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Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg: Roman style Coliseum the Congress hall that Hitler built to hold 50,000 Nazi supporters, that backs onto a lake
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Inside the Congress Hall
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Students tour the Documentation Centre located in the in the north wing of the Congress Hall. On 1,300 square meters, the permanent exhibition "Fascination and Terror" looks at the causes, the context and the consequences of the Nazi reign of terror.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Nazi poster of Nuremberg, on display in Documentation Centre
photo by Rhonda Spivak

The Great Road-.almost (1.2 mi) long and (130 ft) wide. It was intended to be the central axis of the site and a parade road for the Wehrmacht. In its northwestern prolongation the road points towards the Nuremberg Castle. This was to create a relation between the role of Nuremberg during the Third Reich and its role during medieval times. The road reached from the Congress Hall to the Märzfeld (a parade parade ground for the Wehrmacht.) The construction work on the Great Road began started in 1935 and was finished in 1939. The Great Road was never actually used as a parade road, as due to the beginning of World War II, the last Nazi rally was held in 1938). In the photo you can see that the he pavement was made of granite pavers in black and gray
photo by rhonda Spivak

Further along the great road. After World War II, the US army was used the road a temporary airfield.Today it is used by the nearby Nuremberg fair and exhibition company as an occasional parking area for fairs. highly frequented fairs.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Bleachers along the Great road designed so the public could sit and watch the Nazi marchers
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Students in the Documentation Centre.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

A map of the entire area.The grounds include: 1.The Luitpoldarena, a deployment area 2.the "Old Congress Hall" (damaged during World War II and later demolished) 3.the unfinished Congress Hall (unfinished)- the documentation Centre is located in its northern wing 4.Zeppelin Field- another deployment area, the Märzfeld(unfinished, and later demolished), a deployment area for the Wehrmacht (army), 5.the German stadium, which was to be the largest sports stadium in the world (only the foundations were built) 6.the former "Stadium of the Hitler Youth", 7.the (never used)Great Road.
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Editor's Report: Should the Nazi Party Rallying Grounds in Nuremberg be allowed to crumble in Decay or be Renovated; Germans Divided on Whether to Shell Out Big Money to Preserve Them?

by Rhonda Spivak, January 12, 2016



I remember experiencing an eerie and haunting feeling in June 2013 as I walked silently around the humungous Nazi party rallying grounds in Nuremberg, where Hitler held six monstrous rallies to showcase the Nazi movement. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of  the grounds (larger than 12 football fields), noticing that even the unfinished Congress Hall which houses the Nazi Documentation Center that I toured, is twice as large as Rome's Colosseum. Behind the Congress Hall, as I watched two lovers in a dingy boat on Dutzenteich Lake, I remember being taken aback and unsettled by the notion that this macabre place where thousands of Nazis used to march among feverish crowds waiting for Hitler's entrance could now be such a romantic location. 


There is currently a raging debate going on in Germany about whether  or not to pay some £60 - 70 million Euro ($91 – 106 million CAD) to renovate these crumbling rallying grounds and to put it into a state where it would survive another 50 years, a bill that would ultimately have to be borne by German taxpayers.


Those who favour renovating these buildings enough to preserve them want to do so in order that future generations can learn about the horrors of the Third Reich. After all, these rallying grounds make up the largest concentration of Nazi buildings clustered in one place, and are therefore unique in history. Other Germans, however, would rather let these elephantine buildings fall into complete decay, especially since it is a time of austerity in Europe,  and Germany has to cope with mass immigration (over 800,000 Syrian refugees), blows to its economy, and it is a time when the gap between rich and poor in Germany also seems to broadening. Some would rather see the money go towards German poor rather than restoration. 


After World War II, the sprawling rally grounds were turned into a memorial and protected by German law, although they were never renovated or otherwise improved. (Note that the 1934 Nazi rally was preserved on film in Leni Riefenstahl's famous Nazi propaganda vehicle Triumph of the Will, a film which remains restricted in Germany today.)


Some in Germany now contend that it is no big deal if the site is left to fall into complete decay, pointing out that parts of the site were blown up in the 1960's because they were unsafe, and also since many politicians at the time argued that it was necessary to demolish existing buildings completely. Since parts of the site were already destroyed, some Germans maintain it is not necessary to reserve what is left. Some German historians contend that the death camps should be the only preserved legacy of the Nazis, not the rallying grounds.


I don't share this view, and I would venture that most Jews would not agree with seeing the site be destroyed. I am in agreement with the Mayor of Nuremberg, Ulrich Maly, who doesn't believe that the site can be left to collapse in ruin. If this course of inaction was chosen, mammoth parts of the six square miles of buildings (including roadways, tribunes, flag towers, a railway station and secret rooms which housed the Nazi elite) would have to be sealed off, to prevent members of the public from being injured. Sealing and fencing off these titanic edifices could have unintended consequences, resulting in the site taking on an allure of mystery, such that present-day neo-Nazis could end up making the site a pilgrimage location.


Maly is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying “'Demolishing the buildings would provoke international outrage – so we are going to renovate the complex, but this does not mean that we are sprucing it up."


“It's not a renovation in that sense. We want to preserve them for people to visit and ponder on Nazism and its crimes. Besides, further demolition is currently impossible because the buildings are protected," he said.


“I realise that many would just like to see the buildings decay. But that means they would become ever-more dangerous and we would have to seal them off completely. So we have decided to renovate - to a certain degree, he added.


Maly is also quoted in the Daly Mail as saying, "We will not be looking for original-style sandstone.”


I, for one, do not see  how the Germans or the world could let these vestiges of the terrible Nazi past be left to crumble, instead of being preserved as a place of learning about the Nazi era. While no doubt some Germans would like to see the site ultimately be destroyed such that they do not have the horrors of the Nazi past staring them in the face. Their own discomfort with dealing with their past is not a legitimate reason to let the site fall into complete decay. Preserving the site as a lesson for future generations is needed if the words "Never Again" are to mean anything.


There is nothing that I could have  learned in a history book about the Nuremberg rallying grounds that could ever replace the experience of seeing the site with my own eyes, and gulping. Coming to the rallying grounds is a gigantic lesson in history and it is a way of grappling with the difficult fact that Hitler was loved by the German people, who were intoxicated by his ideals and treated him as their hero. The site is vivid proof of the complete megalomania of the Hitler's National Socialist regime and was used to demonstrate Nazi power. There must be a place where the overarching raw enthusiasm of the German people for Nazism is shown, however uncomfortable that may be for members of the German public and some German historians.  No one thinks of tearing down the Roman Colosseum, so why let Hitler's Congress Hall, which was modeled after it, be left to destruction?


Up to 250,000 people, half of them foreign tourists now visit the Documentation Centre museum at the site of the party congresses each year. Northern Bavarians in their early teens make compulsory school visits to the site, and when I was there I saw several groups of German teens visiting.


As Hans Christian Taebruch, curator of Nuremberg's Documentation Centre which is located in part of the Congress Hall on the rallying grounds site given in 2011, outlined in the Berlin Biennale why in his view the site had to be preserved: 



Interviewer Zofia Waslicka: It would be really scandalous not to preserve this place. It’s like a pyramid in Egypt. It has a meaning, it has a life, it exists. And people from all over the world see it and understand what it means. And this will be the same, because of Leni Riefenstahl. Just because of the film Triumph of the Will, which was shot in Nuremberg. This was the emotional heart of Nazism, not Wilhelmstrasse. It belongs to the history of mankind.


Taebruch: Concerning the memorial sites and concentration camps humankinds obliged to maintain them because there are just graveyards. But the camps were the final step, the consequences of the Nazi movement existence. Every deed is preceded by a thought, by an idea. Nuremberg was not the place where National Socialism was invented. But it was presented here at the party rallies to a very broad extent. And the infamous racial laws proclaimed in Nuremberg in 1935 marked the ‘legal’ beginning of a road which led directly to Auschwitz.



If the Nazi party rallying grounds were left to be crumble and be completely destroyed, over time Nuremberg will be remembered more and more as a center for toy making, and less and less as the heart of Nazism.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.