Nürnberg - Architecture and Spectacle

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Nürnberg - Architecture and Spectacle

No city in the Third Reich was as important symbolically as Nürnberg - the official site of the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag.

The rallies, held in Nürnberg on two occasions during the 1920s and on an annual basis throughout much of the 1930s, were a series of gigantic, theatrically staged celebrations of unity and power.
Triumph des Willens
Leni Riefenstahl
Extensively covered in the media, and vividly captured in Leni Riefenstahl's classic film, 'Triumph des Willens', the rallies captured the attention of the world, leaving both Germans and non-Germans alike suspended in a state of fascination and admiration.

1934 – The 6th Party Congress was held in Nuremberg, September 5-10, 1934. Initially it did not have a theme. Later it was labelled the "Rally of Unity and Strength" (Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke), "Rally of Power" (Reichsparteitag der Macht), or "Rally of Will" (Reichsparteitag des Willens).

Triumph des Willens
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
'Triumph des Willens' is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 supporters. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi leaders at the Congress. Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation.

Even today the city of Nürnberg continues to live on in the memory of Germans 'as the symbolic place of National Socialist rule.'"
Geographers exploring the linkages between spectacle, identity and place have often approached landscapes as texts to be read.
More recently, scholars have emphasized the ways in which these landscapes serve as a type of stage for human action.
Whereas the metaphor of the text implies a rather passive role for landscape, the idea of landscape as a stage, and an emphasis on the role of performance, recognize a greater degree of dynamism and interaction between people and place. 
This notion of landscape as theatre could be further extended, not solely as the backdrop in which the action takes place but as actively constituting the action.
The stage acts more than as the context for the performance; it is the performance itself.

The Nürnberg Party Rallies were political spectacles designed to generate public support for the National Socialist regime through the performance of an annual ritual, characterized by a high degree of mass pageantry.
To be effective, spectacles of this kind are often situated in landscapes endowed with a history capable of evoking a particularly powerful sense of national pride and belonging.
Nürnberg served well this requirement.

Nürnberg Kaiserstallung
Stadtwappen von Nürnberg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The city had a long, romantic history and contained many historic features of architectural and cultural importance.
Nürnberg was thus in many ways already a national symbol.
What remained was to convert it into a participatory landscape, in which spectacle and architecture might combine to legitimate and glorify the regime, enhance the personal charisma of Adolf Hitler and imbue among the masses a strong sense of National Socialist community and purpose.
The theatrical aspects of the rallies depended greatly on their venue.
In this sense, the rally agenda coincided with another preoccupation of the National Socialists and their leader: the idea that German cities typically lacked the kind of symbolic spaces and architecture necessary to galvanize a strong sense of community and purpose.
Mein Kampf
In 'Mein Kampf', Hitler lamented that the inevitable result of this deficiency was 'a desolation whose practical effect is the total indifference of the big-city dweller to the destiny of his city'.
The Third Reich, therefore, chose to embark on an ambitious building programme that would refashion German cities with new monumental spaces and structures intended to focus Germans on the glory of their country as well as on the goals and values of National Socialism.
Architecture, in particular, was seen as a powerful expression of national greatness.
This article explores the interactions of spectacle, architecture and place embodied in the Nürnberg Party Rallies.
We focus first on the official rally grounds located just outside the city.
Here we examine the ways in which a carefully calculated use of space and architecture effectively created a world of ritual ceremony and rhetoric capable of generating an almost phantasmal sense of mass fascination and awe among participants and observers.
Our analysis, however, also leads us into the city centre, since the rallies were anything but confined to the rally grounds on the city's edge.

Old Nürnberg
As the 'City of the Party Rallies', Nürnberg's historic centre was a fundamental but often-overlooked part of the celebrations.
In particular, the National Socialist building programme sought to restore, improve and preserve the city's central environs simultaneously to remind the nation of the city's historic greatness and to enhance the city's suitability as a stirring venue for rally activities and ceremonies.
In the end we hope to emphasize the connectedness between what might be called the 'old' Nürnberg of the Middle Ages and the 'new' Nuremberg of the 1930s.
The authorities, both party and civic, apparently saw no inconsistency in the goals of restoring, cleansing and preserving a historic city-scape in the town centre while simultaneously constructing a thoroughly modern and forward-looking rally site outside the city.
The seeming incongruity of the two endeavours was reconciled by a desire to build a sense of German pride that connected the new and glorious vision of a National Socialist future with a romantically inspiring symbol of Germany's national past.
We also wish to emphasize the interdependence between these carefully contrived landscapes and the emotional response of the multitudes that witnessed or performed the spectacles staged upon or within them.
In other words, what makes the Nürnberg rallies perhaps unique is their unprecedented capacity to fuse spectacle, architecture and space into a single participatory experience.

The Rally Grounds

Nürnberg was not the first city to host the Party Rallies.

The first rally took place in Munich, the birthplace of the party, in 1923.
Because Hitler was banned from public speaking in Bavaria following his failed putsch, the second rally in 1926 took place in Weimar.

Nürnberg Reichsparteitag - 1927
After the Bavarian ban was lifted in 1927, Nürnberg came under consideration as a site for the third and possibly future rallies, but the choice was hardly a foregone conclusion.
For one thing, Nürnberg had never been a stronghold of National Socialist political support.
The city was actually considered a 'red' stronghold of the Social Democrats.
Moreover, the municipal government initially seemed lukewarm to the idea of turning over the city's public buildings and grounds to the National Socialist celebrations.
On the other hand, the city was an attractive site because of its symbolic association with German history, art and culture stemming from its days as an imperial city during the Middle Ages; because of its relatively accessible location in central Germany; and because it possessed public facilities and grounds capable of providing adequate meeting space.
Wappen des Heiligen
Römischen Reiches
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich. It is the second-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich), and is the largest in Franconia.

Nürnberg was probably founded around the turn of the 11th century, according to the first documentary mention of the city in 1050, as the location of an Imperial castle between the East Franks and the Bavarian March of the Nordgau.
Wappen des Königreichs Bayern
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg is often referred to as having been the 'unofficial capital' of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly because Imperial Diet (Reichstag) and courts met at Festung Nürnberg  The Diets of Nürnberg were an important part of the administrative structure of the empire.

The cultural flowering of Nuremberg, in the 15th and 16th centuries, made it the centre of the German Renaissance.
At the Imperial diet in 1803, the independence of Nuremberg was affirmed, but on the signing of the Confederation of the Rhine on 12 July 1806, it was agreed to hand the city over to Bavaria from 8 September
In 1817, the city was incorporated into the district of Rezatkreis (named for the Franconian Rezat river.

In the end, Nürnberg was chosen for the Reichsparteitag.

Successful rallies were held there in 1927 and 1929; and in 1933 Hitler declared at the opening of the city's third rally that Nürnberg would henceforth be the permanent locale.

1927 – The 3rd Party Congress ("Day of Awakening") was held on August 20, 1927. The propaganda film 'Eine Symphonie des Kampfwillens' was made at this rally.

Reichsparteitag - 1933

The rallies were then held in Nürnberg each September until suspended by the outbreak of war in 1939.
The early rallies of 1927 and 1929 were marked by improvisation, not only in the planning of scheduled events but also in the use of the city's spaces and public facilities.
Beginning with the 1933 rally, however, a far more elaborate staging of events and venues evolved.

Reichsparteitag - 1933

The rallies soon developed into carefully orchestrated and predictable affairs that lasted eight full days, attended by as many as a quarter of a million people.

Reichsparteitag - 1933

The ritual began on the first day with the Führer's dramatic arrival in Nürnberg  followed by a day of march-pasts and cultural events.

Succeeding days were devoted exclusively to the Labour Service, the ideal of community, political leadership, the Hitler Youth and the Storm Troopers.
The final day belonged entirely to the military.
As the events became more elaborated and standardized, so too did the determination to stage the largest and most important of them in a monumental complex of newly constructed arenas, stadia and meeting halls befitting a Reich that was destined to last a thousand years. 
The 'Rally Grounds' complex that eventually took shape was located just south-east of the city. 
This area had already been set aside in the late nineteenth century as a pleasure and recreation ground.

Dutzendteich Lake
The foci of the area's pre-rally development were the Dutzendteich Lake, with its lakeside cafe, and the nearby Luitpold Grove.
The latter was a landscaped pleasure park originally developed as the venue for the 1906 Bavarian Jubilee Exhibition.
In 1928 a memorial to the dead of the First World War was constructed on the north-east side of the park.
The National Socialists, who used the park during the 1927 and 1929 rallies, viewed this open space and particularly its war memorial, which recalled the martyrdom of Germany's First World War soldiers and the humiliation of the Versailles Peace, as a particularly emotive setting for rally events.

Reichsparteitagsgelände - Nürnberg
The extensive recreational area to the south-east of the city also contained a zoo, a number of sporting fields, a public swimming pool and a municipal stadium with a capacity of 50000. Incorporating all of these existing sites and facilities and more, the official Rally Grounds covered an immense area of 16.5 square kilometres.
A special public corporation (Zweckverband Reichsparteitag Nurnberg) created in 1935 partnered the city of Nürnberg  the state of Bavaria, the Reich and the NSDAP to oversee the development of the grounds.
With the intense backing of Hitler, the project enjoyed priority status for financial and material resources from the beginning.
Between rallies, the grounds became a place of feverish construction, earning the sobriquet 'the world's largest building site'.

Luitpold Grove and First World War necropolis
In all there were six major components to the complex, some of which were never completed. 
The first of these was the Luitpold Grove and its First World War necropolis, which became the complex's most hallowed ceremonial ground.
This facility was completely reworked for the rallies.
The former landscaped pleasure park was levelled, flanked by massive stone grandstands and transformed into the Luitpold Arena.

Luitpold Arena

The resulting formalized space served as the stage for one of the most moving moments of the rally schedule.
On the seventh day of the proceedings, the massed ranks of more than 150 000 SA and SS Storm Troopers filled the floor of the arena.
Hitler and his entourage then passed solemnly between the ranks along a granite path leading straight to the steps of the war memorial, where the Fürhrer would pay his respects to the nation's and the party's martyred dead.

Connected to the Luitpold Arena was the Luitpold Hall, a meeting hall with a capacity of 16000 redesigned and enlarged from a structure built for the 1906 Bavarian Jubilee Exhibition.

A second, and equally pivotal, ceremonial space was the Zeppelin Field.
Built between 1934 and 1936, this squareish, stadium-like facility was a radical transformation of what had once been an amateur sports field named after Count Zeppelin, the German airship pioneer, who used it briefly for experimental flights in 1909.


The new facility's most impressive feature was the Tribune.

This grandiose stone structure, which ran the full length of one side of the field, was the work of the young architect Albert Speer, whom Hitler also commissioned to oversee a master plan for the Rally Grounds complex.


Speer's Tribune took the form of a long grandstand-like structure, flanked at each end with massive 'book-end' pylons, and dignified by a colonnaded screen behind the seating, topped by a giant swastika set in an oak leaf wreath.

A small, squareish podium, or Führer's rostrum, jutting out from a raised platform at the centre of the structure, allowed Hitler to review the Labour Service battalions and youth groups, and military demonstrations staged by the armed forces.
Two other massive outdoor facilities were planned and begun, although neither was ever completed due to the outbreak of war.


One was the March Field (Marzfeld), the construction of which was prompted in part by the realization that the Zeppelin Field was probably too small to hold the enlarged rallies of the future.

This new arena, which was begun in 1938 on what had been a parade and exercise area for the army, was intended to hold half a million.

Deutsch Stadium
The other was the Deutsch Stadium which was to be a truly colossal affair, with a seating capacity of 405 000 - far more than any other sports stadium in the world.
Indeed, Hitler believed that the completed stadium would become the permanent site for the Olympic Games, which by his decree would henceforth be known as the Germanic World Festival.

Deutsch Stadium
The immense horseshoe-shaped stadium was to be built entirely of stone (enough to severely strain the granite-cutting capacity of the Reich for many years) and magnificently fronted at its open end by a propylaeum and columned courtyard
The structure was also to be adorned on high with gigantic spread-winged eagles, Grecian urns, and 25-metre high equestrian statues.
The cornerstone was laid in 1937, but little of the stadium was ever completed.
The other mega structure of the Rally Grounds was the Congress Hall.

Designed by Ludwig and Franz Ruff in 1934, it was an immense auditorium designed to hold 50,000 Party Congress delegates on its main floor, with room for another 2,400 on its main stage.
This building was situated picturesquely along the north shore of the Dutzendteich Lake. 
Construction was begun in 1935.
Most of the building's outer shell was completed, but the interior was never finished.
A host of other structures and facilities rounded out the Rally Grounds ensemble.
These included a multi-winged barracks for the SS, built between 1937 and 1939 on the western edge of the grounds; the old municipal stadium, which continued to be used for parades and Hitler Youth events; a number of permanent camps on the southern and eastern peripheries that housed participants belonging to various organized groups, such as the SA, the SS, the Labour Service, the Hitler Youth, the Strength through Joy and the Young Women's organizations.
The largest of these camps, known as the Langwasser, was spacious enough to accommodate more than 200 000 people.
In addition, two railway stations served the grounds, one near the camps and the other just to the east of the Zeppelin Field.
A power station and water tower provided the camps with basic services.

The rallies were political spectacle extraordinaire.

They drew heavily on a tradition of national festivities and public celebrations in Germany dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, but were consciously designed to employ every conceivable tool that could transport crowds into a state in which they subconsciously surrendered themselves en-masse to the high drama and mystical euphoria of the moment. 
The result was indeed thought of as a Gesamtkunstwerk or 'total work of art'.

Richard Wagner
A Gesamtkunstwerk (translated as total work of art, ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form or total artwork) is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so. The term is a German word which has come to be accepted as a term in aesthetics.

The term was first used by the German writer and philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff in an essay in 1827. The German opera composer Richard Wagner used the term in two 1849 essays. It is unclear whether Wagner knew of Trahndorff's essay. The word has become particularly associated with Wagner's aesthetic ideals.

Hitler Jugend Trommler
To accomplish this the proceedings relied heavily on the stirring and anticipatory effects of martial music, trumpeted fanfares and thundering drums; on the visually exhilarating effects of massed blocks of uniformed marching men and women, phalanxes of flags and standards, and the surreal effects cast by thousands of flickering torches; and on the ecstatic effects of spell-bindingly oratory and mass proclamations of loyalty.
One of the most spectacular examples of the highly choreographed proceedings took place in the Zeppelin Field.
On the evening of the fifth day, the so-called 'day of the political leaders', the review field, which held as many as 100 000, and the surrounding stands, which held as many as 150 000 more, were filled to capacity.

Lichtdom - Cathedral of Light
As darkness fell anticipation ran high among the closely packed, torch-lit crowd.
At a precise moment, spotlights illuminated Hitler's entrance to the field.
As the Führer then strode across the field to mount the podium in front of the Tribune, 150 powerful searchlights around the perimeter of the field suddenly shot their long beams into the sky to envelope the proceedings in a ghostly 'Cathedral of Light'.
As Hitler prepared to harangue the crowd from his podium, excitement culminated amongst the assembled multitude with the exhilarating sight of tens of thousands of swastika flags and gleaming silver standards rushing forward in waves through the crowds, rousing the faithful into a sort of 'sacred' fervour.'
The evening ended with the mass singing of the national anthem.
This meticulously orchestrated emotional scene, artfully caught on film by Leni Riefenstahl and shown around the world, best exemplified the spellbinding and almost sacral atmosphere that characterized the rallies.
To be ultimately successful, however, all of this required a perfect venue just the right use of space and architecture.
Careful attention to the use of space and spatial layout therefore loomed large in the design of all rally facilities.
Hitler himself had strong views on the utility of space for the manipulation of a crowd's attention and mood.

Rectangular spaces were deemed most effective, especially when they could be precisely defined on all sides by surrounding stands and stages, and seemingly isolated from the rest of the world by encircling displays of flags, banners and statuary, or - as in the case of the night rallies in the Zeppelin Field - by walls of light set against the dark sky.
Clear lines of sight and direction were also important, as demonstrated by the layout of the 'granite path' that bisected the Luitpold Arena as it led to the steps of the War Memorial, or in the focal position of the Fuhrer's rostrum at the centre of the Zeppelin Field Tribune and at the end of a main axis emanating from the entrance in the middle of the stands directly across the way.
Size was also important.
Rally facilities needed very large capacities so that the crowds in the stands along with the standing or marching participants massed on the field or auditorium floor could create an impression of immense human strength and solidarity.

Thus, impressive as the mass ceremonies in the Luitpold Arena and Zeppelin Field may have been, an immediate need was felt for even larger facilities, such as the March Field and German Stadium.
The spatial layout of the entire grounds was also the subject of meticulous planning.
A master plan, replete with a scale model mock-up, was in place by 1935.
A central axis or 'Great Road' ran for two kilometres in a north-westerly direction from the centre of Hitler's reviewing stand on the March Field to a great square just outside the Congress Hall. 

Reichsparteitagsgelände - Nürnberg
Designed to be 80 metres wide and paved with 60 000 gigantic square slabs of granite, the Great Road created a grand processional way capable of conveying great columns of parading troops and rally goers.
Once completed in 1939, the Great Road strictly aligned with the newer facilities - the March Field, the German Stadium, the Congress Hall and the various residence camps.
The older facilities, whose location and orientation could not be changed, related somewhat awkwardly, but not at angles that placed them at great variance to the thrust of the axis.
In a rather obvious attempt to link the Rally Grounds to the 'historic' greatness of the host city, the Great Road aligned directly with Nuremberg's old imperial festung (fortress), which dominated the old city's distant skyline.

Equally important was the use of architecture.

Hitler considered himself an aficionado of architectural history and technique; he considered himself a master builder, and dreamed of leaving a lasting physical imprint on German cities and landscapes.

He understood the power of monumental building and spent countless hours fussing over architectural plans of various projects, among which the Rally Grounds held special importance. 
The designs of rally buildings and arenas had to satisfy multiple goals.
Their primary purpose was to under-gird the ritual spectacle of the various rally events; but these edifices were also meant to impress and instruct in the sense that the heroic ideals and scale of the National Socialist movement should be evident in their form and style.
They were also built to endure as an eternal testament to the power and grandeur of the Third Reich.
In Nazi Germany, the need to impress and instruct was an imperative that usually translated architecturally into gigantism.
Speer classified the buildings for the Rally Grounds as 'assembly architecture', the purpose of which was to awe and inspire masses of people.
Structures were therefore designed to overwhelm the senses by their sheer size.
The plan for the German Stadium, for example, was so immense that spectators in the upper stands would have been hard pressed to observe the action on the field below without the aid of field glasses.
The entrance pylons, portals and galleries of all of the facilities were typically far larger than life-the better to diminish those who passed through them.
Thus, the vast lobbies that were to run beneath the seats of the German Stadium were designed to tower, cathedral-like, over the spaces they enclosed, while immense columns, pylons, statuary, emblems and symbols adorned the exteriors of stadia and buildings alike.
The monumental dimensions of the Rally Grounds structures were a simple but effective means of impressing on the masses the extraordinary largeness and all-embracing character of National Socialist life.
The projects personally commissioned and supervised by Hitler, which include Speer's designs for the Party Rally Grounds reflect Hitler's taste for neo-classical forms.

Schinkel - Altes Museum
Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing features of Late Baroque. In its purest form it is a style principally derived from the architecture of Classical Greece and Rome and the architecture of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio.

Neue Wache - Schinkel

In form, Neoclassical architecture emphasizes the wall rather than chiaroscuro and maintains separate identities to each of its parts.

Neoclassical architecture tends to emphasize its planar qualities, rather than sculptural volumes. Projections and recessions and their effects of light and shade are more flat; sculptural bas-reliefs are flatter and tend to be enframed in friezes, tablets or panels. Its clearly articulated individual features are isolated rather than interpenetrating, autonomous and complete in themselves.

Pergamon Altar 

Speer's design for the Zeppelin Field Tribune bears clear similarities to the Pergamon Altar of Hellenistic Greece, just as the German Stadium resembles the stadium of Herodes Atticus in Athens.

Reconstruction of the Colosseum - Rome
There are also rather obvious similarities between the Colosseum in Rome and the Congress Hall, the design of which underwent changes inspired by Hitler's 1938 visit to Rome.
Hitler and his architects were clearly attracted to the idea of using the architectural forms of a heroic classical past, particularly those of ancient Greece, as a means of legitimizing and grounding their vision of the present and future.
In fact, however, the work done by Speer on the Rally Grounds went beyond the standard neo-classical mould, for his buildings also incorporated a certain modern abstract formalism derived from the Art Deco style of the 1920s.
Many of the buildings thus were noteworthy for their employment of cubic mass, emphasis on right angles, great flat surfaces and solid angular decoration.

The end result was a sort of abstract or modernized neo-classicism that managed to seem heroic, solid and forward-looking all at the same time - an theme that was highly compatible with the political style of  National Socialism, which so often strived to bring together carefully selected attributes of the old and the new.
The final imperative was the command to endure.
In his memoirs, Albert Speer reports that 'Hitler liked to say that the purpose of his building was to transmit his time and its spirit to posterity', adding: 'Ultimately, all that remained to remind men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture.'
Speer produced two recommendations that Hitler strongly endorsed.

Congress Hall
First, monumental buildings should feature time-honoured and natural materials that express a 'bridge of tradition' to future generations, rather than modern and anonymous materials. 
Second, monumental structures should be built to last so that, after thousands of years, a set of aesthetically acceptable ruins might remain, like those of the Greeks and Romans, as a testament to future generations.

Congress Hall
Consequently, the buildings of the Rally Grounds utilized ideologically acceptable and permanent materials like granite and marble whenever possible, and this also allowed at least some construction to continue during the war years, as iron, steel and concrete became increasingly reserved for weapons production.
The spectacle of the rallies thus unfolded, in part, within an ensemble of buildings and stadia designed both spatially and architecturally to enhance the involvement of rally participants and observers, to heighten the propaganda value of the rallies, and to leave a permanent record in stone that would impress and instruct long after its builders were gone.
The grounds were intended to become a sacred place - a site of cult-like celebration of strength and unity under National Socialism.
In the words of regime spokesperson Otto Dietrich, speaking at the 1935 rally, 'This sacred site of the Party Rally Grounds with its unique concepts of architecture and use of space will be the highest symbol of National Socialist life and National Socialist culture, in it the unique style of German National Socialism will find its strongest expression.'

The City

In 1937 Germany's flagship art and architectural journal lavishly featured the new rally buildings as 'a monument of pride'.
Given the high visibility afforded to the rallies by the regime's propaganda apparatus and the monumental nature of its architecture, it is not surprising that scholars have remained largely fixated on the Rally Grounds.
Yet this narrow focus overlooks another component of the National Socialist building programme that developed within Nürnberg's medieval walls, in parallel with the new rally structures.
Nürnberg was chosen as the location for the annual rallies partially because of its historical symbolism.
The city's historic centre accordingly became an additional focal point for rally activities.
In many ways, Nürnberg's historic centre served as an extension of the official rally grounds. 
And like the existing facilities at the Luitpold Arena or the Zeppelin Field, Nürnberg's historic squares, buildings and fortifications also required systematic reworking to reinforce the regime's political objectives.
As planning and construction proceeded on the Rally Grounds, local party officials with the support of the national leadership aggressively launched a broad campaign to restore, preserve and improve Nürnberg's historic centre.
The preservation campaign within Nürnberg's medieval walls was intended both to create a 'monument of pride' that would remind the nation of its past greatness and, like the new Rally Grounds, to signal the onset of a new and glorious age.
Although scholars have produced countless volumes analysing the urban planning policies and architectural styles favoured by the Third Reich, historical preservation has only recently emerged as a subject of interest.
Reflecting this relative inattention paid to historical preservation, those who have explored the structures and symbolism of the rallies have tended to minimize the role of projects undertaken in Nürnberg's historic centre in creating an appropriate atmosphere for the rallies.
Yet Nuremberg's historic centre was not a mere footnote to the massive spectacles on the Rally Grounds, but rather a constituent element in efforts to project and legitimize the National Socialist regime's authority and legitimacy.
NSDAP officials embarked on a purposeful program to adapt Nürnberg s centre to a specific vision of history that would buttress the NSDAP's political authority, and its self-image as chief steward and pinnacle of German cultural and historical greatness.

Mayor Willy Liebel
These efforts, led by Mayor Willy Liebel, were implemented by a small cadre of professional architects, preservationists and urban planners sympathetic to the regime's apparent commitment to preserving and restoring Germany's historical monuments.
According to municipal preservationist Julius Lincke: The reawakening of the German spirit has also reawakened the sense of German history everywhere.
The remaining monuments to the existence and achievements of the German Volk, that had often sunken down to mere sites for a few summer tourists, have again become relics of the German Volk, for whose preservation everything must be done.
In general, historical preservation in Nürnberg focused on three main themes.
The first involved the restoration of historical structures, while the second focused on removing the 'building sins' of previous generations in an attempt to 'cleanse', 'purify' or otherwise aesthetically improve Nürnberg's historical image.
'Building sins' in this context usually referred to commercial buildings featuring modernist designs built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Thirdly, preservation projects served to symbolize the NSDAP's desired close connections with specific aspects of German medieval history.
Although wide-ranging, these three themes helped re-frame the past and present so that the NSDAP, under Hitler's leadership, appeared as an inevitable historical culmination that would reconcile the German nation's cultural greatness with modernity, and save the nation from racial and cultural degeneration.

Adolf Hitler - Albert Speer
and Willy Liebel
Indeed, Mayor Liebel declared that 'the National Socialist city administration considers it as one of its most important tasks, to preserve the countless beauties of the old town and to free it from the defacements that it was partially exposed to in recent decades'.
In order to demonstrate the party's commitment to this cause, Liebel ordered work to begin immediately on the 'restoration of architectural and artistic monuments threatened by decay, the purification of disturbing advertising and architectural disfigurements from the image of the old town, and the renovation of the old town'.
Given the dual importance of Nürnberg's main market square, as both the city's historical centre and site of several parades and activities during the annual rallies, local leaders decided to focus their initial efforts here.

They began by renaming the square, originally called the 'Hauptmarkt', to 'Adolf-Hitler-Platz', but it was soon evident that they would not be satisfied with mere semantic changes.

Adolf-Hitler-Platz - Nürnberg
Adolf-Hitler-Platz - Nürnberg
During late 1933 and early 1934, more substantive measures were undertaken to have a redesigned and improved 'Adolf-Hitler-Platz' complete for the 1934 rallies.
The centrepiece of the effort was the renovation of the Telegraph Building.
Heinrich Hohn, a staff member of the German National Museum in Nürnberg  singled out this neo-gothic building, built in the 1870s, as an 'unbearable foreign body' that disturbed the square's medieval charm.
Although cost considerations prevented its complete demolition, the Telegraph Building received a dramatic facelift.
The building's new simplified façade and pitched roof aimed to complement neighbouring structures and create a more orderly aesthetic, while new murals added to the façade provided an unmistakable message.
In addition to targeting modern architecture, officials worked to realign windows and doors to harmonize the façades of buildings surrounding the square to conform to National Socialist visual and ideological preferences.

Nürnberg Kaiserburg
While the municipal administration concentrated on re-framing Nürnberg's main square, the Bavarian president, Ludwig Siebert, and the Zweckverband financed the restoration of Nürnberg's Kaiserburg (imperial castle - or Festung) under the justification that it 'served the representative purposes of the state'.
The festung, set at the north-western corner of the city's medieval fortifications, represented a potent symbol of medieval Germany's political and cultural greatness.

Nürnberg - Kaiserburg
Although much of its historic exterior remained intact, the interior had undergone significant modifications during the nineteenth century.
Like the redesigned 'Adolf-Hitler-platz', restoration work inside the festung aimed for a 'thorough cleansing' of nineteenth century additions.
The restorations strived for a rather simple, modest and orderly appearance intended to revive the festung's 'pure and unadulterated state'.
The overall effect was to return the festung to its 'original monumental character and its powerful dignity'.

Hitler Youth leaders Hostel
Later projects converted portions of the festung complex into an immense youth hostel with facilities for Hitler Youth leaders.
The local administration hoped that the newly renovated hostel would immerse youths in the experience of the party rallies, optimistically proclaiming that 'thousands of German boys and girls will pass through the hostel and take something of the spirit of greatness that prevails in it into their future life'.
Nürnberg also conducted a 'cleansing' of its medieval fortifications.
Local officials ordered vegetation stripped from the ramparts, refuse cleared, dilapidated sections of wall repaired and new footpaths laid out along the moats and trenches to create unobstructed views of Nürnberg's military heritage.
The extensive restoration work on the festung and fortifications simultaneously demonstrated the regime's dedication to preserving historical monuments, accentuated the martial aspects of Nürnberg's historical architecture, and integrated these medieval relics into an orderly and disciplined urban landscape.

Holy Spirit Hospital - Nürnberg
Rathaus - Nürnberg
Most other municipal historic buildings also underwent some degree of restoration during the Third Reich, including the Rathaus (town hall), the Holy Spirit Hospital and many of the town's churches. Although the NSDAP had limited legal authority over the rights of property owners, local officials were able to pressure many home-owners into making aesthetic changes.
Historic preservation efforts focused on giving homes and businesses an 'Old German' look by exposing half-timbering, as well as removing obtrusive signs of commerce and modern architectural forms like flat roofs.
Referring to the latter structure, a local administrative report celebrated how 'one of the ugliest homes in the old town has today become one of the most beautiful'.
By 1941, the administration claimed that municipal funds were partially responsible for the restoration of approximately 400 buildings.

Nürnberg Synagogue
Nürnberg Synagogue
Although local officials used strong rhetoric when describing all preservation projects, their criticisms of Nürnberg's Synagogue were especially virulent.
Like other structures targeted for removal, the synagogue was built in a late nineteenth century historicist style, making it doubly objectionable to National Socialist ideologues.
Walter Brugmann, a local architectural consultant, had already identified this 'Moorish-style' synagogue as a 'building sin' in 1934.
The building's perceived 'foreign' architectural style was compounded by its seemingly disproportionate size.

Walter Brugmann
Brugmann suggested a new porch as a partial remedy, but officials chose a more radical solution.
The National Socialist building programme in Nürnberg's historic centre clearly intended to do more than just preserve historical architecture.
It intersected in practice, rhetoric and goals with several basic tenets of National Socialist ideology.
First, the programme allowed the regime to demonstrate its support for preserving Germany's historical treasures, a goal with significant support among middle- and upper-class Germans. 

Wappen des Heiligen
Römischen Reiches
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Preserving historical structures, especially those that dated to the Middle Ages, also connected the Third Reich with the perceived golden age of the Heiligen Römischen Reiches (Holy Roman Empire).
To suggest this narrative, officials and preservationists attacked, in both rhetoric and practice, the material reminders of the period separating this golden past from the glorious present and future.
By erasing the physical traces of this perceived downfall from the urban landscape a closer symbolic connection between medieval and National Socialist Germany was created.
The monumental nature of Nürnberg's urban fabric could thus represent the ideals of a traditional and cohesive community that coincided with National Socialist calls for order, obedience and sacrifice.
'Nürnberg is the best preserved large city of the German Middle Ages,' art historian Friedrich Kriegbaum proclaimed,
'Like hardly any other city, it is a grandiose self-portrayal of urban communal will in built form.'
Finally, the use of biological metaphors in urban planning and preservation discourse reflected the regime's concern with race.
The programme to 'cleanse' Nuremberg's urban landscape of undue 'foreign' and commercial influences buttressed efforts to construct a racially pure nation.
Germany's urban areas, like the nation itself, were viewed as threatened by foreign contaminants that had to be purged before Germany could reach its full potential.
Looking back at the first years of the campaign, Brugmann noted with satisfaction that the 'city wall and ditches, the castle, the churches, the patrician and burgher homes were preserved in a perfectly professional manner and the alleys of old Nuremberg were decisively cleansed of excessive "commercialism".'
While such themes were common in preservation and urban planning throughout the Third Reich, Nürnberg's role as the site of the annual rallies added a special impetus and visibility to these efforts.
As Brugmann took pains to emphasize,
'Nürnberg, fully conscious of this high distinction and honour, endeavours to give this new purpose an adequate frame by preserving and restoring the matchless beauty of its ancient scenery, by erecting new buildings, widening its streets, and by making other improvements.'

The 'Old' and the 'New' Nürnberg

Stadtwappen von Nürnberg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
'Old' and 'New' Nürnberg
We have so far reviewed the general course of the National Socialist building programme both within Nürnberg's medieval walls and on the rally grounds located a short distance outside.
The latter foresaw the construction of mammoth, modernized neo-classical structures, while the other focused on reworking relatively small details thought to contrast with Nuremberg's medieval heritage.
Although seemingly irreconcilable in style, form and scale, these two projects were seen as complementary.
Viewing them in isolation provides only a partial and somewhat misleading view of Nürnberg's practical and symbolic role in National Socilaist Germany.

Fleischbruecke - Old Nürnberg
These were not separate projects, but intimately intertwined as necessary elements of the regime's programme to create and project images of historical greatness, current political legitimacy and promises of future grandeur.
Friedrich Bock, a local library director, succinctly laid out this historical trajectory in his 1938 book 'Nürnberg  from the city of the Imperial Diets to the city of the Party Rallies'.
Bock constructed a narrative that painted medieval Nürnberg in glowing terms.
This golden age was, however, followed by a period of neglect and cultural decline, especially during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The National Socilaist seizure of power in 1933 marked a rebirth.
'The Third Reich has again brought great honour to the city,' Bock explained; 'it has again become, like during the height of the Middle Ages, one of the capitals of the Reich and, as in the proud imperial times, its name will be named together with the leaders of the Reich.'
For Bock, the Rally Grounds and improvements to the city centre symbolized Nürnberg's renewal and rejuvenation.
'In this way it is possible', Bock reasoned, 'to organically connect the old city of the Imperial Diets with the new city of the Party Rallies through the centuries.'

Indeed, after the annexation of Austria in 1938, Hitler ordered the crown jewels and regalia of the old Holy Roman Empire returned from Vienna to Nürnberg for permanent display. 

Nürnberg thus signified a resurrection of past national greatness under the leadership of the NSDAP.

Adolf Hitler views the Reichskleinodien in Nürnberg
The Imperial Regalia are the only completely preserved regalia from the Middle Ages. During the late Middle Ages, the word Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien) had many variations in the Latin language. The regalia were either named in Latin: insignia imperialia, regalia insignia, insignia imperalis capellae quae regalia dicuntur and other similar words.
Nürnberger Kleinodien (roughly translated Nürnberg jewels), named after the town of Nürnberg where the regalia were kept from 1424 to 1796. This part comprised the Imperial Crown, parts of the coronation vestments, the Imperial Orb (a globus cruciger), the Imperial Sceptre, the Imperial Sword, the Ceremonial Sword, the Imperial Cross, the Holy Lance ('Spear of Dstiny'), and other reliquiaries.
Today they are kept at the Schatzkammer Treasury in the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria.

Carl Sabo's book developed these same connections between the city's past and present:
'For centuries Nürnberg as city of the gleaming Imperial Diets of the German emperors and kings stood in the centre of German history. With the designation as the city of the party rallies by the Fuihrer, Nuremberg is today placed anew in the centre of German happenings. The gates of the city will be stone witnesses to these new glory days for the future.'
Introducing the book, Mayor Liebel hoped visitors, whether during the rallies or some other time of year, would feel this same impression. 'What of a visit to Nürnberg makes the deepest expression', Liebel explained, 'is the inner connection between the venerated past and the living and proud present.'
Party officials made a special effort to reinforce this message for young Germans.
Gottlieb Schwemmer, a government building official, authored an easy-reading political history for young Germans.
After a cursory overview of Nürnberg's early history, Schwemmer described the nineteenth century as a period of cultural decline triggered by capitalism.
The city's recent resurgence under National Socilaist leadership was gradually correcting these past mistakes.
'The city, that remained true to the symbols of the old empire as no other', Schwemmer argued, 'is also above all others determined to have the greatest monuments in its enchanted setting, on which the reflection of the coming epoch already rests.'
Through the combination of its old medieval centre and the new rally complex, Nürnberg would become an eternal symbol of German, and more specifically National Socialist, achievements. 
Another book, by Werner Dittschlag, made a similar point for German girls.
Dittschlag began by comparing the tale of 'Sleeping Beauty' with Nürnberg 
Like a fairy-tale princess, Nürnberg had originally been a beautiful, vibrant city but was forced to endure an anguished slumber during the nineteenth century.
Once Hitler woke Nuremberg, 'the old spirit of heroic deeds and loyalty returned within its walls.... Nuremberg is once again a "centre point of the Reich", the Third Reich.'
The book details the role of women and girls in the rallies, and concludes by describing the massive structures planned for future rallies.
Beyond the pomp of rally activities, these new structures and Nürnberg's medieval centre were destined to form an impressive new whole.
As Dittschlag explained: 'Every German girl and every German boy will burn with desire to see the old and the new Nuremberg.'
Connections between these two Nürnbergs were necessary to legitimate National Socialism as the natural heir to Germany's proud history.
A girls' magazine produced by the party visually encapsulated this message for its readers.
The cover features an eagle, long a symbol of Germany, surveying past and current symbols of German greatness.
A drawing of the Zeppelin Field fills the foreground, while the silhouette of Nuremberg's castle and fortifications provides a shadowy backdrop.
Schwemmer had been keen to point out to his readers that the entire rally complex 'served as a counterbalance to the distant imperial castle which welcomes one into Nürnberg's landscape image'.
Nürnberg - Reichsparteitag 1937
But efforts to forge connections between the rallies andNürnberg's medieval past often went beyond mere verbal assertions.
As we have seen, the Great Road, the broad central axis of the rally grounds, was purposely aligned with Nürnberg's imperial festung, several kilometres to the north.
The cover of a special issue of 'Die neue Linie', featuring the 1938 party rallies, offers a simplified representation of this relationship.
Indeed, connecting the rally grounds with the symbols of medieval Nürnberg was central to the iconography of the rallies.

Nürnberg - Reichsparteitag 1937 - Poster
The official poster from the 1937 rallies, for example, juxtaposed Nürnberg festung with searchlights from the rally grounds.
The performative nature of the rallies also worked to highlight the conceptual message inherent in the National Socilaist building programme in Nürnberg.
In many ways, the most dramatic performances of the rallies featured enormous parades of the various party organizations.
It is no coincidence that many of these parade routes actually connected Nürnberg's imperial festung, Adolf-Hitler-Platz and the new Rally Grounds.
These repeated spectacles of mass parades symbolically and literally constructed linkages between the medieval Holy Roman Empire and Hitler's Third Reich.
This trajectory was further enshrined in Leni Riefenstahl's ground-breaking film of the 1934 rallies, 'Triumph of the Will'.

The film's opening sequences couple footage of Hitler's triumphal entry into old Nürnberg with lingering shots of Nürnberg's historic buildings.

Another long scene toward the end of 'Triumph' complements coverage of Hitler reviewing a parade from the Adolf-Hitler-Platz with lavish views of old Nürnberg streetscapes.
The National Socilaist building programme reworked Nürnberg's historical centre to represent, convey and historicize the National Socilaist movement and its ideology.
Together with the massive new structures planned for the rallies,Nürnberg's historical centre helped portray the Third Reich as the culmination of past historical greatness and the redeemer of a truly German national culture.
There were certainly other places where the National Socilaist leaders planned to redesign cities around mammoth new structures, most famously their plans completely to redesign Berlin into the capital, Germania.
There were also numerous programmes to preserve historical buildings, especially in smaller towns like Rothenburg.
Nürnberg, in comparison, was the only place where the regime aggressively pursued both objectives.
It seemed only fitting that, as one popular guidebook declared of Nürnberg  'the old stronghold of the German imperial idea of the Middle Ages is today the stronghold of the new Reich'. 
While numerous rulers, governments and political movements have constructed grandiose monuments and staged lavish ceremonies, few such efforts can rival the impact of the Nürnberg Party Rallies.
The rallies awed millions of contemporary Germans, as well as countless foreign observers. 
Indeed, Riefenstahl's 'Triumph of the Will' won awards in Germany, Italy and even the Grand Prize at the Paris International Film Festival in 1937.
And even 60 years after the collapse of Hitler's Reich, these images of unity and power continue to fascinate.
Yet, given the repeated use of politicized monuments and spectacles by numerous regimes throughout history, the reasons why the Nuremberg rallies in particular should have such a lasting legacy remain somewhat obscure.
Many contemporary observers and later scholars credited the sheer size of the rallies.
While the rallies were certainly massive, we believe that a greater awareness of the calculated use of place, space and architecture can lead to a more nuanced understanding of the intense emotional response generated by the rallies and the reasons the rallies achieved nearly iconographic status for later generations.
As a 1938 issue of 'Die neue Linie' explained: 'From the first Imperial Diets, that took place in the thirteenth century, to the Party Rallies, the destiny of the city resolutely followed this mission like a pre-planned parade route.' This calculated utilization of architecture, spectacle and place helped link the 'old' and the 'new' Nürnberg to project and legitimize a vision of past, present and future.

Festliches Nürnberg

Festliches Nürnberg

'Festliches Nürnberg' (Festive Nuremberg) is a short 1937 film chronicling the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag in Germany in 1936 and 1937.

The film was directed by Hans Weidemann.
The film runs in colour for 21 minutes (although the downloadable version at the Internet archive is monochrome only, and has no English translation of the commentary), containing footage of the 8th and 9th Nürnberg Rallies.
Particularly notable scenes of both the rally and the film are images of Albert Speer's lighting techniques during the 9th Nuremberg rally on 10 September 1937, in which he positioned 134 searchlights circling the Zeppelin field on which the rally was taking place.

'Lichtdom' (Cathedral of Light)
The beams of these spotlights, forming the 'Lichtdom' (Cathedral of Light), merged into the general glow at an estimated height of 20,000 feet.
The film is relatively short at only about 21 minutes compared with the longer 'Triumph des Willens' and 'Der Sieg des Glaubens' made by Leni Riefenstahl in 1933 and 1934 respectively (see above). It adopts the same style with many scenes of marching SS men and Wehrmacht soldiers, as well as navy personnel and flying aircraft overhead.
With some prescience, scenes of soldiers parading in tanks and other vehicles (with guns firing) assume great prominence.
The film concludes with sequences of folk dances and gymnastic displays, followed by a torchlight parade and a brief speech from Hitler.
Since the formation of the NSDAP in 1923, annual rallies had taken place at Nürnberg  mainly orchestrated by the 'minister for public enlightenment' Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
The NSDAP also called upon architect Albert Speer to create a number of spectacles to inspire the German population.
The 8th and 9th of these rallies were known as the 'Reichsparteitag der Ehre' (Rally of Honor) and the 'Reichsparteitag der Arbeit' (Rally of Labor) respectively for 1937 and 1938. 

The film followed the much longer Riefenstahl films of 1933 and 1934, and the reason for the smaller movie is not known, indeed, many of the film sequences follow Riefenstahl quite closely, such as the introduction using aerial shots of the city of Nuremberg.
The score uses Richard Wagner's 'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg' for musical accompaniment. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013