Enacting the Mythical through Architecture

Nazi Assembly Architecture as Performative Practice

In: Fascism
Jonathan Spellerberg University of Groningen Groningen The Netherlands

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The beginning of the Third Reich saw the construction of large architectural structures to host and aesthetically frame Nazi mass events. The significance of these buildings cannot be understood without the propaganda and mass performances that constituted their contemporary frame of reception. This article discusses the Gauforum project in Weimar, constructed from 1937 until 1944. Combining an analysis of common architecture-related propaganda tropes with an examination of architectural design and a reading of the ceremony of laying the first foundation stone, it shows how these elements performed the longed-for Volksgemeinschaft. By framing construction works as the expression of national achievement and an ongoing revolutionary renewal of the nation, Nazi-era architecture propaganda discursively primed the ground for interplay between the material arrangements of architecture and events that afforded an experience of the mythical spatiotemporality of the Volksgemeinschaft. In this way, Nazi architectural propaganda played an efficacious part in the politics of mass events.

Works on the history of Nazi representative architecture are marked by the struggle to distinguish between the Nazis’ own propagandistic claims and the actual intentions and processes that stood behind their extensive building program. For example, in his recent political history of the architecture of Nazi Germany, architectural historian Christoph Welzbacher remarks ‘how little [propaganda strategies] were in keeping with reality’.1 Developing this assessment, he examines Nazi propaganda assertions that the deployment of grand architectural projects boosted craftsmanship and economic activity, as well as the regime’s propaganda claim that this architecture was supposed to stand for eternity and beautifully decay into ruins. No difference was made, it seems, between claims about economic policies and more ideological and speculative imaginations. Likewise, in a publication about the Nuremberg party rally grounds, Eckart Dietzfelbinger and Gerhard Liedtke argue that, contrary to Adolf Hitler’s claim that ‘one can only give self-confidence to a nation through such enormous works of art’,2 the vastness and scale of such buildings would not be able to instill a sense of greatness in visitors, and instead they would likely feel crushed and overwhelmed.3 While comments like these are valid and make important points about the stark contrast between propaganda and objective reality, they stop short of asking what the propaganda claims meant to the Nazis themselves and how they connected with a larger ideological narrative about architecture. In the public realm, these claims were ubiquitous in the architecture’s physical and discursive context: they could be heard at on-site events like speeches and ceremonies, and they could be seen and read in films and print media that reported on the planning and ongoing construction of buildings. In this article, I argue that these claims were not ‘mere’ ideology, but rather offer a route to a deeper understanding of the role of architecture in the Nazi state. Specifically, I argue that architectural propaganda primed the ground for, and participated in an interplay with, the material arrangements of architecture and event. Both in conjunction with each other, allowed for the materialization of fascist ideology in the form of the Volksgemeinschaft, or national community.

To make this argument, I examine the meaning-engendering performativity of architecture by analyzing the Gauforum (from Gau: a medieval term for an administrative region, adopted by the Nazis) in Weimar, and focus on a party event that took place on its construction site. The Gauforum is an almost completed complex of administrative buildings grouped around a central marching square built from 1937 until 1944 designed by the architect Herrmann Giesler. Although situated in a small town, this is a pertinent example: based on the typology elaborated for this project, dozens of such Gauforen were planned, although very few of them reached the construction phase. These were supposed to serve as the new ceremonial centers of the Gau capitals following the expected victory in war. The Gauforum is exemplary of a type of Nazi assembly architecture, by which I denote those architectural structures that primarily served the purpose of hosting mass events of the Nazi party.

The article is structured as follows: Firstly, I will set out three tropes that recur in Nazi architectural discourse and demonstrate their relationship to fascist ideology. Secondly, I will provide a brief sketch of the development of Nazi assembly architecture to make a case for the close connection between architectural form and performance. Thirdly, I will give a detailed description of the Gauforum’s architecture to argue how the architectural design ties into the scheme of Nazi assembly architecture and how it prefigures certain forms of Nazi political performance. Finally, I will tie the threads of my argument together in a discussion on the laying of the foundation stone that took place at the construction site of the Gauforum in 1937, to argue how such architecture, in conjunction with party events, performed the performed of the Nazi Volksgemeinschaft.

Three Tropes of Nazi Architectural Propaganda

The building projects of the Third Reich that were connected to political goals were extensive: they comprised new public buildings of all kinds and purposes,4 considerable efforts to renovate historical city centers and monuments,5 and the complete redesign of many German cities.6 What made these construction efforts visible was not so much their volume but their resolute instrumentalization for Nazi propaganda purposes. Building designs were publicized through magazine and newspaper articles,7 national and international exhibitions,8 and film, particularly Das Wort aus Stein [The word made of stone] (1939).9 This was also the case for completed state-led architectural projects, which were presented to the public through various outlets such as the popular art magazine Die Kunst für Alle [Art for everyone], the architecture supplement Die Baukunst [Architecture] of the art magazine Die Kunst im Neuen Reich [Art in the new Reich] issued by Alfred Rosenberg’s office and edited by Albert Speer’s colleague Rudolf Wolters,10 and glossy coffee-table books directed at a popular audience like Das Bauen im Neuen Reich [Building in the new Reich] that presented itself as a record of the Third Reich’s architectural successes.11 In these publications, architectural projects were presented alongside descriptive texts that heaped praise on the fruits of German workers’ labor, and interpreted building activities as a sign for the dawning of a new age. They also stressed the alleged difference between Nazi architecture and that from before 1933, especially the modernist avant-garde architecture of the Neues Bauen [New Objectivity, or New Building]. Throughout these publications, three patterns of recurring tropes and motifs can be made out: Leistung [performance], reconstruction of the nation, and durability and ruin value.


In an article published in Die Kunst für Alle, the construction site manager of the Nuremberg party rally grounds goes into rapture about the vitality and power of the construction works: ‘Ever new structures and buildings are being started . . . everywhere an army of workers. At the present time, one can hardly find a place where such enormous construction sites are directly neighboring each other. This pace of work already becomes a thrilling experience’.12 Another author writes in the same magazine about an architecture exhibition: ‘This construction effort is, in its volume, speed, purposefulness and success, one of the most astonishing occurrences that every single person could experience since the year 1933’.13 Architecture historian Rudy Koshar refers to this propagandistic trope, which was not restricted to architecture, as the discourse of Leistung: the notion of Germans working hard to build a new nation. This trope was not only written about, but it was also performed in the construction activities that were regularly publicized and symbolized in performances such as the parades of the Reichsarbeitsdienst [RAD; Reich Labor Service], depicted in Leni Riefenstahl’s film Triumph des Willens (1935) or at inauguration ceremonies.14

Reconstruction of the Nation

Another recurring trope casts architectural construction as the reconstruction of the nation itself and so places the Third Reich’s building efforts within a larger narrative of national becoming: ‘But building is always also a rendering visible of a people’s form of society and its will to live, and just as life created for itself ever new formations and orders as it went through the centuries, so does it lead to new and different ways of building and building tasks’.15 Formulations of this sort can be found in many publications as well as speeches by senior Nazi leaders. In the public communication of the Reich’s building program, two points are repeatedly expressed: First, that construction works are carried out at unprecedented speed and vitality; and second, that the new buildings are symbols for the Volk’s transformation in the revolutionary moment and represent its push towards a new future. In conjunction, what can be observed is a pattern of framing construction works as an indicator for, as well as the materialization of, the revolutionary transformation of the Volk itself.

Durability and Ruin Value

The third trope, durability and ruin value, ties this emplacement of architecture to a larger narrative and generated a more pronounced temporal component. A particularly clear example can be found in Hitler’s speech given on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone to the Kongresshalle [congress hall] at the Nuremberg party rally grounds in 1935: ‘A world of inner adversaries and resistance has been overcome, and a new world is about to arise. Today we place the foundation stone for the first great monument to this new world of the German Volk . . . Should the movement ever fall silent, this witness shall talk even after millennia. Amid a holy grove of ancient oaks, the people will admire this first giant among the buildings of the Third Reich in reverent marvel’.16 This quote clearly exposes how Nazi architectural propaganda directly related to fascist mythology and its specific temporality. Roger Griffin defines the ‘mythic core’ common to all fascist ideologies in ‘various permutations’ as a ‘palingenetic form of populist ultranationalism’.17 For Griffin, ultra-nationalism is a nationalism that goes beyond liberal nationalism in that the nation may be ‘reified . . . and personified’,18 and the nation is mythicized as a community that invites the member to identify with it and be submerged into it. This ultra-nation ‘lives both in and through the unfolding of historical time and, contemporaneously, in the supra-historical eternity of the people or race’.19 Based on these premises, fascists are yearning for what Griffin calls palingenesis, or rebirth, which denotes a thorough and revolutionary renewal of the nation. In fascist ideologies, palingenesis is typically evoked through a diagnosis of the present day as decadent, and as time in which the nation has developed a sickness that needs to be overcome in order to attain its rebirth. Accordingly, when Hitler evoked the image of a distant future in which people would hold religious gatherings to admire Nazi architecture, he also evoked the eternal existence of the nation on a mythical plane.

Art historian Éric Michaud discusses this and other quotes from Hitler that focused on architecture in terms of such a mythical temporality. He argues that by imaging the future existence of Nazi buildings in a time when the nation is long gone, Hitler positions himself as a prophet looking back from an imagined future onto a present that, in analogy to ancient Roman and Greek ruins, is bound to become a lost past. According to Michaud, this prophecy defines the function of the Nazi monuments which ‘must fulfill [the] prophecy and transform, in marble and granite, this fluid dream of eternity into a solid and eternal Reich’.20 This function, in turn, stabilizes such a dream through which the national community performatively constitutes itself.21 It remains to be asked, however, how such a function was aimed for and if it was achieved in buildings from the period and on which specific occasions.

Famously, Hitler’s Generalbauinspektor [general building inspector] and architect Albert Speer retrospectively spoke of the ‘theory of ruin value’, denoting the demand of designing buildings in such a way that they may decay into ruins in an aesthetically pleasing way.22 Looking at the buildings of the Third Reich, however, many scholars deny Speer’s retrospective portrayal:23 despite demonstrable contemporary calls to combine monumentality with extraordinary durability,24 in practice, the ideal of ruin value seems to have been concerned above all the appearance of buildings. While in the case of the Berlin Olympic Stadium, architect Werner March was pushed by Hitler and Speer to replace concrete columns by less robust, larger stone pillars,25 in cases like the Haus der Deutschen Kunst [House of German Art] in Munich or the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft [Hall of the National Community] at the Gauforum in Weimar, comparatively light-weight and state-of-the-art constructions were hidden behind heavy stone facades.26 Nevertheless, I argue that ruin value played an influential role in the design of buildings, despite not yet being named in this way. As shall be shown, ruin value played out discursively, even in situations where the building in question was not yet constructed. What mattered, then, is that what Michaud called Hitler’s prophecy was visibly materialized in architecture and that it could activate the imagining of such a promised eternity.

The three tropes I have set out, Leistung, reconstruction, and durability and ruin value, come together as different aspects of palingenesis. Leistung is an instance of the successful renewal of the nation, while the idea that architectural construction parallels the reconstruction of the nation connects to both palingenesis and the reification of the nation. Durability and ruin value offers a larger framework for the two other tropes by drawing together the current historical moment, in which reconstruction happens through Leistung, with an evocation of the eternal existence of the nation.

Approaching Nazi Architecture through Performativity

These ideologically infused tropes are not speculative interpretations of potential meaning.27 Rather, they primed the architecture and the events that surrounded such buildings, thereby constituting the framework in which interactions between architecture and lived experiences were enacted. In such interactions, I contend, we can trace the ways in which architecture and events became performative, and so were able to manifest fascist ideology. More specifically, I will examine the ways interaction between architecture and the mobilized mass established tropes of architectural propaganda and so realized them in the way Michaud suggests. This examination accordingly relies on a perspective that views architecture as a historical process rather than as finished or fixed idea or product. Meaning is constantly created, negotiated, and overturned, which has a bearing on the availability of opportunities for interpretation and interaction with it. Today’s widespread and stable interpretations of Nazi architecture as ‘crushing’ and ‘megalomaniac’, I contend, are the result of a postwar reading that tends to obscure both the propagandistic deployment of construction processes and architecture’s contemporary significance for Nazi political practice and ideology. As Griffin remarks, Nazism was not a ‘fully fledged intellectual model of human society and historical change’ but rather a ‘semi-articulated “vision of the world” ’.28 I will therefore try to explain how fascist ideology was actualized in specific ways by the means of architecture and performance by focusing on a particular case study. This contributes to a wider understanding of Nazi assembly architecture as not only representationally expressing or materially supporting the Nazi vision of the Volksgemeinschaft, but as being a crucial part of Nazi politics in that it participated in a performative enactment of it.

With my interest in the performativity of architecture, I join and expand on scholars who have posited a performativity of Nazi architecture before me, albeit in differing ways.29 My own use of the notion of performativity is informed by geographer Joshua Hagen’s study on the architecture of Munich’s Königsplatz which attempts to ‘combin[e] an awareness of semiotics and representation with greater concern for practices and performance’.30 However, Hagen’s notion of performativity appears to be unsuited to exploring questions of ideology, as he is mostly concerned with how architecture facilitates particular actions. Rather, I model my use of the term ‘performativity’ on Judith Butler’s conception of gender performativity, which posits that social constructs, by being performed, attain the status of social reality.31 In line with Butler, I hold that the successful performance of the construct is dependent on its availability, in other words on whether and in what ways the concept has been performed before, as well as on the acceptance of the performance by the targeted ‘audience’. The attained social reality furthermore needs to be stabilized by a recurrent—if differential—repetition of the performance. This understanding of performativity does not exclude the question for what kinds of action the architecture facilitates, but it ties this question more closely to the performativity of social and cultural constructs, in this case, Nazi ideology and palingenesis.

Planning and Construction of the Gauforum in Weimar

Initiative and Beginning the Planning Process

In what follows, I will introduce the case study, Weimar’s Gauforum and will begin by focusing on the process of its design and construction. The construction of the Gauforum, originally called Bauten am Platz Adolf Hitlers [Buildings on Adolf Hitler’s Square], was tied to the strong presence of the Nazi party in Weimar. Weimar was considered as symbol of the much-hated eponymous republic, and being the former residence of Goethe, Schiller, and other artists it was also regarded as the home of high German culture. To yield this propagandistic potential, the Nazis made Weimar one of the centers of their activities before 1933, with large national gatherings being held in 1925 and 1926,32 as well as numerous other congresses,33 and visits by Hitler, before and after 1933.34 Weimar also was the capital of the German state of Thuringia, where the Nazi party gained a role in the government as early as 1930.35 In 1932, the NSDAP won the elections and formed a government under its Gauleiter [regional party leader] Fritz Sauckel.36 After the rise to power of Nazism across all of Germany and the centralization of government, which entailed the appointment of the Gauleiter as Reichsstatthalter [Reich governor], Sauckel continued to be one of the most powerful and influential regional party leaders in Germany.37 The Gauforum project itself was initiated and driven by Sauckel, who profited from Hitler’s recurring support for his projects.

The history of the Gauforum’s development and construction has already been comprehensively researched by architecture historians Karina Loos and Christiane Wolf.38 What I can add here is heightened attention to the ideological underpinnings and performances of the project, which can be inferred from the ideological positions of the various influential figures who dominated the design process. As well as Sauckel, these included: Hitler, who frequently intervened into the process and gave instructions; Giesler, the architect who stood in comparably close contact with Hitler; and to a lesser degree Albert Speer. Looking at the sparse archival evidence that specifically discusses ideological questions with regard to the project, it seems that the ideas connected to these questions went without saying or were only discussed orally at the consultations between Hitler and the other persons involved. Hitler’s and Speer’s ideas in particular seem to have had a critical influence on the project.

Directly after the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany in 1933, Sauckel presented to Hitler his idea of building a complex of representative administrative buildings, located in the historical Ilmpark, to house the party leadership and the state government.39 Hitler only gained interest in the project in 1934, but decided that the historically insignificant Asbachpark and a neighboring residential area predominantly inhabited by workers should be removed to make space for the new building site.40 The Asbachpark had the advantage of being situated both close to the city center and close to the railway station, which made it suitable for large demonstrations, while also being far enough from historically significant sites such as the Ilmpark, Goethe’s residence and the National Theatre.41 In November 1934, a commission appointed by Sauckel developed four ideas for an urban design of the complex, one of which, elaborated by the Stadtbaurat [head of the municipal planning office] August Lehrmann, was chosen personally by Hitler as the basis for a closed architectural competition in July 1935.42

Before this decision, Hitler was not yet involved in design questions and Albert Speer, architect and Hitler’s close advisor, still had a say in the project. A protocol of a meeting between Sauckel, Speer, and a city representative from April 1935, shortly before the presentations of the urban design studies, documents Speer’s demand to bring the design closer to his own vision for assembly buildings such as in Nuremberg. Discussing an earlier version of Lehrmann’s urban design, it was reported: ‘Speer . . . criticizes that the square intended for demonstrations is too open and that the large number of streets touching the square impact its peace’.43 Furthermore, Speer deems the square ‘too small for bigger marches’,44 and deplores that ‘the monumental disposition’ is missing.45 The demand to keep the square traffic-free was in line with a later order of Hitler’s, and so it seems probable that Speer was delivering Hitler’s wishes.46 In the competition, Speer also had a hand in choosing the architects to be invited, together with Thuringia’s party leadership and the office of the late Paul Ludwig Troost.47 According to Sauckel, it was also Speer who invited Hermann Giesler to the competition.48

In the first competition round, Paul Ludwig Troost’s redesign of Munich’s Königsplatz—also called the Forum der Bewegung [Forum of the [National Socialist] movement]—was presented to the participating architects as a reference, together with an elaborately detailed building program and guidelines concerning the disposition of the buildings.49 The call issued by Sauckel requested ‘a dignified and sublime site for political demonstrations, framed by powerful party buildings’ that were supposed to express ‘the power and grandeur of the National Socialist movement’.50 The building program consisted of a representative building for the Reichsstatthalter in the east, that is, for Sauckel himself; an administrative building for the Deutsche Arbeitsfront [DAF; German Labor Front]; and a building for the NSDAP and its party sections.51

Before a winner was chosen, however, Hitler changed the program again. Rather than placing the offices of the Reichsstatthalter and Gauleiter Sauckel in the axial center of the square, he ordered an assembly hall instead—the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft—with a capacity for 15,000 people,52 which pushed the offices of the regional party leader to the southern edge of the square.

The Architect: Hermann Giesler

The decision about the competition was made by Hitler alone; no jury was appointed to review the submissions. Despite the many disadvantages to his project when compared to other competition entries,53 Hermann Giesler won the competition. Giesler also was the least experienced of the participating architects and had only one larger architectural project on his record: a representative Nazi training center for party officials, the Ordensburg [Order castle] Sonthofen, which was still under construction.54 Therefore, this decision was not only based on the quality of the design, but also on Giesler’s loyalty and experience as a party official. Giesler had obtained the Sonthofen project due to his political activities as the coordinator of a regional training center, during which time he presented an unsolicited design to the leader of the NSDAP internal training program, Robert Ley, who subsequently commissioned him to build it.55 Wolf suggests that Giesler’s design for Weimar was probably chosen because Hitler wanted to groom a malleable, young architect for future projects.56

Hitler met Giesler personally directly following the competition, and he enacted another change in the design. Now, the Reichsstatthaltergebäude [Reich governor building] was supposed to get a bell tower at its north-western corner and a central avant-corps to stress its entrance. Furthermore, Hitler ordered the facades to be cladded with cut stone. Giesler later received further commissions from Hitler, who in 1938 appointed him the honorary title Generalbaurat für die Hauptstadt der Bewegung [general building counsellor for the capital of the national socialist movement] (meaning Munich).57 With this title, Giesler’s private architecture office received the status of a Reich authority that was only responsible to Hitler,58 and he continued to be one of the most influential architects in the Third Reich until Germany’s defeat in the war, by which time he had also committed wartime atrocities.

Construction, Organization, and Funding

The outcome of the competition was swiftly followed by a groundbreaking ceremony in Hitler’s presence on 4 July 1936,59 held as part of the celebrations of the ten-year jubilee of the NSDAP party rally of 1926. Extensive ground exploration and levelling works, which saw the ground raised by up to eight meters, began immediately.60 In November 1936, Sauckel initiated the funding of a Zweckverband [special purpose association] for the planning and construction of the ‘buildings at Adolf Hitler’s square’, its members being the NSDAP, the state of Thuringia and the city of Weimar.61 The Zweckverband organized the expropriation of private residences and plots, the construction works itself, and the funding, which was largely acquired only after the competition was completed. The main sources of funding were the official building contractors, the NSDAP and the Deutsche Arbeitsfront—which was one of the strongest institutions financially in the Third Reich due to its control over large parts of the industry. The Deutsche Arbeitsfront also planned to use the largest office building of the Gauforum for their purposes.62 Nevertheless, Sauckel and Giesler successfully pressured the Reich Ministry of Finance to grant generous additional funding by referring to Hitler’s personal interest in the project and, additionally, received subsidies from Hitler directly.63 Remarkably, Hitler’s preference of this project also meant that construction works could be carried out through 1944, as war-related restrictions on building activities and the availability of building materials were not applied to the Gauforum.64

With local, regional, and even national authorities pushed aside, after the competition only three men had the last word in all matters related to execution of the project: Sauckel and Giesler, together with the ultimate authority, Hitler.

(The) Movement Shapes Architecture

The design of the Gauforum stands in a tradition of Nazi assembly architecture that was specifically developed to accommodate Nazi celebrations and demonstrations. This section will trace the development of this type of architecture and outline its main characteristics before describing Giesler’s design in more detail.

Before 1933, the Nazi party did not use secluded assembly grounds and performed in public spaces. Marches, military drill, and quasi-religious rituals served to lay claim to urban spaces and demonstrated the party’s power and order in front of other parties’ paramilitary organizations, the police, and the population in general. After the Nazis’ seizure of political power 1933 and even more so after the consolidation of their rule during its first year, this form of performance needed to be reconfigured and put into a different relation with surrounding space, along with the party’s relation to the state.

A good example that illustrates the Nazi party’s initial relation to public space is the party rallies that were first held in Munich, then in Nuremberg, as well as once in Weimar. At these rallies, the Nazis practiced most of their performances and rituals on a massive scale and over time developed an elaborate program of performances.65 The relation with the city government, the wider population and the police was often tense. With military-style displays in public spaces, the Nazis demonstrated their discipline and obedience to the Führer, made an aggressive claim to the city and threatened political adversaries. The party leadership ignored restrictions from city government and the police,66 and boldly requested support in the form of reserving streets and other public sites for their gatherings as well as demanding permissions to use municipal buildings as sleeping quarters or convention spaces.67 At the same time, party members intimidated and attacked the local population,68 and engaged in street fights with leftists and the police.69 Moreover, media scholar Carolyn Birdsall convincingly argues that the Nazis strove towards the sonic domination of the city, something that is particularly overwhelming as sound cannot be blocked out of the most private areas of life, such as the home or one’s own thoughts.70 In sum, an aggressive disposition toward urban space was obvious. It was, so to speak, treated as ‘enemy territory’ by the militarized party.

Following what the Nazis called the ‘Kampfzeit’ (namely the ‘period of battle’ before 1933), the relation between party performances to urban space necessarily changed, even if the forms of performances remained the same. As Hitler made clear in 1934, after taking power, ‘it is not the state that commands us . . . we command the state’.71 The aim of party demonstrations shifted toward developing their inescapability, achieved through sensory overstimulation, to promote the ‘Volksgemeinschaft as an experience, and for realizing the mass nature of their political movement’.72 Accordingly, the first architectural projects under the Nazis aimed at creating spaces that catered for the propagandistic needs of the now-ruling party by allowing for much larger and transmittable events. As early as 1933, large-scale Nazi demonstrations and festivities like the Tag der nationalen Arbeit [Day of national work] on May Day and the Reichserntedankfest [Reich harvest festival] in October were framed by structures designed by Albert Speer. The temporary architecture for the May Day celebrations at Berlin’s Tempelhofer Feld consisted of wooden tribunes crowned with regularly distanced groups of three swastika flags demarcating a vast rectangular area. In the center of one of the shorter sides of the rectangle stood the main tribune, marked with three groups of larger swastika flags and an elevated rostrum.73 Likewise at the 1933 Reichserntedankfest on the Bückeberg near Hameln, Speer designed a sloped symmetrical ground enclosed by numerous Swastika flags, with a wooden tribune flanked by two Nazi eagles at the top end of the ground.74 This concept of Nazi assembly architecture—an uninterrupted marching ground, a visually hard and regular enclosure, and a central elevated platform or tribune marked by oversized party or Reich insignia—would be reiterated in designs for all important Nazi assembly grounds: Luitpoldarena and Zeppelinfeld at the party rally grounds in Nuremberg;75 Maifeld at the Olympia complex in Berlin;76 and even indoor assembly halls like the planned Congress Hall in Nuremberg. Only Paul Ludwig Troost’s Königsplatz in Munich, which also featured a marching ground, deviated from this scheme. Unlike others, it was not systematically enclosed as it had previously been an urban square. Its fringes were variously opened to the outside and it lacked a representative, elevated center for speakers and honorary guests. Hagen demonstrates that for this reason it soon fell out of use for party celebrations of national importance.77

The example of the conversion of the Luitpoldhain in Nuremberg from a public park into the enclosed marching ground of the Luitpoldarena shows how architecture was used to lend mass marches a more disciplined shape.78 Architecture historian Sebastian Tesch shows this by comparing photographs of the party rallies from 1929 and 1936, respectively. Tesch argues that the added enclosures with tribunes prevented the masses from fraying at the fringes and allowed for a heightened sense of belonging due to the difference between participants and spectators, who were absent before 1933.79

The plans for Weimar’s Gauforum, taken up in 1934, and the later extension of that model onto 35 other regional capitals, successively coupled from 1937 with the plans for the redesign of whole cities,80 demonstrated the continuing subordination of urban space to the party’s needs. In Weimar, Speer’s model to shape disciplined masses by the means of architecture was for the first time combined with administrative buildings and used for the creation of a public square within a city.

Architecture Shapes the Masses: The Gauforum as Skeleton

It is plausible that Giesler’s design was consciously modelled after the successful scheme elaborated by Speer. Not only did Speer personally influence the urban design that served as the basis for the closed competition by pushing for a more rigid enclosure and a ‘monumental disposition’ (see above). The pictures and films of the large-scale party celebrations and the plans for Speer’s Zeppelinfeld in Nuremberg were also, at that time, already widely published and ingrained in public discourse. In all, Giesler’s design did not offer many new ideas. Rather, it successfully synthesized successful models that served as references for the competition: Troost’s buildings in Munich with their monumental, reduced classicism, Lehrmann’s urban design, and Speer’s models of assembly architecture were all combined, alongside Sauckel’s, and above all Hitler’s, wishes.


Figure 1

Scale model of the Gauforum design as of 1937. Top right the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft. Architect: Hermann Giesler

Citation: Fascism 12, 2 (2023) ; 10.1163/22116257-bja10054

Source: Landesarchiv Thüringen—Hauptstaatsarchiv Weimar, Nachlass Hermann Giesler, Karton 1, Foto 2.22. Permission granted

The 1937 design of the Gauforum, which was never fully realized, consists of a marching ground enclosed by five large buildings (figure 1): The building for Deutsche Arbeitsfront in the West; the pre-existing historicist Landesmuseum [State Museum] (today Neues Museum [New Museum]) and the building for the party sections in the North; the Reichsstatthaltergebäude in the South; and the vast Halle der Volksgemeinschaft in the East. At the level of town planning, similarities to Speer’s model of assembly architecture can be made out in an evident concern with symmetry and an almost hermetic enclosure of the marching ground. First, the pre-existing Landesmuseum is mirrored by a wing of the Reichsstatthalterei [Reich governorate] at the south side of the complex. This building wing has no apparent function other than to maintain the symmetry of the inner marching ground, and it brings two disadvantages: it weakens the delineation between marching ground and the street and it creates an inelegant corner at its rear that partly hides the back entrance. Second, adjacent buildings are connected by lower connecting buildings with arched passages at the square’s corners that block the view to the surrounding city while visually maintaining a distance between Halle der Volksgemeinschaft and the hierarchically subordinate administration buildings.

The symmetry and closed-ness of the marching ground are the basic means by which the architecture organizes movement in space. The flat, rigidly bounded, and austere square is oriented toward the stairs that lead up to the entrance of the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft with its two layers of walls, the top landing of which forms a large, elevated platform. The broad stairs convey the hall’s assembly function, inviting visitors to climb up the stairs and enter the building. But like a tribune, they would also allow for the good visibility of a speaker and groups of honorary guests underneath the enormous colonnaded entrance crowned by a stone swastika.

Closer inspection of the architectural details of the Gauforum’s central square reveals how the application of Speer’s model to an urban environment further served to facilitate Nazi performances. The uniformity of the square’s enclosure is achieved here by an extraordinary austerity and regularity in the façade designs that lack any changes in rhythm, except for the entrance to the Reichsstatthalterei and the bell tower. The circumferential plinth zone is executed in smooth ashlar masonry with almost no structuration—the few edged cornices are reduced to straight, bold lines that run horizontally along the length of the square. This uncompromising smoothness and horizontality of the façade, which comes close to the monumentalized classicism of Troost and Speer but remains comparatively traditional, stresses the square’s axial orientation toward the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft. The hall stands out for its all-masonry façade with its reduced pillars that stress the vertical direction and for its invisible roof that gives it a less traditional appearance. The depth of the portico further suggests a movement along square’s symmetry axis inside the hall.

Although the hall’s portico and façade were never completed, the effects can still be observed today. The square’s large size, in conjunction with the regularity of the façades, causes a certain loss of sensual connection and reduces the visitor’s ability to estimate the size and walkability of the square.81 When moving along the square, the immediate surroundings do not change but repeat themselves, window by window, arch by arch. Movement feels pointless and unrewarding, a sensation achieved even without armed guards of honor patrolling in front of the hall,82 and in its era the square would have surely had an intimidating air about it. Although the architecture is oversized and out of scale, it would be wrong to infer that its intended effect was to feel crushing to the individual as, for instance, Dietzfelbinger and Liedtke comment when discussing the buildings in Nuremberg.83 Rather, this experience underlines that the marching ground was intended for demonstrations, that is, it is not to be used primarily by individuals, but by masses of people, preferably in orderly arrangement. In other words, the architecture is not complete without the ordered mass, although it does not directly produce it. The sensual connection with the architecture is mediated by the group, the marching column, which affords a sense of direction, purpose, and proximity to the individual. At the same time, the architecture would present approximately the same view to every participant, regardless of their position on the square. This design thus had the potential to conjure up images and bodily memories of such arrangements, especially since this form of performance had been subject of media coverage for a number of years. Within this framework, differences between the participants vanish. There is only one common body, subdivided into the columns of the party sections, held together by a common framework and a Führer as the head of that body, elevated on a rostrum or a balcony. In this way, architecture becomes more than a framework, it becomes a necessary part of a particularly intense performativity of the Volksgemeinschaft.

With an understanding of architecture’s role in ‘endorsing’ the masses, one Weimar official’s characterization of the Gauforum, in the context of the redesign of the city, as the new ‘spine’ of the city seems a particularly fitting way to describe its performativity in the context of party events.84 Like a scaffold or a skeleton, the architecture shapes the march of the masses while combining it with a promise of future repetition. The performative Volksgemeinschaft is therefore enacted by the combination of both people and architecture. This Volksgemeinschaft is a corporatist enactment of society that the physical bodies of the performers and the physical place at which they parade take part in.

The disregard for the Gauforum’s surroundings underlines that this was indeed a positive vision of inclusivity. First, although the inner square was conceived as almost hermetically enclosed, this did not result in a defensive attitude toward the outside. To be sure, the buildings are oversized in relation to the existing urban structure; the design does not respect the topographical conditions of the place and cuts into existing streets and neighborhoods.85 However, the clumsiness and disregard with which the Gauforum’s masses are placed within the existing city attests to the way little importance was given to such questions during the planning process.86 Instead, rather than positioning the Gauforum vis-à-vis the existing city, the plans for the redesign of the whole city of Weimar from 1939 treat the Gauforum’s marching square as a new nucleus of the city, arranging similarly sized building masses along what were supposed to become its monumentalized axes (figure 2).87 If in a crude and unthoughtful way,88 the vision of the Nazi planners thus turns out to be positively defined, which further underlines their intention to perform a unitary vision of Volk, state, and party.


Figure 2

General plan for the urban redesign of Weimar from October 1942. In solid black, the planned monumental buildings creating new axes through the city, with the Gauforum at the top. Architect: Hermann Giesler

Citation: Fascism 12, 2 (2023) ; 10.1163/22116257-bja10054

Source: Stadtarchiv Weimar, 70 1/606. Permission granted

Performing the Materialization of the Volksgemeinschaft: The Laying of the Foundation Stone

If assembly architecture was conceived as the skeleton for the enactment of the Volksgemeinschaft, then the party members and the masses needed to be somehow introduced to this new element in the performativity of the Volksgemeinschaft. This was achieved in the performances that surrounded the construction process. The inclusion of architecture into the performativity of the Volksgemeinschaft was therefore already pre-empted with an astonishing number of celebrations and marches taking place on the construction site, connecting it with the Nazi festive calendar. There were at least four occasions within the first three years of construction on which the building works stood in the center of a large party celebration. The first was in 1936, the groundbreaking ceremony, held as part of the ten-year jubilee of the Weimar party rally.89 The second was in 1937, the laying of the foundation stone on the occasion of the Day of National Work.90 The third was in 1938, when the construction site was included into the celebrations of the Gautag [Gau day],91 while the fourth was in 1939 on Hitler’s fiftheeth birthday, the ‘consecration’ held within a series of events called the Gaukulturwoche [Gau culture week].92 Likewise, smaller celebrations, like Gauleiter Sauckel’s birthday later that year, were also held at the construction site.93 This scheduling ensured that many people were present to witness construction-related ceremonies. On the occasion of the 1936 Tage von Weimar alone, ‘several special trains . . . brought more than 4,000 participants to Weimar’.94 These official ceremonies were complemented by numerous site visits by Hitler, for whom the construction site was decorated and tidied up with great efforts.95 On the occasion of site visits, Hitler and also Sauckel gave private speeches before the workers.96


Figure 3

Masses gathering at the construction site on 1 May 1937, in the background the façade mock-up of the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft

Citation: Fascism 12, 2 (2023) ; 10.1163/22116257-bja10054

Courtesy of Archiv Fotoatelier Louis Held Inh. Stefan Renno

As large-scale celebrations spread around a number of locations in Weimar, urban space became fashioned with ephemeral architectural additions and decorations that canalized the marching masses and guaranteed the town-wide focus on the celebrations, with the respective ceremony at the construction site being one of the highlights of the celebrations.97 Next to enabling a smooth proceeding of the ceremonies and granting a favorable viewing position, ephemeral structures like wooden tribunes, pylons, flags, and garlands served as markers of the festive state of exception and evoked the images of the similarly decorated city center of Nuremberg that were already widely known in 1936.98 These ephemeral structures prepared the way for the reception of buildings under construction as similar to the assembly architectures known from the media.

Next to those festive ephemera, 1:1 façade mock-ups of the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft and the Arbeitsfront building, respectively, were erected in 1937 and 1938.99 In sum, the ephemera prefigured a ‘disciplined’ city with the Gauforum as its center, just as it was later planned to be fixed in Weimar’s redesign.100

The elaborate ceremonies at the construction site reveal how these performances served to bring the buildings under construction into the Volksgemeinschaft. An exemplary and well-documented case is the laying of the foundation stone for the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft that took place on the Tag der nationalen Arbeit on 1 May 1937.101 For this ceremony, a 1:1 wooden façade mock-up of the planned Halle der Volksgemeinschaft was put up onsite with an honorary tribune in front of it (figure 4). The future marching ground was demarcated by two lower tribunes on the sides and an enclosure of swastika flags. A maypole stood erected at the opposite side of the square. A photograph of the celebration shows the gathering masses of uniformed party members filling the square (figure 3). They stood in orderly formations, leaving the central axis between the maypole and the rostrum of the honorary tribune clear to create a pathway.

Reading the program of this celebration, which was published in a newspaper article, we can get an impression of how the proceedings wove together the architecture, tropes from the architecture discourse, and evocations of the Volksgemeinschaft to create an intense web of performative evocations. The ceremony began by the high-ranking party officials marching in through the open pathway between the rows of participants, led by the Führer’s deputy Rudolf Heß and Gauleiter Sauckel. After Heß was greeted by a little girl who presented him with a bouquet, a first ceremony to commemorate the deceased party ‘fighters’ followed. A short while later, the radio broadcast from the central May Day event in Berlin was played through loudspeakers, and the convening masses listened to the speeches of Goebbels, Ley, and Hitler. Heß followed with his on-site speech in which he underlined the Leistung of the German Volk by saying that ‘never before have people worked in Germany like they do in Adolf Hitler’s Germany’.102 Heß also explained it was ‘Adolf Hitler’s will that everywhere in Germany there shall be halls rising up in which the Volksgemeinschaft convenes, where it celebrates their festivals, where the leaders will speak to the Volksgemeinschaft, where leaders will forever effectuate new consolidation of the Volksgemeinschaft’.103 He concluded with a motto: ‘Haus der Volksgemeinschaft, Platz Adolf Hitlers, for centuries you shall be witness of the motto under which you were made and under which our Volk arose to the greatness that it is worthy of: Everything for the Volksgemeinschaft! Everything for National Socialism! Everything for Germany’.104 After the speech, the laying of the foundation stone as such followed, with flags raised and a plane squadron flying over the construction site.


Figure 4

The back side of the wooden mock-up of the Halle der Volksgemeinschaft on 1 May 1937

Citation: Fascism 12, 2 (2023) ; 10.1163/22116257-bja10054

Courtesy of Archiv Fotoatelier Louis Held Inh. Stefan Renno

It is important to remember that, at that point in time, the construction works as such had not yet begun. Nevertheless, Heß fantasized of a place where the Volksgemeinschaft would convene ‘forever’ and imagined himself speaking from a futural position from which the present event would require a ‘witness’ of stone to be remembered. In this way, he converged several temporal positions within his speech that sidelined the question at which historical moment he pronounced these words. As Michaud argues with regards to Hitler’s speeches about Nazi monuments, the wooden façade mock-up served here as a material stabilization of the conjured images, and as a particularly effective repetition of the architectural propaganda tropes. In temporally entwined ways, it performatively repeated the realization of the Gauforum plans in the moment it pre-empted them. In conjunction, the mock-up and Heß’s speech afforded an identification of the assembled mass with the Volksgemeinschaft living at multiple points in time. This temporality evoked during the event is the mythical time of fascist ideology: Heß’s words should not be taken as a prognosis, but as a prophecy.

In this event, then, architecture propaganda served as a discursive primer to effectively merge all the elements of the event with the spatial imagination. The commemoration of the dead and the youth called attention to individual mortality and rebirth which can only be stored in the prevailing body of the Volksgemeinschaft. Similarly, the broadcast of the central celebration featuring Hitler’s speech imaginatively extends the visually bounded space to encompass the Volksgemeinschaft in all parts of the Reich. Such a mediatized and imaginative spatial expansion was a common feature of Nazi mass events.105 At the same time, Hitler’s voice, the ‘head’ of the assembled national body, authorized the assembly that was symbolically attended by all sections of the corporatist society.

In this way, the event afforded a vague and mythical spatiotemporality. Its time is the mythical eternity of the Volksgemeinschaft of which it constitutes a part; its place is the equally mythical collectivity of the Volksgemeinschaft. This spatiotemporality is irreconcilable with historical time and place. Any actual division of time and space is denied by the mythical unity and tendential boundlessness of both. From this perspective, the planned rigid enclosure of the marching ground pushed for by Speer and realized by Giesler assumes another layer of significance next to its function to shape the gathering masses. By blocking the views to the outside of the complex, it helps to create a microcosm of the Volksgemeinschaft which is no longer embedded in its historical surroundings. Furthermore, for the sake of this performative spatiality, the Gauforum’s architecture does not need to establish a clear architectural attitude toward its outsides; within the performance, it becomes a space without an outside. Of course, this spatiotemporality only affords itself to those who are ready to take in the National Socialist message. It posits and simultaneously demands the non-existence of outsiders and does not allow for deviation.

In light of this event and its connections to the planned architectural project, ruin value fulfils a much more efficacious function than just that of a propaganda trope. As a demand for a certain massive, reduced classicist style, it connects to imaginations of ancient ruins and posits the new buildings as possible ruins of the future. This becomes efficacious in the event: If assembly architecture performed as the ‘skeleton’ of the national body, then the constant evocation of its futural existence implied a futural existence of the national body and its mortal parts, namely the event’s participants. Ruin value’s primary significance, then, lies in the way it contributes to an aesthetic of the Nazi mass event and an enactment of Nazi myth.


Christoph Welzbacher, Monumente der Macht: Eine politische Architekturgeschichte Deutschlands (Berlin: Parthas, 2016), 129.


Adolf Hitler, cited in Eckart Dietzfelbinger and Gerhard Liedtke, Nürnberg, Ort der Massen: Das Reichsparteitagsgelände: Vorgeschichte und schwieriges Erbe (Berlin: Links, 2004), 35.


Dietzfelbinger and Liedtke, Nürnberg, 35.


Barbara Miller Lane, Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918–1945 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), 185–216.


Rudy Koshar, Germany’s Transient Pasts: Preservation and National Memory in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998).


Christiane Wolf, Gauforen, Zentren der Macht: Zur nationalsozialistischen Architektur und Stadtplanung (Berlin: Verlag Bauwesen, 1999), 55–64.


For example: Walter Brugmann, ‘Von den Nürnberger Parteibauten,’ Die Kunst für Alle 52, no. 12 (1937); Ulrich Christoffel, ‘Das Bauen im Dritten Reich: Zur Ausstellung “Architektur und Kunsthandwerk” im Haus der Deutschen Kunst in München,’ Die Kunst für Alle 53, no. 6 (1938); Wilhelm Lotz, ‘Bauten, Fahnen und Licht: Albert Speer, der Gestalter der Großkundgebungen,’ Die Kunst für Alle 52, no. 8 (1937).


Christoffel, ‘Das Bauen im Dritten Reich’; Jörn Düwel and Niels Gutschow, Baukunst und Nationalsozialismus: Demonstration von Macht in Europa 1940–1943: Die Ausstellung ‘Neue Deutsche Baukunst’ von Rudolf Wolters (Berlin: DOM publishers, 2015); Wolf, Gauforen, 53 f.


Reiner Ziegler, Kunst und Architektur im Kulturfilm 1919–1945 (Konstanz: UVK-Verlags-Gesellschaft, 2003), 205 f.


Düwel and Gutschow, Baukunst und Nationalsozialismus, 96.


Gerdy Troost, Das Bauen im neuen Reich (Bayreuth: Gauverlag Bayreuth, 1938–1943).


Brugmann, ‘Von den Nürnberger Parteibauten,’ 294.


Christoffel, ‘Das Bauen im Dritten Reich,’ 129.


Koshar, Germany’s Transient Pasts, 158.


Christoffel, ‘Das Bauen im Dritten Reich,’ 129 f.


Adolf Hitler, cited in Max Domarus, Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen 1932–1945 (Munich: Süddeutscher Verlag, 1965), 527.


Roger Griffin, Fascism (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2018), 37.


Griffin, Fascism, 35.


Ibid., 36.


Eric Michaud, ‘National Socialist Architecture as an Acceleration of Time,’ Critical Inquiry 19 (1993): 230,


Michaud, ‘National Socialist Architecture,’ 231.


Speer, cited in Sharon Macdonald, ‘Words in Stone? Agency and Identity in a Nazi Landscape,’ Journal of Material Culture 11, 1–2 (2006): 113,


Welzbacher, Monumente der Macht, 230.


Rudolf Wolters, cited in Düwel and Gutschow, Baukunst und Nationalsozialismus, 19.


Thomas Schmidt, Werner March: Architekt des Olympia-Stadions 1894–1976 (Basel: Birkhäuser, 1992), 47 f.


Wolf, Gauforen, 109 f.


As Karina Loos implies when she says with respect to Weimar’s Gauforum that ‘The additional discussions of the buildings and designs in the media inculcated even the last Volksgenosse [national comrade] with its [the propaganda’s] interpretation’. Karina Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt: Planen und Bauen in Weimar in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus’ (PhD diss., Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, 2004), 78, Dietzfelbinger and Liedtke do a similar thing when they decide not to give any weight to propagandistic claims except to those whose evidence can be observed in the architectural materiality until today.


Griffin, Fascism, 60.


Evelyn Annuß, Volksschule des Theaters: Nationalsozialistische Massenspiele (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2019); Dieter Bartetzko, Zwischen Zucht und Ekstase: Zur Theatralik von NS-Architektur (Berlin: Mann, 1985); Joshua Hagen, ‘Architecture, Symbolism, and Function: The Nazi Party’s “Forum of the Movement”,’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28, no. 3 (2010),


Hagen, ‘Architecture, Symbolism, and Function,’ 399.


Judith Butler, ‘Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,’ Theatre Journal 40, no. 4 (1988).


Bernhard Post, ‘ “Weimar gegen Weimar”: Der Nationalsozialismus in Thüringen,’ in Wege nach Weimar: Auf der Suche nach der Einheit von Kunst und Politik, ed. Hans Wilderotter and Michael Dorrmann (Berlin: Jovis, 1999).


Holm Kirsten, ‘Weimar im Banne des Führers’: Die Besuche Adolf Hitlers 1925–1940 (Cologne: Böhlau, 2001), 38 f.


Fritz Sauckel, ed., Der Führer in Weimar 1925–1938: Allen Volksgenossen Thüringens ein Dokument der großen Zeit Adolf Hitlers: Dem Führer ein Zeichen des Dankes für unseres Volkes Glück, das er uns gab (Weimar: NSDAP, Gauleitung Thüringen, 1938).


Post, ‘ “Weimar gegen Weimar”,’ 222.


Ibid., 223.


Ibid., 230.


Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt’; Wolf, Gauforen.


Wolf, Gauforen, 68.


Ibid., 32, 69 f.


Ibid., 70.


Ibid., 71.


‘Aktenvermerk: Besichtigung der Museumsplatz-Projekte durch den Herrn Reichsstatthalter und Herrn Architekt Speer aus Berlin,’ April 7, 1935, Bestand 12, 102-07-01, Stadtarchiv Weimar, Weimar (hereafter cited as Besichtigung der Museumsplatz-Projekte).


‘Besichtigung der Museumsplatz-Projekte’.




Hermann Giesler, ‘Der Platz Adolf Hitlers in Weimar,’ Baugilde 26 (1937): 891.


Wolf, Gauforen, 82.


Letter from Fritz Sauckel to Albert Speer, December 6, 1940, Bestand Der Reichsstatthalter in Thüringen, 6-22-0001, 186, Landesarchiv Thüringen—Hauptstaatsarchiv Weimar, Weimar, 268.


Wolf, Gauforen, 37.


‘Programm zur Erlangung von Entwürfen für die Gebäude der NSDAP in Weimar,’ December 6, 1935, cited in Wolf, Gauforen, 314.


Ibid., 316.


Wolf, Gauforen, 37.


For a detailed comparison between the qualities of other competition entries with Giesler’s, see Wolf, Gauforen, 90.


Michael Früchtel, Der Architekt Hermann Giesler: Leben und Werk (1898–1987) (Unterwössen: Edition Altavilla, 2008), 48 f.


Früchtel, Der Architekt Hermann Giesler, 45 f.


Wolf, Gauforen, 89.


Früchtel, Der Architekt Hermann Giesler, 122.


Ibid., 150.


Wolf, Gauforen, 93.


Ibid., 107.


Ibid., 105.


Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt,’ 88.


Wolf, Gauforen, 110 f.; 118 f.


Ibid., 118 f.


Yasmin Doosry, ‘Wohlauf, Laßt Uns Eine Stadt Und Einen Turm Bauen . . .’: Studien Zum Reichsparteitagsgelände in Nürnberg (Tübingen, Berlin: Wasmuth, 2002), 31–40.


Doosry, ‘Wohlauf, Laßt Uns Eine Stadt Und Einen Turm Bauen . . .’, 20; 27 f.


Dietzfelbinger and Liedtke, Nürnberg, 27; Doosry, ‘Wohlauf, laßt uns eine Stadt und einen Turm bauen . . .’, 22.


Kirsten, ‘Weimar im Banne des Führers’, 29 f., Doosry, ‘Wohlauf, laßt uns eine Stadt und einen Turm bauen . . .’, 29.


Dietzfelbinger and Liedtke, Nürnberg, 27; Doosry, ‘Wohlauf, laßt uns eine Stadt und einen Turm bauen . . .’, 22; Kirsten, ‘Weimar im Banne des Führers’, 29 f.


Carolyn Birdsall, Nazi Soundscapes: Sound, Technology and Urban Space in Germany, 1933–1945 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2012), 34–36.


Riefenstahl, Triumph des Willens, 1:00:49–1:00:56.


Birdsall, Nazi Soundscapes, 40.


Sebastian Tesch, Albert Speer: (1905–1981) (Wien, [etc.]: Böhlau, 2016), 51; 90; 236.


Tesch, Albert Speer, 236 f.


For Luitpoldarena, Zeppelinfeld, and the Kongresshalle, all designed by Albert Speer, see Tesch, Albert Speer.


See Schmidt, Werner March


See Hagen, ‘Architecture, Symbolism, and Function’.


For more details see Tesch, Albert Speer, 255.


Ibid., 92.


Wolf, Gauforen, 23.


Today, it is no longer possible to access the central parts of the square which was converted into the roof of an underground carpark. These observations are derived from my own walks around the accessible parts.


Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt,’ 66.


Dietzfelbinger and Liedtke, Nürnberg, 35.


Rogler, cited in Bartetzko, Zwischen Zucht und Ekstase, 194.


Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt,’ 76.


Wolf, Gauforen, 98.


Ibid., 112–115.


The urban plan for Weimar’s redesign looks just as crude as the one of the Gauforum—the historical centre would have been pushed aside, making the redesign rather a superimposition of axes rather than a thorough conversion.


Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt,’ 80 f.


Ibid., 83–85.


Ibid., 85 f.


Ibid., 84 f.


Wolf, Gauforen, 109.


Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt,’ 80 f.


Ibid., 85.


Ibid., 87.


Ibid., 81, 85, footnote 241.


Ibid., 81. For a similar example from Fascist Italy, see Pier L. Tucci, ‘Ephemeral Architecture and Romanità in the Fascist Era: A Royal-Imperial Tribune for Hitler and Mussolini in Rome,’ Papers of the British School at Rome 88 (2020): 331,


Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt,’ 83, 86.


Wolf, Gauforen, 112–119.


All information about this celebration comes from Loos, ‘Die Inszenierung der Stadt,’ 83–85.


Ibid., 84.






Wieland Elfferding, ‘Von der Proletarischen Masse zum Kriegsvolk,’ in Inszenierung der Macht: Ästhetische Faszination im Faschismus, ed. NGBK (Berlin: Dirk Nishen, 1987), 18 f.; Birdsall, Nazi Soundscapes, 101; Annuß, Volksschule des Theaters, 92 f.


I am deeply grateful for the invaluable support of my teacher and supervisor Dr Eleftheria Ioannidou and the long hours she devoted to discussing ideas for this essay.

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