Third Reich and nazi sites in Nuremberg
NUREMBERG AND THE THIRD REICH
The Nazi movement did superficialize the city of Nuremberg as the ‘cradle of German history’ and even attributed it to the value of ‘the most German city’. Within the years 1933-1938, Nuremberg witnessed the annual Party Congresses and hundreds of thousands of guests from nearly every inhabited corner of the country with a postcode. Along with the mass Nazi Party Rallies in the South-East part of the city, the government used to run crowded manifestations in the very heart of Nuremberg, known as the ‘Alter Stadt (The Old Town). It was no less than a fact of life to see mass parades and crowds of people, who made their inspired way following Hitler’s motorcade. The German Fuhrer commonly visited a number of pre-planned locations in Nuremberg to meet the city officials, religious figures, and his ‘Alte Kameraden’ (Old comrades) and to give out his pompous speeches in public.
The city of Nuremberg suffered the 1940-1945 Allied air raids to the great extent of destruction and many of the historical landmarks have not survived the Second World War or were restored or rebuilt modified. In wide historical respect, only a few of the locations and buildings I am referring to in this article as the ‘Nuremberg Nazi sites‘ were built in the era of the Third Reich, with the majority to be a part of the going back centuries of architectural heritage of Nuremberg.
RATHAUS — NUREMBERG CITY HALL
The City Town Hall of Nuremberg originally stretches back its foundation stone to the XIV century, being licked into a pre-war look already in the 1620s. On August 30, 1933, exactly seven months after gaining power in January and now as a prelude for the ‘Reichsparteitag des Sieges’ (Congress of Victory), Adolf Hitler made his public speech within the Rathaus for the first time acting as a German Chancellor. In the years since 1933, Hitler used formally opened the annual Party Rallies, originally known as the ‘Reichsparteitage’ by his speech in the Town Hall. On September 4, 1934, and September 10, 1935, the German Fuhrer opened the grand events with his rhetoric respectively. The year 1936 witnessed a ‘reshaping’ of the established format with Hitler addressing the audience not inside, but in front of the Town Hall on September 8. This ‘open-air’ adaptation of the mass event succeeded to gain even more attention as the headline of the first day of Congress. In the two pre-war years of 1937 and 1938, Adolf Hitler preserved the tradition of the speech inside the Nuremberg Rathaus.
The City Town Hall of Nuremberg was badly damaged in the midst of the Allied air raids back in Spring 1945 to be later restored, losing some elements of its historical look and interiors. The overall architectural ensemble of the Rathaus was made over between the years 1956 and 1962 and the interior works indeed expanded until the very 1980s. In no small part, the efforts of the renovation affected the inter-floor covering and the wooden ceiling, decorated once again with caissons. It’s still a matter of debate to restore the wall paintings of Albrecht Durer, once lost in dust and fire.
HAUPTMARKT’ MAIN SQUARE (ADOLF-HITLER-PLATZ)
Back in 1349 Karl IV, the King of the Romans (Germany) and Bohemia (Czech) and only six years from the title of the Holy Roman Emperor delivered an order to eliminate a Jewish quarter in the center of the city of Nuremberg and to space fill the location with a new planned market square. A bloody action of ‘resettlement’ turned into a massacre with 562 dead people, captured and burned alive, of the whole 1500 population of the quarter. The former Jewish ghetto and now the burning ruins were cleared for the construction of two squares of modest size. The largest of the two sites was assumed as the ‘Big market’ and later as the ‘Greenmarket’, destined to become the main square in Nuremberg with Apr. 5000 square meters of open space.
Within the years of the Third Reich era, the ‘HAUPTMARKT’ of Nuremberg used to be the final station of the mass parades and manifestations, including Hitler’s motorcade. Already on March 25, 1933, seven weeks since Hitler had become the Chancellor, the Hauptmarkt square was officially renamed ADOLF-HITLER-PLATZ (The Square of Adolf Hitler). Alongside the South-Western part of the city with its annual Party Congresses (Nazi Party Rallies), the main square also was a common open-air location to host mass meetings in Nuremberg. Adolf Hitler used to review the parades of the SS, SA, Hitlerjugend, the German Labour Front (Arbeitsfront), and a number of Nazi organizations. The Adolf-Hitler-Platz also witnessed the all-time Jakob Grimminger with the ‘Blutfahne’ (Bloody flag), the almost mythical Nazi symbol of the failed 1923 Putsch.
The FRAUENKIRCHE (The Church of Holy Mary) and the well-known SCHONER BRUNNEN (The most beautiful fountain), the general stop for the Hitler motorcade to ‘heil’ the crowd, are the most distinguishable architectural landmarks on the square. The present fountain is no more than a beautiful replica. The historical SCHONER BRUNNEN was ‘lucky’ enough to survive the air raids of Nuremberg dust-covered and has been exhibited in a museum since the war ended. Another historical landmark, known as the ‘NEPTUNBRUNNEN’ (The fountain of Neptune), was destined not to survive even the Third Reich, as it was taken down already on June 12, 1934, on a personal commission from Hitler. The Nazis were not to make up their mind about the fountain, considered to be created by an architect with Jewish origins.
On April 20, 1945, on the day of the last birthday of Adolf Hitler in a bunker in Berlin and still with the sounds of the battle for Nuremberg, the American troops did have a Parade of Victory within the main square of the city. On the same day, the liberators once again renamed the main square into ‘Iron Mike Square’, honoring the unofficial nickname of John W. O’Daniel, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, one of the three divisions, which had taken the city. The touched General ordered to rename the place into the ‘Square of Roosevelt’ to honor the President, who had passed away. A few days later the square has been once again renamed and restored its historical origin as the HAUPTMARKT with the renovation works completed only in the 1950s.
Only two-minute walk from the HAUPTMARKT, the city of Nuremberg welcomes its guests with another historical landmark. The FLESCHBRUCKE (The Meat bridge) over the narrow Pegnitz river, stretches back to the years 1596-1598 when the new bridge was erected to replace the former failing construction, which had been seriously damaged during the flood. On the day of the inauguration, the FLESCHBRUCKE was the largest brickwork bridge in Germany with 15.3 meters and a length of 27.
In the years of the Third Reich, the FLESCHBRUCKE bridge did become an integral station of the military and civil parades along the streets of Nuremberg, in particular during the annual Party Congresses in August-September. The multiple photos and the archive camera footage of the era depicted the mass manifestations, used to make their way to the main square backward. The extensive width of the bridge allowed for to use of Hitler’s motorcade. The bridge has survived the Allied air raids on Nuremberg as well as the battle for the city and come down to us pretty the same look as it was opened back in 1599. In 1974 the FLESCHBRUCKE bridge was entered in a list of the historical monument of Germany and the years of the 2000s witnessed renovation works.
NUREMBERG LAWS WERE SIGNED HERE (1935)
The construction site and the multiple ruins are now (my visit in 2018) the only reminders of the historic building that once stood on Frauentorgraben 49. The Architectural complex was known as the Kulturvereins Haus (House of the Cultural Society) and was a proper of the ‘Industrie- und Kulturvereins’ of Nuremberg. The building was ceremonially opened in 1905 and was meant to be an architectural masterpiece and a favorite vacation destination for the citizens. In September 1923, ten years before gaining power in Germany and only two months before the failed ‘Beerhall Putsch’ in Munich, Adolf Hitler had a speech in ‘Kulturvereins Haus’ building. The first two September days of that year in Nuremberg witnessed the so-called ‘Deutscher Tag’, a mass event with more than 100 000 people, in crowded streets. The major part of that amount was filled with the right-wing nationalistic groups such as the panmilitarians formations of the former war (First World War) veterans and the young Nazi party, the NSDAP. Hitler was back again here on August 21, 1927, and August 4, 1929, with his heartfelt speeches.
The big banquet hall of the ‘Kulturvereins Haus’, well-known among the citizens of Nuremberg of that time, was chosen to host one of the mass meetings during the VII Party Congress in 1935, known as the ‘Reichsparteitag der Freiheit’ (The Congress of Freedom). It was this very banquet hall in ‘Kulturvereins Haus’, that witnessed Hitler’s speech on September 15, 1935. The ultimate single-person ruler of the state had presented the so-called ‘Nuremberg Racial Laws’.
The ‘Kulturvereins Haus’ was badly damaged during the mass air raid of Nuremberg on the night of January 2, 1945, and witnessed the end of the war as no more than ruins. Already in the 1950s, the city officials initiated reconstruction works and the building was partially restored by losing its original historical look. The renovated version was completely demolished already in 1967 to place a new building to serve as the headquarters of the ‘AOK’ insurance company since 1971, now once again demolished to free space for new construction.
For years, the Deutscher Hof. hotel a few city blocks from the main railway station had been a residence for Adolf Hitler during these visits to Nuremberg. Notwithstanding the fact the hotel is still well-known because of the scenes from the legendary ‘Triumph of the Will’ propaganda movie, Hitler did spend his time here and even made speeches years before 1933. Room number 105 on the second floor was a general residential accommodation for the German Fuhrer. In 1936 the building was completed with a new wing with a new spacious apartment for Hitler and a famous so-called ‘Fuhrer Balkon’ (Fuhrer’s balcony).
The Deutscher Hof. hotel was not damaged during the war and survived the air raids and the battle for the city, as well as a number of renovations. One of the renovation periods caused the demolition of Hitler’s balcony on the right-wing, yet the old balcony, known from the ‘Triumph of the Will’, still looks pretty the same as in 1934. The latest renovations were conducted in 2014-2016. The hotel still bears the Deutscher Hof. name and now hosts luxurious apartments.
- SEPTEMBER 2, 1923. On the second of two days of the ‘Deutscher Tag’ mass meetings in Nuremberg, Adolf Hitler made a number of public speeches with one in Kulturvereins Haus and another in front of the narrow circle in the Deutscher Hof. hotel.
- MARCH 22, 1929. Hitler made an oration for the privileged members of the NSDAP party inside the Deutscher Hof.
- AUGUST 1-4, 1929. Hitler made his way to the city of Nuremberg to patronize the IV Party Congress and accommodated room number 55 of the Deutscher Hof. Within these very days, Winifred Wagner, a daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner (a composer, who had always fascinated Hitler)came to Nuremberg and occupied room number 57, just next door to Hitler.
- SEPTEMBER 18-19, 1931. Hitler came to Nuremberg for political purposes and stayed in a hotel for only one night. On the morning of the second day, his motorcade moved to the North, but the future Fuhrer was soon after devastated by the secret news, that Geli Raubal, Hitler’s half-niece, had committed suicide in Hitler’s accommodation in Munich. The leader of the NSDAP party did an immediate change his destination and went to Munich. The common fact is that his car was stopped by a police officer for speeding on their way to the heart of Bavaria.
- DECEMBER 19, 1932. On the eve of that Monday Hitler delivered his passionate speech to the members of the ‘Motor Sturm Abteilung’, a motorized unit of the SA.
- FEBRUARY 11, 1935. Adolf Hitler took the improvised stage inside the Deutscher Hof. hotel to address the audience, previously gathered by Julius Streicher, an editor of the ‘Der Sturmer’.
- SEPTEMBER 7, 1938. Hours after the Volksdeutsche citizens of the Sudetenland had made a confrontation with the local police, Hitler managed an emergency meeting with the foreign diplomats, who came to the Deutscher Hof.
HAUPTBAHNHOF MAIN TRAIN STATION
It was a common practice for Hitler as the leader of the NSDAP and especially as the Chancellor, to come to Nuremberg on a plane with his loyal pilot Hans Bauer and by means of a motorcade. At the same time, the HAUPTBAHNHOF of Nuremberg used to serve as an important means to welcome hundreds of thousands of German citizens from all over the country, especially in September on the eve of the Party Congresses. At times it was also chosen for the mass meetings and parades. One of the preserved photos of the 1936 Party Rally depicted Hitler reviewing the parade of honor guards of the ‘1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler’ just in front of the Nuremberg main train station. The photo also depicted Heinrich Himmler, a few steps behind his Fuhrer.
GÄSTEHAUS DER NSDAP — HOTEL OF THE NSDAP
The luxurious building opposite the HAUPTBAHNHOF and next to the ‘Grand Hotel’, known at the times of the Third Reich as the ‘Gästehaus der NSDAP’ was built in a matter of seven months and opened in 1936. From the very beginning, it architecturally incarnated the at that time modern approach to comfort with a never-made-before ventilation system of air-conditioning, still a rare practice back in the 1930s. During the annual Nazi Party Rallies in Nuremberg, the ‘Gästehaus’ was a general accommodation for the high-ranking officials of the regime. In no small part, Hermann Goering used to stay in a luxurious room within this very NSDAP hotel.
Already in 1945, soon after the liberation of the city, the American troops occupied the luxurious hotel. In the span of the years 1945-1949, it accommodated the judges and lawyers, the participants of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. Starting from 1996 the building had been a residential estate with a store on the first floor and since 2003 it was mostly abandoned. The former ‘Gästehaus der NSDAP’ has witnessed a number of renovations with the new opening in 2016 as the ‘PARK PLAZA NUREMBERG’ with 177 rooms for the guests.
BRAUNES HAUS (BROWN HOUSE)
This rare-tourist-route building, historically known as the ‘GAUHAUS’, was built upon the project of Franz Ruff and grand opened in 1937 as the new residence of Julius Streicher, the editor of the ‘Der Sturmer’ right-wing magazine. In a more narrow mean, the building was a gift to Streicher on his 50th anniversary in 1935, yet not open until February 1937. In the following years, the ‘GAUHAUS’ OR ‘BRAUNES HAUS’ was a residence of the party headquarters in Nuremberg.
The building was hardly damaged in Spring 1945 as a result of the Allied air raids and was photoed burned out. Since 1949 the ‘Verlag Nurnberger Presse’ publishing house had occupied the renovated building. The modern letter ‘NURNBERGER NACHRICHTEN’ can be seen encrypted in the very same place as the Nazi eagle and Swastika during the Third Reich era. The back wall of the former Braunes Haus has preserved the Nazi anaglyph with a mythic hero, who fights with a snake. At that time it was categorized as the hero of the National-Socialism was antagonizing the Weimar Republic and the Jews.