Speer’s architecture while despising the regime that commissioned it. His justification - a love of monumental classical architecture aside - is that of an architect who wondered why it had been so easy to slam Speer’s work (viewed purely, as Ferry put it himself, “from an art history perspective”), while similar architecture was built elsewhere in the world at the time, and, particularly, in the democratic US.”
From “Oppositions, the journal of the New York-based Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS)” by: K. Michael Hays
Copied from: “The minority of explicitly ideological buildings, to which it gave great prominence, reflected two conflicting ideas of the character of the new society. The monumental buildings which Hitler described as “Symbols of the heroic scale of life.” Were intended to reflect the power of the dictator and his modern state over his subjects in the mass. This view was wholly incompatible with that represented by the Kleinsiedlungen and folk styles, which, symbolizing an individualistic pre-industrial society, conformed more closely to the ideas of the Kampfbund and the earlier critics of the new style.”
Speer said later, when it was safe to do so, “The Romans built arches of triumph to celebrate the big victories won by the Roman Empire, while Hitler built them to celebrate victories he had not yet won” (Scobie 133-134).
• Scobie, Alexander. Hitler’s State Architecture: The Impact of Classical Antiquity. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-271-00691-9.
Flags and insignia played an important part in Nazi ceremonial and in the decoration of buildings. The eagle-topped standards carried by the SA at Nuremberg rallies were reminiscent of Roman legionary standards, the uniformity of which Hitler admired (Hitler, Table Talk, 146). There can be little doubt that Hitler state architecture, even when seen today in photographs of architectural models, conveys a sense of “Power and Force”
• Hitler, Adolf. Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-1944: His Private Conversations, 3rd Edition. New York: Enigma Books, 2000. ISBN 1-929631-05-7.
Speer liberally used these symbols to reinforce the propaganda uses of the structures and spaces he created for the third Reich. me
The völkish style was primarily used in rural settings for accommodation or community structures like the Ordensburg in Krossinsee, the walls and watchtowers of KL Flossenbürg and KL Mauthausen. It was also to be applied to rural new towns as it represented a mythical medieval time when Germany was free of foreign and cosmopolitan influences. This style was also used in a limited way for buildings with modern uses like weather service broadcasting and the administration building for the federal post office.
The ideologues of the “Kampfbund” presented to the artists, as the goals for artistic creations, the renewal of the “German spirit” in art, the return to traditions and social hierarchy, the building of a vision of a harmonious life tied to the land, and consciousness of German culture.
In his next work, “Kampf um die Kunst” (Struggle for Art) published in 1932, Schultz-Naumburg emphasized the contributions of Nazism to the process of moral renewal of art and its national values as contrasted to cosmopolitanism and degeneration. In his activity directed against modern art, Schulz-Naumburg was the first to reach for the most radical, destructive means. It was on his initiative that in 1929 the frescos by Oskar Schlemmer in the old Bauhaus residence in Weimar were destroyed.
Within the boundaries of the Nazi movement, efforts were made to seize at last part of the accomplishments of contemporary German art. In 1933 in Berlin an initiative was undertaken under the slogan “Youth fights for German art.” Its object was to demonstrate that German expressionism can become the official Nazi art. Otto Andreas Schreiber, active in this movement and Hans Weidemann, connected to Joseph Goebbels, created the “Der Norden” group of painters and the periodical “Kunst der Nation.” On the pages of the latter, they sought to show existing links between modern German art and Nazism. Similarly, the well known poet Gottfried Benn took a critical position regarding Rosenberg’s program for the elimination of German modernism. His book, Kunst und Macht,” was an expression of sympathy to the idea of National Socialism converging with the watchwords of artistic modernity. At the same time, the book contained a defense of expressionism and a clear reference to the situation of Italian futurists who were collaborating with fascism.
based on Sztuka a systemy totalitarne (Art and totalitarian systems) by Waldemar Baraniewski.