Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Germania: Hitler's Big Plans for Berlin

Germaniamain.jpgOne of Hitler's favorite daydreams was a new, rechristened Berlin -- Welthauptstadt Germania, the worthy and illustrious capital of the One Thousand Year Reich. Together with pet architects like Albert Speer, the Führer liked to unwind from a hard day of military disaster on the Russian Front by plotting the lovely Germania, where everything was monumental, marble-plated, and situated on a boulevard at least a mile wide. Speer's office had a whole room given over to a scale model of the city of the future, which Hitler could access from the Chancellery gardens and pore over in private.

He instructed his designers to take their inspiration from the glory days of Rome, Athens, and Paris, and then to blow the proportions up to Valhalla-size. Money was no object, and the required labor force would solve unemployment. Swathes of tenements were marked for demolition to create a giant cross stamped on the heart of Berlin: east-west would follow the Strasse 17 Juni and Unter den Linden, north-south bisecting it somewhere in the Tiergarten. Work began in the 1930s, but pesky World War II got in the way, and Allied bombers took over demolition duty. Here are the high (or low) points of the monstrous metropolis that never was.

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