Nuremberg struggles with its past concerning the Nazi Party Rallies. In 1927, 1929 and from 1933 to 1938 the Nazis held their party rallies in Nuremberg, which attracted more than 1 million Germans. Today, not much remains of this history. But what is left standing is in poor condition and in need of refurbishment. And yet this is leading to great controversy within the city administration. What is this controversy about? And what can you expect if you visit the 23 sites of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds yourself? If you are interested in the past of this area of Nuremberg be sure to read on….
A dilemma! To refurbish or to dilapidate?
In 2001, the city council of Nuremberg decided to put a museum in the old congress hall. This museum is now called the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände. It was the first time that the city government wanted to create historical awareness about the events before World War II in Nuremberg. That awareness was further expanded when Nuremberg was one of the playing cities for the 2006 World Cup in Germany in 2006. The city council therefore decided to place signs at 23 former sites where the Nazis celebrated their party days. And then it remained silent…
In 2018, the German government decided to provide 42 million euros to save the complex from further decay. Thank goodness, because anyone who has been there can see that it is badly needed. It is not being reconstructed or renovated, but rather made more accessible to people. The city council wants to prevent it from becoming a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis. Nuremberg and the state of Bavaria are putting the remaining 42 million euros on the table. Within 8 years the project must be completed.
Nazi party rallies, the racial laws and the Nuremberg trial
uremberg has a dark past as one of the most important cities for the Nazis. Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) chose Nuremberg as the “City of Reich Party Days” in 1927. Then it was held on one day, when Hitler was in power in 1933 it was chosen for a whole week in September. In 1938 were the last Nazi Party Days, the following year war broke out with France and England on September 2, 1939.
But Nuremberg is also known for the Racial Laws. These were introduced on September 15, 1935 and determined, among other things, who was considered a German and who was not. Furthermore, the Racial Laws also prohibited relationships between non-Jewish Germans and Jews. It was the main signal that the Nazis were in the process of expelling all non-Aryan people from Germany. Something that later culminated in the total annihilation of non-Aryan people.
Finally, Nuremberg was chosen as the place where Nazi leaders were to receive their trials after the war. This city was chosen because the Palace of Justice was still intact and was one of the few buildings in Germany that could house all the judges, translators and other staff. In the end, of the 24 leaders, 12 received the death penalty, 3 were acquitted and the rest received prison sentences.
The Nazi Party Rally Grounds: The 5 most interesting attractions
Are you considering a visit to the Nazi Party Rally Grounds? In principle, you can already spend a whole day here. The former site of the Nazi party days is now a park where young and old come together to ‘chill’ or play sports. There is not much left standing of the buildings that chief architect Albert Speer (1905-1981), in consultation with other architects, had to build to embody the greatness of Germany at that time. But what does still stand is too interesting in terms of history not to skip. Of the 23 sites, you absolutely should not skip these 5 parts.
1. Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände
The beginning of the exploration of the former site begins at the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände. In this museum you will find all information about the Nazi party days in sound and vision. It is therefore highly recommended to start here. The museum costs about 6 euros and you get a free audio guide. If you really want to know everything you are sure to spend 3 hours in this museum.
The Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände is located in the largest Nazi building still standing. This building was supposed to be a congress hall with 50,000 inhabitants. It was never finished, but the outer walls are still standing. And that still looks quite like a large arena from the Roman Empire (see header photo). At the end of your tour of the museum, you’ll arrive at a lookout point with a view of the inside of this building.
2. The congress hall
As mentioned, the skeleton of what was once a congress hall is the largest Nazi building still standing. Part of it is used for the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände, the rest… is used as a landfill? It’s not that bad, but those who walk around quickly notice that no repairs are being made.
The congress hall was to accommodate about 50,000 visitors. Characteristic are the large columns that are supposed to refer to the grandeur of the Roman Empire. By the way, the congress hall was not designed by Adolf Hitler’s chief architect, Albert Speer, but by Ludwig Ruff (1878-1934).
3. The Nazi Party Rallies at the Zeppelinfeld
The Zeppelinfeld was used for the Wehrmacht and various sections of the NSDAP. It is about 300 by 300 meters in size and could accommodate 320,000 people. The grandstands, which are also still partially standing offered space for 70,000 people. Part of the Zeppelinfeld is used today as a soccer field. It is not permitted to visit the surrounding stands.
The zeppelin grandstand was stripped of all Nazi symbolism by the Allies in 1945. Below the zeppelin grandstand is the “golden hall“. This hall is 335 meters long, 8 meters high and decorated with marble, gold and mosaic. Unfortunately, the golden hall can only be visited with a guided tour.
4. The great street of the Reichsparteitagsgelände
The great street was 2 kilometers long and 40 meters wide. This is where the big parades were held and of course a lot of space was needed for that. But it was also the main road of the Reichsparteitagsgelände. After all, all the buildings stood around it. Part of the great street is used today as a parking lot for the trade fair which lies south of the great street.
5. Luitpoldhain and monument of the First World War
The Luitpoldarena is also a large area for more than 100,000 people. Here the parades of the SS (Schutzstaffel) and the SA (Sturmabteilung) were held. Today there is nothing to be seen of the Luitpoldarena and it has been laid out as a park. Next to the arena was the Luitpoldhalle where speeches were held by Nazi leaders. This hall was completely destroyed by the Allies. Today it is a parking lot.
At the Luitpoldarena there was and still is a memorial to the victims of World War I, the Ehrenhalle. During the Nazi party days, these victims were honored. Adolf Hitler liked to refer to these “heroes. After World War II, the monument was modified by the Nuremberg City Council. The victims of World War II are also remembered at this monument.
Triumph des Willens: Film full of propaganda or an objective picture of the Nazi Party Rallies?
Those who want to know more at home can watch the film Triumph des Willens online. It was made in 1935 by the director Leni Riefenstahl (1902-2003). In about 90 minutes you get a good picture of how the Nazi party days went. For a long time the film could be seen online via youtube, but can now only be viewed via the website dailymotion.com. A 15-minute excerpt can also be seen in the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände.
Leni Riefenstahl made the film at the behest of Adolf Hitler. According to her, the intention was to give a neutral picture of how the Nazi party meetings went. But anyone who has seen the film cannot deny that the film is more a propaganda film than an actual neutral picture of reality. But mostly judge for yourself…
Would you like to visit the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg?
If you want to visit the Reichsparteitagsgelände you should definitely not skip the above ‘sights’. On the website of the documentation center you will find a folder with all 23 sites of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds (in German Reichsparteitaggelände). You can also visit a barracks, some train stations and the site of the current FC stadium. Nürnberg stood a smaller stadium where Adolf Hitler regularly gave speeches.
The site of the Nazi Party Days is located about 4 kilometers southeast of downtown Nuremberg. It is best reached by streetcars 6 and 8.