S: The Twin Faces of Fascism
BC: The End
FC: Laura M. Jorud Concordia College May, 2011 | The Twin Faces of Fascism The Historical Foundations of German National Socialism and Italian Fascism
1: The Twin Faces of Fascism The Historical Foundations of German National Socialism and Italian Fascism
2: Rome:: May 4-7
3: In world history, important events often contain certain commonalities: common places, common people, or common ideas. Such is the case of 1930s dictators Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, who not only shared select leadership qualities and objectives, but also had a tendency to deliver historic speeches from balconies. In the case of Benito Mussolini, the balcony of Palazzo Venezia was the site of many rallying speeches including the declaration of the Italian empire in 1936. Before the Mussolini regime established their offices in this great Renaissance style building, however, Palazzo Venezia was home to many other prominent people, including many religiously associated leaders. For over three hundred years, Palazzo Venezia (also known as the Palace of St. Mark) was thus housed several cardinals, and a few Popes. This purpose changed when the Austrian embassy gained control of the building in the late eighteenth century and would be reinstated when the Italian government regained ownership of Palazzo Venezia during World War I. Those who visit Palazzo Venezia today may be surprised to note its seeming lack of physical prominence within Rome. Surrounded by such grand structures as the Monument to Victor Emmanuel, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum, the Palazzo Venezia appears rather dwarfed in comparison. Nevertheless, its proximity to these great symbols of past empires is allegedly part of what drew Benito Mussolini to the structure, as he desired to rule an Italy which rivaled the grandness of ancient times. It is perhaps fitting then that the Palazzo Venezia does not seem to share the same sense of grandeur as its neighboring buildings – for as hard as he tried, Mussolini was not able to fully match the dominance of his predecessors. | Palazzo Venezia
4: Colosseum Colosseo
5: For a dictator who desired to build an empire which rivaled those of the ancients, there was perhaps no higher an architectural standard to meet than the Colosseum. This architectural wonder of Rome built during the Flavian Empire around 80 AD was an amphitheater of great spectacles, both entertaining and gruesome. From wild animal hunts and mock ship battles to gladiatorial games and mythological plays, the Colosseum functioned not only to keep the Romans amused, but also as a distraction to prevent them from causing a ruckus. This was the reality for many centuries until the needs of society began to change. The Colosseum thus became a place for shelter, workshops, and religious activity, as Pope Benedict XIV declared it to be a public church. During this time of transition, large amounts of stone were allegedly removed from the Colosseum and used to build various other buildings, including the Palazzo Venezia, which would one day become the home of Benito Mussolini. The twentieth century would see even more changes to the Colosseum at the hands of the Mussolini regime, which worked to excavate and expose portions of the building’s substructure and make it a place of rallying pride for fascist Italy. No longer the center of fascist pride, the Colosseum now serves as a center of Roman tourism. Thousands upon thousands walk through the site every year, cameras flashing and eyes transfixed upon the marvelous interior. Their many expressions of awe are seemingly justified as the mind boggles with so many questions, “How could the Romans build such a marvelous structure without modern equipment?” “How has the Coloseum been able to stay intact for so long without completely collapsing?” It is these questions of wonder and awe which make it easy to understand why a dictator would look the Colosseum as an inspiration for greatness.
6: Roman Forum When modern-day leaders come to power, they often change the landscape around them to suit their political and personal needs. In many instances, this means a change in political personnel, a change of residential décor, and perhaps new shrubbery outside the office window. But for twentieth century dictators such as Benito Mussolini, the acquisition of new powers meant excavating and demolishing whole sections of infrastructure near the Roman Forum. One of the oldest areas in Rome, the Roman Forum was the center of public and political life during the times of such greats as Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus. Elections, public speeches, trials, and other commercial business were thus common events within the Roman Forum area until the severely declined around 476 AD. After this time period, the area would be utilized for a myriad of functions ranging from the practice of Christianity to a building site for other structures including whole neighborhoods. Centuries later, the ambitious dictator Benito Mussolini, who was transfixed upon many aspects of old Roman architecture, sought to liberate the ruins from the destructive buildup of more modern buildings around the site. A heavily populated neighborhood residing around the Palatine Hill area was destroyed to create space for Mussolini’s grand Via dei Fori Imperiali. Thus, although this roadway helped to clear the view of the Roman Forum, the greedy dictator was merely practicing the same kind of archeologically destructive behavior as the neighborhood before him appears to have engaged - an early indication of his tendency to follow others into damaging situations. Those who visit the Roman Forum in the present-day are thus viewing a sight largely manipulated by Mussolini and countless other leaders before him. Yet, with all this talk of historical destruction, the site still possesses many grand examples of Roman architecture which have been somehow miraculously preserved over time. This thought is even more impressive when one stops to consider the large volume of tourists who trudge through the Roman Forum everyday, wearing down the stone pathways beneath their feet and kicking around rocks which could have originated from one of the structures. Thus, in their own way, everyone who ventures to the Roman Forum is leaving their own mark on the ancient sitehow large of an impact one makes, however, is the true difference between an destroyer and a natural source of wear and tear.
7: Roman Senate House Curia Julia Throughout the centuries, the Roman Empire experienced great amounts of upheaval. From the assassination of Julius Caesar, to the 'fiddling’ Nero, life in the Roman political sphere was not always completely stable or predictable. And yet, the institution of the Roman Senate was able to weather the storms to become one of the longest-lasting components of the Roman Empire. It even outlasted several of its meeting sites, as at least two of its primary meeting houses were either reconstructed or fell into disrepair. The Senate House left standing in the Roman Forum today is known as the Curia Julia, and as the name suggests, was originally constructed under the reign of Julius Caesar. Due to fires and other renovations, however, the Senate House was reconfigured several times, more recently by Italian dictator Mussolini. In its current state, it is only a shell of itself, as members of the Catholic Church pillaged the building so that the precious marble and bronze doors could be utilized for their own churches. If one visits the Roman Senate House in the present era, it may be hard to decipher the uniqueness of the buildings when compared to many other ruins contained at the Roman Forum. The brown, boxy brick of the structure is seemingly no match for the other intriguing buildings which surround it. Despite its less than extravagant appearance, the Roman Senate House can and should be looked upon in awe considering the great resilience of the institution it once held that is something that even the tarnish of Mussolini cannot take away.
8: With such nicknames as ‘the wedding cake’ and ‘ the typewriter,’ it is clear that the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II is not the most beloved structure in Rome. The massive white building, which was constructed to honor the first king to rule over a unified Italy, has been a source of past discontent due to its prime location, and perhaps because of its fascist connections. Built from 1911 to 1935, the monument resides between the Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill – part of whose ruins were demolished for the construction of the new site. While this destruction may have rankled many Romans who treasured their city’s rich history, Benito Mussolini used it to his advantage by reconfiguring the then eleven-year-old monument to represent not just the unification of Italy, but also the unification of Italy and fascism. The central component of this unification was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which was conceived as part of the monument in the early 1920s. Considering this location to be ‘sacred,’ Mussolini thus hosted numerous ceremonies and dignitaries at or near this part of the Monument to Victor Emanuel II as he strived to create a new, superior Rome. And given its proximity to the Palazzo Venezia, where Mussolini delivered many of his great speeches to the masses, the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II would find its way into the background of countless other fascist events that didn’t take place on its grand steps. If one visits the monument today, it is not difficult to understand why it was embraced by the fascist regime, and why all Romans do not particularly love it. Stated simply, it draws one’s attention. The pure white marble of the structure contrasts greatly with the brown tones of its surroundings, making the monument seem almost misplaced. Also eye-catching is the sheer size of the building which allegedly measures an astonishing 443 feet wide and 230 feet tall. Thus, if a new leader desired to find a structure to simultaneously symbolize the grandeur and uniqueness of a new Rome, the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II would be seemingly be a good fit. But for those who wish to preserve ‘classic’ Rome, it is certainly a nuisance. | National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II
9: The city of Rome is a city of obelisks. With approximately thirteen obelisks from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, and the modern era, Rome allegedly boasts the most obelisks of any location on the globe. A majority of these intimidating structures originated several centuries ago, but one of the more recently constructed obelisks has yet to reach its one-hundredth birthday. Built in the 1930s, the seventeen meter marble statue which greets entrants into Foro Mussolini, (presently known as Foro Italico), is one of the few clear, physical reminders of Benito Mussolini’s dictatorial rule remaining in Rome today. Its design, is no surprise given Mussolini’s desire to illicit the greatness of empires gone by and could be considered architecturally sharp, blocky, and indulgent. This last characteristic can most clearly be seen by an inscription on the side of the structure which reads: “Mussolini Dux” or “Mussolini leader.” And while some persons of Italy may be sensitive to the actions of Mussolini, the bold inscription remains to this day. Those who visit Foro Italico today will surely not miss Mussolini’s obelisk if only for its prominent position at the site’s entrance. This recognition factor is also greatly heightened when the white structure contrasts starkly against a clear, blue Roman sky. Given these facts, it is quite interesting to note that such a prominent reminder of one of Italy’s darkest eras remains intact. The reason for this could lie partially in the large nature of the monolith and the difficulty of removing such a large inscription. Whatever the full explanation, however, it is a poignant reminder that some events in history are too momentous to be erased or ignored no matter how unpleasant they may be. | Obelisk at Foro Mussolini (Foro Italico)
10: “Inactivity is death.” Given this famous quote attributed to Benito Mussolini, it should come as no surprise that the Italian dictator of the 1920s and 1930s believed in strong Italian bodies as much as a strong Italian state. In the mind of Mussolini, the two concepts were interdependent: a strong Italian state could simply not exist without healthy, fit Italian bodies. To emphasize and inspire others of this belief, Mussolini called for the construction of a grand sports complex known as the Foro Mussolini. The complex, which was built over a ten year period by architect Enrico Del Debbio, contained numerous sports facilities including: the Stadio Olimpico, Stadio del Nuoto, and the Stadio dei Marmi. Each of these facilities contained elements of marvel, but perhaps none provided as much architectural and artistic splendor as the Stadio dei Marmi, or Stadium of Statues. Opened around 1932, the Stadium of Statues was a place of both actual physical perfection and desired physical perfection. Numerous youth were often photographed here participating in various forms of gymnastics, hoop jumping, and other athletic activities. These Italian youths were also joined by a group of Hitler youth who traveled to Rome as the alliance between Mussolini and Hitler became more concrete. Yet, none of the youth or Olympic athletes who trained here could match the appearance of athletic precision that surrounded them in the form of approximately sixty Herculean-esque marble statues. These statues, which were offered by the various providences of Italy, portrayed Italian men engaged in various forms of sport as a way to convey the heroism of Italian athletes and soldiers. Whether more artistry or propaganda, the twelve foot tall statues surely inspired many who laid eyes upon them. | Stadium of Statues at Foro Mussolini Stadio dei Marmi
11: Unlike many other Mussolini era facilities, the Stadium of Statues remains largely unchanged by the passage of time. The white marble statues still stand brightly in all of their sun-kissed glory and young athletes can even be seen training on the field below. But, the rallies of fascist youth are long gone with Mussolini’s dream of an indestructible Italy. For as Mussolini (and Hitler) would have to learn the hard way, perfect human bodies are only to be found in cold, lifeless marble not the warm, hot flesh of true men.
12: St. Peter's Basilica Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano For those who follow the Catholic tradition, St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most important, most sacred Christian structures in the world. Constructed upon the tomb of Jesus’ disciple Peter over a span of one hundred years during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this dominating building in Vatican City is considered to be one of the largest existing Christian churches anywhere on the globe. This great size is proportioned evenly with an interior so ornate, one hardly knows where to feast their eyes. But, amidst all of this beauty lies a darker past filled with pillaging and godless dictators. Perhaps in a somewhat ironic twist, the construction of one of the greatest churches in Christianity involved breaking one of the principle Ten Commandments: thou shalt not steal. It is well known that much of the marble contained within the church was pillaged from sites such as the Roman Senate House and other buildings contained within the Roman Forum.
13: Visitors who visit St. Peter’s Basilica today will no doubt be speechless when first entering the church. Every spare inch of the interior is covered with some ornate design, marble, or gold along with grand statues of various saints. Once the awe subsides, however, it is difficult not to view the lavish nature of St. Peter’s Basilica as contradictory to the teachings of the religion it was built to honor. Jesus called upon his followers to live simply and to resist the temptations which arise with the acquisition of material goods. He preached against the dangers of excess and lived as a poor man when he walked the streets of Jerusalem. And yet the Basilica stands as a symbol of the Christian faith, disregarding all of Christ’s fundamental guidelines regarding consumption and the ways in which humans sin. | Leaving further black marks on the great symbol of Christianity was twentieth century leader Benito Mussolini. Thus, during his fascist reign in the 1930s, the man obsessed with architecturally surpassing the grandeur of the great Roman Empire, demolished the spina which occupied a portion of St. Peter’s Square in order to make the church more visible from a distance. This action may not be viewed by some as an unfortunate occurrence, but it is unlikely that many wish to remember the godless Benito Mussolini as having an impact upon a site considered so sacred to Christians. | St. Peter's Square | St. Peter's exterior
14: Pantheon Originally built as a temple to the Roman gods around 126 AD, there would seem to be no more fitting piece of architecture for a glory-seeking man to copy than the Parthenon. This building simply has it all: the largest brick dome in all of architecture, a location steeped in legend, and what every individual with illusions of grandeur tries to obtain – a connection to the gods. But perhaps to dictator Benito Mussolini’s dismay, the rich history and beauty of the Pantheon can simply not be replicated. The history of this great structure actually begins in with another building’s end, as the Pantheon known to today’s world was the not the first Pantheon built in Rome. The first Pantheon, constructed under the reign of Augustus, was destroyed twice by fire in 80 AD and 110 AD. Its second reincarnation arose during the time of Emperor Hadrian and has largely stood the test of time. This preservation is said to be partially due to the temple’s conversion into a Christian church devoted to ‘Mary and the martyrs.’ These new connections to the church, however, would also lead to its partial destruction.
15: During the sixteenth century, leaders of the Catholic Church forever altered the Pantheon with extended periods of material removal and supposed building improvements. The bronze, which covered the ceiling of the structure, was thus taken by the church for its usage in other great buildings such as St. Peter’s Basilica. Additionally, the church attempted to give the Parthenon a more religious demeanor by adding two bell towers near the sides of the building, but were generally not well-received by the Romans and eventually removed in the nineteenth century. And while still a church, the Pantheon’s role in society has continued to evolve during the most recent centuries. In present times, the Pantheon has served a number of interesting roles, including: church, museum, and architectural inspiration. Visitors to the site should be quick to notice the religious motifs and statues which still adorn the interior of the Pantheon, but one may not realize upon their first glance that it is still a functioning place of worship. This is primarily due to the Pantheon’s other role as a museum. With such famous individuals as Victor Emmanuel II and artist Raphael buried at the Parthenon, one can easily be distracted by the large displays surrounding their tombs. Yet, the unique beauty of the Pantheon cannot be, and has not been ignored by many architects who have been inspired to build many structures in the style of this great Roman treasure. One of these Pantheon inspired pieces is known as the Congress Palace and was built as part of Mussolini’s grand Esposizione Universale di Roma project. While a visually appealing structure, its existence demonstrates the foolishness of Mussolini. For to be truly great, a leader must forge their own path instead of following one trod by so many others; a failed lesson which will come to largely destroy him years later. | Pantheon dome (interior) | Tomb of Raphael
16: Arch of Titus When Hitler and the Nazis desecrated the Jewish population during World War II, they were not solely focused upon the body count, but also upon the valuables which could be gathered from their victims. From land and gold, to clothes and life insurance policies, the merciless leaders of the Third Reich confiscated whatever ‘spoils of war’ they could gather for their own benefit and the benefit of a quickly declining country. This, however, was not the only instance of Jewish plundering. In 66 AD, Jewish zealots began to revolt against the Romans’ occupation in Judea. Hearing of this unrest, Emperor Vespasion, and eventually his son Titus, traversed to Judea in an effort to regain control and order within the region. Titus was successful in his mission and by 72 AD, he had recaptured the area and returned to Rome with spoils pillaged from the Jewish temples. His glory would not last long, however, as he died just two short years after his victory. This triumph would remain even when Titus passed on as his brother, Emperor Domitian would have a triumphal arch constructed in his honor.
17: Built with a single arch, the monument demands one’s attention from its high point on the Via Sacra next to the Roman Forum. The grand marble hints at extensive detailing, which when viewed more closely, depicts Titus’ sacking of Jerusalem and the taking of the spoils. These details have thus made the Arch of Titus important to the Jewish community, as they are allegedly the only known contemporary representations of Temple artifacts. Such rarity causes one to wonder even more so than before, how the structure has been able to stay intact for so many centuries. Whatever the answer, it is a fitting bit of preservation for a religious community which has suffered such great devastation and loss throughout the years.
18: Mussolini’s Maps of Empire Mussolini called them 'material for meditation' during their unveiling along Rome’s newly completed Via dell’ Impero on April 21, 1934. The recently designed marble plaques to which he was referring depicted the ever-changing boundaries of Europe and the Roman Empire in a series of four maps dating back to the eighth century. Created under the supervision of Rome’s Fine Arts Department, the plaques were composed of contrasting black and white marbles and were supported on the wall of the Basilica of Maxentius by the cast of an imperial eagle. These distinct color themes not only showed the clear expansion of the empire over time, but also allegedly signified Fascist Italy bringing light to a dark world through its expanding territory. In the end, Mussolini’s call to meditate upon and be inspired by the expansion displayed on the maps would prove fruitful as the Italians captured Ethiopia in 1936. To reflect this new possession, a fifth map was added to the wall of the Basilica of Maxentius. This map would not remain, however, as it was removed following the liberation of Rome in 1944. For many years following its removal, the map was thought to be lost to history until it suddenly resurfaced some forty years later in the basement of the Theater of Marcellus. The Italian government has debated the fate of this fifth map, and has at present not restored it to its original location.
19: Although visitors who venture along the old Via dell’Impero today will not be able to view the infamous fifth map, the original four maps are still displayed in all their glory. Interestingly, for all of the inspiration they were designed to bring to the fascist movement, the maps are somewhat overshadowed by the enormity of their surroundings. Thus, if one was to be sightseeing around this area of Rome, they might very well not take a second glance at the series of maps. Those who do venture to gather a closer glimpse of Mussolini’s ‘artwork’ may also have a difficult time understanding its contents given that the text is primarily Latin. And as metaphorical as the maps proved to be for the expansion of the fascist movement, they also highlight its foolishness. For nothing in the world is ever truly black and white, and those who believe otherwise fail to understand humanity’s complexity.
20: Florence :: May 8-9
21: Girolamo Savonarola: Burned at the Stake On May 10, 1933, German student associations, which identified with the goals and ideals of the Nazi Party, gathered at Wartburg Castle to set alight thousands of books judged to be anti-nationalistic and un-German. The topics of these banned books thus ranged from socialism and pacifism to a fictional portrayal of World War I written by American author Ernest Hemingway. Unfortunately, such purging events were not limited to the students at Wartburg, as groups of students from all around the country engaged in similar bonfire activities. These acts of cultural ‘cleansing’ were thus part of a greater Nazi plan to coordinate all aspects of German life to align with the principles and prejudices of Hitler’s rising political party. And yet, for all of the Nazis’ defining evils, occasions of defiance similar to these were not totally unheard of before 1933. Perhaps one of the other most notorious cases of a cultural purge occurred in 1497 with Girolamo Savonarola’s ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ in Florence, Italy. Savonarola was a Christian preacher and reformer who had come to lead the city after the overthrow of the powerful Medici family. During his rise to a position of leadership, the Dominican friar preached against the corruption of Florence’s rulers and called followers to resist various cultural sources of sin. This plea thus came to a head on the night of February 7 when followers of Savonarola burned objects of vanity such as books, artworks, cosmetics, and mirrors in a large bonfire so as to cleanse the city of its ills. Not long after this event, Savonarola’s enemies began to catch up with him, and the pope excommunicated him. Less than a year later, the Dominican Friar would be burned at the stake for the crimes of heresy, espousing prophecies, and sedition – quite the fitting end for a man who had who had previously stood close to the destructive fires of his own making, but had never gotten burned. Those who venture to Florence today can see Savonarola’s execution commemorated in the Piazza della Signoria with a circular marker inset into the pavement. Considering the turmoil caused by Savonarola, this seems to be quite a small note during one of Florence’s revolutionary periods. However, as history has proven time and time again there are some events a city would like to forget. Thus, even the smallest mention of this execution should be looked upon kindly for as the saying goes‘celebrate the small victories because they are few.’
22: Basilica of Santa Maria Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore In the mind of Benito Mussolini, Fredrich Neitzsche was correct in proclaiming that, “God is dead.” The fascist leader unabashedly viewed religion as a disease of the psyche which was to be avoided rather than embraced. And yet, during part of his Italian dictatorship, the Roman Catholic Church and Mussolini formed an appeasing relationship. For as Hitler would also reason, to anger the Church would be to cause possible dissention among a large segment of the population, ending his reign as Italy’s supreme leader. Due to this careful ‘partnership,’ many of the grandest churches in all of Europe would survive an era that might have otherwise decimated the Roman Catholic tradition – spiritually and architecturally. One of the great churches which thus retained its structural and historical prominence was Florence’s Basilica of Santa Maria. Built between 1296 and 1436, Italy’s largest Roman Cathedral complex is comprised of three primary structures: the cathedral, the baptistery, and the bell tower. The completion of these buildings, although long and cumbersome, would be well worth the wait given their intricate design. Perhaps the most challenging of these designs involved the now-famous Cathedral dome created by architect Fillipo Brunelleschi after he defeated rival architect Lorenzo Ghiberti for the job. Winning the commission, however, was only half the battle. The construction of the dome would require ingenious thinking on the part of Brunelleschi who was able to complete the structure without traditional scaffolding only after devising a new brick hoisting system combined with chains. This dome would be the largest in the world until modern times. Aside from the Cathedral’s sheer scale, present-day visitors will most likely note the exquisite exterior design of the buildings. The use of green, red, and white marble gives the buildings a rather unique appearance when compared to similar European churches, while almost giving the site a lighter, less gargantuan feel. Not even this beautiful exterior, however, can match the lovely chiming bells which ring out from Giotto’s tower with each passing hour.
23: The chorus of chimes drowns out the hustle and bustle from the square below and forces all intelligent conversation to halt, reminding one that even the loud voices of Mussolini and Hitler could not overcome the power of Christianity.
24: Ponte Vecchio | The phrase ‘burning one’s bridges’ rarely adopts a literal context, but for Nazis retreating from Florence in World War II this was the reality. In an effort to halt or slow down the Allies’ liberation of the picturesque Italian city, Hitler ordered all area bridges to be destroyed. One bridge, however, was spared a fate of wooden splinters and explosives: the Ponte Vecchio. The oldest bridge in Florence, Italy, the Ponte Vecchio allegedly made its first appearance during Roman times. Floodwaters forced the structure over the Arno River to be rebuilt on approximately two different occasions, with last time being in 1333. As the years passed, the Ponte Vecchio became a type of economic center which featured a number of butcher shops, fish sellers, and general grocers. This all changed, however, when Ferdinando I ordered the food markets to be replaced with goldsmiths in an effort give the area a more elegant appearance just a few centuries later.
25: Ferdinando I’s vision of the Ponte Vecchio can still be seen today, as high end gold and jewelry shops dominate the area. Although, for those who are not looking to spend several hundreds or thousands of Euros the Ponte Vecchio is still a sight to behold. Looking across the Arno River, one can see the beauty and charm of old Florentine architecture and capture the essence of a truly artisan city. For these images, combined with the brilliant sparkle of the surrounding water, are more precious than any gold or diamond could ever be. | Jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio
26: Venice :: May 10-11
27: Venetian Train Station Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia Hosting an impressive 82,000 visitors per day and over 30 million visitors per year, the Venetian Train Station is a flurry of activity. Many of these persons, eager to see the wonder and beauty of Venice, are unlikely to take extra notice of the terminal in which they arrive. Yet, the rather low-key building has quite an interesting history filled with churches, contests, stops, starts, and plenty of architects. Construction of the “Santa Lucia” Train Station began almost one hundred years before its eventual completion in 1952 when the Church of Santa Lucia was demolished to create space for the new terminal. This was the simplest element of the station’s construction, as over the next several decades three separate architects worked to design the modern-style building. Much of the delay was rooted in a Mussolini era contest which awarded architect Virgilo Villot the honor of designing the train station. His work was inexplicably suspended until 1936, however, when it was decided that Angelo Mazzoni should also design the building. Despite the architects’ collaborative efforts through 1943, construction would not be completed for almost another ten years. When arriving in present-day Venice, one may find that the architecture of the train station pales in comparison to the grandeur of the other buildings lining the canal. This impression, however, does diminish its importance as a major facet of Venetian life. Without it, there would be no grander buildings for some visitors to enjoy, as they may not be able to find another convenient route to the city of canals.
28: St. Mark’s Cathedral Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco Thievery, rebellion, and extreme wealth are not practices one would expect to be associated with great symbols of Christianity. In the case of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, however, one must learn to ‘expect the unexpected.’ This Roman Catholic Church, which dominates the square at San Marco, prides itself as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture and artistry in the world today, but amidst the glittery mosaics lies a less than beautiful past. Built around 828 AD, the Basilica’s name arose from a Venetian merchant’s recent dubious acquisition: the supposed relics of St. Mark the Evangelist. These relics, which were stolen from Alexandria, were thus housed in the cathedral that had been built in their honor. The church would be rebuilt twice during the rebellious years that followed, which left the relics lost until 1094. With the passage of time, the Cathedral’s notoriety would grow beyond these relics as the structure was increasingly adorned with marbles, gold, and intricate mosaics. And just like the remains of St. Mark, many of the materials used for these adornments – such as columns – were also allegedly stolen from ancient sites in the Orient. Catholic Masses are still held at St. Mark’s Cathedral throughout the year despite the site’s status as a major tourist destination. In fact, on April 25th of each year the Basilica is home to a special procession meant to celebrate the feast of St. Mark, who remains the official patron saint of Venice. (Venetians also celebrate their freedom from the fascism and Nazism of World War II on this day). Although, during most non-holidays portions of the church’s interior are forbidden to the eyes of visitors so as to preserve a greater sense of sanctity within the building. One should not be too discouraged by these restrictions, as the accessible exterior of the Cathedral is truly an amazing site to behold on its own, glistening in the sun as if to suggest a sign from above.
29: Doge’s Palace Palazzo Ducale Continuing with the less than virtuous themes of St. Mark’s Cathedral is the adjacent Doge’s Palace. Unlike its neighbor, this structure is not so much connected to thievery and rebellion as it is linked to another consuming vice known as power. Thus, for centuries Doge’s Palace served three primary purposes: residence of the Doge (leader of Venice), the seat of government, and a place of justice. The Doge, a title that shares the same etymological origins as Mussolini’s Il Duce, was typically chosen by aristocrats of Venice and ruled the region for over one thousand years. Yet, this rule was at best a figurehead position. True power of the Venetian Republic rested in the hands of the other governing institutions, which also called the palace home. Perhaps more intriguing than the inhabitants of Doge’s Palace, however, is the building’s stunning and unique architecture. Reconstructed on multiple occasions, the present structure was completed in approximately 1424. Its light-colored features make the building distinctly Venetian and almost cause it to ‘blend in’ with the dominant St. Mark’s Cathedral. But those visitors with a more critical eye will notice the truly unique architecture that has made Doge’s Palace one of the most unmistakable structures in all of Venice. Unlike many other medieval structures in this region, Doge’s Palace contains loggias on the lower half of the building and solid walls on the upper half. This design, in the minds of some observers, creates the illusion that the structure is somehow defying gravity. Though this is most certainly not the case, its intricate construction causes one to internally utter the ever recurring question, “How did the Venetian people built such a magnificent structure without the aid of labor-saving machinery?” The mind truly boggles.
30: When one thinks of the Jews persecuted during the Holocaust, most likely remember those ripped away from their German homes and ways of life, but they are only part of a larger story. As the Nazis gained more control over Europe in the early 1940s, increasing numbers of Jews were in danger of losing everything. One such group under threat was the Jews of the Venice, Italy. Unlike many other Jews living in Europe, however, the Jews of Venice knew what it meant to be segregated from society as they had been forced to live in separate ghettos until the arrival of Napoleon in the late eighteenth century. During this period of social isolation, the Jews built five synagogues specific to their German, Italian, Levantine, Portuguese, or Spanish heritage. And while these symbols of religious freedom would survive the Nazi era, a majority of their worshipers would not. It has been estimated that less than ten Venice Jews lived to see another day outside of the Nazi death camps. While a few of the Venetian synagogues are currently utilized for regular worship, most are used primarily for guided tours. These tours reveal places of worship much different than many Christian churches, especially in their scale. Thus, unlike many churches, the synagogues of Venice are multi-leveled and contain much smaller areas of worship. And although decadent, these spaces pale in comparison to the lavish décor of St. Mark’s Cathedral or St. Peter’s Basilica. What they may lack in extreme decadence, however, is counteracted by the sacred atmosphere maintained within the synagogues despite the presence of countless tourists. The same cannot always be said for other holy sites in Europe. | The Synagogues of Venice
32: Vienna :: May 12-14
33: Hofburg Palace is the past and present center of much political activity. From the thirteenth century winter home of the Habsburg rulers to the twenty-first century residence of Austria’s president, Hofburg Palace has seen much change over the last eight centuries. The most noticeable changes have been the result of physical expansions, which currently consist of eighteen wings, nineteen courtyards, and 2,600 rooms. Perhaps more important, however, are the political changes the Hofburg has been witness to – both for good and for ill. Among the most dramatic political shifts the Hofburg played host to occurred on March 15, 1938 when Hitler declared the success of the Austrian Anschluss, or annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. The result of much pressure from Hitler and other pro-Nazi groups, the Anschluss of Austria is not only controversial due to the manipulative practices of the Nazis but also because of the people's reaction. For hundreds of thousands of Austrians gathered anxiously in the Heldenplatz to hear Hitler proclaim from a Hofburg balcony the supposed ‘union’ of Austria and Germany. The alleged cheers from the crowd has left many scholars to wonder, “Did the Austrian people really welcome unification with the Nazis, or are the accounts of history hiding a different truth?” The world may never know. Most who visit the Hofburg today will likely remember the grandeur of the Hofburg rather than its dark connections to Hitler, as visible reminders of the event are not to be readily seen. For although the Statue of Prince Eugene of Savoy still stands in all its glory in the Heldenplatz, the Hofburg has taken on newer political duties such as housing the president. It is thus somewhat remarkable how outwardly accessible the Hofburg appears to be to the foreign visitor (as opposed to the White House with its great iron fence). One can be certain that after the misdeeds of Hitler, however, the Austrian government is not about to let itself be compromised by anyone from the ‘outside.’ | Hofburg Palace
34: Vienna State Opera House Weiner Staatsoper One of the great oddities surrounding Adolf Hitler was his seemingly simultaneous love and hatred of culture. He loved certain activities which would presumably be considered culturally enriching such as certain forms of art, but hated the notion of a more diverse, culturally enriching German society. Whatever the reason for this paradox, it has been much noted that one of Hitler’s great ‘cultural’ joys was the opera. Thus, upon moving to Vienna in his teenage years, Hitler became well acquainted with the State Opera House in Vienna – then known as the Court Opera. Built in 1869, the Court Opera House was initially not very popular among the residents due to its alleged lack of grandeur. As time wore on, however, the opera house gained more attention, especially under the presence of director Gustav Mahler and his new vision of performance art. This high point would come to a dark and thunderous halt after Austria came under control of the Nazis. From 1938 – 1945, numerous members of the opera company were thrown out, pursued, and or killed by the new regime and several productions were banned. The end of this time period also brought destruction to the physical opera house which was set ablaze in March of 1945 during an American bombardment. Portions of the opera house thus had to be reconstructed – a process which would not be completed until the mid 1950s. Today, the State Opera House is once again thrilling audiences with various operas, ballets, and other concerts. Combine a performance with the extravagant and beautiful décor of the Opera House, and there is almost too much for the eye to take in during a single visit. Still, even after only one tour, it is hard to forget the grand marble staircase, the delicate paintings, and the bronze busts of famous composers. This is mainly due to the fact that the State Opera House achieves what any good art is supposed to accomplish – leave one with a lasting impression.
35: Intermission suite
36: Schonbrunn Palace Schloss Schonbrunn It is no surprise that the Schonbrunn Palace is today one of Austria’s ‘crown jewels’ in the realms of cultural significance and tourist interest. After all, it was once the summer home of true royalty – the Habsburgs. The palace, which was purchased by Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II in 1569, was subsequently handed down through the Habsburg dynasty until the end of their reign at the conclusion of World War I. Among its mighty list of inhabitants were Maria Theresa, the only female Habsburg ruler, and Franz Joseph I who helped create the foundation of the future Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. The presence of these high-powered inhabitants inevitably led to the expansion of the Schonbrunn Palace to include more than 1,400 rooms, numerous gardens, and a private zoo. When the Habsburg dynasty ended in 1918, the palace and its expansive grounds were entrusted to the Austrian government.
37: When walking through and around the Schonbrunn Palace, one’s reaction most likely includes the exclamation: “This was really just a summer residence?!” For the grand décor of the palace as well as the impressive gardens seem far too extravagant to be the contents of a temporary home. Additionally, it is still quite astonishing to see how grandly the royals lived given the absence of modern construction techniques during that time period. But more so than the monetary extravagance, the true beauty of Schonbrunn Palace lies in the calm, peaceful gardens which surround the property and greet hundreds of tourists, hikers, and locals, one of whom was once an aimless young man named Adolf Hitler. | Neptune Fountain | Tea House
38: St. Peter’s Church Peterskirche When studying such madmen as Adolf Hitler, one often wonders how and when a young, carefree man with dreams of becoming an artist became the hardened maniac who would lead much of the world into Hell. The answer to many of these ponderings can be traced back to one location: Vienna, Austria. In 1907 and 1908, Hitler traveled to Vienna as an impressionable young adult seeking acceptance into the Viennese Academy of Art and instead found himself thrown into the bustling city’s café culture, which circulated the anti-Semitic ideas of several Austrian intellectuals such as mayor Karl Lueger. His dreams of studying art had quickly fallen apart after arriving in Vienna when the Academy denied him acceptance, as he could not sufficiently sketch figures. He did not give up on his creative passion, however, and turned Vienna into more than just a place of political inspiration. During his time in the great Austrian city, Hitler turned the streets and buildings into his artistic muse. One structure he famously sketched during this time was the impressive St. Peter’s Church. Built twice, the structure imitated by the future Nazi leader’s pen was constructed at the beginning of the eighteenth century and became one of the first domed structures in Vienna. The first church that was comparatively less grand had been destroyed as a result of a fire several years prior. It was not until the devastation of the plagues had subsided that King Leopold I decided to bring renewed glory to the church. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome also inspired the new design, which is clearly of the Baroque style. With the help of periodic renovations, St. Peter’s Church still remains one of the most magnificent structures in Vienna. The towering structure beckons visitors daily with the tolling of the bells and provides a backdrop for countless horse drawn carriages which roam the streets. All in all, the one-time muse of Adolf Hitler has not lost its ability to inspire those who encounter it.
39: Berchtesgaden :: May 15-17
40: Eagle’s Nest : Kehlsteinhaus Commissioned as a gift for Hitler’s fiftieth birthday by Reichmaster Martin Bormann, there seems to be no more fitting a present for a man who was in many ways on ‘top of the world’ than a retreat atop a mountain. Kehlsteinhaus, also known as the Eagle’s Nest, was constructed in 1937 using the best engineers, architects, workers, and materials Germany had to offer for an impressive thirty million Reichmarks. Given this amount, it is no surprise that the granite stone building was lavishly decorated with valuable furniture, a marble fireplace (gifted by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini), and several large windows to help capture the breathtaking view. What is perhaps surprising, however, was its infrequent use by Hitler. Historical information regarding the subject indicates that in the approximately six years Hitler possessed Kehlsteinhaus, he only visited the retreat a handful of times due to the mountain top’s thin air and his aversion to heights. One of those rare occasions in which he did venture to the Eagle’s Nest occurred in August of 1939 when he sought to impress Carl Burckhardt, the League of Nations High Commissioner in Danzig. This free city had been at the center of a propaganda campaign by the Nazis to spread fear throughout Germany over the alleged misbehavior of the Poles and a war with the West, particularly Great Britain and France. Despite his dislike of the United Nations, Hitler thus met with Burckhardt to discuss the supposed possibility of postponing war with Poland should the Poles leave Danzig and entering a pact with Great Britain. Although Burckhardt passed the details of this meeting onto Great Britain and France, it is clear that the proposals of this meeting never came to fruition. Unlike many of the other Nazi buildings in the Kehlstein Mountain region, the Eagle’s Nest was not damaged during the Allied air raid on April 25, 1945. The building was instead seized by American forces until it was retroactively given back to Bavaria in 1948. Upon regaining the property, there was discussion regarding the destruction of the building. This idea was abandoned, however, in favor of a plan to make the location an economically profitable tourist location. Today the Eagle’s Nest has accordingly been reconfigured to serve as a restaurant – an interesting fate for a building so closely tied to the Nazi regime.
41: The Bunkers of Kehlstein Mountain The top of Kehlstein Mountain boasts what some would consider the most spectacular views in all of Europe. In fact, the summit, which rises 1834 meters above sea level, has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. Amidst the exterior beauty, however, lies an interior darkness associated with Germany’s terrifying Nazi past. In 1943, as Germany came under increasing air attacks from the United States and Great Britain during the latter phases of World War II, Reich officials initiated a new security plan: a mountainside bunker system. Constructed primarily by Italian and Czechoslovakian workers, Hitler’s elaborate bunker system at Kehlstein would eventually include approximately eighty rooms connected by more than 2,800 meters of tunnel. Some of these rooms were designed as personal living areas for Hitler and other Nazi leaders, while other spaces were designed as workrooms, engine rooms, and storage rooms. According to historical records, this plan was quite effective as only one death and a few injuries were reported among Nazi officials during the Royal Air Force’s first attacks on the region. Today, many tourists, students, and historians who travel to the documentation center at Obersalzberg visit one of the largest surviving bunkers in the Kehlstein region. When one thinks of a bunker, small, crude spaces may come to mind. But as history scarily demonstrates, Hitler was never really one to approve of small scale projects – and the bunkers are no exception. Upon entering the first tunnel, it is thus hard to dismiss the great width of the entrance. This is not to say that the tunnels do not become quite narrow in some parts of the bunker, but the amount of rock disposed of for this security venture is nonetheless impressive. Despite this claustrophobia alleviating entrance, however, this bunker is hardly a place where most modern day persons would desire to spend a majority of their time. Reasonably lit, the bunker is far from a literal ‘heart of darkness’ destination. However, the ever present chill and the musty air which greets one’s senses as they traverse into the mountain are certainly enough to convince visitors that the bunkers of Kehlstein Mountain are best served to house the memories of heartless men with foul plans which should never have seen the light of day.
42: Munich :: May 18-20
43: Despite his supposed claims to the contrary, Adolf Hitler was not a man of many original ideas, designs, or concepts. Thus, it is not surprising that when the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hitler’s penchant for embracing others’ ideas as his own took a more materialistic turn. No longer did the NSDAP simply embrace ideas and designs such as the Swastika, they embraced whole monuments. One such monument, which took on a new symbolic meaning under the Third Reich, (and even several years before 1933) was the Feldherrnhalle. Built in 1844 under the commission of King Ludwig I, the Feldherrnhalle was originally built to honor the Bavarian Army and its generals. As the years passed, various other bronze statues were added to the monument in order to commemorate the German-French War. This significance of this military monument would change after 1923, however, as it became not only a site of victory, but also a site of defeat. In 1923, as the economic conditions in Germany continued to deteriorate due to the consequences of World War I, Adolf Hitler saw an opportunity for a revolution against the Weimar government he so despised. Inspired by Benito Mussolini’s successful attempt to overtake the Italian government in the March on Rome, Hitler and approximately 2,000 members of various German nationalist groups, including the NSDAP, conspired to initiate a similar coup in Munich. This event, now known as the Beerhall Putsch, would ultimately fail as a result of disorganization and would meet its end in front of the Felderrnhalle. In a final confrontation with Bavarian police forces, eighteen people were killed and several wounded – including Hitler. After seizing power in 1933, the Felderrnhalle monument became a memorial and annual celebratory site for the Nazis, who had added a memorial to the putschists killed ten years earlier. This portion of the memorial was removed in 1945. For those not well-versed in German or world history, the Felderrnhalle may appear to be just another monument in a long line of similar European structures. Nonetheless, its magnificent design in the spirit of Florence, Italy’s Loggia dei Lanzi is a sight to behold. From the magestic marble lions to the grand arches, the building exudes the characteristics of power and might. Perhaps it is only fitting then that a man who came so close to dominating the world would experience his first real defeat in a place associated with such ideals. It was a sign of what was to come, both in terms of power and defeat. | Field Marshals’ Hall Feldherrnhalle
44: When a great tragedy occurs within the course of world history, one of the first questions to be raised comes in some variation of, “How did it all begin?” or “Where did the crime originate?” In discussing the origins of the Holocaust, various historians would most likely have a multitude of explanations to address how or where the murders of millions began. Some may argue they began in Germany with the internal purges of the NSDAP, while still others may contend that the attempted desecration of entire groups of people began years earlier in the twisted mind of a failed Austrian artist. While each of these answers could be correct within their own context, history does provide a concrete answer to the beginnings of the organized horrors known as concentration camps: Dachau. Opened in early 1933 on the grounds of a former munitions plant from World War I, Dachau was not initially known as a place of detainment for Jews. Rather, it served as a more general holding area for those who opposed the new Nazi regime – particularly the Communists. This purpose would soon begin to expand, however, as the violence of the Third Reich began to accelerate into war. In 1937 the relatively small camp, which was headed by Theodor Eicke, was expanded to create room for additional prisoners such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and other ‘undesirables’ who had begun arriving a few years earlier. The renovated facilities thus allowed for the containment of approximately 6,000 people. This number would become rather irrelevant, however, as the Nazis would never house less than 12,000 persons at Dachau after 1943. Although it has been estimated that approximately 26,000 perished at Dachau, the camp was not designed for mass exterminations. Thus, most did not die from the direct bullets of the Nazis, but rather from excessive forced labor and various diseases resulting from the poor living conditions. Those murders which were directly attributed to the Nazis were often the result of some prisoner infraction or a human ‘medical experiment’ gone awry. | Dachau Concentration Camp Konzentrationslager Dachau
45: On April 29, 1945, the camp which had become the model for all subsequent concentration camps was finally liberated by the United States Army. Those who visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial today are likely prepared for an emotional experience. While this is the eventual reality for many, one is also able to create some emotional distance from what occurred here due to the fact that not every building on the site is original. What one can most definitely connect to, however, is the silence – or the urge to be silent. While the low chatter of a tour guide or school group can often be heard somewhere on the grounds much of the time, there is still a heavy vocal barrier that one may feel reluctant to break, so as not to disturb the innocent souls who took their last breathes here so long ago. And quite frankly, the only words which need to be fully gathered from a visit to Dachau can be read silently on the ground’s Jewish memorial: “Never again.” | Reconstructed Barracks | Entrance Gate
46: White Rose Memorial | Mr. Muller spoke about the movement.
47: During the height of Hitler’s reign of terrorr, speaking out against the Nazis was often a death sentence, which caused many who disagreed with Hitler to remain silent. Not all followed this example. Around 1941, University of Munich medical students Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl, with other students such as Sophie Scholl formed the ‘White Rose’ opposition group and decried the actions of the current government. The members, which also included a philosophy professor, expressed their outrage and discontent in a series of anonymous pamphlets which were distributed across campus. While these actions were most certainly courageous, their fates were sealed. After being arrested and receiving all too brief trials, many of the movement’s leaders were beheaded. Other less involved students received terms of varying lengths. Several memorials commemorating the actions of the ‘White Rose resistance group can now be found in and around the University of Munich. If one visits the University of Munich to view some of the memorials to the ‘White Rose’ movement, they must have a keen eye as a few memorials are rather understated. Yet, this does not in anyway diminish the enormity of the students’ actions. Perhaps more so than any other commemoration from the Nazi era, the ‘White Rose’ dedication truly connects the past and the present as one can be surrounded by current university students when visiting the site. This prompts the thought, “This could have been them,” or “This could have been me.” It is moments such as these which make one grateful for the people who have come before them, and serve as a reminder that anyone can change the course of history even a simple college student. | (University of Munich)
48: Hofbraehaus | The Hofbraehaus is filled with the sounds of traditional music and good company.
49: If one walks into almost any beer hall in Germany, they will most likely encounter several commonalities: boisterous chatter, air filled with the faint smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke, and of course lots and LOTS of beer. For one famous Munich establishment, however, there lies a hushed past of nationalist patrons spouting off anti-Semitic sentiments who would one day come to terrify a nation and decimate much of Europe. Long before Adolf Hitler would attract hundreds of people to the Hofbraehaus for an NSDAP meeting, however, the beer hall served other purposes. Thus, when the Duke of Bavaria first established it in 1589, the Hofbraehaus served not as a public tavern, but as a brewery. These practices continued for over three hundred years at which point the establishment, which had been used as both a brewery and a public tavern for several decades, was converted into a full-fledged restaurant in 1897. On February 24, 1920, the Hofbraehaus was the site of the German Workers’ Party’s first mass meeting – a meeting that would not only set the tone for the party, but also assist in proving Hitler to be the true ‘star’ of the movement. His stardom came undoubtedly from his superior speaking abilities and also from his message. At this particular meeting, Hitler announced the twenty-five point program of the soon to be renamed German Workers’ Party, (it was changed to the NSDAP in April, 1920), which he composed along with Anton Drexler. This early platform of the Nazi Party denounced World War I’s Treaty of Versailles, as well as, established views concerning the racial purity of Germany that would later come to fruition in the Nürnberg Racial Laws. Hitler would make additional speeches for the NSDAP at the Hofbraehaus in the months and years that followed – sometimes with riotous results. Much of the famous beer hall was subsequently bombed out during World War II and wasn’t fully reopened for business until 1958. Today, the Hofbraeuhaus is a loud, lively flurry of activity. Rows upon rows of long tables line the main hall and are quickly filled with persons eager for an authentic German eating experience. It is probably not the best place to dine if one would actually like to have an audible conversation with their dinner guests, but listening to live, traditional Bavarian music is not a bad trade. Beer, of course, runs a plenty as servers amazingly balance stein upon stein in their hands to almost every table in the room and it doesn’t take long for the alcohol to set in. Thus, given the frenzy created in the Hofbraehaus on an average night, it is not hard to imagine how easily Hitler could have stirred up the hearts of a crowd whose true feelings about the disheveled state of Germany were even more uninhibited by the famous ale running through their veins all those years ago.
50: Allianz Insurance Company Dislike of insurance companies is not an uncommon sentiment as many individuals have, at one time or another, been faced with an insurance situation which they feel is unjust. But no case of alleged injustice can seemingly match that which involved the Allianz Insurance Company and victims of the Holocaust. In 1933, as Hitler began the process of coordinating the German state to reflect its radical ideology, many public and private companies succumbed to the influence of the Nazis. Allianz was no exception. Between 1933-1939, Allianz would see new insurance leaders emerge from the NSDAP Party, numerous Jewish employees forced out of their jobs, and ‘stolen’ Jewish property become company land. These connections to the Nazis would only become more prevalent with the start of World War II. During the course of the conflict, Allianz provided insurance for members of the SS and entities within the various concentration camps, as well as, other Nazi organizations. Such acts, however, would not prove to be the insurance company’s largest offense. Prior to the rise of the Nazi Party, countless Jews had taken out life insurance policies with Allianz. The fast decline of the Jewish livelihood, however, forced many policyholders to stop payments and cancel their plans in order to make ends meet. Still others were forced to surrender their policies to the government after the ‘Night of Broken Glass’ in the late 1930s as a means of paying the astronomical tax rates. Those who had managed to maintain their life insurance during this time would ultimately have it seized by the government in 1941 when the Nazis demanded control of all Jewish assets. Following the war, these confiscated plans, as well as the policies cancelled prior to the conflict, were to be paid out to the survivors of Holocaust victims as part of the German Federal Acts on the Compensation of the Victims of Persecution by the National Socialist Regime of 1949 and 1953. In 1997, Allianz suddenly came under fire when a lawsuit was filed alleging that they had failed to pay out the Jewish policies from the Nazi period. These claims were disputed by the company, who after an intensive investigation, only recovered a handful of polices which had not received their due compensation. Allianz has since set up an organization to help those victims of the Holocaust who may have an unpaid claim.
51: Those who receive an opportunity to visit the Allianz headquarters in present-day Munich may be somewhat surprised at what they encounter. Given the controversy over the life insurance policies, the company has taken a strong initiative to document and record its history – an apparent rarity for insurance organizations. However, even with this effort to set straight the facts of history, one cannot help but wonder if what they have presented is the whole truth. This skepticism is most likely a product one’s ingrained tendencies to trust large insurance companies. But, history has sometimes proven to be a very twistable arm in the hands of powerful interests. | Changing Allianz logos
52: Nurnberg :: May 21-22
53: Kaiserburg In the mind of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, there was no more Germanic a city than Bavaria’s picturesque Nürnberg along the Pegnitz River. Its history of Jewish persecution during the thirteenth century and central geographical location was thus a seemingly perfect match for a party of rabid anti-Semites positioning to rule all German people. Even more important to the creators of the Third Reich, however, was Nürnberg’s reputation as the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. This historical period sometimes known as the First Reich was often Hitler’s inspiration for the Third Reich. And considering the royal court’s tendency to convene at Nürnberg’s castle (Kaiserburg), it was only fitting for the NSDAP to gather on the same grounds as their predecessors. The Kaiserburg’s connections to the Nazis would not end with its Holy Roman past. In 1944, long after the imperial leaders had left the shelter of the castle, innocent townspeople and art treasures would find protection here from Allied bombers. Hiding in fourteenth century beer cellars beneath the Kaiserburg, a great majority of the residents and precious art pieces were spared Nürnburg’s fate: total obliteration. This is not to say that the Kaiserburg was not damaged by Britain’s famous World War II air raid, but it remained somewhat intact. The reason for its structural survival is primarily due to its function as an aerial marker for British bombers when they bombed the rest of the area. Thus, the Allies left it standing to aid their mission and inadvertently aided the lives of numerous Germans.
54: Upon hearing the terms ‘Nürnberg’ and ‘Nazis,’ the most common connections made by a casual observer of history are likely to include the Nürnberg Laws of 1935 or the Nürnberg Trials of 1945-1946. And while these events undoubtedly have a rightful place in the infamous history of the Third Reich, Nürnberg also served as the location for another series of important events: the Nazi Party Rallies. From 1933-1938, the city played host to six official Nazi Party Rallies of the NSDAP, which grew in size and grandeur with every passing year as they attracted hundreds of thousands of participants and visitors. The primary goal of these rallies was to demonstrate to the presence of a Volksgemeinschaft within Germany and later to additionally promote a spirit of war. Stirred by the endless parades, military demonstrations, sports events, and opera performances, ordinary spectators could thus not help but be mesmerized and swayed by the Nazi propaganda machine and its devilishly charismatic leader Adolf Hitler | Nazi Party Rally Grounds (Nürnberg) Reichsparteitagsgelnde
55: . Once it had been decided by Hitler that Nürnberg was to be the “City of the Nazi Party Rallies” in 1933, architect Albert Speer was commissioned to draft grand plans for the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. The final plans were designed to cover eleven square kilometers and featured a variety of complexes including an arena, a hall, a marching field, and select other building projects. The Zepplin Field, pictured above, was the only structure designed by Speer which would be completed. The structure, which took four years to build, was a massive rallying area dominated by various tribunes and a prominent rostrum from which Hitler was to speak. It has been estimated that the combined area of the field and the tribunes had a capacity of over 160,000 people. In 1945, Zepplin Field was temporarily seized by American troops who destroyed the prominent swastika which decorated the rostrum. Ownership of the field was transferred back to German municipal authorities in 1946, who have since altered the area for reasons of disrepair and meeting the technical needs of modern day open air concerts. Those who have traveled to the old Nazi Rally sites in Nürnberg can probably all agree on at least one general observation: the sites are enormous. Scholars have long noted Hitler’s desire to overwhelm visitors and others alike with the sheer enormity of Nazi architecture, a fact certainly corroborated by the rally sites. Thus, one begins to wonder, “Were the rally participants whipped into a frenzy more so by the actual events, or was it the pageantry’s grand scale which put many over the edge?’ This question could most likely be debated many times over with no definitive answer, but there is little denying that the area can be so large as to be mentally and physically exhausting. Walking into the unfinished Congress Hall, for example, makes one feel like a speck on the bottom of some grand, brick bowl, while Zepplin Field stretches so far as to almost make one believe that it extends into infinity. This feeling, combined with the hot rays of a German spring or summer would therefore seemingly be the ideal conditions to wear down almost anyone’s resolve to resist the propaganda of the Third Reich – and that’s exactly how the Nazis wanted it to be.
56: “Triumph of the Will” Triumph des Willens | Is it propaganda, or is it art? That is the primary question which has surrounded Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematically advanced 1935 work, Triumph of the Will for decades. According to Riefenstahl, the Nazi film is primarily a work of art, but for many historians and other observers, it is propaganda at its finest. Commissioned by Adolf Hitler, Triumph of the Will chronicles the events of the 1934 Nazi Party Rally held in Nürnberg, Germany. Its production was a massive undertaking as an approximately 172-person film crew captured over sixty-one hours of rally footage from every imaginable angle. The final two-hour version is thus a true study of both filmmaking technique and symbolismnot to mention political pageantry and rhetoric. Among the most interesting aspects of the film is Riefenstahl’s use of the Nürnberg landscape. The aerial shot in the opening sequence thus demonstrates the grandness of Germany with its perfectly built towns and powerful imperial past. As the film progresses, this idyllic theme continues with the sounds of chirping birds and a serene sunrise meant to signify the dawning of a new, brighter nation at the hands of the Nazis. This sunlight is also utilized to present Hitler as a Savior sent from the heavens when the rays strike his outstretched hand in a brilliantly timed manner. And while such instances are clearly manipulated to serve the nefarious purposes of the Nazis, the sheer beauty of old Nürnberg cannot be denied. Due to Allied bombings of Nürnberg near the end of the war, much of the classic scenery captured in Riefenstahl’s work is long gone. But those who take an observant stroll around the city may be able to catch a few glimpses of what the Nazis saw in 1934. The Kaiserburg still stands high above the skyline and the water of the Pegnitz River still flows under the arches of great stone buildings. But now, instead of beautiful images tainted by propaganda, these picturesque views of Nürnberg are simply beautiful.
57: As an inspiring artist and architect, Adolf Hitler possessed a great admiration for and collection of various artworks. This love transferred generally onto the political aims of the Nazis, as it was believed that art played a key role in helping purify the German nation by demonstrating the ideal country life, community life, or some element of the Aryan race. Due to its seeming importance, all artworks displayed in Germany had to thus be approved by the government. Those pieces, such as any form of modern art, which were deemed to be degenerate, were most often promptly banned from display. Those which managed to meet Hitler’s seal of approval, however, were prominently displayed in art galleries built by Hitler or were kept for his own private collection. One artist whom the Fuhrer admired, and even imitated during his fledgling days as a failed art student was Albrecht Durer. Known as one of the great artists of the Northern Renaissance, Durer was a well-known painter, printmaker, and engraver who resided in Nürnberg during the fifteenth and sixteenth century. | Some of his most famous works created during this time period centered on Christian-related themes such as: Adam and Eve, the trinity, and the coming of the apocalypse. Adolf Hitler’s fascination with his work was not as closely tied to these particular subjects, but rather the supposed ‘German-ness’ of his other pieces. For although Durer was of Hungarian decent, he nearly became the symbol or face of Aryan perfection when the Nazis featured his self-portrait on the cover of the Volk and Rasse magazine in 1942. This post-humorous association with Hitler would in some ways tarnish his reputation for a period of time after the war. And however unfair this may have been to the legacy of Durer, the dead cannot control the actions of the living especially someone as obstinate as Hitler. The house in which he lived and worked during his time in Nürnberg survived the bombings of 1944 and can still be seen today. | Albrecht Durer's House
58: Berlin :: May 23-27
59: Between 1933 and 1945, the Berlin streets of Prinz-Albrecht-Strae and Wilhelm could have been unceremoniously described as roadways to Hell. For housed along these streets were the headquarters of the Nazi regime’s key instruments of terror and propaganda: the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Reich SS Leadership and the SS Security Service (SD), and the Reich Security Main Office (1939-1945). The primary aim of the Gestapo was to protect the Nazi Party from ideological dissenters and other classifications of people, such as Jews and homosexuals, deemed a threat to the regime. Similarly, the SD sought to identify and eliminate potential enemies of the state. Members of these organizations thus carried out many of the brutal acts of discrimination, torture, and murder which have come to define Hitler and the Nazi Party. Many of these buildings were partially damaged or destroyed during the final phase of World War II before being demolished in the years following the conflict. By 1956, many of the buildings were essentially gone and the site was supposedly lost to history. In the late 1970s, however, the site once again became a part of the public conciseness. Within the passing of a decade, a documentation center was constructed to educate visitors about the area’s historical importance, cementing its present day name: ‘Topography of Terror.’ A new, expanded documentation center was opened in May 2010. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the new exhibit is not the horrifying tales it houses, but the structure itself. Designed by architect Ursula Wilms, the two-story steel and glass building appears to be exceedingly modern, a definite product of the twenty-first century. Yet, it projects a harshness that seems more than appropriate for the subject matter it commemorates. The white, somewhat stark nature of the building’s interior also compliments the characteristics of the exterior. Together, the steel and crisp whiteness of the ‘Topography of Terror’ exhibition gives the impression of being cold and surgical, an ambiance which was assumingly not lost on the architects and designers. For in the minds of the Nazi leaders, the Jews and other undesirable groups were a growing cancer in Germany which need to be ‘cut out’ or removed in order for the nation to survive. | Topography of Terrors Exhibit
60: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin) Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas | The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is also known as the Holocaust Memorial for Germany. Designed by Peter Eisenman, the memorial has a long and controversial history which is indicative of the nation’s struggle to accept its horrific past. Seventeen years and two design contests later, however, the dedication of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe demonstrates a new sense of self-awareness among the German people and within the German government – a reality highlighted by the presence of a federal foundation responsible for the site’s operation and upkeep. Construction of the memorial began in 2003 and was officially opened to the pubic in the spring of 2005.
61: The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe consists of two sections: the outdoor Field of Stelae and the underground Information Center. Unlike traditional memorials, Eiseman’s 2,711 concrete block (stelae) design lacks a recognizable sense of symbolism. Its stelae thus do not represent individual Holocaust victims or groups of victims, but rather the unstable political and cultural atmosphere in which they perished. As Hitler’s iron grip of terror demolished and demoralized much of Europe from the late 1930s into the early 1940s, it would seem as though his system of power was undefeatable and without flaw. Closer study, however, reveals an increasingly chaotic government marred by political infighting and poor departmental communication. This confusing environment is captured in the Field of Stelae, which appears to be a rational, organized grid of concrete blocks when viewed from a distance. When this distance disappears, however, the organized grid becomes a mismatched mass of gray structures. This theme is further replicated in the attached information center, which provides information on a vast collection of Holocaust victims. While designing the memorial, Eiseman wrote, “ The enormity and horror of the Holocaust are such that an attempt to represent it by traditional means is inevitably inadequate.” Applying this sentiment to the final product, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is both confusing and overwhelming. As one walks through the maze of varied concrete blocks, the ever present question becomes, “What does it all mean? What do these blocks represent?” With little answers to be found within the Field of Stelae itself, one is left to ponder the overwhelming nature of the structure. The maze of concrete blocks becomes more disorienting as the structures come to tower above the visitors – no doubt causing them to realize just how insignificant one person can be in a world populated by billions. As the information center quickly demonstrates with its displays of ordinary victims, however, every life has meaning, a sentiment which must never be forgotten if the world is to avoid future genocides.
62: Reichstag “This is a God-given signal, Herr Vice-Chancellor! If this fire, as I believe, is the work of the Communists, then we must crush out this murderous pest with an iron fist!” This was the alleged response of then Chancellor Adolf Hitler to Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen upon learning of the Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933. Shortly after the flames had been extinguished, German police arrested a twenty-four-year-old former Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe for arson, and Hitler set in motion his plan to destroy the German government. On February 28, 1933, Chancellor Hitler issued the emergency decree ‘For the Protection of the People and the State’ so as to guard the German people against the supposed Communist revolution signaled by the destruction of the Reichstag. In reality, this decree, which took away the personal liberties and autonomy of all Germans, would be the precursor to the Nazi reign of terror. Historians have long debated the source of the Reichstag fire, and have suggested that van der Lubbe was set up by Nazis eager to dismantle the government. For what better way to take down a governing body than to destroy the building in which the parliament convenes? Whatever the true motivation of the arsonist, one this is clear: the High Renaissance and classical building once the site of Germany’s declaration as a republic in 1918 was badly damaged. It would take years for the Reichstag to return to its former glory, but history would march on without its services, as government meetings would be held in the adjacent Kroll Opera House. This would not stop the Reichstag from being a part of some of the most iconic moments in the twentieth century, such as the Soviet Union flag rising over a defeated Germany at the end of World War II. The Reichstag was officially reinstituted as the home of the German parliament after the country’s reunification in 1990.
63: Checkpoint Charlie Although Hitler would die at his own hand in April 1945, the repercussions of his madness would plague Germany for decades to come. The end of World War II would thus result in the division of Nazi Germany into four military zones occupied by one of the four allies: Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. Before these lines were drawn, however, the Soviet Union had been establishing the Eastern Bloc through its annexation of territories which had been received through the Moltov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany during the war. This amassing of territorial power put the United States and other Western countries ill at ease, causing tensions between the Eastern and Western powers to grow at the conclusion of World War II. These tensions would continue to simmer as fear over Communism rose drastically in the West, eventually ending an extended power struggle between U.S. and Soviet leaders known as the Cold War. One of the major consequences of this conflict would be the division of Berlin into two blocs: the Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the Western-controlled West Berlin. The Soviet Union adopted strict emigration policies during this time, but the easy access to West Berlin resulted in many Easterners moving from one bloc to another. This loss of population from the eastern side thus prompted East Berlin to construct the infamous Berlin Wall in an effort to stop further emigrations. President Kennedy responded to this construction by ordering the creation of three checkpoints along the wall which would allow diplomatic and Allied forces to reach West Berlin. Of these three sites, Checkpoint Charlie would become the most well known.
64: House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial & Educational Site:
65: In 1914, Berlin industrialist Ernst Marlier commissioned the construction of a lakeside villa which would one day serve as host to those planning perhaps the greatest crimes against humanity committed during the twentieth century: the murder of approximately six million European Jews. Marlier had amassed his fortune through the production of toothpaste and had just acquired the title Councillor of Commerce when he and his wife decided to build a villa in a wooded area of the Wannsee region. Economic woes forced Marlier to part with the site only seven years later, as it was sold to the North-German Real Estate Corporation for 2.3 million Reich marks. The founder of the corporation, Friedrich Minoux, would later have the property signed over to his name. Due to his crooked business practices, however, Minoux was arrested and sold the Wannsee villa to the SS foundation Stifung Norhav – a foundation meant to provide vacation spas for members of the Nazi secret police. On January 20, 1942, fifteen leading officials from various Reich government offices, the Nazi Party, and the SS met in the villa dining room to discuss the “final solution to the Jewish problem.” Thus, while allegedly sipping mid-morning coffees, the officials were informed of the plan to systematically deport and eliminate approximately eleven million European Jews using the concentration and death camps which had been instituted throughout lands controlled by the Reich. Leading the disasterous mission was Reinhard Heydrich, leader of the SD. In fact, as the other officials would also learn at the conference, Heydrich had been granted powers, “above and beyond all regional and institutional jurisdictions.” Following World War II, the house was used as a guesthouse for school trips. In 1965, however, historian and Auschwitz survivor Josef Wulf began advocating for the site’s usage as a research center. His efforts were unsuccessful. Almost twenty years after his death, part of Wulf’s dream would be realized as the site was opened as a memorial on January 20, 1992. Even though documented history tells of the atrocities planned at the Wannsee Villa, it is still hard to believe that it actually occurred at this location. How could something so ugly happen in a place so beautiful, so peaceful? The bright flowers and chirping birds which surround the area in springtime seem so misplaced and almost deceitful considering the horrors that are recounted inside the villa. There are no dark, twisted paths or foreboding ravens to warn of the treacherous past...for those are sadly the marks of fiction books. And just as one cannot always judge a book by its cover, one cannot understand the gravity of the Wannsee Conference by the villa’s exterior.
66: Berlin Wall “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Speaking before the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s call for the destruction of the Berlin Wall would mark the slow beginning to a new day in Germany, and an end to the last fully visible scar stemming from the Third Reich. The physical division of East Berlin and West Berlin with a concrete wall began in 1961 after ideological tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, two Allies who each occupied parts of Germany following World War II, would spur the beginning of a period of time known as the Cold War. Prior to the end of the World War, the Soviet Union had begun consolidating the territories they had received from the Nazis to form the Eastern Bloc. This bloc was then expanded a few short years after the war when the Soviet Union’s occupation zone in Germany was added to the Eastern Bloc. Such a show of territory and might worried those from the West who were growing more and more leery of the Communist ideology – especially the United States. These tensions thus posed a unique situation for Berlin, which unlike most other German towns and cities, was occupied by all four Allied powers rather than one. With the influence of four countries coming together in such a confined space, the stark contrast between the capitalistic ideals of the West and the Communist methods of the East came into sharp focus.
67: Therefore, as the success of the capitalists became more and more evident to the struggling Communists in East Berlin, people began to emigrate to the West in droves. Noting the increasing influence of the West within their territory and the decreasing level of their population, the Soviet Union took a drastic step constructing a concrete wall all along the border between East and West Berlin. Over almost the next three decades, the emigration rate between East and West Berlin remained virtually non-existent, as very few Germans were able to circumvent the wall. Economic conditions were still quite tough within Eastern Berlin, and increasing numbers of Germans were desperate for an opening into the more prosperous West Berlin. In 1989, this opening finally arrived as Communist leaders in other East Bloc states begin to lose their iron grip over the region. As dictators began to fall in the neighboring regions of Poland and Hungary, emigration from East Berlin began anew. The East knew they were fighting a losing battle and announced unexpectedly on November 9 the opening of the border between East and West Berlin. From this night on, the German people deconstructed the wall piece by piece until it was officially demolished almost two years later. Sections of the Berlin Wall can still be seen throughout the city – a reminder of what was and what must be avoided in the future. Much of the concrete is covered in graffiti and adds an almost strangely artistic feel to the city, even though most of the drawings are politically oriented. Perhaps the most poignant of these messages is not complex or colorful, as it asks plainly, "Why?.” A simple question, whose complete answer continues to elude a world still boiling in unrest and upheaval.
68: Brandenburg Gate Brandenburger Tor If asked to name a current or former structure which symbolized the city of Berlin, Germany, one would likely mention the Berlin Wall that divided the city for almost thirty years. Often lost in the literal and metaphorical shadow of this injustice is a monument that has long been considered the other architectural representative of Berlin: the Brandenburg Gate. First constructed in the 1700s, the Brandenburg Gate was considered among the most prominent in a series of several gates built during this time period. All of these custom markers would eventually by destroyed with the exception of the Brandenburg, as it was located near the boulevard which led to the residence of the former Prussian kings. With the passage of time, however, the monument would gain notoriety for much more notorious expressions of power. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Brandenburg Gate became a seemingly literal rite of passage for those militaries and leaders who came to control the city through war or political upheaval. Napoleon began this trend in 1806 when he and his men marched through the gate after emerging victorious during one of the many Napoleonic Wars. Never a man of true originality, Adolf Hitler also used the gate as a triumphant symbol for the Nazi Party when they held a torch lit parade through the gate during the beginning of their frightening rein in 1933. The Brandenburg Gate would continue to play a part in the political power struggle within the city after World War II with the construction of the Berlin Wall near its entrance. Over the next several decades, this area would thus remain a contentious location of division and protest until the destruction of the wall in 1989. Those who visit the Brandenburg Gate may be hard pressed to imagine the monument as the site of such destructive events as it rises majestically against the skies of Berlin – a symbol of pride. However, with various embassies and historical museums not too far off in the distance, it does not take long to remember the highly political area in which the gate stands. And in the end, this is how it should remain with the Brandenburg Gate repeatedly opening the door to a new chapter of German governmental history.