Thursday, February 26, 2009


The Schwerbelastungskörper (heavy weight compound) in Berlin near Dudenstraße (General-Pape-Straße/Loewenhardtdamm)

The Schwerbelastungskörper (German: "heavy loading body") is a large cylinder made of concrete in Berlin, Germany. It was built in 1941 to study the feasibility of constructing large buildings on the sandy ground in the area, in preparation for the planned construction nearby of a massive Triumphal Arch. It is 18 m high and has a mass of 12,650 metric tons. Because of nearby apartment buildings, it was not possible to demolish it with explosives at the end of World War II, so it remained; since 1995 it has been protected as a historic monument.

The structure is located at the intersection of Dudenstraße, General-Pape-Straße, and Loewenhardtdamm in the northwestern part of the borough of Tempelhof.

If the structure was to sink 2.5 inches or less, the soil would be sound enough to build Hitler's planned massive structures of Germania. It sank 7 inches in three years, but Hitler disregarded the findings.







Von Berlin nach Germania: Uber die Zerstorungen der "Reichshauptstadt" durch Albert Speers Neugestaltungsplanungen (German Edition) (Hardcover)

by Hans Joachim Reichhardt (Author)

Gigantische Visionen: Architektur und Hochtechnologie im Nationalsozialismus (Gebundene Ausgabe)

von Michael Ellenbogen (Autor)

Böse Orte. Stätten nationalsozialistischer Selbstdarstellung - heute [Restexemplar] (Gebundene Ausgabe)

von Stephan Porombka (Autor), Hilmar Schmundt (Autor)

Architektur in Berlin 1933-1945. Ein Stadtführer (Gebundene Ausgabe)

von Matthias Donath (Autor)

Mythos Germania (Broschiert)

von Berliner Unterwelten e.V. (Herausgeber)

Berlin 1933-1945. PastFinder - Stadtführer zu den Spuren der Vergangenheit (Taschenbuch)

von Maik Kopleck (Autor)

Bunker, Banken, Reichskanzlei - Architekturführer Berlin 1933-1945 (Taschenbuch)

von Matthias Donath (Autor)

Neue Reichskanzlei und Führerbunker. Legenden und Wirklichkeit (Gebundene Ausgabe)

von Dietmar Arnold (Autor)

Hitlers Neue Reichskanzlei: Haus des großdeutschen Reiches 1938-1945 (Gebundene Ausgabe)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nazi's Biggest Building Reborn as Concert Venue

Part of the huge Congress Hall in Nuremberg is reopening as a concert venue. - 03/06/2008

Part of the largest building the Nazis ever began is to reopen as a concert hall. Nuremberg is set to inaugurate the rebirth of the Congress Hall with a klezmer concert on Friday.

It was the biggest construction project ever begun by the Nazis, but it was never completed. Now, six decades after the end of World War II, part of Nuremberg's Congress Hall is reopening -- as a concert venue.

The new 515-seat venue will be inaugurated Friday with a concert by clarinetist Giora Feidman, who specializes in Jewish klezmer music. The concert hall, which cost €2.5 million ($3.8 million) to renovate and develop, will be used by the city's symphony orchestra in the future.

The huge oval-shaped building, designed in the typical Nazi neo-Classicist style, was modeled on Rome's Colosseum and designed to seat 50,000 people. The foundation stone was laid in 1935 but the building was never finished. After the end of the war, the city of Nuremberg kept the ruins as a reminder of the dangers of fascism.

The structure is part of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds where Hitler held massive military parades during the 1930s. The parades were memorialized in Leni Riefenstahl's controversial film "Triumph of the Will." Today, the grounds are home to a documentation center that chronicles Nazi crimes.

Pole transforms Nazis' giant Berlin bunker into a gallery of modern art

The five-storey bunker in the centre of Berlin was built by Nazi architect Albert Speer.

Hitler's architect built it to enable thousands to survive for Nazi Germany's "final victory" – but now the last massive and virtually indestructible air-raid shelter still standing in the centre of Berlin has been reborn as a private art gallery that will be open to the public.

The grey fortress-like building on Berlin's Reinhardtstrasse is still pockmarked with bullet holes from the Second World War. It was designed and built by the Nazi architect Albert Speer in 1942 and used to shelter more than 2,000 people each night from Allied bombing raids.

After being left vacant for years, the five-storey, 120-room complex was this week reopened as a private gallery containing 80 contemporary works by 57 artists, including Damien Hirst, Wolfgang Tilmans, Anselm Reyle, Elizabeth Payton and Olafur Eliasson.

The project is the brainchild of Christian Boros, a wealthy Polish-born advert-ising agent who claims to collect art that he does not understand. He bought the derelict bunker in 2002 declaring it was "love at first sight" and built a James Bond-style penthouse for himself and his wife Karen on its roof. During the next five years he transformed the interior.

Mr Boros, 44, said: "Others might have turned the place into a wine cellar. But that would have been wrong in my view. Our approach has been to fill a Third Reich monument with the highest form of intellectual freedom – art. For me, it is a very meaningful process."

This is one gallery where art connoisseurs need not be distracted by the annoying trill of a mobile phone – the bunker's walls see to that. At almost three metres thick, the concrete and steel sides ensure that even the hardiest mobile loses its signal inside.

Many of the exhibits in the collection are housed in windowless rooms. The Danish artist Olafur Eliasson's 1995 Berlin Colour Sphere is a suspended giant ball of mirrors that casts rainbow coloured geometric patterns across an entire chamber.

Another work by Santiago Sierras is comprised of eight, giant tar-coated steel girders that punch horizontally through one of the interior walls.

To create enough space for the collection three architects were employed to remove 40 of the bunker's original 120 rooms. The artists were invited to design their own individual bunker showrooms for each work and every one has a different shape, with some nearly 40 ft high.

From the beginning of June the collection will be open to the public, but those interested in viewing it will have to make an appointment via the Boros collection website. "It is a private collection, not a museum," Mr Boros said.

By Tony Paterson - Saturday, 26 April 2008

Website Feature - Reich Chancellery

In 1945-46, the Russians obtained the marble for their Berlin war memorial from the ruins of Hitler's New Reich Chancellery, on the corner of Wilhelmstraße and Voßstraße, which Albert Speer designed and finished in 1939.

Hitler had airily told Speer that the Old Reich Chancellery was “fit for a soap company.” Located at Wilhelmstraße 77, the old chancellery had been built 1736-1739 as a palace for Count von Schulenburg. Otto von Bismarck remodeled the building as his chancellery.


The New Reich's Chancellery was the only building Albert Speer designed for Germania that was ever completed. In this documentary it is demonstrated how the building history of the Reich's Chancellery influenced and determined its final design. All the facades of the building in its various stages have been recreated, from the first extention commisioned by Hitler in 1934 to the final structure of the New Reich's Chancellery which spanned over 400m, and which served as the stage from which Hitler directed his aggressive policies.

Book Recommendation: The Architecture of Oppression: The SS, Forced Labor, and the Nazi Monumental Building Economy

Editorial Reviews

"Mentioned in a publication of "The Architectural Review, ."
June 2001

An important contribution shedding light upon the manifold interrelations between politics, architecture and the economy of the camp system. - Planning Perspectives, 17 February 2002

An invaluable understanding of the politics of architecture, one that complements and enhances those investigations to Nazi architectures expression, ideological function with which we are already familiar. - Oxford Art Journal

It does cast a significant new light on attempts to strip Nazi architecture of its political and moral associations. - Building Design, April 20, 2000

Jaskots attention to actions rather than motives, and to quarries rather than aesthetics, gives precision and weight to his argument about the importance placed upon monumental architecture in Nazi Germany, - Harvard Design Magazine

Paul Jaskots book is a welcome injection of life into what had become a stale debate. - Building Design, April 20, 2000

The Architecture of Oppression could become a prime reference for the issues of art, architecture, and urban design, and the role of politics in general and the Nazis in particular. - Town Planning Review

This book is the result of painstaking research ... Jaskot has put another nail in the coffin of Leon Kriers extraordinary attempt to exonerate the Nazi monuments by removing them from their political context. - The Architectural Review

Mentioned in a publication of The Architectural Review,.
June 2001

Product Description
Exploring the reasons why the SS chose to focus so many of its forced-labor concerns around the production of building materials, The Architecture of Oppression argues that the architectural history of Nazi Germany is inextricably linked to its most punitive institutions. Through an analysis of such major Nazi building projects as the Nuremberg Party Rally Grounds and the rebuilding of Berlin, Paul Jaskot ties together the development of the German building economy, state architectural goals and the rise of the SS as a political and economic force.

**The Architecture of Oppression has all the hallmarks of Jaskot's articles: brilliant writing, impeccable scholarship and surprising wit. It is likely to become the standard work in the field, and would also make an excellent primer on fascist architecture for the general reader.**

Paul Jaskot teaches courses in modern art and architecture (Europe and North America), the history of architecture, art historical methodology, and specific courses on the relationship between politics and art. His research focuses on modern German art and architecture. His book, The Architecture of Oppression: The SS, Forced Labor, and the Nazi Monumental Building Economy was published by Routledge (2000). He is the founder of the Radical Art/Art History Caucus, an official affiliated society of the College Art Association.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Germania - Youtube

3D Virtual recreation of the Germania Project, designed by Albert Speer. A reconstruction of Berlin if the Third Reich had won the war.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Marshal Zhukov recorded that, on that afternoon of 20 April, ‘the long-range artillery of the 79th Rifle Corps of the 3rd Shock Army opened fire on Berlin’. But in fact few people in the city were aware of the fact. Zhukov seemed to have no idea that it was Hitler’s birthday. He was desperate for something to show that he had attacked Berlin before Konev. The guns were firing at extreme range and only the north-eastern suburbs were affected.

When Zhukov heard for certain of Konev’s tank army advancing on Berlin from the south, he sent on that evening an urgent order to Katukov and Bogdanov, the commanders of the 1st and 2nd Guards Tank Armies. He gave them ‘a historic task: to break into Berlin first and to raise the banner of victory’. They were to send the best brigade from each corps to break through to an outskirt of Berlin by 4 a.m. the next day, and to report at once so that Stalin could be informed immediately and it could be announced in the press. In fact, the first of his tank brigades did not reach the outskirts until the evening of 21 April.

South-east of Berlin, meanwhile, Marshal Konev was whipping on his two tank armies across the Spreewald. His main interest was with the 3rd Guards Tank Army targeted at the southern flank of Berlin. Rybalko’s leading tank corps attempted at midday to rush the town of Baruth, just twenty kilometres south of Zossen, but failed at the first attempt. ‘Comrade Rybalko,’ Konev signalled, ‘you are again moving like a hose. One brigade is fighting while the whole army is stuck. I order you to cross the line Baruth-Luckenwalde via a swamp using several routes in an extended battle order. Inform me on fulfilment.’ The town was taken within two hours.

Lelyushenko’s 4th Guards Tank Army, further to the south and west, was heading in a roughly parallel line for Juterbog and then Potsdam. Stalin was still concerned that the Americans might suddenly advance again. The Stavka that day warned Zhukov, Konev and Marshal Rokossovsky of the possibility of encountering the Western Allies and passed on recognition signals. But what neither Konev nor the Stavka seems to have appreciated fully was that his 1st Ukrainian Front advancing from the south-east would run into Busse’s Ninth Army trying to withdraw round the southern side of Berlin. Konev, like Zhukov, had become obsessed with Berlin. That night he dispatched signals to his two tank army commanders: ‘Personal to Comrades Rybalko and Lelyushenko. Order you categorically to break into Berlin tonight. Report execution. Konev.’


Reconnaissance detachments of the 3rd Guards Tank Army had reached Kdnigswusterhausen the evening before. It represented an advance from the Neisse of 174 kilometres in less than six days. They were separated from Chuikov’s 8th Guards Army on the north bank of the Muggelsee by a network of lakes and waterways in between. The two Soviet armies and this barrier effectively meant that Busse’s remaining portion of the Ninth Army was now encircled.

Marshal Konev, warned by air reconnaissance of the mass of enemy troops in the Spreewald on his right, speeded up the 28th Army’s move forward in trucks. These divisions were intended to seal the gap between Gordov’s 3rd Guards Army, finishing off the German forces round Cottbus, and the 3rd Guards Tank Army, pushing on to Berlin. Konev decided to reinforce Rybalko’s tank army with an artillery breakthrough corps -’a powerful hammer’ - and an anti-aircraft division.

By the evening of 22 April all three of Rybalko’s corps had reached the Teltow Canal, the southern rim of Berlin’s perimeter defence line. The German defenders were ‘completely surprised to find themselves face to face with Russian tanks’. A 3rd Guards Tank Army report, in an unusually poetic phrase, described their arrival as unexpected ‘as snow in the middle of summer’.

German communications were so bad that even Army Group Vistula headquarters knew nothing of this advance. And ‘no steps were taken to remove the supplies’ from a large Wehrmacht ration store on the south side of the canal. ‘On the contrary, even when the first Russian tank was only a few hundred metres away, the administrator refused to let rations be distributed to the Volkssturm troops on the north bank of the canal because a regulation issue certificate had not been filled out.’ He set fire to the provisions instead.

The 9th Mechanized Corps had charged through Lichtenrade, the 6th Guards Tank Corps had captured Teltow and, just to its left, the 7th Guards Tank Corps had taken Stahnsdorf. Further to the west, part of Lelyushenko’s 4th Guards Tank Army was ten kilometres short of Potsdam. Further out, two more of his corps were snaking round the western end of Berlin and were less than forty kilometres away from Zhukov’s 47th Army coming from the north.

French prisoners in Stalag 111, close to the Teltow Canal, were enjoying a moment of spring warmth when there was a rush to the barbed-wire perimeter. ‘At about five in the afternoon,’ one of them recorded, ‘the first Russian soldier appeared. He was walking jauntily, quite erect, sub-machine gun at his waist, ready to fire. He was walking along the ditch beside the road. He did not even bother to look at our camp.’ A little later, however, Soviet officers entered the camp. The Russian prisoners there were ordered to fall in. They were handed a rifle or sub-machine gun and expected to go straight into action.


Stalin was still keeping the pressure on his two marshals by stimulating their rivalry. From dawn on 23 April, the boundary between Zhukov’s 1st Belorussian Front and Konev’s 1st Ukrainian Front was extended from Lubben, but now it turned northwards to the centre of Berlin. Konev’s right-hand boundary ran all the way up to the Anhalter Bahnhof. Rybalko’s tank corps at Mariendorf, on the Teltow Canal, was exactly five kilometres south of it. Zhukov had no idea that Rybalko’s army had reached Berlin until late on 23 April, when a liaison officer from Katukov’s 1st Guards Tank Army, approaching from the east, made contact. Zhukov was appalled.

Since reaching the Teltow Canal on the evening of 22 April, Rybalko’s three corps had been given a day to prepare for an all-out assault across it. The concrete banks of the canal and the defended warehouses on the northern side appeared a formidable barrier. And although the Volkssturm detachments opposite were hardly worthy opponents for the 3rd Guards Tank Army, they had been ‘corset-stiffened’ with the 18th and 10th Panzergrenadier Divisions. The breakthrough artillery formations had been ordered forward two days before, but there was such a jam of vehicles on the Zossen road, including horse-drawn supply carts, that progress was slow. If the Luftwaffe had still had any serviceable aircraft, the route would have presented a perfect target. Luchinsky’s 48th Guards Rifle Division arrived in time to prepare to seize bridgeheads across the canal, and the artillery was hurried into place. This was no easy matter. Nearly 3,000 guns and heavy mortars needed to be positioned on the evening of 23 April. This was a concentration of 650 pieces per kilometre of front, including 152mm and 203mm howitzers.

At 6.20 a.m. on 24 April, the bombardment started on the Teltow Canal. It was an even more massive concentration of fire than on the Neisse or the Vistula crossings. Konev arrived at Rybalko’s command post when it had almost finished. From the flat roof of an eight-storey office block, a clutch of 1st Ukrainian Front commanders watched the heavy artillery demolishing the buildings across the canal and wave after wave of bombers from their supporting aviation army. The infantry began to cross in collapsible assault craft and wooden rowing boats. By 7 a.m. the first rifle battalions were across, establishing a bridgehead. Soon after midday the first pontoon bridges were in place and tanks began to go over.


Located 25 miles south of Berlin, the Zossen underground complex of bunkers and tunnels served as the protected communications nerve center first for the German armies under Adolph Hitler’s command and later for the Russian forces occupying East Germany.

Originally cleared as a firing range and infantry school, by 1914, the 60,000-acre area had become Europe’s largest military base, dotted with handsome buildings, some of which survive to this day. Bunker complexes called “Maybach” (a command center) and “Zeppelin” (communications) were built beginning in 1934 by the Nazi regime. The initial communications links constructed in 1934–1935 involved considerable redundancy to better withstand air attack. The Zossen bunker complex was well connected with subterranean links to the military commands in central Berlin, and to a trunk cable ring buried around the city. Priority construction of the Zeppelin bunker in 1937– 1939 involved installation of dozens of massive telephone and telegraph switchboards. Most were operational by August 1939 in time for the German attack on Poland. Radio facilities were also added. Substantial battery backups guaranteed continued operation even with loss of the electric power grid due to air attack. The Allies never discovered the existence of these backups until after the war and bomb damage was largely superficial, indicating that the backups had not been targets.

Allied interrogators were aware of the Zossen compound as early as July 1944 by virtue of an interrogation of a Feldwebel who was captured in Italy. The Feldwebel had served at Zossen for some time and gave his interrogators considerable information about the facility, although the extent of the communications system does not appear to have been emphasized in this particular report.

Fast-moving Soviet forces occupied the virtually intact Zossen bunker facilities on 20 April 1945. Some German officers - with a view beyond Götterdämmerung - had the good sense to display large placards in Russian, in and around that telephone exchange saying This equipment is NOT to be destroyed or tampered with! A foresight that served postwar communications in the chaos very well. Most equipment was dismantled (often quickly and thus badly) and shipped back to the Soviet Union.

Plans were drawn up prior to the Nazi period for a protected HQ for the High Command, Chief of Army Transport and the General QM. Zossen, south of Berlin, had been a military training camp since Imperial times and was chosen as the appropriate site.

The decision to begin work at Zossen as an underground military communications centre codenamed "Zeppelin" was taken in August 1936. Construction took from 1937 until just before the outbreak of war.

Anti-aircraft defence was 19 "sugar-loaf" type flak towers.

The telephone/telex bunker "Amt 500" covered 4881 sq.m on two levels. Walls were up to 3.2 metres thick, ceiling was 3 metres thick concrete with an outer 1-metre thick shell above it.

MAYBACH I consisted of twelve concrete structures disguised as residential houses, each 36.2 m x 16.39 m. There were two levels of fortified underground cellar, a single ground level floor and another level in the roof, all sub-divided into rooms. The houses were hermetically sealed against gas attack. Water was supplied from underground springs. All buildings were connected by an underground gallery. Maybach I was occupied by the Army General Staff on 26.8.1939 and it was from Zossen that the orders were issued, and retracted, for the attack on Poland scheduled for that day. The OKW command centre was transferred to Zossen from Berlin on 29.3.1943.

MAYBACH II was completed during the war as a Fuehrer-HQ: it consisted of 23 more buildings similar to those at MAYBACH I, seven of which were allocated for Hitler and his entourage. Hitler never occupied MAYBACH II mainly because he felt uncomfortable at being surrounded by Army personnel. The other buildings were occupied by Army Transport. Other branches joined later in the evacuation process from Berlin.

In the major US air raid on 15 March 1945, 675 heavy bombers inflicted damage amounting to the destruction of several wooden barrack huts and putting the main telephone cable out of use for two hours.

Zossen was evacuated before the Russian advance on 20 April 1945 and fell more or less intact into Soviet hands. Once the state-of-the-art telephone equipment had been carted off, the entire site was reported destroyed by explosives. However it later served as the HQ for Soviet Forces in Germany (GSTD), and passed to the Federal Republic in 1994.

Source: Seidel and Zeigert: The Fuehrer-HQs, Greenhill Books 2004. There is more information contained in this book relating mainly to the telephone/telex side.

Last Days at Zossen
Twenty kilometres south of Berlin in the huge underground headquarters at Zossen there was a mood of profound anxiety. The day before, when the threat of Soviet tanks coming up from the south had arisen, General Krebs had sent off the OKH's small defence detachment in reconnaissance vehicles to investigate. At 6 a.m. on 21 April, Krebs's second aide, Captain Boldt, was woken by a telephone call. Senior Lieutenant Krankel, commanding the defence detachment, had just seen forty Soviet tanks coming up the Baruth road towards Zossen. He was about to engage them. Boldt knew that Krankel's light armoured vehicles stood no chance against T-34s. He informed Krebs, who rang the Reich Chancellery to ask permission to relocate the headquarters. Hitler refused. Shortly before the 11 a.m. situation conference, tank guns could be heard clearly in the distance. One staff officer observed that the Russians could reach Zossen in half an hour. Another message arrived from Krankel. His attack had failed with heavy losses. There was nothing left to stop the enemy tanks.

General Krebs appeared from his office. `If you're ready, gentlemen,' he said, and thus began the very last conference of German general staff officers. It was hard to keep their minds off their imminent capture by Soviet armoured forces and the prison camps which awaited them in Russia. But there was no more shooting. The tanks had halted north of Baruth because they were out of diesel. And finally, at 1 p.m., General Burgdorf rang from the Reich Chancellery. The OKH was to move its headquarters to a Luftwaffe base at Eiche near Potsdam. Their companions in the adjoining OKW bunker system were to move to the nearby tank base at Krampnitz. The decision was taken only just in time.

A larger convoy of vehicles and non-essential personnel left Zossen on a hazardous journey to the south-west and then on down to Bavaria. They knew nothing of Lelyushenko's tank brigades crossing their path ahead, but instead they were hit by one of the last Luftwaffe sorties. The German pilots misidentified their vehicles. The smaller party, meanwhile, headed for Potsdam, on a parallel route to Lelyushenko's tanks.

Late that afternoon, Soviet soldiers entered the concealed camp at Zossen with caution and amazement. The two complexes, known as Maybach I and Maybach II, lay side by side, hidden under trees and camouflage nets. It was not the mass of papers blowing about inside the low, zigzag-painted concrete buildings which surprised them, but the resident caretaker's guided tour. He led them down into a maze of galleried underground bunkers, with generators, plotting maps, banks of telephones and teleprinters. Its chief wonder was the telephone exchange, which had linked the two supreme headquarters with Wehrmacht units in the days when the Third Reich had stretched from the Volga to the Pyrenees and from the North Cape to the Sahara. Apart from the caretaker, the only defenders left were four soldiers. Three of them had surrendered immediately. The fourth could not because he was dead drunk.
A telephone suddenly rang. One of the Russian soldiers answered it. The caller was evidently a senior German officer asking what was happening. 'Ivan is here,' the soldier replied in Russian, and told him to go to hell.

The two Maybach bunkers were destroyed by 1946, but the Zeppelin communications center was retained, albeit empty of equipment. In the 1950s, new construction reactivated the surviving Zossen bunkers and by 1960 fear of a missile-based European war led to re-equipping of the Zeppelin bunker area as a communications center. It could be totally self-sufficient (including air circulation) for up to a month. At the height of the Cold War between 30,000 and 70,000 Russian soldiers and their dependents were based there in an extensive surface community. All of this was manned for more than three decades, ending only when Russian troops pulled out in 1994.

The long-time military zone was opened for civilian development after the Cold War, and scores of old barrack buildings have since been reconditioned into apartments. Tours are given in some of the surviving bunker sites, some of which retain their Soviet-era equipment.

Fischer, Jan Otakar. 2000. “Beating Swords into Suburbs in East Germany’s Bunker Capital.” New York Times, March 16, D1, D4.
Kampe, Hans-George. 1996. The Underground Military Command Bunkers of Zossen, Germany: History of Their Construction and Use by the Wehrmacht and Soviet Army, 1937–1994. Atglen, PA: Schiffer.




In 1940 the German Army started with a huge bunker complex, Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair), in the dark woods, east of Rastenburg (now Ketrzyn). Finally the whole complex measured 2.5 km from West to East and 1.5 km from North to South, which makes for a surface of about 3.5 square km, or in other words a complex of 350 ha.

We have projected the plan of this complex on a 1 : 25 000 map from 1938. The squares on the map are 1 x 1 km. The biggest bunker was the bunker where Hitler spent most of his time from September 1941 till November 20, 1944.

In one of the smaller buildings Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg tried to assassinate Hitler with a time-triggered bomb on July 20, 1944. Hitler survived and Colonel von Stauffenberg and accomplices were executed that same day in Berlin.

During the German retreat in January 1945, they attempted to blow up the bunkers, however the concrete was so strong that even today there is still a lot to be seen on the site.

The remains of the complex are located in Poland at the hamlet of Gierłoż (German: Forst Görlitz) nearKętrzyn (German: Rastenburg), although at the time of operation this area was part of the German province of East Prussia, the southern part of which was assigned to the People's Republic of Poland after 1945. It consisted of a group of bunkers and fortified buildings in a thickly wooded area, surrounded by several rings of barbed wire and defensive positions. The complex was served by a nearby airfield. It was built for the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, codenamed 'Operation Barbarossa' (22 June 1941), and abandoned on 25 January 1945 as the Soviet army front line troops approached Wegorzewo (German: Angerburg) located only 15 km away. Hitler arrived on the night of 21 June 1941, and departed for the last time on 20 November 1944. He spent over 800 days there, off and on, during World War II.

The original bunker system was constructed by Organisation Todt, but the enlargement of Wolfsschanze was never finished; the expansion work was stopped only a few days before the Russian advance to Wegorzewo pressured German forces to blow up the entire Wolfsschanze bunker complex just prior to the Wehrmacht retreat westward.

The Wolfsschanze was the location of the failed assassination attempt on Hitler which was carried out byClaus von Stauffenberg on 20 July 1944.

The whole complex was severely damaged by the demolitions carried out during the German retreat because Hitler thought it was too valuable to allow the Soviets to use. Clearance of the large minefields around the site set up by the Germans was carried out from 1945 to 1956 by the Polish Army. Today the complex is a museum, open all year long. Despite the damage, the site remains to this day a notable tourist attraction. A monument to the July 20 plotters can also be found on the site.




In his post-war memoirs, Speer explains further the character of especially the dome.

This structure, the greatest assembly hall in the world ever conceived up to that time, consisted of one vast hall that could hold between one hundred fifty and one hundred eighty thousand persons standing. In spite of Hitler’s negative attitude toward Himmler’s and Rosenberg’s mystical notions, the hall was essentially a place of worship. The idea was that over the course of centuries, by tradition and venerability, it would acquire an importance similar to that St Peter’s in Rome has for Catholic Christendom. Without some such essentially pseudoreligious background the expenditure for Hitler’s central building would have been pointless and incomprehensible.

The round interior was to have the almost inconceivable diameter of eight hundred and twenty-five feet. The huge dome was to begin its slightly parabolic curve at a height of three hundred and twenty-three feet and rise to a height of seven hundred twenty-six feet.

In a sense the Pantheon in Rome had served as our model. The Berlin dome was also to contain a round opening for light, but this opening alone would be one hundred and fifty-two feet in diameter, larger than the entire dome of the Pantheon (142 feet) and of St Peter’s (145 feet). The interior would contain sixteen times the volume of St Peter’s.

The interior appointments were to be as simple as possible. Circling an area four hundred and sixty-two feet in diameter, a three-tier gallery rose to a height of one hundred feet. A circle of one hundred rectangular marble pillars – still almost on a human scale, for they were only eighty feet high – was broken by a recess opposite the entrance. This recess was one hundred and sixty-five feet high and ninety-two feet wide, and was to be clad at the rear in gold mosaic. In front of it, on a marble pedestal forty-six feet in height, perched the hall’s single sculptural feature: a gilded German eagle with a swastika in its claws. This symbol of sovereignty might be said to be the very fountainhead of Hitler’s grand boulevard. Beneath this symbol would be the podium for the Leader of the nation; from this spot he would deliver his messages to the peoples of his future empire. I tried to give this spot suitable emphasis, but here the fatal flaw of architecture that has lost all sense of proportion was revealed. Under that vast dome Hitler dwindled to an optical zero.

From the outside the dome would have loomed against the sky like some green copper mountain, for it was to be roofed with patinated plates of copper. At its peak we planned a skylight turret one hundred and thirty-two feet high, of the lightest possible metal construction. The turret would be crowned by an eagle with a swastika.

Optically, the mass of the dome was to have been set off by a series of pillars sixty-six feet high. I thought this effect would bring things back to scale – undoubtedly a vain hope. The mountainous dome rested upon a granite edifice two hundred and forty-four feet high with sides ten hundred and forty feet long. A delicate frieze, four clustered, fluted pillars on each of the four corners, and a colonnade along the front facing the square were to dramatize the size of the enormous cube. Hitler had already decided on the subjects of these sculptures when we were preparing our first sketches of the building. One would represent Atlas bearing the vault of the heavens, the other Tellus supporting the globe of the world. The spheres representing sky and earth were to be enamel coated with constellations and continents traced in gold.

The volume of this structure amounted to almost 27.5 million cubic yards; the Capitol in Washington would have been contained many times in such a mass. These were dimensions of an inflationary sort.

Yet the hall was by no means an insane project which could in fact never be executed. . . . As early as 1939 many old buildings in the vicinity of the Reichstag were razed to make room for our Great Hall and the other buildings that were to surround the future Adolf Hitler Platz. The character of the underlying soil was studied. Detail drawings were prepared and models built. Millions of marks were spent on granite for the exterior. Nor were the purchases confined to Germany. Despite the shortage of foreign exchange, Hitler had orders placed with quarries in southern Sweden and Finland. Like all the other edifices on Hitler’s long grand boulevard, the great hall was also scheduled to be completed in eleven years, by 1950. Since the hall would take longer to build than all the rest, the ceremonial cornerstone laying was set for 1940.

Technically, there was no special problem in constructing a dome over eight hundred feet in diameter.

Source: Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 1971, pp. 222–4

The project underlines an adolescent feature of Hitler’s approach to architecture: whatever he designed had to be gigantic. His boulevard had to be wider than its counterpart in Paris. In Linz he wanted to extend a stone frieze to make it the longest in Europe. The same city’s redesigned bridge had to rise 270 ft above the Danube – making it unrivalled in the world (Fest, 1973, p. 526). The Reich Chancellery was to have a corridor running from the main entrance to his study over a quarter of a mile long. Hitler wanted a visitor to feel he was ‘visiting the master of the world’ (Trevor-Roper, 1961, pp. 103–4). Even in his mountain retreat, the Berghof, he had to incorporate the largest lowerable window in existence. According to one commentator, this emphasis on scale covered up amateurish and unsatisfactory characteristics in the conception which stood behind many of the undertakings (Fest, 1973, p. 531). But what would it have been like to arrive in a capital city planned according to this way of thinking?


Hitler’s favourite project was our model city, which was set up in the former exhibition rooms of the Berlin Academy of Arts. In order to reach it undisturbed, he had doors installed in the walls between the Chancellery and our building and a communicating path laid out. Sometimes he invited the supper guests to our studio. We would set out armed with flashlights and keys. In the empty halls spotlights illuminated the models. There was no need for me to do the talking, for Hitler, with flashing eyes, explained every single detail to his companions.

There was keen excitement when a new model was set up and illuminated by brilliant spots from the direction in which the sun would fall on the actual buildings. Most of these models were made on a scale of 1:50; cabinetmakers reproduced every small detail, and the wood was painted to simulate the materials that would actually be used. In this way whole sections of the grand new avenue were gradually put together, and we could have a three-dimensional impression of the building intended to be a reality in a decade. The model street went on for about a hundred feet through the former exhibition rooms of the Academy of Arts.

Hitler was particularly excited over a large model of the grand boulevard on a scale of 1:1000. He loved to ‘enter his avenue’ at various points and take measure of the future effect. For example, he assumed the point of view of a traveler emerging from the south station or admired the great hall as it looked from the heart of the avenue. To do so, he bent down, almost kneeling, his eye an inch or so above the level of the model, in order to have the fight perspective, and while looking he spoke with unusual vivacity. These were the rare times when he relinquished his usual stiffness. In no other situation did I see him so lively, so spontaneous, so relaxed, whereas I myself, often tired and even after years never free of a trace of respectful constraint, usually remained taciturn. One of my close associates summed up the character of this remarkable relationship: ‘Do you know what you are? You are Hitler’s unrequited love!’

These rooms were kept under careful guard and no one was allowed to inspect the grand plan for the rebuilding of Berlin without Hitler’s express permission.

Source: Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 1971, pp. 195–7


A model of the triumphal arch

Vienna captivated Hitler, and soon he was planning to redevelop this city, just as he had done Linz. He spent hours in the public library working on street patterns. His travails were haphazard. Dozens of plans were begun, but none ever finished. After drafting out ideas for one project, he would divert his attention to the next. Most of his time went on designs for monumental buildings (Smith, 1979, pp. 118–19). Despite all his shortcomings, he brought a strange kind of dedication to his task. On one occasion he decided to redevelop whole working class areas of the capital. He told Kubizek he would be away for three days, and was. It seems he left the city, just to walk back to its centre to gain an idea of the way its land was used. Then he planned out simple workers’ flats (including space for baths – an innovation at the time) and drew pictures of low-rise, light and airy homes which would be surrounded by trees and gardens, and hold between four and sixteen families. They would be served by an extensive railway network and replace the dingy tenements of the time (Kubizek, 1955, pp. 168–70).

Hitler regarded architecture as the highest form of art; through stone monuments he believed a nation could express its most essential values. Imposing buildings, triumphal arches, impressive housing projects – they all displayed the splendour and power of the state. In this quest for lasting glory, ‘Hitler the child’ was truly ‘father to the man’. What is more, there was distinct continuity between his conceptions and their achievement. The case of Linz has already been mentioned, but other ideas Hitler coined, especially during the 1920s, also became reality during the 1930s. Drawings completed in the mid-1920s, were handed to the chief architect of the Third Reich, Albert Speer, a decade later as the basis for monumental public buildings for Berlin, Linz and Nuremberg (Speer, 1971, pp. 120–4). In 1927 Hitler sketched out a plan for the complete redevelopment of central Munich (Strasser, 1969, p. 72). Ten years later this became atask of state. In 1929 he declared his same intent for Berlin (Thies, 1976, p. 38). In January 1937 he appointed Speer ‘General Building Inspector for the Transformation of the Capital of the Reich’. In 1929 Hitler declared Germany needed community focal points to last millennia and that his victories would require eternal memorials (Thies, 1976, p. 38). In the 1930s he initiated their planning and construction. This continuity of ideas needs to be integral to our understanding of Hitler’s life.

Hitler had dealings with architects like Paul Ludwig Troost (whom he commissioned to renovate the Brown House and design the ‘House of German Art’), Albert Speer and Hermann Giesler (Weissmann, 1997, p. 183). He showed himself constitutionally well-equipped for the task. He had the imagination necessary to grasp sketches quickly and could turn plans into three-dimensional conceptions (Speer, 1971, p. 128). In fact, he loved studying Speer’s architectural drawings and would do so until two or three o’clock in the morning. Once serious plans were begun for the reconstruction of Berlin and Linz, scale models had to be made. These included a thirteen-foot-high model of a victory arch for the capital which in reality was to be 400 ft. high (Speer, 1971, p. 218). As late as April 1945, with the Russians at the ‘city gates’, he still took visitors to inspect the models (Zoller, 1949, p. 57). They simply transfixed Hitler, as Albert Speer relates in memoirs written after the war.


An intimate relationship existed between Hitler’s architectural and political visions. Berlin was to be renamed ‘Germania’, expanded to accommodate 10 million people and become the capital of a German-dominated Europe stretching from Ireland to the Urals (Thies, 1976, p. 82; Taylor, 1974, p. 46). He said it was his ‘unalterable will and determination to provide Berlin with those streets, buildings and public squares which will make it appear for all time fit and worthy to be the capital of the German Reich’, a ‘millennial city’ (Taylor, 1974, p. 46). It was to become a Mecca, a centre of pilgrimage for the Aryan race (Teut, 1967, p. 7). It was to rival the capital of ancient empires; as Hitler put it, ‘without the city of Rome, there would never have been a Roman empire’ (Lane, 1985, p. 189; Domarus, 1992, pp. 984–5). With Speer appointed head of the redevelopment project, in 1938 ground began to be bought up, demolition programmes were begun and barracks were constructed to house the tens of thousands of workers required by the massive work on the capital (Thies, 1976, p. 96). The timescale foresaw work continuing until 1950 (Maser, 1974, p. 126). So determined was Hitler that his phenomenal plans should be realised that he banned Speer from costing any of the projects (Weissmann, 1997, p. 184). Money was no object.

How was the Reich capital expected to turn out? According to Speer writing in 1939, it was to be based on ideas which had existed in Hitler’s mind for ‘many years’. With Berlin the focus of 3,000 km of motorways spread around the empire, it was to be constructed around two axes able to accommodate traffic from ‘the four corners of the earth’. The axes were to run north–south and east–west, beginning and ending at a ring road, and would necessitate ‘a completely new layout in the heart of the city’. The north–south axis would be a totally new road measuring 38.5 km. Its central section would run between the two main railway stations and on it would be built ‘the largest and most representative buildings of the German Reich’. At the intersection of the axes would be ‘Berlin’s greatest construction’, namely ‘the Great Hall of the German People’ (Speer, 1939).

Speer’s post-war memoirs flesh out these impressions. In Summer 1936 Hitler handed him a set of architectural sketches with the words, ‘I made these drawings ten years ago. I’ve always saved them, because I never doubted that some day I would build these two edifices.’ At issue were a domed structure (the Great Hall) and a triumphal arch of massive proportions standing at opposite ends of an avenue which would be 70 ft wider than the Champs Elysées – i.e. some 400 ft in total width – and 3 miles long. More amazing still, the diameter of the dome in question was to be 825 ft, and it would be mounted on a hall able to hold 150,000 people. In all, the building would be 725 ft high (Maser, 1974, p. 120). The triumphal arch was to be 400 ft high, granite, and carved with the names of the 1,800,000 German casualties of the First World War. Quite rightly Speer remembered being staggered not just by the proportions of the projects, but also that Hitler had conceived them at a time when their completion was purely a ‘pipe dream’ (that is to say, the mid- 1920s). He had stuck to the fantasies obsessively (Speer, 1971, pp. 120–4).

The new buildings were to embody the principles of heavily omamented classical architecture. There would be plenty of domes, columns and colonnades decorated with porticoes, heavy cornices, stone window casings, enormous piers and recessed arches (Speer, 1976, p. 112).