There are several worthwhile museums in Nürnberg, but the outstanding one in my opinion is the Documentation Centre (Doku-Zentrum) on the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds.
This is an area on the outskirts of Nürnberg where the Nazi (National Socialist) party held huge propaganda rallies in 1927 and 1929, before they seized power, and also in the years 1933-38 when they were the sole ruling party of the country. Another rally with the cynical title "Party Rally of Peace" was scheduled for September 1939, but was cancelled at very short notice, presumably because the Nazis themselves started the Second World War by invading Poland on September 1st.
The Documentation Centre is located in the North Wing of a huge never-finished Nazi building called the Congress Hall, which was intended to hold 50,000 people.
Inside this old unfinished building, the present-day architect Günther Domenig has negated the old Nazi architecture by creating an impressive exhibition area made of steel and glass. According to the Visitors Guide, the original building "is pierced diagonally by a 130-meter glass walkway, a shaft thrust through its heart, permanently disabling this demonstration of power on the part of the National Socialists."
The permanent exhibition at the Documentation Centre is called "Fascination and Terror". It shows how the Nazi propaganda machine managed to fascinate at least some of the German people some of the time, and also shows the terror that was at the heart of the Nazi system right from the beginning.
The Congress Hall
Fascination and Terror
Admission to the Documentation Centre costs EUR 5.00 for adults or EUR 3.00 for those who get a reduction (prices as of 2013). An obligatory audio guide is included in the admission fee, and is available in German, English, French, Italian, Spanish and Russian.
The first thing you come upon when you enter the exhibition is a brilliant seven-minute introductory film with no words whatsoever, just scenes of a young 21st century couple on skateboards skating around this huge and now peaceful area. At various places, like when they skate around a corner or open up an unmarked door, bits of old black-and-white film footage are faded in to show what the Nazis were doing here at their rallies back in the 1930s.
In another room the most famous Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl, is shown on a screen in a dark alcove. This film was made at the Nazi Party Rally in 1934. To put it in context, a smaller video screen is clearly visible about a meter closer to the viewers, showing scenes of wartime violence and destruction, so no one will forget what the 1934 pageantry was leading up to.
If you are interested in the why’s and how’s of the Nazi Party during the Third Reich, then the Documentation Center is a must-see. There are many places in Germany in which you can explore the aftermath and affects of the Nazi philosophies, policies and atrocities, but the Documentation Center doesn’t deal with that part. Instead, it focuses on how the party came to be and the causes for the National Socialist’s rule of terror. Nürnberg is the ideal location for this type of museum because it was in Nürnberg that the Nazi Party chose to hold its annual rallies (at the nearby Party Rally Grounds). The Documentation Center itself is held in the unfinished yet still massive Kongresshalle (Congress Hall).
Using an audio guide, visitors are led through an in-depth look at the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party. This tour requires a lot of reading, watching of videos and an understanding of some of the history related to this part of history. I recommend that visitors do a little research before coming to the museum so they have foundation knowledge of what they are looking at. Also, I don’t recommend this museum for young children as there is little to hold their interest until they are old enough to really understand the content the museum deals with. We were there at least two hours and still had not seen it all before our attention span (and Hubby’s hunger) gave out on us.
Towards the end of the tour you can walk out onto a raised platform that overlooks the interior of the Kongresshalle. I do recommend you do this, along with a walking tour around the outside of the building for a good look at some remaining Third Reich architecture. At the end of the tour, the path brings visitors through what was to be one of the reception halls for dignitaries with massive columns supporting the ceilings.
Photographs are allowed in the Documentation Center (no flash) and there are lockers available so you don’t have to carry all your things around with you. Admission is €5/person and includes the audio guide.
The Documentation Center is not located near the old part of Nürnberg, so it is recommended that, depending on where you are staying, you take a bus to the museum. If possible, plan at least one day in the area of the Documentation Center, to include a walk over to the former Nazi Party Grounds and a stroll down the Grosse Strasse (Great Road). There is a lot to see in this very historical section of Nürnberg.
Writing about German war history is a very sensitive thing because you are writing about the history of the (fairly) recently vanquished. As my husband (German + a military historian by training + a published novelist of alternative German war history, which some might maintain is a 'triple whammy') reminds me, the victors (re)write history, so to document history from the perspective of the losers is a tricky task. Suffice to say, you don't have to be German to have committed war atrocities, and equally, even if you are of Allied stock, it doesn't render you immune from some of the immensely powerful lessons this museum has to teach people of every race, religion, gender and other persuasion.
The 'Documentation Centre' is a misleadingly dull name for what is in fact an absolutely fascinating museum that is undoubtedly the 'must see' in Nuernberg if you have even a passing interest in 20th century history (or, more prosaically, want a superb foul weather refuge).
The museum is housed in a section of what should have been the Kongresshalle for the Nazi Party. The architecture is stark and imposing, and sets the tone for what is a sobering exhibit (and is also atmospherically chilly in winter, and I suspect, even in summer, although that could also be due to the nature of the subject matter). As one would expect, it is exceptionally well organised and laid out, and the audio commentary is excellent. But, above and beyond that, what I feel is absolutely outstanding about this centre is is the objective and dispassionate way in which a very undistinguished period of German history is reported on: a very difficult balancing act, deftly achieved.
Due to the scale of the conflict, there are many museums across Europe which you can visit to gain a perspective on the horrors of the Second World War. However, the uniqueness of the Documentation Centre is the rigour with which it documents the rise of the Nazi Party and National Socialism in the period leading up to 1939. After all, Nuernberg was the favoured venue for the Nazi party congresses of the 1930s - as documented in Leni Riefenstahl's beautifully photographed but chilling propaganda epic 'Triumph of the Will' - and to understand this period provides a much clearer perspective on why events played out in such a tragic way.
The museum makes exceptional use of photographic and audiovisual material, and a major attraction for tourists are the life size blow ups of photos against which you can pose to 'ínsert' yourself in time as per the attached photos. (Just be aware that these are actually quite hard to photograph as a casual snapper as there is a lot of reflection from the images). One of the most seering images is the iconic image of a terrified prisoner on his knees by the edge of a mass burial trench, waiting to be executed: this is juxtaposed with Speer's blueprints for various grandiose monuments to the glory of the Reich, and the contrast is uncomfortable but not inappropriate.
Despite the very adult content, if you have no option but to visit with small children, then don't despair. Ours were hugely taken by some exhibits sunken into the floor (notes and coins from the hyperinflation period in one, and toy soldiers + a map as a mock up of a battle front in another) and they also hugely enjoyed the self-guided audio tour. I don't believe for a moment that they understood the commentary (they were 7 and 4 at the time), but they did love having an outsized mobile phone and being able to dial in the number of the exhibit to trigger the commentary. They were also suitably impressed by the sabre-sized icicles hanging from the walkway to the inner courtyard ...
The Documentation Centre is one of the newer museums in Nuremburg which is housed in the northern end of the incomplete Congress Hall. The museum opened its doors in 2001 and has a futuristic glass and steel entrance. The museum has a permanent exhibition covering an area of 1300 square metres plus an area which changes, though you need to check their website for the latest current events. You need to use an audio guide to get the best from the different areas. The museum covers the history of the Nazis and the parade grounds in Nuremburg in particular. Towards the end of the tour there is a outside area where you can view the very basic brick work on the inside of the Congress Hall compared to the ornate outside. This is due to the Congress Hall never being completed. You can pick up leaflets to tour around the former parade grounds and you must pick up a map to locate the 23 steles which give a description of what would have been at that particular location.
The Documentation center is the Nazi Party former rally ground. It is now a museum highlighting the rise and fall of Hitler. It explains that part of history by use of photographs, audio and film. It comprises of 19 exhibition areas arranged in chronological order.
The building was a project of the Führer--imposing and massive, cold and ugly.
If you are interested in Germany's dark history of WWII you should visit the Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg that is very impressing - or suppressing. Hitler elected Nuremberg to be his imperial town as some imperators before - and had huge building plans in Nuremberg. The exhibition within the Congress Hall shows very good and detailed Nazi history in Germany on the whole, and the Nuremberg part in it. You also can visit the whole area which is pretty large with Zeppelinfeld, where Hitler had his huge deployments.
Also in the sense of modern architecture this building is worth a visit. Famous Austrian architect Günther Domenig won the competion, and pierces a stake from steel and glass into the building as a refusal of the maniac Nazi ideals. A hard task how to deal with that kind of history when doing something new - if you ask me.
And a good link with lots of info, images, and plans on the area is this:
Some short general info you find here:
A link to some more info is here:
The documentation center is located on the former Reichsparteitagsgelände, the nazi rally grounds. It has a large exhibition documenting the rise of the nazi party and its terror regime from 1933 to 1945. The constructions and the plans for future buildings on the Reichsparteitagsgelände are also presented in this museum. The documentation center has the purpose to educate people and ensure that such crimes do not happen again in Germany or nay other part of the world. As a symbol for it, an alley of metal and glass is built through the former nazi party congress hall, piercing it like an arrow piereces a heart. Indeed, the people have done a great job here. The exhbition is well researched and you could easily spend half a day in it. It is a sad part of mankind history, but it is important to keep the memories and educate people – especially in times when racist and fascist parties are regaining grounds. In 2001, it was awaarded by the UNESCO for human rights education.
In the entry fee, there’s an audioguide included. It is available in several languages (german, english, french, russian, japanese – not sure about italian and spanish). Unfortunately, it’s one of these annoying thing which are started by a sensor. So, the bloody audioguide may start talking when you don’t expect it or want to hear another information. Depending on staff and weather conditions, a tour to the roof of the building is offered. You’ll need to climb some 200 steps. Here, the tour guide will give you an overview over the plans the nazi party had with these grounds.
Check out the related tips “Kongresshalle” and “Zeppelintribuene”, both about buildings on the nazi party rally grounds.
Documentation Centre is a fascinating museum which displays the full spectrum of the twelve years of Nazi rule from 1933 to 1945. It is located inside the Kongresshalle (Congress Hall), which was the largest building planned by Hitler to conduct rallies. The project was never completed. This was converted to a museum in 2001.
There is an exibition here titled "Fascination And Terror (Faszination Und Gewalt) ", which depicts the German history from 1933 to 1945.
Documentary films titled "Fascination & Terror", "Triumph Of The Will","Nuremberg Trials" etc. are screened in the auditorium regularly.
The entry ticket costs Euro 5/-. Audio guide in English is available free of cost. Certain historical books are available on payment.
The permanent exhibition is titled "Fascination and Terror" and is absolutely superior in presentation and content. It details, with special attention to the ideologic and practical importance of Nuremberg, the causes and ultimate results of the Nazi terrorist regime. There are no apologies here - an almost clinical dissection of tyranny and megalomania. Ostensibly organized into multiple segments, the presentation follows the early years of the Nazi movement through ultimate power, defeat, and the Nuremberg Trials through a largely pictorial display. There are supplements of short movie segments including taped interviews, and, interestingly, anti-Nazi cartoons and editorials prior to the 1933-4 murderous subjugation of political opposition. The title of the exhibit is remarkably illuminated by the images depicting the fanatical support Hitler received and the horrors that befell those in opposition. The available audioguide in multiple languages is superb.
The featured movie in the auditorium concerns the Nuremberg Trials, in which leading Nazi figures were tried for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. It intersperses filmed segments of the actual trial with interviews from those were were in attendance. We were mesmerized by this movie - sat riveted in our seats - watching the murdurous monsters on trial, testifying calmly and dispassionately about their lack of involvement in the genocides. Mind-blowing. I sit here now almost two months later typing this tip and recalling this movie.
The Nuremberg Documentation Center Museum is without question the most compelling of its class. A visit to Nuremberg without several hours here is a visit wasted.
Sidebar - the glass and steel walkway through the Congress Hall is frequently likened to a spear thrust through the heart of the Nazi movement and is often considered a word play on the name of Albert Speer, the chief Nazi architect. How ironic that this building is the only part of the rally grounds which he did not design.
"These buildings are not intended for the year 1940 or for the year 2000 but rather they should reach out like the cathedrals of the past into the centuries of the future" - Adolf Hitler (1937, Nuremberg).
Nuremberg was selected by Hitler as the site for his annual rallies of over one million party members in the early years of his leadership. Besides its central location, the long history of the city as part of the Holy Roman Empire as well as its cultural history legitimized the National Socialist Party program. The design of the Party Rallying Grounds fell to Albert Speer, the Hitler's favorite architect, who planned a stadium holding 400000, a congress hall for 50000, a Zeppelin field, and broad avenues and parks glorifying the party. The Congress Hall itself was designed by Ludwig and Franz Ruff from Nuremberg. Speer boasted that these buildings would stand 1000 years, but many projects were not completed, including the Congress Hall interior. Each planned building was massive with classical design again to legitimize and impress the world. The U-shaped Congress Hall is almost 300 yards in diameter and 50 yards in height.
Today the park area hosts rock concerts and an auto race track and the Congress Hall is used for a symphony orchestra. But most important is the Documentation Center housed in one wing of the Congress Hall.
The external architecture of the Documentation Center is designed to strike a blow against the monolithic structure of the building. Designed by Austrian Gunther Dominig, ironically the son of a Nazi judge, the dominating architectural feature is a huge glass and steel passageway, likened to a spear, thrust through the center of the building, a knife driven into the heart of the building and exposing the evil inner workings of the Nazi machine. The walkway in this spear is both outside and inside the building, disrupting the Nazi obsession with severe geometry. Further, much of the interior is plain brick to recall the ovens used in the KZ camps. Architecture that makes one think.
Since this was the highlight of my time in Nurnberg, I'll expand a little more on it.
The museum talked about the huge Nazi rallies, which had up to 1 million people from all over Germany attend. They talked about the logistics Nurnberg had to deal with, the "Nuremberg Laws" of 1935, the Nurnberg trials of 1945 (see the movie "Judgement at Nuremberg", it's awesome). Other topics were the rise of Hitler, the rise of Nazism, the effects it had on the country, and parts of WWII.
Exhibit: Faszination and Terror
This is really not an exhibit anymore, but a museum. It is held in the old Congress Hall, which was planned to hold about 50,000 people, but they never finished it.
It cost about $5 to get in, was open from about 10AM to 6PM, and was well worth our time. Actually, our plan was a short tour of the museum, and then to move onto something else, but we really got sucked into this meseum--it was fascinating.
You get an audio ear piece that guides you through the museum. If you take your time, it will take you hours to get through the whole thing...like us.
It is really a learning experience, but digs very deep into why faczism grew and spread and how Hitler become almost god-like. This area was one of the big propaganda tools.