Reichsautobahnen in Third Reich

Discussions on the propaganda, architecture and culture in the Third Reich.
Swordsman
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Post by Swordsman » 13 Jan 2006 14:09

The fascination was total, and impossible for decent people to resist. It is hard for us nowadays, used to cars and motorways, to understand the enthusiasm that greeted each new bridge with its four lane highway. Hitler was filmed in an open Mercedes, followed by a fleet of brand new Mercedes and Volkswagen cars in neat formation, driving down every new stretch of the motorway, crossing bridges decorated with large columns and eagles carrying Swastikas. Thousands lined the roads and cheered the spectacle of gleaming metal and shining leather coats.

While the building of such an innovatory and vast motorway network was politically and strategically motivated, it was also an extraordinary technical and aesthetic tour de force, Even today much of the extraordinary and continuing respect of Hitler is based on his achievement with the motorways. A powerful symbol of political strength, willpower, and achievement, they were meant to provide the conquering military with easy access to the rest of Europe. They were called Hitler's Streets. In Germany plans for the first motorway date from 1926; the first test road between Köln and Bonn was opened in 1932.
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Swordsman
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Post by Swordsman » 13 Jan 2006 14:11

With their stunning bridge constructions and sweeping lanes, the automobile highways were a remarkable piece of modern architecture built by the best architects to blend with the landscape. Roderich Fick built a bridge over the Isar River mostly made of wood to blend with local architecture. Bonatz designed a bridge near the Romanesque cathedral of Limburg that reminded one of a Roman aqueduct. Petrol stations were often built in a modern style growing out of the Bauhaus teaching.

The automobile highways were masterminded by Fritz Todt, an early Party member, a nature and music loving German who became a hero, especially among the young, for the exploits of his Organisation Todt. With the help of this organisation, Todt -- an engineer, not an architect -- conquered land and cleared swamps. He was considered one of the highest artists in the land, and honoured as such. His automobile highway was not just a road but technology elevated to art. He was sensitive to the details of traditional craftsmanship and included them in his bridges. Todt was open minded enough to consult Mies van der Rohe and to employ architects such as Bonatz, who was reputable and not known for Party faithfulness. Albert Speer took control of the motorways after Fritz Todt died in a car crash in 1942.
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Swordsman
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Post by Swordsman » 13 Jan 2006 14:15

The controversy over modern architecture was vehement during the Weimar Republic; the fight over gabled roofs dominated architectural discussion in the twenties in Germany. Buildings by modern architects were widely criticised and only the Deutsche Werkbund, the Bauhaus, and some intellectuals mostly associated with the left supported a new building style. Many smaller building firms and many construction workers feared that a more industrialised building industry fostered by this new style would mean a loss of jobs for manual workers. They were easy converts to Hitler's architectural policies.

Having banned the architects of the twenties, Hitler looked for new talent. Among them was the talented Fritz Tamms (born 1904). Franz Moraller spoke for many: We architects want to create a new architecture, based on tradition. It reflects our philosophy of life. Bad building, empty effects, and the search for the sensational must be stopped. The great buildings of the Movement are not built for their own sake. They must demonstrate to the German Folk the determination, unity, strength, and power of the State.... The style of the buildings must reflect the will which formed it. (Moraller, cited in Mitteilungsblatt der Reichskammer der bildenden Künste, August 1st, 1937, page 12.)

From 1938 onward there were representative German Architecture And Craft Exhibitions in München, which Hitler opened personally There were only three official German architecture exhibitions, the first in January, 1938, the second in December of the same year, and the third in July of 1939. The war criminally imposed upon the decent Germans stopped all further displays. Other similar exhibitions toured the country. The exhibitions showed mostly plaster models of the new buildings; large wood and plaster models were also carried in processions through the streets of München during the Day Of Art parades. These exhibitions, like the buildings, were widely reported in the press, but as in painting, architectural criticism hardly existed, despite the large number of books published on this subject. Instead, devoted National Socialists described them honestly. Werner Rittich, coeditor with Robert Scholz of the magazine Die Völkische Kunst -- Folkish Art, became one of the leading National Socialist writers on architecture, as did Rosenberg and Schultze-Naumburg. To all of them architecture was a political weapon, a domain in which to fight out ideological battles.

On the whole, the architecture of the Third Reich closely followed, in form and content, the architecture of the past. There was no revolution, scarcely even a break, but there was tremendous development and improvement and coordination. The two prevailing trends for public buildings were monumentalism and neoclassicism. Neoclassicism has long been the language of political power. It was by no means exclusive to Germany or to totalitarian systems. It was the official style of many countries. France, Russia, Italy, and the United States had all used it for their town halls, public libraries, universities, railway stations, and museums. In the nineteenth century a system of codes was invented by architects and architectural theorists that echoed a general nostalgia for a stable world, a world of historical continuity. Classical, Gothic, and even Egyptian elements satisfied these longings.
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Swordsman
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Post by Swordsman » 13 Jan 2006 14:16

Hitler too looked for buildings which were already programmed in this way. The Walhalla and the Befreiungshalle, both designed by Leo von Klenze (1784-1864), were two buildings which Hitler utilised for his own purposed. He made them his buildings, frequently holding celebrations and meetings there. Their pathos of eternity, expressed by massive architecture in heavy stone, entered the architecture of the Third Reich.

For the National Socialists each building was not merely a building. It had to be a monument. Even administration buildings had to express the ideology of the regime. These works of ours shall also be eternal, that is to say, not only in the greatness of their conception, but in their clarity of plan, in the harmony of their proportions, they shall satisfy the requirements of eternity ..... magnificent evidence of civilisation in granite and marble, they will stand through the millennia ..... these buildings of ours should not be conceived for the year 1942 nor for the year 2000, but like the cathedrals of our past they shall stretch into the millennia of the future, Hitler proclaimed at Nürnberg, cited in Folkish Observer, September 9th, 1937.

The National Socialists were consumers of cultures as well as makers of it, and they blended a excellent conglomeration of traditional styles into a unifying overall National Socialist style. Many of the public buildings share a specific handwriting which makes them instantly recognisable as the product of the Third Reich. There were the stripped down porticos, the stark rectilinear look emphasised by the heavy horizontals of cornices and rows of windows with deep frames.

A monumental symmetry dominated their facades, thanks to ranks of windows set in walls of roughhewn stone. The shallow windows in such heavy walls were designed to evoke images of fortresses and give the building a feeling of impenetrability. The cambered walls and massive timbered gables impressed and commanded respect.

Much of the public architecture of the late nineteenth century was smothered in ornaments. The National Socialists, in contrast, shunned too much ornament in their drive for clarity. To be German means to be clear was one of Hitler's often quoted phrases. The facades of the Third Reich were simpler than those of their predecessors. Pillars and pilasters that had structural functions were admitted into a modern combination of technology and decoration. And of course there were decorations in the form of mosaics, friezes, and wreaths surrounding the honoured Swastika, which was sometimes stylised into geometrical patterns, and finally, the ubiquitous eagle.

Another distinction was the emphasis on the material used. The symbolic meaning of stone was stressed. The feeling for material was as intense as the feeling for buildings. The use of stone confirmed the great truth of a living handicraft tradition. There was also a practical reason for the use of granite and other local stone. The medieval handhewn finish of the buildings in massive stone and wood saved on steel and concrete, which was needed to build defensive bunkers. Words like austere, sober, and Nordic were used by the architectural press to describe these attractive buildings.

One critic spoke of a self willed style and of severe beauty. Much of National Socialist architecture looks military, and in fact, most buildings were part of an extensive network of underground airraid shelters. The structures were blank and orderly. All decoration was austere. There was less room for playfulness. The human being was often dwarfed by the scale of the buildings, reduced to an insignificant prop, which took on value only in an organised and choreographed mass. In a drawing by Hans Liska depicting the studio Speer built for Thorak, one can see the dwarfed studio assistants chiselling away to create the New Man.

Like Hitler's speeches, his architecture was huge, awe inspiring, uplifting, magnificent. Buildings had massive proportions. And there was good workmanship in details. The architects well used the language of classicism -- portals, pillars, and stone.

But if the National Socialists' buildings were meant to impress and to intimidate, they were also meant to unite the Folk. They were the result of a collective effort like the one that had produced the great buildings of the past, the cathedrals of the Middle Ages, the great monuments of Rome. Buildings became objects of identification. Together with their flagpoles, braziers, grandstands, and the people who filled them, they became lighthouses illuminating the way for a whole Nation into a bigger and brighter future.

Matt
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Post by Matt » 17 Jan 2006 10:41

great thread, thanks all for the information.

Camp Upshur
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Post by Camp Upshur » 17 Jan 2006 21:49

Swordman,

Thank you for the detailed and informative postings. I note with interest your mention of German Architecture and Kraft presentations. Without too much luck I have attempted to research the 'Ersten Deutschen Architektur und Kunsthandwerksausstellung von 1938'(Haus der Kunst). Would be very curious if you have encountered any coverage of this show/presentation.

In addition to all of your impressive information , the NSDAP in this 1935-1940 period also was active in issuing many architectural commissions to architects of the Bavarian 'Wohnhaus-Landhaus' school of design primarily for personal residences, civic buildings and military installations (which is why I'm interested in the aforementioned presentation of 1938).

Thanks Again,
Camp Upshur

Swordsman
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Post by Swordsman » 18 Jan 2006 10:22

No I have never heard of such a show, what is it? I'm interested in all aspects of Nazi Architecture, and have collected a lot so far and put it all on this Forum.

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Post by Geoff Walden » 18 Jan 2006 19:27

Camp Upshur wrote: Thank you for the detailed and informative postings. I note with interest your mention of German Architecture and Kraft presentations. Without too much luck I have attempted to research the 'Ersten Deutschen Architektur und Kunsthandwerksausstellung von 1938'(Haus der Kunst). Would be very curious if you have encountered any coverage of this show/presentation. Camp Upshur


Hi,

There was a catalog of the exhibition published, like the annual catalogs of the HDK art exhibits. You can sometimes find copies on German eBay. There was also a second exhibition, also in 1938, with its own catalog.

Geoff

Camp Upshur
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Post by Camp Upshur » 19 Jan 2006 06:03

Thank you gentlemen both. The search goes on!

Regards,
Camp Upshur

Swordsman
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Post by Swordsman » 07 Mar 2006 13:23

Planned motorway entry with Salzburg, sketched of Albert Speer. National Socialist sovereignty symbols like the realm eagle should accompany the travel. It remained unmentioned in propaganda that most roadworks had to be implemented by forced laborers and KZ prisoners. Like that there was prisoners of a Nebenlagers of duty living, which drove the lug into the Loiblpass in Kaernten.
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