Nuremberg is a city in the German province of Bavaria, situated in the western side of the country, cerca 170km north of Munich. It is an infamous city for all the wrong reasons, for it was there that Adolf Hitler held his Nuremberg Rallies. These were major components of Hitler’s propaganda machine, designed and perfected by his Minister for Propaganda and Enlightenment, Joseph Goebbels. The sole intention for these Rallies was to win over and brainwash the minds of the people so that Hitler would have complete support in what actions he took. In his autobiography, “Mein Kampf” he outlined that he intends to “use democracy to destroy democracy”. At the time, to attend one of these Rallies was the highlight of the calendar year for citizens and soldiers alike, for some the highlight of a lifetime.
The spectacle of seeing hundreds of thousands of soldiers, military vehicles such as tanks, jeeps, planes, and even blimps, all in choreographed formations must have been cemented in the minds of onlookers. The rallies were designed to instil national pride in attendees. They were to show off the military strength of the nation, how powerful they had become since the draconian Treaty of Versailles in the eyes of the German population, post-World War I. Concessions such as limiting the military size to 100,000, not allowed have an air force or navy, and most damaging, having to repay the cost of the war to the Allied victors through reparations which destroyed the German economy. To the lay spectator, the full might of the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and all arms of the Third Reich were on display.
Grand structures designed by Albert Speer, such as the Zeplin Field, Kongresshalle and Luitpoldarena to name only but a few, were gigantic pieces of concrete. The sheer size of the buildings and courtyards where soldiers stood to attention as Nazi leaders spoke and gave their speeches was never seen in the world before. It was an engineering marvel, almost metaphoric. The sight of the architecture echoes the power the nation had gained.
Propaganda films such as, “Der Sieg des Glauben” by world renowned director, Leni Reifenstahl, were used to spread the impact the rallies had on the German populous beyond the individuals who were in attendance at the rallies. Journalists from all over the world made it their business to view the rallies in person and report it so their readers could see what the once defeated, ruined, and embarrassed nation that was Germany during the 1920s, had become a decade later.
The National Socialist German Workers Party held meetings, congresses and other gatherings at Nuremberg long before Hitler consolidated power in 1933 when he became Chancellor of the Reichstag and then “der Furher” when President Paul von Hindenburg died in 1934. The first party congress was held there in 1923 but was immeasurable in comparison to the effect of the later Rallies spanning from 1933-1939.
Nuremberg was the location where some of the most notorious, and heinous Nazi laws were passed. The 1935 Rally was when the laws that we now know as the “Nuremberg Laws” were revealed which made anti-Semitism not only legal but encouraged. It was at Nuremberg where the Nazis became infamous as it was here that the hatred and disdain for others was developed and presented to the people. The people became brainwashed by the likes of Hitler and Goebbels and were in awe of the military parades. German citizens completely fell for the trap laid by their leaders. The ideology that was spread in speeches said in Nuremberg should never be forgotten as if we forget, similar events may happen in the future.
Today, 81 years on from the last rally in 1939, the once invincible bastion for hate and suffering that was Nuremberg is crumbling due to erosion and decay throughout the years. The architecture has not been maintained to the extent that is necessary to keep it in the condition that it once stood. It has become an incredibly contentious subject in Germany. The questions, should we preserve this site to act as a reminder of what happened so that it does not happen again, or should we leave it be destroyed because it acts as a shrine and a beacon for Nazi-sympathisers and neo-Nazis have become incredibly hot-topics. There are two very differing spectrums on what this the correct way to handle this site.
Recently, the municipal government in Nuremberg has come to the decision to begin repairs to the once grand structurers. However, there is a gargantuan wave of dissent emanating from this. Many people believe that preserving a place that stood for nothing but the purpose of showing the strength of evil will only nurture evil. Others believe that we need sites like Nuremberg to learn, because it will dwell in individuals minds for generations. People will never forget who built it, what it was for and what happened there. They argue that it will serve the purpose of never leaving humanity forget what evil it is capable of.
There are rational arguments on both sides of the argument, both which have been debated upon in Germany for decades. It is a heavy subject, not one where a conclusion can be made lightly or swiftly. The Rallies and the site in the city were engineered to spread the word of hate and evil. As Nuremberg was a symbol for strength in 1939, it quickly became a site of justice in 1945/1946 following the Nuremberg Trials where Nazi war criminals who tried for war crimes.
It would seem logical to repair what damage has been caused over the years to the buildings so that in a somewhat ironic way, the citizens of the world who could have been living in Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” (which he announced in a speech at Nuremberg), will not forget it for thousands of years to come, as if we let it decay, so do the important lessons learned that can never be forgotten. However, on the other hand, if Nuremberg is to be preserved for many years, so too will the possibility of people of holding similar beliefs to those who spread them at Nuremberg. Only time will tell what the answer is to this astronomically difficult question.