Background: There are a number of illustrated books like this published during the Nazi era. They were large books in which one pasted photographs received as premiums. My copy of this one brought the number of copies in print to 2,450,000. This essay by Hitler’s architect Albert Speer discusses the Führer’s passion for buildings. The pictures accompanying the chapter are available on a separate page.
The source: Albert Speer, “Die Bauten des Führers,” Adolf Hitler. Bilder aus dem Leben des Führers(Hamburg: Cigaretten/Bilderdienst Hamburg/Bahrenfeld, 1936, pp. 72-77
by Albert Speer
Heads of state have often encouraged the arts, and in particular the building arts. The Rococo princes of the eighteenth century built impressive palaces and gardens, giving architects of that day the chance to exercise their creativity.
The Führer, too, is a head of state who builds, but in an entirely different sense. His major buildings that are beginning to appear in many cities are an expression of the essence of the movement. They are intended to endure for millennia and are part of the movement itself. The Führer created this movement, came to power because of its strength, and even today determines the smallest details of its structure. He does not build in the manner of earlier heads of state who were prosperous contract-givers or patrons; he must build as a National Socialist. Just as he determines the will and nature of the movement, so also he determines the simplicity and purity of its buildings, their strength of expression, the clarity of the thinking, the quality of the material, and most importantly, the new inner meaning and content of his buildings.
Building is not merely a way of passing time for the Führer, but rather a serious way of giving expression in stone to the will of the National Socialist movement.
It is unique in German history that at decisive moments the Führer concerned himself not only with the larger questions relating to the worldview and politics of the new era, but simultaneously and with the knowledge of an expert began to build monuments in stone that will express his political will and cultural ability in the coming millennia.
After long centuries of confusion, these buildings express a clarity and strength that will result in an entirely new style of architecture.
From his youth, the Führer was as interested in questions of architecture as of social policy, as a passage he wrote in 1924 in Mein Kampf shows:
As my interest in social issues developed, I began to study thoroughly. It was a new and previously unknown world for me. It was natural that I also followed my passion for architecture. Next to music, it seemed to me the queen of the arts. Working to understand it was not “work” for me, rather a great pleasure. I could read or draw until late into the night without ever becoming weary. My faith increased that after many years my dreams would become reality. I was firmly convinced that I would win fame as a builder.
He explains in Mein Kampf how important these impressions of his years in Vienna were:
During this period I developed a picture of the world and a world view that became the granite foundation of my actions. I have needed to make only a few additions to the views I formed then, but no changes.
The opposite, in fact.
I believe today that the general outline of a person’s thinking is determined in his youth, as far as such thinking ever develops.
The Führer never gave up his youthful love for the building arts. War and revolution, however, so shook the governmental and national life of Germany that Hitler, who had become increasingly concerned with political questions as a soldier, decided to become a politician.
He said: “Would it not be ridiculous to build houses under such circumstances?”
He was completely serious about becoming a politician, but it was a difficult decision to leave the architecture he loved. He remained true to it, and continued thinking about it. Today, too, it remains his great love.
In the first exciting years of his political struggle, he was as interested in the symbolic expressions of the movement as in its structure. He developed the swastika flag — and thereby the national flag of the German people. He developed the party’s eagle symbol — and thereby the symbol of the Third Reich. He proposed the symbols of the SA and the SS, and developed the original format of his numerous mass meetings. He also laid out the ideas that today guide the construction of all the buildings at the Reich Party Rally grounds in Nuremberg.
Through numerous discussions, he laid out not only the broad outlines of the party rallies, but also spent hours developing the precise guidelines for the appearance of the individual formations of the party, for the parades with flags and the decorations of individual pillars. People in Nuremberg even today preserve the Führer’s sketches and drawings from this period.
In times of tension when he devotes his full energy to his great goals, time spent with the arts is not “work,” but “delight.”
At the proper time, fate introduced him to Paul Ludwig Troost, with whom a close friendship soon developed. Professor Troost had an architectural impact on him similar to the influence Dietrich Eckart had on his political thinking.
The first building that these two men worked on was also the first and still small building of the movement, the Brown House on Brienner Street in Munich. It was only a matter of remodeling, though as the Führer often said later, it was a major endeavor for the party at the time.
One can already see here the characteristics of the buildings that followed after the seizure of power: austere and plain, but never monotonous. It was simple and clear, with no false decoration. Decorations were few, but each was in its proper place. The material, form, and lines were elegant.
The plans for the remodeling came from the Professor Troost’s same simple studio on a back street in Munich, from which plans later came for the Königsplatz in Munich, the Museum of German Art, and many of the Führer’s other buildings. The Führer never reviewed the plans for these important buildings in his office.
For years he visited Professor Troost in his free time. There, free from his political duties, he was able to submerge himself fully in the plans. The Führer was interested not only in the general plans, but also in every detail, every material used, and much was improved as the result of his suggestions. The Führer has often said that these hours of common planning were his happiest hours and gave him the deepest satisfaction. They gave him new strength for his other plans. Here he had the chance to devote himself to his buildings in the few free hours that his political duties left him.
In the years before the takeover, Hitler discussed the buildings he planned to build with Troost. During the winter of 1931/32, they discussed the future work on Munich’s Königsplatz, resulting in many beautiful proposals. Before the takeover of power, the final layout of the square had been decided.
The Glass Palace burned down in Munich in 1932. In the midst of all his other concerns, the Führer had to worry about the then government’s bland proposal to replace it, a plan that was begun before he took power. When one compares the original model with that of Troost’s current Museum of German Art, one sees more clearly than anywhere else how the ideas of the Führer influence his buildings.
Until his death, Paul Ludwig Troost was the Führer’s irreplaceable architect. Troost understood how to give his ideas the proper architectural form.
In his major speech at the cultural session of the at the 1935 Reich Party Rally, the Führer gave Professor Troost the highest praise a contemporary architect could receive:
We should be filled with pride that the greatest German architect since Schinkel has built his first and unfortunately only monuments for the new Reich and for Germany. They will stand as stone memorials of a noble and truly Germanic architecture.
It gives the Führer pleasure to see the plans for a building, but it is as great a joy to see the buildings going up.
When he visits the site of a building project, accompanied often by only a few aides, he is a complete expert. His technical questions about the foundation, the strength of the walls, and construction difficulties are clear and always address the unsolved problems. After the experts have doubted that a solution to a problem can be found, he often makes a proposal, though unlike anything else, always proves a clear and easy solution.
Each new step, each new detail in a building wins his thorough attention and approval. In all his pleasure in the details, he never forgets the overall characteristics that all his buildings display.
The Führer’s buildings use hand-hewn natural stone. Natural stone and Nordic bricks are our most durable building materials. Although they are more expensive in the short term, in the long term they are the most economical. Durability is always the most important principle. The buildings of our Führer will speak of the greatness of our age to future millennia. As the eternal buildings of the movement rise in the various cities of Germany, they will be buildings of which people can be proud. They will know that these buildings belong to everyone, and therefore to each individual. The Führer’s buildings will determine a city’s nature, not department stores, administrative buildings, banks, and corporations.
The Führer had this to say about the cities of the past and future:
In the 19th century our cities began to lose the character of cultural centers and became simply human settlements.
When Munich was a city of 60,000, it wanted to be one of the major German centers of culture. Today nearly every industrial city claims this honor, usually without being able to show any significant accomplishments of its own. They are nothing more than collections of houses and apartment buildings. How can such an insignificant place have any appeal? No one will have particular loyalty to a city that lacks any individuality at all, that avoids anything resembling art.
Even the big cities are becoming poorer in real works of art even as they increase in population.
The modern era has done nothing to increase the cultural level of our big cities. All the glory and treasures of our cities are the inheritance of the past.
Our big cities today have no towering monuments that dominate the area and that are symbols of their era. The cities of antiquity were different. Each has a particular monument in which it took pride. The character of the cities of antiquity came not from private buildings, rather from the community’s buildings which were constructed not for their age, but for eternity. They reflected not the wealth of a single owner, but the greatness and significance of the community.
The Germanic Middle Ages exemplified the same principle, though in a different artistic form. The Gothic cathedral fulfilled the same purpose as the Acropolis or the Pantheon.
If Berlin were to suffer the fate of Rome, posterity would think the characteristic expressions of our culture to be the department stores of some Jews or the hotels of some businessmen.
Our cities today lack a towering symbol of the community, and one cannot therefore be surprised that one’s own city also lacks such a symbol.
One has to see the Führer’s major buildings at the Königsplatz, the Museum of German Art in Munich, and the party rally buildings in Nuremberg from this perspective. They are a beginning, but an important one. In the housing projects of the Führer, too, we are at the beginning of new developments.
It is natural that one first thinks of the big projects when one considers the Führer’s building projects.
But one must know that these projects do not exhaust the Führer’s activities.
The very opposite.
We know from his speeches the importance Hitler puts on improving the social conditions of every German such that they will be able to take pride in the community’s larger accomplishments. The Führer made clear the importance of housing in Mein Kampf. He wrote:
I learned quickly what I had previously not understood: The nationalization of a people requires the creation of healthy social conditions as a foundation for the individual’s education.
Official statistics show the increase in new and remodeled dwellings in the Reich:
These figures show more plainly than words the rise in good housing under the Führer’s government. This trend will continue and increase significantly once “the projects necessary for our security have been completed, buildings that are necessary and which cannot be postponed.”
Then the monuments of National Socialism will tower like the cathedrals of the Middle Ages over healthy workers’ apartments and new factories
The tasks before us are immense, but the Führer gave us all courage though his words at the cultural session of the Reich party rally:
Men will rise to such great tasks. We have no right to doubt that if the Almighty gives us the courage to strive for immortality, he will also give our people the strength to create for eternity.
[Page copyright © 1998 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]
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