March 27th, 2024

March and Marching: Albert Speer and Roman Gods at Nuremberg Party Rally Grounds

In March the Eagle’s Nest still lies under deep snow. The month of March with its promise of spring just around the corner reminds me that the word “March” is derived from the Latin word Martius (named after Mars, the Roman god of war). Martius was the name of the first month in the original Roman calendar.

Among the many colossal sites constructed near Nuremberg for the Nazi Party Rallies, Hitler commissioned his chief architect Albert Speer to design the so-called Märzfeld “March Field” also named after the belligerent Roman god Mars. Its creation coincided with Hitler’s reinstatement of compulsory military service in 1935 and the grounds’ central tribune was to feature a colossal female figure representing “victory” surrounded by titanic warriors. Ostentatious shows of military marches and prowess at the site – larger than 18 football fields – were to bring together a total of a quarter million participants and spectators.

In line with this theme, here is an excerpt from my new book → Exposing the Reich:

“At the 1937 Nuremberg Party Rally, Hitler shared quite openly that the buildings of the Third Reich ‘exist to strengthen our authority.’ Examples of this so-called intimidation architecture are also easy to distinguish not only in projected plans for the Third Reich monuments but in many of the buildings that subsist today, either in part or in their entirety.
This type of architecture utilized natural stone to cover concrete or brick shells, enlarged the structures to make viewers feel small and insignificant, and created the impression of timelessness by emulating the colossal structures of past civilizations, which were meant to endure for a thousand years. All of these elements combined to create, on the one hand, a sense of awe, and on the other, a feeling of admiration.”

The Olympics venue for the 1936 games in Berlin, Tempelhof Airport and the Luitpoldhain grounds for massive Party Rally events in Nuremberg are testimonies to the immense proportions of public structures and venues. Today, as former spectacles of power, we can find the unfished congress hall, the Zeppelin Field and the SS training center in Nuremberg, the former Luftwaffe ministry building in Berlin and, in a different fashion, the so-called Eagle’s Nest perched on a mountaintop in the Bavarian Alps, conveying a symbol of loftiness and domination.

As part of the Third Reich’s shrewd propaganda schemes, Hitler’s shows of overwhelming military power were meant to reassure the German people that, despite the sanctions of the Treaty of Versailles restricting Germany to no more than 100,000 soldiers in its army, the nation would now, thanks to the “Führer,” be able to secure its borders and, perhaps, even reclaim the lands that were allegedly “stolen” from Germany as compensation post-WWI.

Hitler perceived the German people as suffering from an inferiority complex due, mainly, to their having lost the “Great War.” The building of leviathan megastructures, he thought, would serve as a way of instilling a sense of pride into the German “Volk.” You can read more about these and many other topics in → Exposing the Reich: How Hitler Captivated and Corrupted the German People and / or by joining a → private tour of “Hitler’s Mountain” with Eagle’s Nest Historical Tours during which you can view Albert Speer’s home, as well as his architectural studio.

David Harper