We spent an afternoon looking around the park where the famous Nuremberg rallies once took place. It is such a peaceful place now with lakes, greenery, birds, flowers, people canoeing, jogging, cycling, roller blading. Reminders of the past include the Zeppelin Stadium where Hitler once addressed the crowds from his little podium in front of a replica of the altar of Pergammon. Also the Grosse Strasse which was intended to stretch all the way to the castle in the old town, but was never completed and the Kongresshalle, modelled on the collosium and now an empty shell part of which houses the Nuremberg symphony orchestra and part of it houses the museum of Documentation. We got there by taking the S2 line from the hauptbahnhof to Dutzendteich Station. Exit the station and go right.
When Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, built the Nazi Party Grounds and Zeppelin Field, he knew he was going to need a lot of electrical power, especially for his planned “Cathedral of Light” that would utilize 150 high powered floodlights to shoot beams of light up into the sky during the annual rallies.
Near the Zeppelin Field is the transformer station that supplied the electricity to Zeppelin Field, which had the capacity to supply enough power for a major city.
Today, this transformer station is still in its place, at the corner of Regensburger Strasse and Hans-Kalb Strasse; only today it doesn’t produce electricity – it produces hamburgers and fries. After our tour of the Documentation Center and walk around the Rally Grounds, we decided to eat in the former transformer station just to say we did it. We typically do not eat fast food, but how many times can we say we ate in a former power station from the Third Reich? The interior looked like any other fast food establishment, although the exterior still has that classic look of Third Reich architecture. And on the side of the building you can see where the eagle had been removed.
If you have some time and the physical ability, there is a really good self-guided walking tour around the area of the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds, Kongresshalle, and Zeppelin Field. Along the way there are plenty of signs written in both German and English with historical photographs that explain what happened in the area during the Third Reich or discusses the significance of the architectural structures.
I found the signs to be very informative and easy to understand; having the displays in the locations made it simple to see the changes over time or to envision what things may have looked like in that same spot 70+ years ago.
The actual tour, with maps, descriptions of the stations, and photos of the actual signs on display can be found on the NürnbergKultur website. I highly recommend this for people with an interest in this historical time period. It takes at least two hours to complete and is on flat ground that is paved, thus making it easier for mobility impaired or families with young children (unless you are there on a day when it is slushy and icy like we were!).
The tour can be started anywhere along the route depending on where you arrive. There are plenty of places to park around this area if there is not a football game going on at the stadium and the Stadion train station is nearby.
Not having any evidence I always imagined Hitler arrived at the Dutzendteich Lake Station, stepped across the road to the back of the Zeppelin Grandstand before starting one of his long speeches. But its seems Hitler preferred to fly instead. The original station was built in 1871 and was in regular use until 1990 when other closeby stations replaced it. The party faithful used the station to attend the rallies in their thousands and the station platforms were extended and had a roof built to cover it. The station building is now used as a restaurant with an outside beer garden.
Took the tram # 9 (destination "Doku-Zentrum") and 15 minutes later was in front of the immense Documentation Center.
It was a pleasant 10 minute walk around the lake as we headed towards the Zeppelin Field, the enormous parade ground where Hitler addressed the Nazi Party faithful (upwards of 200,000 people). There is no charge to enter the field.
Very interesting to read the pre-Nazi history of the Dutzendteich Lake (it was a very popular resort area in its earlier days).
Amazed at how much of the main viewing stand is in-tact and is still familar if one has seen the old new-reels from the WW II era.
Didn't have the time to visit the Documentaion Center.
Return to central Nuremberg via the Tram #9 (destination "Thon").
If you intend to visit the former Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremburg and want to visit most of the sites you should be aware that it covers an area of 11 square kilometres and takes a couple of days to wander around. If you require a plan of the area the first place to visit is the Documentation Centre which is housed in the Congress Hall, where you can pick up leaflets and obtain information from the staff. The centre itself is a good place to start as it covers the history and the various places around the area. It is a large exhibition and easily takes 3 to 4 hours to cover. If you are pressed for time the Zeppelin Field with its reviewing grandstand is a must and this can be reached by car or foot. If you decide to visit the Zeppelin Field the leaflet describes a circular route which takes approximately 90 minutes on foot and covers most of the main sites.
Reichsparteitagsgelande - Nazi Party Rally Grounds
This is where all the infamous images of goose-stepping troops were filmed. Apparently "much" of it was destroyed by bombs but one can hardly believe that when looking at the incredibly enormous complex still remaining. Some parts were purposefully removed to avoid this area ever from being a Mecca to any Neo-Nazi's.
The German's, for who Hitler and the war is obviously a sore subject, have done a remarkable job with the Dokumentations zentrum. The information is presented without bias and the object of this information centre is to properly educate to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
As I mentioned the complex is of gigantic proportions and is obviously of historical interest/concern. In order to prevent this area from being a morbid reminder, rather than an area which can educate, they have found wonderful uses for different sections and have succeeded in removing any negative vibes from the majority. For examplpe there are parks with lakes for families to use and the arena now hosts concerts etc...
However, there is no escaping what this was and around the info centre it is eerie, serious and uncomfortable and the information is disturbing. There are visuals but most of the info is via a head piece so it is possible to have smaller people with you and for it go over their heads although we felt very awkward and unsure as to whether we had made the right decision.
I was amazed at the number of German's present. In fact we were the only non-German's. I had to switch off my ear phones when it got too much for me to hear and we saw a German soldier lwho eft to have a fag and a weep.
Am I pleased we went? It has certainly given me more perspective into the size, propoganda, terror & atrocities & in a way I guess we all have a duty to be aware. It's not a "fun" trip out but it's cetainly an education that I wont forget.
If this place does not make your mind boggle, I don't know what does. This is the area where the nazi party had their congresses from 1933 and onwards. The reason they picked Nürnberg has nothing to do with people being particularly sympathetic to their case here, but rather the nationalistic symbol that Nürnberg was to Germans, with all its history.
You can wander around the huge area and it is when you do this that you realise just how big this machinery was! The barracks and marching fields are gone (either bombed or destroyed by the Germans themselves after the war), as are some of the other buildings, but you still see maps and pictures and as you can see where it was in the distance, you try to take in the scale of it all.
What is left to see is the haunting Congress building itself, and the Zeppelin field arena. The Congress building is built like a roman Colosseum, and you need not be particularly clever to figure out why. A corner of it has been turned into a very interesting Doku-Zenter, a museum, telling the story of national socialism victims and the events leading to the later trial. Here you walk around with audio-guide.
The Zeppelin field gives you just as odd a feeling, with its crumbling tribunes which could seat 70 000 people, whilst 250 000 people could dance or march in the field itself. They are crumbling as the authorities don't know what to do with it all, since they are understandably terrified of creating a shrine to neo-nazism. At the same time, you want it to be left for posterity, so that everyone can see this so important event in European history and let future generations learn from it.
Speer who designed the tribunes also designed a platform in the middle, for Hitler himself to stand on, to create a cult around his personality, and it is nothing but eerie to find yourself there, trying to take it all in. For the Englishman next to me, it was mindblowing. He wasn't himself all day afterwards.
So, you learn all about the Nazi Rally Grounds in the museum, but you can then leave the museum and see where some of the big propoganda speeches where given.
The Nazi Party Rallies were held every year in September, up until 1938. They lasted a week and up to 1,000,000 people came to Nuremberg from all over Germany.
Sadly, during the 1935 Party Rally the NS rulers passed the anti-Semitic "Nuremberg Laws", which ultimately led to the Holocaust.
The rally grounds were really a big group of buildings, some of them finished, some of them not finished. They were all HUGE, meant to show the power of Nazism, Hitler, and the fact that people were small compared to the party.
The grounds are not all that pretty today, but they seem to be working on it. You sometimes need to imagine the pure size of the grounds, and imagine events taking place.