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A Dark Past

Nuremberg, Germany, is a delightful and beautiful city. Its ancient past was glorious as it saw the construction of stately buildings surrounded by a mighty wall with strong towers. It was host to successive emperors of the Holy Roman Empire as the unofficial Capitol of the empire. Walking its streets one has the feeling of a place confident about itself.

It is hard to believe that just 70 years ago, Nuremberg was the stage for the rise of the National Socialist Party (Nazis) who, under Hitler, brought the world to a horrendous war that laid the city and German nation in ruins. Hitler loved Nuremberg, and because of his grandiose vision of a super state for superior humans, wanted to recreate in Nuremberg the ancient political importance of the city in the world. Here he envisioned buildings of such magnitude that they would last for thousands of years. The Nazi Rally Grounds was the scene of massive–in the hundreds of thousands–gatherings of the political faithful. Construction began on the master planned political site just outside the city. The war left only parts of the site standing. The partially completed Congress Hall is the only major building of the Nazi building program that remains in Germany. Its impressive size gives a clue as to Hitler’s plans. It is also a reminder of the horrors that Hitler visited upon the world.

It is interesting to note that the Documentation Center at the Rally Grounds stresses the point that Hitler did everything possible to point people to himself. All the buildings were planned so that the architecture itself served to elevate Hitler. All seats were planned to turn all bodies toward the place from where Hitler would speak; all staging was constructed to draw attention to Hitler; all lighting was planned to give Hitler prominence, and all major gatherings were orchestrated so that Hitler would appear at the most strategic moment. It was also stressed that the individual was diminished and, in its place, a united community of politically faithful were elevated.

Today, Nuremberg lives with its past in such a way as to not hide it, but use it as a teaching lesson for the future. Its ancient buildings are reconstructed, and the city, known as the most German of German cities, embraces what is best of the past. WEG

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