Essays

A Haunting Look Back at the National Socialists’ Most Famous Architecture

BETWEEN 1934 and 1941, the one man responsible for bringing the National Socialist party’s ethos into physical form was a architectural genius by the name of Albert Speer.

Speer’s work has come to define National Socialist architecture. Though many of his plans never made it past the drafting table, they all were immensely influential.

The style is instantly recognizable: big, imposing yet tasteful, majestic yet simple.

Here are some of his most iconic, if ill-fated, works.

National Socialist party rally grounds: An expansive field, known as Zeppelinfield, which played host to military rallies.

Far off in the distance, you can barely make out a swastika in the middle of an all-white ledge. That’s where Adolf Hitler delivered his rousing speeches to the people assembled before him, the field filled to capacity.

The rally grounds were supposed to include four square miles of additional structures, though most of the components weren’t able to be built before the Communists and their allies overran Germany.

They were to include a Congress Hall, several deployment fields, a “great road” for NS parades, and a stadium that never rose from its foundation.

New Reich Chancellery: Hitler’s foreign policy headquarters that Speer produced in less than a year.

In January, 1938, Hitler commanded Speer to build him a brand-new chancellery by January of the following year. More than 4,000 workers labored around the clock to complete the building, and production finished 48 hours ahead of schedule.

Speer was revered both for the speed of his construction and the magnificence of the buildings themselves.

The Marble Gallery was particularly striking. It was covered in richly detailed textures and colors, not to mention being 480 feet long — twice the length of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Lichtdom: Over 150 light beams arranged in a square around the National Socialist party rallies at Nuremberg, which Speer called the “cathedral of light.”

Despite heated resistance from Hermann Göring, Speer borrowed the searchlights from the German air force. The move convinced the world, Hitler surmised, that the National Socialists had unlimited searchlights at their disposal, despite them actually being in short supply.

Of the effect created by the beams of light, Speer said, was “the feeling was of a vast room, with the beams serving as mighty pillars of infinitely light outer walls.”

German pavilion: A towering monolith built for the 1937 international expo in Paris.

Initially, Hitler wanted nothing to do with the 1937 world expo, but with Speer’s reassurance that the German pavilion would leave spectators in awe, Hitler conceded.

The expo wasn’t even meant to be a political standoff between the Germans and the Soviets, but on opening day those were the only two pavilions that were ready to go. Speer adorned his with NS symbols and perched an eagle on top.

Prachtstrasse: The “street of magnificence,” which would act as the backbone of Hitler’s redesign of Berlin.

Only a small part of Germania, a model of Berlin imagined by Hitler as a National Socialist utopia, was ever built.

Speer created plans for a sprawling city that included a 400,000-capacity stadium, a 5-kilometer-long street known as the Street of Magnificence, a massive open forum measuring nearly four million square feet, and a spectacular Arch of Triumph, exceeding those of either Rome or Paris.

The German arch would have been large enough, in fact, to fit the entire impressive French structure within its passageway.

Volkshalle: Speer’s “people’s hall,” which would have been the largest indoor structure in the world if completed, seven times larger than St. Peter’s Basilica.

Right in the middle of all that was the assembly hall Hitler imagined for the German people. It would have been 700 feet high with floor space for 180,000 people.

In an interview with Playboy in 1971, Speer stated that Hitler believed the holiness of the structure would grow as centuries passed, eventually becoming a shrine to National Socialism — in the same way St. Peter’s Basilica serves Roman Catholicism.

Prora: A 3-mile-long National Socialist resort that never came to be.

One of the earliest and largest projects Hitler ordered was a tourist resort capable of holding more than 20,000 people at a time.

Construction began in 1936 and lasted for the next few years, until the war.

Today, the German real estate group Metropole Marketing is building out Prora as a luxury getaway. There will be hotel rooms with views of the Baltic Sea, high-end apartments, restaurants, and spas.

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Source: Daily Archive

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Arvin N. PrebostKurtB. SmithJimB Recent comment authors
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JimB
JimB

Haunting, yes…
but, much more than that, terribly sad.

Rest In Peace, dear, intrepid men and women of the Third Reich.
Your dreams are mine.

B. Smith
B. Smith

This vision, and cosmic reflections of it, WILL be built, on this world and others across our galaxy.

Kurt
Kurt

Years ago I visited the Zeppelinfeld in Nuremburg. It still mostly stands. The back columns are long gone, as is the large swastika. Yet the main podium is still there. I stood there and felt an incorrigible thrill. It was incredible standing in that same spot where Hitler stood. Not as a vagrant or rabble rouser. He stood there as the Fuhrer, leader of the nation, a visionary witnessing his dream come to life. Despite the decay of the years, it was still remarkable.

Arvin N. Prebost
Arvin N. Prebost

What impressed me also is the strip of forest between the hotels and the beach.

In America, hotels are built right on the beach, in your face.