Monday, January 24, 2011

Nurnberg and Nazi History

On my way from Munich to Heidelberg, I decided to take a day trip to Nurnberg, only an hour along the ride.  The city has long historical significance, including being the site of many of the diets of the Holy Roman Empire.  That's much of the reason why Hitler decided to hold his famous Nurnberg rallies, and build the giant rallying complexes here, to associate what he was trying to build with the previous German Reichs.

The aforementioned complex that he tried to build was of staggering size, although most of it was never finished.  A Congress Hall would house about 40-50,000 people for events.  Its imposing exterior was architecturally bisected after the war as a way to symbolically contradict the Nazi past, and the building now houses the Nazi Documentation Center, which is an excellent and frank series of exhibitions trying to answer the question, "how did this happen?"

I spent a good 2-3 hours here, and the tour showed several films, including roughly 10 minutes of "The Triumph of the Will," a film Hitler commissioned Leni Riefenstahl to make of the 1934 Nurnberg Party Rally.  The film is technically great, but as for subject matter, well, it's a Nazi propaganda film through and through.

One of the most famous scenes of Hitler speaking was from this film, as he addressed 150,000 (or perhaps more) SS and SA troops on the nearby Zeppelin field at the climax of the rally.

It was to the Zeppelin field that I walked next.  The field, like many sites here, was open for anyone to enter, and I was I think the only person in a facility meant to hold 250,000.  The photo below was taken standing where Hitler gave his address in the film.  That was one of the stranger feelings I've had in quite a while. 

The most interesting piece of the remaining complex was the site of the planned stadium, which only had part of its foundation excavated, which now forms a small lake.  The stadium was designed to hold 400,000 people, presumably to try to host Michigan-Ohio State games.

More on Nurnberg in the next post...


  1. How did the museum do in its attempt to answer, "Why did this happen?"

  2. It did a pretty good job, of the better museums of its type I've been to. I wasn't all that excited about it, but I stayed a lot longer than I figured I would.