Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg
The Nazi Party Rally Grounds is much more than a linguistic cluster of four words with ‘Grounds’ as the core. These ‘grounds’ are in fact the very open-air museum of the Third Reich era once found its historical location within the Southern-East outskirts of the city of Nuremberg. The Nazis have had a chance to run ten Party Rallies (Congress)in total and keeping eyes away from the common misguiding thinking, these events were held not in a linear year-by-year way for ten years, but rather spaned for fifteen years. The Party Rallies had fallen into oblivion years before the Third Reich collapsed as the 1939 Congress was canceled due to the Poland campaign and the outbreak of the Second World War. All things considered, the first so-called Party Congress was held in Munich in 1923 with a little more than 1000 participants and the second one in Weimar, not in Nuremberg again.
Starting from the year 1933 every Party Congress was pre-inaugurated with its own title or a designation for the regime and its current policy. In this respect, six of ten Party Rallies identified the ephemerous meaning as well as the last XI, devoted to Peace and canceled in 1939. At the time when the party officials and thousands of men and women were on the way to conducting the mass Rally devoted to Peace, the German Wehrmacht was making its last preparations before the invasion of Poland.
Under the circumstances, I turned to Schreck. I explained my plan for the Party Rally area. He promised to tell Hitler about it during the drive and to show him the sketch if he reacted favorably. Next morning, shortly before we set out, I was called to Hitler s suite: “I agree to your plan. We’ll discuss it today with Mayor Liebel.”
Albert Speer (Inside the Third Reich, 1969)
ALL NAZI PARTY RALLIES
27-29 January 1923. Munich. The first official NSDAP Party Congress did become a rhetorical battlefield and demagogic arena to criticize the Versailles Peace Treaty with the French occupation of Rhineland the same month as the background. With the open disregard to the government ban on the mass meeting, Hitler announced a number of public events, including the twelve of his own speeches on the very first day of 27 January. After his triumph public speeches in Hofbrauhaus and Lowenbraukeller beer halls in Munich, Hitler raised no less than 6000 audiences within the Marsfeld open grounds (should not be confused with the Marzfeld in Nuremberg)the next day. It was this day when the audience did notice Hitler’s raised hand, generally considered as the act of mimic to the Italian fascists who had succeeded to take power only three months before. This open walkout in protest of the ban and tough criticism of the state policy, even considering the non-conflict meetings, would widen the audience of the Nazis.
3-4 July 1926. Weimar. In the very month of December 1924 when Hitler was released from the Landsberg prison, the NSDAP raised 907 000 votes and 14 seats in Reichstag. On February 26, 1925, Hitler re-constituted the party under his unipersonal supremacy and did become an undisputed leader of the movement. It was the Congress in Weimar the Nazi salute was incorporated into the Party culture, three years after Hitler had made his public message. The three years between the first and the second Congresses included the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler’s imprisonment, and the complete party reorganization. The Nazis did choose Weimar to a lesser extent because of its ten-century history, rather than considering the fact that the city was among the few places in the Weimar Republic where the party was not banned for public speeches. On July 4, 1926, on the last day of the Congress Hitler performed an emotional speech and then he ‘reviewed’ the parade of the stormtroopers, marching in front of his open car with their right hands raised in a salute. Every tenth member of the NSDAP 40 000 did march facing Hitler, even though Goebbels exaggerated the figure from 3500 to 15 000 participants.
19-21 August 1927. Nuremberg. Regardless of a complete party reorganization, and creation of a number of the organizations within and outside the NSDAP, it still was a time of general skepticism of the German people to this immature political movement. All the while the NSDAP succeeded to gain 6.5% of the votes in May 1924, this first success collapsed to only 2.6% in 1928, a little more than a year after the Third Party Congress. At least 20 000 of the party members and fellows came to the city of Nuremberg with every third wearing a stormtrooper uniform.
We should pay attention to the fact that the 1927 Congress is considered the birth of the so-called ‘Blutfahnenweihe’ ceremony, a half-occulted event with Hitler touching the standards of the new SA units with the ‘blooded’ flag from the Beer Hall Putsch. One of the few preserved photos of that pilot ‘Blutfahnenweihe’ ceremony gives us a chance to notice a young Joseph Goebbels. Hitler filled his closing speech on August 21 with criticism of the Weimar government, claiming democracy, announced his vision of the ‘Lebensraum’ (Living space) for the German nation, and made a parallel between the misfortunes of the Germans and the Jews as the cause. On that August day of 1927, only a few people attached the appropriate significance to Hitler’s words, which would be dramatically fulfilled years after.
1-4 August 1929. Nuremberg. Bypassing still rare public support of the movement, Hitler was confident in his upcoming triumph. Within the first days of August Apr. 25 000 party members, as well as 1300 Hitler youth young men, and hundreds of guests, came to Nuremberg. The grandiosity of the previous Party Congress was once again predominated and the NSDAP had 130 000 party members. Winifred Wagner, one of Hitler’s muses was among the VIPs. The Nazis used some of the open grounds to the South-East of Nuremberg such as the Luitpold arena, where they laid floral tributes to the EHRENHALLE war memorial, already build yet not officially opened.
August 30 – September 3, 1933. Nuremberg. This Nazi Party Rally was named a ‘Reichsparteitag des Sieges’ (Congress of Victory). More than a symbolic determination regarding Hitler’s rise to power, NSDAP was now the only political party in Germany, and the annihilation of a number of civil laws and freedoms. The V Party Congress has also made its way into history thanks to the ‘’Der Sieg des Glaubens’’ (A victory of faith) documentary by Leni Riefenstahl. The director distanced herself from the movie and the final montage was performed without her participation. Only a year later, ’Der Sieg des Glaubens’ was banned from public use and expropriated after the ‘Night of the long knives’, as it had been depicting Ernst Rohm, the second man after Hitler in a movement, now killed and now put into oblivion.
5-10 September 1934. Nuremberg. In the same way as the ‘Night of the long knives’ eliminated the inner dangers for Hitler within the party, the death of President Hindenburg and the subsequent ‘merging’ of two positions, insured the uni-solo power of the Fuhrer. The VI Congress was entitled as ‘Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke’ – Unity and Strength. It has been historically distinguished by the ‘Triumph of the Will’ documentary. On September 7, 1934, no less than 200 000 people fled the Zeppelinfeld arena, with one in ten bearing the Nazi banners. This grand night event was illuminated with 130 huge spotlights.
10-16 September 1935. The VII Nazi Party Rally was named the ‘Reichsparteitag der Freiheit’ (the Party Congress of Freedom). On the one historical hand, such a title did emphasize a complete dispense from the Versailles Treaty, as Germany now had already implied universal military service, had signed a treaty with Britain and initiated the mass rearmament campaign. On the other hand, the infamous ‘Nuremberg laws’ were presented to the public within this Party Rally in Nuremberg, which imposed limitations on the rights of the German Jews.
8-14 September 1936. Nuremberg. The VIII Party Congress was named the ‘Reichsparteitag der Ehre’ (Congress on Honor). Six months before, in March 1936, not numerous German troops of the still ‘rising’ Wehrmacht invaded the Rhineland demilitarized zone. Therewith millions of German citizens accepted this act as the repair of the historical injustice and restoration of the national dignity.
6-13 September 1937. Nuremberg. The second-to-last Nazi Party Rally gained a ‘Reichsparteitag der Arbeit’ name, which meant The Congress of Labor. At the same time as political and military tension was dominating Europe, the National-Socialists symbolically emphasized that they had turned another promise into action by eliminating the unemployment in Germany, a state which had suffered the most in the span of 1929-1933 Great Economic Crisis.
5-12 September 1938. Nuremberg. The last X Party Rally called ‘Reichsparteitag Großdeutschland’ (The Congress of Great Germany) once again praised the triumphs of the Third Reich, including the Annexation of Austria six months before. The grand opening was accompanied by Wagner’s ‘Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ opera to inspirit Hitler himself and Goebbels with enthusiasm. This Party Congress was the last of that kind as the XI Rally, pre-planned as the “The Party Conference of Peace” for September 1939 was denied on the threshold of the invasion of Poland.
NUREMBERG RALLY GROUNDS TODAY
All the main sites of the NUREMBERG RALLY GROUND today are accessible within a walking distance. The span of time you need to cover all the historical locations would strongly depend on your personal physical skills and may take from 3-4 hours to a complete day of measured walking. In many ways, the best time to make this walking journey with less than a few living beings on the route is in the morning hours, as the tourist buses usually top up the area after 10 a.m. The closest metro station to the Marzfeld is called the Langwasser Nord.
‘MARZFELD’ PARADE GROUND
Albert Speer initially conceived the MARZFELD with the idea to become the grand military arena for Wehrmacht. Planned to be the largest open arena in the world, the site was meant to seize up to 955*610 meters. The ‘Marzfeld’ was named after the Marz (German), an ancient Roman god of war, and was set to emphasize a new era of the German army, now in the midst of the rearmament and universal military service, restored in March 1935. The open area was planned to be surrounded by monumental tribunes to welcome 250 000 people. By the time of the year 1939 and the laying off of the works, only 11 of 24 towers were already built. It should be considered that the Marzfeld was designed as the grand replacement of the Zeppelinfeld area, being a seventh time bigger than the predecessor.
The up-to-day grassed field close to the Grosse Strasse amounts to only a small part of the pompous scales of the never-finished Marzfeld. The arena and the towers were untouched until the 1960s. At that time new program of affordable housing in West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) designated the site as an appropriate place for real estate development. Each of the 11 towers, which had previously survived the Second World War was blown up to make space for the Langwasser real estate district with its 35 000 inhabitants. Only the remnants of the former grand towers can be still found on the outskirts of the grassed field.
GROSSE STRASSE (GREAT ROAD)
After the VI Nazi Party Rally in September 1934, Albert Speer designed a draft of a new grand avenue of 2km long which at that time was meant to connect the Luitpold arena with the huge Marzfeld military ground (never finished). The topographical midline of this new grand alley was guided to the city center of Nuremberg and the KAISERBURG NURNBERG fortress to symbolically unite Imperial history with the new era of the Third Reich. The engineering of the Grosse Strasse was launched back in 1935 and laid off a few years later with the outbreak of the Second World War. The workforce of the inmates of the concentration camps was used as one of the means of building the avenue.
The four years of engineering resulted in 1500 meters of the Grosse Strasse in length and incredible 60 meters in width with stone tribunes on each side and 60 000 granite plates in total. By virtue of the fact that the X Nazi Party Rally in 1938 was the last of its kind, the Grosse Strasse has never seen a ceremonial parade. After the occupation of the city by American forces, pilots used the road as the flight landing strip. Starting from 1968 it was used as a parking zone and it was as earliest as the 1990s when the Grossed Strasse was finally protected as a historical landmark. Approximately one-third of the total space has been ‘renewed’ with concrete as well as a part of the authentic plates have been replaced or repaired.
DEUTSCHE STADION (THE GERMAN STADIUM)
DEUTSCHE STADION was designed not only as the largest sports area in the whole world, but also as the most ‘roomy’ building to host up to 400 000 people. Since the day of September 9, 1937, when Adolf Hitler laid the cornerstone of the stadium only a construction pit was indeed finished within a span of two years. Nowadays this huge foundation pit is known as the Silbersee lake with Silberbruck hill as the best viewing point to the never-finished grand stadium. This artificial highness was put into appearance due to the ruins of Nuremberg, damaged as a cause of the Allied bombardments. For a time the works even demanded a separate railway line to deliver ruins, which have not been preserved until nowadays. Swimming in Silbersee is prohibited over a matter of chemical compounds in water, including the asbestos from the Silberbruck hill nearby.
ZEPPELINFELD PARADE GROUND
ZEPPELINFELD parade ground reaches the size of 312*285 meters, which makes its tenth time bigger than the modern football fields. The surrounding area once gained its name after the Zeppelin aerostat had successfully landed here back in 1909. In 1920 the city officials of Nuremberg signed the is to become an open ground for leisure and sports events. By the time of the Party Rally in 1933, the engineers succeeded to finish the first, primarily wooden tribune with the wooden eagle (designed personally by Albert Speer) dominating the panorama.
Zeppelinfeld was designed to have space for up to 200 000 people and it was widely used within the Nazi Party Rallies in Nuremberg to host the parades of Wehrmacht, Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe, SA, the Reich Labor Service, and NSDAP members of all kinds. 130 powerful spotlights, known as the ‘Lightdom’ were set to eliminate the sky during the night mass events. The initial wooden tribunes were replaced with the stone ones already in 1935-1936 as well as 34 towers with toilets and six flag staffs each on the perimeter.
After the city of Nuremberg was liberated by the American forces, Zeppelinfeld was used as an arena for mass parades and marches, sports events over the period of the next fifty years. On April 25, 1945, three days after the Victory Parade, American engineers blew up the stone swastika sign on the main grandstand. In 1967 the famous Feilerhalle gallery with columns has also become history as well as the towers on both sides of the grand stone lost half of their pre-war high. You can still observe a metal cup, one of two preserved ones that were used to set fire during the Nazi Rallies.
‘BAHNHOF DUTZENDTEICH’ TRAIN STATION
Starting from the V Party Congress in Nuremberg, as many as hundreds of thousands of people from every corner of Germany used to come to the city in September to become a participant or an observer of the annual grand mass events. While the Nuremberg Bahnhof main train station was commissioned to welcome a great part of guests, the necessity to use additional stations was way more than a fantasy. Bahnhof Dutzendteich, a modest train station has once become such a transport hub. The station had its history from the year 1871 and become a discovery for the Party officials due to its location within the Nuremberg Rally Grounds area, only 200 meters from the Zeppelinfeld ground. The station was enlarged in 1934 to take on more trains and passengers. In years, the building has lost its initial use and now places the ‘Gaststätte Bahnhof Dutzendteich’ restaurant with a small beer garden.
UMSPANNWERK POWER STATION
UMSPANNWERK powers station was built up back in 1936 on the instructions of Albert Speer to supply the Zeppelinfeld with electricity. After the war, the building passed into the ownership of the city and had been performing its primary purpose until 1998. The Burger King fast-food restaurant now owns the building, yet you can still see the shadow figure of the Nazi Eagle, which had been once demolished by the American troops soon after the liberation of Nuremberg and the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds.
‘STADTISCHES STADION’ (MUNICIPAL STADIUM)
Years after the 1906 State Bavarian exhibition has made the southern outskirt of Nuremberg near the Dutzendteich lake (artificially created back in the XIV century) among the favorite places of recreation and leisure. In the 1920s the city authorities made a decision to develop the sports activity for public attendance and the build-up of a new Municipal Stadium did become quite an event and took two years with the grand opening in 1928. Designed to welcome up to 50 000 people, this new stadium was to become a wonder of the German architecture of the period.
After 1933 and the rise of the new government order performed by the Nazis, the Stadtisches stadion was used to host mass events and for the need of the annual Party Rallies. The further construction included a new wooden tribune with two large towers on both sides as well as the new grandstand for Adolf Hitler’s public speeches. The key entrances were enlarged for the purpose of improved accessibility of the growing amount of people, who now could make space for the grass field itself. The most ‘common’ use of the stadium within the Party Rallies was determined to host Hitlerjugend and youth organizations of the Third Reich.
Städtisches Stadion survived the Allied bombardments of the city of Nuremberg and has been used as the arena for sports events for the last seventy-five years. The span of the next decades witnessed constructions and renovations, which included the demolition of the wooden tribune of the Third Reich era with the erection of a new stone one.
KONGRESSHALLE (CONGRESS HALL)
A new grand Kongress Hall was planned to become a much larger version of the Luitpold Hall with its 16 000 seats for the NSDAP members. It was initially designed to the left behind the Colosseum in Rome by being two times bigger than the ancient arena. The chosen location had been initially a little more than a swamp and dust and it took inhuman efforts, including the 22 000 concrete shanks, to deal with the foundation. Within the years between 1937 and 1939 no less than 1500 workers were constantly occupied on the site. The spacious covered arena was to be 70 meters high with the open stand for Hitler himself in the very center of the whole architectural ensemble. At the date the construction was stopped back in 1939, the U-shape building had a size (and to the present) of 240*200 meters with an inner courtyard of 175*155 meters. It is believed that the completed KONGRESSHALLE would have taken 600 million bricks.
Within years after the war, the never-finished KONGRESSHALLE has been used for other purposes that it was designed for: a parking zone, a fire station, warehouses, and even offices. Back in the 1950s one of the upper terraces hosted an outdoor cafe area and the plans to turn it into a stadium or a shopping center were not fated to be implemented because of the costs. Nowadays a small courtyard is destined to place ‘Nürnberger Philharmoniker’ (Nuremberg philharmonic orchestra), as well as one wing, is used as a part of the ‘Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Ground’. Some areas of the building still depict the holes from the Allied bombardments.
DOCUMENTATION CENTER NAZI PARTY RALLY GROUNDS
It was not until the 1980-1990-s for the Nuremberg authorities to preserve the historical importance of the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds. In 1994 it was decided to create a museum, devoted to this grand open-air historical composition. The former never finished Kongresshalle (its northern wing to be precise)was chosen as an appropriate site to built-up a new museum, which was destined to ‘unite’ the authentic buildings of the Third Reich era with the new constructions with a total of 1300 square meters of the exhibition space. ‘Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände’ (Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Ground) was officially opened by the then-president of Germany on November 4, 2001. The attention grabber of the modern museum known as the ‘Faszination und Gewalt’ (Fascination and Terror) exposition, studies the causes of the rise of National-Socialism in Germany and its aftermath for world history. Some particular parts of the exposition ‘bring’ us to the unfinished wing of the Kongresshalle, including the courtyard with columns.
Praise for the creation of this grand building (now gone) should not be attributed to the Third Reich era. An exhibition hall of gigantic 180*49 meters was built up by ‘Vereinigte Maschinenfabriken Augsburg und Nuremberg’ (United Machine Factories of Augsburg and Nuremberg) for the Bavarian State Exhibition of the year 1906. Pieces of the machinery of the heavy equipment industry were exhibited here and improvement works in the Luitpold park nearby did preserve the public interest for the exposition years after 1906.
At the time when the major part of the exhibition buildings was demolished, the ‘Maschinenhalle’ (Machine hall) was not only preserved to exist but also named Luitpold Hall to honor the Bavarian regent. After the Rise of the Nazis, Albert Speer did make significant changes both to the front side and the interiors of the building, which had now come a part of the Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg. The renovated hall could now host up to 16 000 people at once and was decorated with Nazi banners and eagles. Between the years 1933 and 1936, the Luipold Hall had the largest organ in Europe.
Regardless of the common misguiding thinking, Luitpold Hall was not destroyed in the spring of 1945, but almost three years before at the time when the Wehrmacht army was advancing on the Eastern front and North Africa. The air raid hit the city and the Luitpold on August 29, 1942, and the hall for the Nazi congresses and mass meetings was almost completely destroyed. It was not until the 1960s that the ruins of the former Luitpold hall were no anymore a part of the surrounding area and the site turned into a recreation area and a park. Nowadays a place of the former Luitpold arena is no more than parking.
The open-air Luitpold Arena was used as the site to host up to 150 000 people, most times for the mass rallies of the SA and SS. The arena of 84 000 square meters was shaped to gain 380*250 meters in size with a semi-circular curve of the grandstand for speeches. The terraces, now drowned in greenery, once gave rise to the platform for Adolf Hitler, with three huge banners with Swastika and huge statues of Eagles. The arena once occupied a space in front of the EHRENHALLE memorial. Three of four sides of the Luitpold arena once included the spectator’s stands as well as a brick path paved for the purpose of the ceremonial marches of Hitler and the leaders of SS and SA.
Luitpold arena was the very place to host the infamous ‘Blutfahnenweihe’ ceremony with Hitler who used to ‘touch’ the standards with the ‘blooded’ flag from the times of the Beer Hall Putsch, preserving the Nazi legend. It should be mentioned that a man known as Jacob Grimminger was the all-time carrier of the ‘blooded flag’ within the all-Nazi Party Rallies and the annual ceremonies in Munich. He survived the war, was meant to be sentenced to jail, but still suffered only deprivation of property. A Luitpold arena was badly hit during the Allied air raids of Nuremberg. The ruins of the grandstand, once located close to the destroyed Luitpold Hall, were dismantled with only a small fragment of the stone stairs preserved until today. The spectators’ tribunes on three sides of the former arena have not survived the after-war renovations.
‘EHRENHALLE’ WAR MEMORIAL
A memorial to honor the soldiers of the Great War (The First World War) was erected, as well as another one in Munich at the time of the Weimar Republic, a state system so much hated by the Nazi movement. Back in September 1929 the Nazis used them at that time not finished EHRENHALLE as a part of the Party Rally to honor the memory of fallen soldiers as well as the sixteen ‘victims’ of the Beer Hall Putsch. The Ehrenhalle was ceremonially opened not until the year 1930 to honor the memory of 9 855 soldiers of Nuremberg, who had lost their lives in the Great War.
Starting from 1933, the memorial had become an essential location for the annual Nazi Party Rallies in Nuremberg. The stone piles on both sides used to be fired until the very 1938 and the last X Party Congress. The building witnesses the end of the war unharmed, regardless of the aid raids, which had previously hit the Luitpold Arena. It still honors the memory of the soldiers of the First World War as well as the victims of the Nazi tyranny in the years 1933-1945, with the annual ceremonies. Back from the building, you can observe another small memorial, which honors the victims of 1914-1918 and 1933-1945 with an eagle on the top. The authentic granite plates in front of the Ehrenhalle on the site where Hitler used to stand, have been stolen to a big extent and nowadays replaces with replicas.