Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds
To this day, in Nuremberg's southern districts, the remains of the buildings on the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds with their immense proportions are a vivid testimony to the megalomania of the National Socialist regime. This area of eleven square kilometres was intended as an impressive backdrop for the Nazi party rallies staged here to demonstrate their power. The former Nazi Party Rally Grounds are an historical site unlike any other memorial site in Germany.
In contrast to the memorial sites within former concentration camps, prisons, etc., reminding us of NS terror and, in turn, of the victims of that tyranny, the area in the southeast district of Nuremberg is a site that was directed at the taking in of an entire people. This is where the Nazi movement celebrated itself, presenting an appealing but false picture of their regime to the world. As they openly geared people to war, they sowed the seed that would yield a hideous harvest in the above-named sites.
The historical magnitude of this site makes it imperative that it be presented and evaluated with utmost rigour and clarity. Finally, a long time after the end of the war, since 2001 a modern and comprehensive source of information is now available to the public in the form of the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds.
Nuremberg - "City of the Nazi Party Rallies"
Nuremberg had already been a "place of tradition" for the National Socialist movement during the Weimar Republic. In 1923, the Nazis and other extreme right-wing groups had met here for the "German Day". In 1927 and 1929, the National Socialists staged their so-called Reichsparteitage (Reich Party Rallies) in Luitpold Grove for the first time. The war memorial honouring the Fallen of World War I, which was completed in 1929, served as a backdrop for ceremonies honouring Nazi party followers.
In 1933, Nuremberg was officially appointed "City of the Nazi Party Rallies" by the National Socialists. In this way they sought to forge links between the Nazi movement and Nuremberg's great past as imperial city, the glorious visits by the emperors and the mediaeval Imperial Diets.
The National Socialists' party rallies were held here every September, up until 1938. They lasted a week and drew as many as one million people to Nuremberg from all over Germany. The central events comprised numerous roll calls in the presence of Adolf Hitler as well as mass parades of all significant organisations of the Nazi state, both on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds and in the Old Town.
During the 1935 Party Rally, the Nazi rulers proclaimed the anti-Semitic "Nuremberg Laws", a decisive step towards the persecution of the Jewish population which eventually led to the Holocaust.
The Nazi Party Rally Grounds
The Nazi Party Rally Grounds - as a total entity and as individual buildings - were intended to demonstrate National Socialist power to the world without and to those within. With their gigantic dimensions, the grounds and the architecture were meant to suggest to the individual visitor to the Nazi Party Rallies that he was participating in something major and significant, while at the same time conveying the impression of his own insignificance.
All the buildings moreover glorified the two central myths of the Third Reich: the Führer
myth, who was seen to be sent by Providence as a national saviour, and the myth of a Volksgemeinschaft, a national community founded upon collective uplifting experiences and feelings. The sophisticated use of lighting effects further augmented the architectural message of the Party Rally buildings. At night, lighting effects, in particular the presentation of the "cathedral of light", were intended to lend the architecture an appearance of solemnity and to imbue the entire scene with a sacred atmosphere.
The Nazi Party Rally Grounds were part of a major NS construction programme for the entire Reich
. Hitler himself, as the self-appointed "Supreme Master Builder" of Germany, repeatedly exercised his influence on how that programme was actually implemented. More than 280 firms provided natural stone for the planned buildings on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Included amongst them as of 1940 were also the SS-owned Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH (DEST, German Excavation and Quarrying Works). Concentration camps such as Flossenbürg, Mauthausen, Groß-Rosen, and Natzweiler-Struthof were set up near stone quarries. There and in the affiliated stonemasons' firms, the DEST mercilessly exploited the labour of the prisoners.
Since May 2006, a comprehensive information system (German/ English) located at various points throughout the Nazi Party Rally Grounds offers all visitors the opportunity of an in-depth look at the Nazi Party Rallies on the spot.
The Permanent Exhibition "Fascination and Terror"
On 1,300 square meters, the permanent exhibition "Fascination and Terror" in the Documentation Centre looks at the causes, the context and the consequences of the National Socialist reign of terror. It describes the Nazi Party Rallies and explains the fascination they exercised upon participants and visitors. A further goal is a frank presentation of the violent consequences that ensued for the population. The events that are inseparably linked with the name of the City of Nuremberg and the NS period are also explained: the activities of Julius Streicher, the editor of the anti-Semitic rabble-rousing weekly Der Stürmer
(The Storm Trooper), the proclamation of the so-called "Nuremberg Laws" in 1935, as well as the Nuremberg Trials after the end of World War II. The exhibition concludes with a problem that has been with us since 1945, namely how we should be dealing with this legacy in stone left to us at the Party Rally Grounds by the National Socialists.
Every visitor will receive an audio guide that allows the exhibition to explain itself (English, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Polish). The exhibition is presented in narrative form. Use is made of classical exhibition methods, as well as of modern forms of presentation. Five films newly created for the Documentation Centre are essential elements on the route through the exhibition. Easy-to-use electronic display stations on various topics offer a wealth of informative pictorial material. Eyewitness interviews which were especially filmed are aimed at making history much more amenable, particularly for the younger generation.
Since 2004, additional areas have been available for temporary exhibitions. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the affiliated Education Forum is of essential importance for the Documentation Centre's educational work.