Elle (llieno) wrote,

Shake Speer

It's a wild ride.

I managed to get my essay done yesterday. Not quite by the required time, but I managed to hand it in to Rudolf before 6pm, so it wasn't chronically late, and I had asked beforehand. It did take me surprisingly long, but this was due to my realisation that I had so much that even a very condensed version would not suffice. I honestly believe as much ended up on the metaphorical cutting room floor as went into the actual essay. I even terminated one entire paragraph, rescuing two sentances to form the core of the introduction. They said the word-count included footnotes, and since I use footnotes copiously, that essentially restricted me to 2000 words-ish in the main essay. I felt I brutalised the essay as much as the plans for Germania would have in turn brutalised Berlin.

Still, I realise that my research is far from meaningless, since my photographic memory means I glean a strong understanding of many things. I fear when I have to write my Holocaust course essays.

After the mad rush, and a 3-hour (slightly under, since Rudolph forgot he's rearranged our lesson time) session in which I admitted I didn't have a strong idea of my dissertation topic yet, I had freedom again. I had planned for a relaxing evening, but I went to Writers' Circle first, which I really enjoyed this week. Our theme was storytelling, and not that many people turned up, so it was a very cosy, intimate affair. I was astounded to find someone who knew Taffy Thomas, and I must have bored everyone when, with no pre-prepared topic, I used my storytelling turn to narrate Albert Speer's life with the Nazis in first-person, from his initial involvement on a local level, through his plans for Germania and friendship with Hitler, to the final days of the Third Reich and his Nuremburg trial. No-one seemed too bored, though, so it can't have gone that badly, and I was told I told stories well, which I'm not that convinced of. I was impressed that I recount so much about Speer, though.

Then, to my relaxing evening...or lack-of. Almost predictably, I fell asleep as soon as I lay down on my bed, waking up late this morning still in my clothes. Ooops. So now I've got the two assignments for tomorrow still to do (both for D-RES, and thus not actually necessary, but I'm supposed to do them, and they're personal so require no research) as well as sort out whatever has happened with my credit card to require me to pay something. I've not used my card in ages, in fact I thought I cancelled it after it got stolen in 2006, so I'm unsure as to what is going on. I am a little afraid of phoning them and going through the channels, but I have to, so that won't be fun.

Then, of course, there are the elections. I want to get the assignments done either side of the BBC's live broadcast so I don't have to miss much.

Anyhow, I shall post my aforementioned essay about the Nazi plans for Berlin. I'll post the abridged, submitted entry, since that is what I actually handed in, but I'll also link to the full-length version, sans introduction and conclusion, in case you want to see what I missed. My editing skills leave much to be desired, alas, which worries me regarding the precis I have to do for German by next week...

What were the Nazi plans for the development of Berlin, and how
much of them was realised?

Hitler had great plans for his newly-acquired capital in 1933. Hitler,
'the real architect of the Third Reich', as his adjutant called him,
had always held a fascination for architecture.[1] The core of his
grand design for Berlin originated in his sketchbooks of the early
20s.[2] Together with his architect, Albert Speer, they created great
plans for the development of Berlin. A new city 'Germania' was to
represent the glory of the Third Reich, yet it never came to pass. Some
buildings survived, with changing uses, but most of the Nazi plans for
the development of Berlin never were realised. What were these plans,
why were they conceived, how were they implemented, and what was
eventually realised?

The Nazis had plans for the development of Berlin for a number of
reasons, one of which being that they generally disliked the Spree
metropolis. They had identified Weimar Berlin, in all its decadence,
with 'cultural corruption', and continued to find the great city
"alien" and "unsettling", especially since few of the upper echelons
came from a metropolis.[3] Furthermore, despite the limited success of
Gauleiter Goebbels in creating local Nazi support, the city was a
bastion for their political arch-rivals, the Socialists and Communists.
Upon their consolidation of power in 1933, many Nazis felt they had
'seized the capital from their enemies'[4]. Nevertheless, the diversity
and cosmopolitanism of the metropolis' cultural and intellectual scene
remained, and was despised to the extent that some more fundamentalist
Nazis declared Berlin 'hopelessly irredeemable' and suggested the
capital be moved elsewhere[5]. Hitler disagreed, maintaining the Reich
had to be governed by its greatest city, although he too held little
liking for the city. It was too 'orderly' and 'mundane'.[6] In Mein
Kampf, he claimed with reference to Berlin that it lacks 'the
outstanding symbol of national community' leading to 'wholesale
indifference' amongst its population.[7] He therefore decided to 'cast
aside' what was 'ugly' and replace it with new additions which
constitute 'the best that is possible with today's resources'.[8]

These plans for the development of Berlin were to recreate it as a new
capital to be named 'Germania'. The city was to be designed around two
axes, one North-South, the other East-West. There was to be a railway
station at each end of the North-South axis, which would replace the
many terminals Berlin already had, and most importantly, along the
North-South axis would stand two gargantuan monuments: a triumphal arch
and a domed Assembly Hall. The Hall would at 954 feet stand larger than
St. Peters in Rome, and the Arch and axis would dwarf the scale of
Paris' Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysee respectively[9]. The axis
would be lined with grand new buildings which would 'display the power
and glory of Greater Germany', including a 'Soldiers' Hall' to honour
the military'.[10] The Arch would likewise be inscribed with the names
of the German dead from the First World War. Outside the Hall, the
Königsplatz would become a giant square, lined with such buildings as a
new palace for Hitler, various ministries, and the Reichstag, which
would remain, even if utterly eclipsed by the Hall. Speer planned
further details, including an autobahn ring around the city, new
airports and underground roads, but Hitler was only really interested
in the monumental granite showpieces[11].

Germania was to the 'most grandiose capital in the world'.[12] Hitler
wished it to surpass Paris, Vienna and Washington so that it could only
be comparable with ancient Rome[13]. Visitors, both from the Reich and
other nations, were to arrive at one of the stations and be awed and
intimidated by the city's majesty. The city was designed not just for
Hitler, but also his successors, who he felt would need it[14]. As
Speer later noted, such designs indicate 'a kind of chronic
megalomania' springing from an 'unscrupulous game of power'[15]. The
link to world domination is further shown by the replacement in the
plans of the Hall's crowning swastika with a globe. Germania indicated
Hitler's desires of conquest and 'apocalyptic bent' long before war
broke out[16]. Large notes the 'bellicosity' of the plan, commenting on
the irony that the selfsame drive for a new empire would render
Germania impossible through involvement and defeat in war[17]. Ladd
calls Speer's plans 'sinister' for another reason: the subordination of
the city to a higher purpose.[18] In hoping for a timeless, static
Berlin, Hitler changed the nature of the city that constantly
reinvented itself. It would be more a monument than a metropolis. Speer
himself later claimed their 'plan had lacked a sense of proportion',
and would have led to 'monumental rigidity' instead of 'urban
life'.[19] A final criticism noted by Lane is that the scale was so
great, the buildings were obviously 'unbuildable'[20]. The Dome, for
example, could not have supported itself with contemporary technology:
the plans would have taken longer than Speer's date of 1950 to
complete, if they ever could have been.

Undertaking such plans was not to be easy. The annual cost for Berlin
was estimated by Hitler to be 40 million Reichmarks for the next 20
years[21]. However, the distribution of cost over as many people as
possible 'actually worked out', according to Speer, making the burden
more tolerable[22]. Elsewhere, quarries and brickworks found themselves
in great demand, leading to a 'threatening' shortage of brick and
granite[23]. To aid with this, the Generalbauinspektor made use of
Himmler's offer of forced labour in SS camps[24]. The 'German Earth &
Stone Works' was summarily set up at camps such as Flossenbürg, with
its quarries, and Sachsenhausen with its works[25]. The granite quality
was not high[26]. Despite this, the set-up 'contributed to the physical
suppression' of prisoners and allowed production to carry on 'even
during the war'[27]. By the end of 1941, three million forced labourers
allowed output to be stepped up without an equivalent increase in
investment.[28] The development projects were far from bloodless.

Further criminal action was taken in regard to relocation of the
displaced and property rights. 80,000 homes were to be destroyed to
make way for Germania.[29] By 1942, many blocks had already been
cleared, leading to desolation in areas such as West of Potsdamer
Platz[30]. The Generalbauinspektor had the authority to do this: Speer
was given Hitler's blessing to remove 'all obstacles in the way'.[31]
To make way for such buildings as the Soldiers' Hall, the City
Government was required to purchase properties, making housing and
property ownership a key concern[32]. Berlin had already an acute
housing problem, and Speer's plans would push it to crisis
proportions[33]. People would need to be displaced. Speer's solution
was to push for an erosion of Jewish tenancy and housing rights, a law
he took a leading role in formulating[34]. Displacement of Berlin Jews
from their homes would provide substitute housing without the need to
construct expensive replacement housing[35]. This would provide a
substantial economic advantage, in that 2700 small dwellings would need
to be constructed instead of 2500 large 'Aryan' dwellings, a plan that
later changed to only 2500 small dwellings, with a predicted saving of
40 million Reichmarks[36]. In his critique of Speer's policy, Jaskot
notes how such plans went beyond those of even the Gestapo at the time,
and that although Göring eventually decided on a slightly less radical
version, the Generalbauinspektor, with SS backing, could still order
9500 evacuations in late 1941[37]. Jaskot concludes that architectural
planning, under Speer, who was no mere opportunistic innocent,
contributed to the development of measures leading to Jewish
destruction in Auschwitz and elsewhere[38]. Berlin's development plans
were hardly apolitical, and were indeed anti- Semitic, despite Speer's
claims of naivety[39].

In the end, very little of the plan for Germania was realised. The
only aspect completed before the war was the autobahn ring around the
city, A similar development occurred with the East-West axis, whereby
the Charlottenberger Chausee was widened, extended to the Olympic
Stadium and given new streetlights designed by Speer, forming the
current Straße der 17. Juni, which retains its straightness and width
today. The Great Star junction in the middle of the road is also a
survivor of Speer's plans. The junction was doubled in size, and
Bismarck's victory pillar, formerly standing outside the Reichstag, was
relocated and heightened to form the centrepiece, with four
Speer-designed guardhouses surrounding it[40]. The guardhouses today
are public toilets. Numerous tunnels and foundations remain from
Germania, providing 'eerie reminders of Hitler's megalomania' for the
constructors of post-division Berlin[41]. The strangest remnant of
Germania lies in quiet obscurity near Südkreuz station: a massive
cylinder of concrete, built in the future location of the Triumphal
Arch, to test whether the hefty structures would sink too far into the
soft mud of Berlin. The 1941-built structure did indeed sink too far,
further testifying to the fantastical nature of Germania[42].

Germania was, however, not the only development project the Nazis had
for Berlin. One of the most prominent was Speer's new Chancellery for
Hitler. Hitler found the Weimar Chancellery 'far too modest'[43]. Speer
was thus tasked with creating a new one in a year, with all Voßstraße
at his disposal. Speaking about the new Chancellery, Hitler commented
'one should have the feeling one is visiting the master of the
world'[44]. This effect was created with 'architectural bombast carried
to extremes': giant square columns and an imposing stone facade led to
cavernous interiors of dark marble[45]. Specifically designed to
overawe, guests would have to walk through many impressive halls to
reach Hitler, including one twice as long as Versailles' Hall of
Mirrors[46]. Speer's completion of the building within a year greatly
impressed Hitler. It was in one of Speer's bunkers for the building
that Hitler would later commit suicide, and following its master, the
Chancellery was destroyed by the Soviets a few years after. Today, all
that remains on the site of Hitler's glorious Chancellery is a car
park, greenery, GDR-era flats, and a Chinese restaurant[47].

Another famous Nazi-era building is the Olympic Stadium. The site for
the Olympics was as large as 1680 Berlin, and was built for the 'most
spectacular games ever' with new streets, subways, tram lines, halls,
and monumental statues[48]. The Olympics had been awarded to Berlin
before 1933, however, and the Stadium's architect, March, already had
his plan before Hitler took control[49]. The glass and steel of his
design infuriated Hitler to the point he considered cancelling the
games, according to Speer, who claims his changes to the design, namely
adding stone round the steel and removing the glass, were what was
eventually built[50]. Despite it being the scene of a bloodbath in the
closing days of the war in 1945, the stadium has gone on to be used by
Berlin, most recently in the 2006 Football World Cup[51]. Tempelhof
Airport also enjoyed a long post-Nazi history. Sagebiel's structure, an
expansion of the pre- existing airport 'in anticipation of increased
air traffic' was orientated towards the Triumphal Arch, and was a
compromise between his modernist steel frame and neoclassicist stone
facing and monumentality[52]. Intended by the Nazis to be 'the air hub
of Europe', its associations changed wildly during the Berlin Air
Bridge, and the protests against its recent closure show how it is
still admired by many Berliners[53]. Sagebiel's Air Ministry building,
despite its description as 'a document in stone' went on to be used by
the governments of both the GDR and reunified Germany[54].

The Nazi plans for the development of Berlin were largely unrealised.
The grand plan to create the world capital Germania with its
over-scaled monuments and contempt for existing urban design was never
realised, and could not have been realised in its contemporary form.
Despite this, the Nazis implemented a number of measures to create it,
including anti-Semitic laws and usage of forced labour, yet ultimately,
it was the selfsame megalomania that inspired Hitler to create Germania
that led to its lack of realisation as Hitler's wars led to utter


Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (London: Hutchinson, 1973)
Brian Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin, (Chicago: University of Chicago,
David Clay Large, Berlin, (New York: Basic Books, 2000)
Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, (New York: Macmillan, 1970)

Paul B Jaskot, "Anti-Semitic Policy in Albert Speer's Plan for the
Rebuilding of Berlin", Art Bulletin (78), 1996
Barbara Miller Lane, "Architects in Power: Politics and Ideology in
the Work of Ernst May and Albert Speer", Journal of Interdisciplinary
History (17), 1986
Jochen Thies, "Hitler's European Building Programme", Journal of
Contemporary History (13), 1978

Robert Hughes, "Visions of Space: Albert Speer - Size Matters", BBC,
----------------------- [1] Jochen Thies, "Hitler's European Building
Programme", Journal of Contemporary History (13), 1978 p.419 [2] Albert
Speer, Inside the Third Reich, (New York: Macmillan, 1970) p.74, 135
[3] David Clay Large, Berlin, (New York: Basic Books, 2000) p. 255 [4]
Brian Ladd, The Ghosts of Berlin, (Chicago: University of Chicago,
1998), p. 134 [5] Large, Berlin, p. 269 [6] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 135 [7]
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, (London: Hutchinson, 1973) p. 241 [8] Large,
Berlin, p. 269 [9] ibid., p. 302 [10] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 136 [11] Large,
Berlin, p. 305 [12] ibid. 300 [13] Thies Programme p. 424 [14] ibid.
[15] Speer, Inside, p. 138 [16] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 141 [17] Large,
Berlin, p. 305 [18] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 140 [19] Speer, Inside, p. 134
[20] Barbara Miller Lane, "Architects in Power: Politics and Ideology
in the Work of Ernst May and Albert Speer", Journal of
Interdisciplinary History (17), 1986 p.297 [21] Large, Berlin, p. 305
[22] Speer, Inside, p. 141 [23] Ibid., p. 144 [24] ibid. [25] Thies
Programme p.418 [26] Speer, Inside, p. 144 [27] Paul B Jaskot,
"Anti-Semitic Policy in Albert Speer's Plan for the Rebuilding of
Berlin", Art Bulletin (78), 1996 p.631 [28] Thies Programme p.419, 421
[29] Thies Programme p. 426 [30] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 138 [31] ibid., p.
136 [32] Jaskot Policy p. 625 [33] Ibid. p. 623 [34] ibid. 626 [35]
ibid. 627 [36] ibid. 627, 628 [37] ibid. 631 [38] ibid. 632 [39] ibid.
631 [40] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 138 [41] ibid. [42] Robert Hughes, "Visions
of Space: Albert Speer - Size Matters", BBC, 2003 [43] Ladd, Ghosts, p.
129 [44] Thies Programme p.424 [45] Large, Berlin, p. 315 [46] ibid.,
p. 316 [47] Hughes, Visions [48] Large 293 [49] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 142
[50] Speer, Inside, p. 80 [51] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 142 [52] ibid., p. 145
[53] Large, Berlin, p. 301 [54] Ladd, Ghosts, p. 146

...and now I hear fireworks. It's all happening at once, folks.
Tags: actual essays

  • Three Days

    In three and a half days I graduate. And on that day, llieno will be retired. I'm moving to scattermoon ( and why not

  • Degree Classification

    Dear Elaine, I have just been given the delightful opportunity (as the person in charge of the German exams) to let you know the outcome of your…

  • Cymru

    Off to Wales in 50 minutes with Writers' Circle. I wasn't going to go, but then I figured I could go for half the time, and I knew at least three of…

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded