The Nazi Phantom: German Cities Confronting their Past

Dana Arieli-Horowitz
Fragments of the past are evident in the urban landscape; there create memory traces that are evident to people with historical awareness as they walk through cities


This paper seeks to examine the ways in which German cities confronted the heritage of Nazi Architecture. The Issue of remaining Nazi Architecture is neglected in the field of art and research. It seems that this neglect reflects dilemmas regarding normalization and personification of the Nazi era. German cities have adopted different strategies to confront the issue; the first that aims to demolish the buildings; the second aims at addressing history and conserve the architecture; the third redefines the roll of the buildings and gives them new meaning through this mechanisms. Transparent Commemoration is another solution discussed in this paper. Given the complicated relations between history and memory within German cities, these new functions cannot escape some historical ironies.


This paper seeks to examine the ways in which German cities have confronted the heritage of Nazi Architecture[1] since 1945. After the Holocaust and World War II Nazi architecture, though very hard to conceal, stood untouched like a phantom in the midst of urban spaces. The decision not to decide what to do with these remnants of Nazism resulted from great embarrassment and therefore seemed the only logical solution. For many decades these structures were neglected and ignored.

Unlike this negligence, concentration camps have been a major topic of research since the end of the War.  Professionals from a variety of fields have dealt with various aspects of the preservation of the concentration camps, not just because of the nature of these sites, but also because concentration camps function as “ghettoes of memory"; the fact that they were geographically separate from the places where life went on made them, paradoxically, easer to deal with.

Over the years various solutions have been adopted for the Nazi phantoms left untouched in the center of urban spaces. Certain solutions, such as the destruction or neglect of the buildings, were adopted immediately after the War, but after many decades of negligence, and particularly after reunification, German cities began to look their history straight in the eye. At this point, awareness and careful consideration of how to deal with these Nazi remnants influenced the solutions suggested, such as reusing them or turning them into historical monuments. These solutions were heterogeneous in nature and adopted after careful consideration, but they could not minimize the historical irony. Almost every attempt to make these buildings part of the urban space resulted in severe criticism. From the beginning this may have been an impossible mission, but it does reflect an attempt to rewrite history and overcome trauma.

Some of the solutions for this problem, such as destruction, deletion, negligence, and ignoring, were adopted between 1945 and the 1990s, and are discussed below. Since reunification, reuse, absorption into urban space, and transparent commemoration have been preferred. These new results have led to a commemoration industry with the Third Reich at its center. This industry, consumed mainly by tourists, is paradoxically characterized by a blurring of the lines between opressors and victims. The tension between transparent commemoration and the commemoration industry is discussed in detail at the end of this paper.


After the War, Nazi architecture became the topic of comprehensive research.[2] This research increased the amount of information available about public and official buildings, but normally overlooked the ordinary architecture of the Third Reich. The gaps between the monumental and colossal public architecture which evoked fascination and the banal ordinary architecture may explain this focus. Research into the architecture of the Third Reich focused mainly on the architects and the reasons behind the choice of style. Most architectural historians have claimed that Nazi architecture was not unique at all. It lacks aesthetic value, having mainly copied earlier styles (mainly Neo-Classicism), and was therefore described as “non-architecture”. The Nazi planners and architects were described as opportunists who were quite happy to replace modern and avant-garde architects like those active in the Bauhaus.

It is therefore not surprising that the center of attention after 1945 was mainly on the styles which the Nazis had hoped to destroy, such as the Bauhaus.[3] In recent decades, however, this focus has shifted to the architecture of the concentration camps[4] and to dealing with the complex issues of preservation which have become acute in an era of Holocaust denial.  At the same time, the remnants of Nazi architecture, the topic of this article, have received little attention until recently and that mostly outside of academia, on the internet and in avant-garde documentary films,[5] quite possibly because research on the remnants was seen and interpreted as a kind of normalization,[6] or because too little time had elapsed.

These remnants have quite probably suffered from negligence due to the embarrassment described above, but the negligence was also functional, as it enabled historical memory to be blurred and evaded. The buildings designed by Albert Speer still standing in the middle of German cities such as Berlin and Nuremberg[7] clearly enhance the problematics of the situation and indicate the difficulties facing decision makers in the fields of culture, research, and preservation. Dealing with Nazi architecture today may seem like just another step in coming to terms with the Nazi past, and therefore most of the solutions to this problem were adopted in the two decades since reunification. They all imply that the time has come for normalization.

Still, all the solutions cause dissonance. In extreme cases the Nazi remnants have been turned into a successful tourist industry which creates more paradoxes and causes even more embarrassment than the buildings did when they were overlooked. The combination of the random tourist and the site where the decision on the Final Solution was made is inevitably going to create impossible situations. A tourist with historical awareness will stand in front of what was once the Haus der deutschen Kunst and feel uncomfortable. This building, completed during the 1930s, was left untouched for decades until it was turned into the Haus der Kunst in the 1990s, and thus it is again used for its original purpose.

The changes in the approach to Nazi architecture as the decades went by were inevitable and natural; German cities, like other cities, could not stop developing. The remnants could not be overlooked forever and treated as if they were invisible.


Before looking into the various solutions adopted regarding these remnants I would like to add a personal note.  My interest in these buildings, which are both apparent and latent or invisible, stems from the mid-1980s, when I first tried to visit the Dachau concentration camp. Dachau’s gate, as you can see, was closed, and I was not able to enter. [Figure 1] The same feeling came over me when I tried to visit the huge complex designed by Albert Speer in Nuremberg for the Nazi party rallies. When I asked the tourist information office for instructions how to get to the Zeppelin field, nobody had a clue what was I talking about.

Figure 1: Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Dachau’s gate, 1985


A. The Nullification of History: Destruction and Deletion

The destruction or deletion of traces of Nazism was possible for a very short time. This strategy was chosen by the Allies after World War II and was meant to completely annihilate the history of the Third Reich and allow a new beginning. The bombings resulted in the demolition of some 160 German cities.[8] Special emphasis was given to the complete destruction of Nazi symbols of power and sovereignty, perhaps as an answer to the Nazi emphasis on monuments and symbols. The complete deletion of power symbols such as the Neue Reichskanzlei (New Reich Chancellery) was thus more than just a symbolic act. The building was designed as an explicit symbol of the power of the Third Reich by Albert Speer (1905-1981). It stood at the heart of Das Regierungsviertel (the government quarter) [Figure 2] at the corner of Voßstraße and Wilhelmstraße in Berlin.[9]


Figure 2: The New National Socialist Government Quarter in Berlin


According to Speer’s self-justifying testimony in Inside the Third Reich, the Chancellery was built in less than a year after his meeting with Hitler.

"At the end of January 1938 Hitler called me to his office. ‘I have an urgent assignment for you’, he said solemnly, standing in the middle of the room. ‘I shall be holding extremely important conferences in the near future. For these, I need grand halls and salons which will make an impression on people, especially on the smaller dignitaries. For the site I am placing the whole of Voss Strasse at your disposal. The cost is immaterial. But it most be done very quickly and be of solid construction. How long do you need?  For plans, blueprints, everything? Even a year and a half or two years would be too long for me. Can you be done by January 10, 1939? I want to hold the next diplomatic reception in the new Chancellery’. I was dismissed”.[10]

In order to complete this assignment on time some

"Forty-five hundred workers had labored in two shifts to meet the deadline. There were several thousand more scattered over the country who had produced components. The whole work force, masons, carpenters, plumbers and so on, were invited to inspect the building and filed awestruck through the finished rooms….”[11] 

All these efforts came to nothing six years later, when the New Chancellery was badly damaged during the Battle of Berlin. After the war, the remnants were demolished at the orders of the Soviet occupation forces. Today, only a transparent sign (see below) hints at its location. Like the Chancellery, the bunker used by Hitler was sealed or ruined and there are no traces of its existence in present-day Berlin.[12] The construction of the bunker, its depth, and its various entrances have been the subject of speculation and research ever since the end of the War. Joachim Fest and Hugh Trevor-Roper have both written books on the issue,[13] and they served as a source of inspiration for the 2005 movie Die Untergang (The Downfall), directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel.[14]

The research indicates that the bunker was actually a complex underground world, a combination of the Vorbunker from 1936 and the Führerbunker, built in 1945 and far deeper underground (15 meters). The two parts of this system were connected by a staircase. As can be seen from the plan for the bunker,[15] [Figure 3] the main entrance to the bunker was inside the New Chancellery. Hitler used the deeper part in his last days.


Hitler’s bunker plan


In 1947 the Soviets tried to bomb the bunker but only the outer walls were damaged. The government of the D.D.R. made a second, unsuccessful attempt in 1959. At the end of the 1980s, as part of the preparations for developing and building in the area, a few rooms of the Vorbunker were discovered and later demolished. When the area was prepared for the Pink Floyd concert The Wall in July 1990, another secret entrance to a bunker was discovered. At first it seemed that this entrance led to the Führerbunker, but further exploration indicated that the entrance led to a hiding place for an elite SS unit. In May 1995 the local parliament of Berlin, after a great deal of debate, decided to block every possible entrance to the underground bunker world below modern Berlin.[16] The Green Party's request to preserve the area because of its historical importance was denied. The logic of the decision was that the complete sealing of the bunker was necessary to prevent it from becoming a rallying point for neo-Nazi groups.[17]

The New Chancellery and the Fürher’s bunker are two examples of attempts to nullify history through processes of destruction and deletion, but both examples indicate that the absence of a building may also be fascinating (see below). These sites are still the subjects of a great deal of interest, as a quick look at the web indicates, and much effort is devoted to their virtual reconstruction. Decades after their destruction they still motivate art, culture, and research. [Figure 4 a + b]

              a. Anselem Kiefer, Innenraum, 1981. b. Image form Downfall


B. First preservation strategy: Looking straight at the Nazi Phantom

The bombings of Nuremberg, Berlin, and dozens of other German cities did not result in the complete destruction of Nazi architecture. Most of the buildings designed during the Third Reich, particularly private housing, were left untouched, as the Allies chose a strategy of “symbolic” bombing. The importance of symbols in politics in general, and especially in the Nazi movement, made the abolition of Nazi symbols a logical solution. Complete demolition occurred only in a fraction of the cases; in most cases the major changes made to Nazi buildings (or buildings used by the Nazis) was the removal of Nazi symbols, such as the swastika. In special cases, the bombings and replacement of symbols with those of alternative powers were documented.

One example is the case of the Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg. The symbolic façade was eliminated, but the original buildings were left untouched. The Zeppelin Field is part of a much bigger complex known as the Nazi party rally grounds, designed mainly by Speer and built under his supervision between 1934 and 1937.[18] This complex was built to host the rallies of the Nazi party which took place in 1923, 1927, and 1929, and then yearly from 1933 until 1938, and was documented by Leni Riefenstahl in Der Seig des Glaubens, showing the 1933 rally (released in 1934) and Triumph des Willens, showing the 1934 rally (released in 1935).[19] The film director of the Third Reich was called to reshoot the fifth anniversary of the Nazi party after her first attempt was declared a complete failure.  The monumentality of the complex made it difficult for Riefenstahl to capture the events; the field was designed to contain 100,000 members of the SA and SS elite units at the same time. Although her solution was not original,[20] her use of a hot-air balloon was later seen as a novelty.

Given the great symbolic importance of Speer’s complex, the removal of the swastika and the iron eagle was documented, [Figure 5 a+b] but while the Allies were debating among themselves which parts of the complex to bomb and how to use explosives in a clever way, Albert Speer, the architect and later Minister of Armaments, could ironically see his Theory of Ruin Value [Ruinenwert] being put into practice.

Bombing the swastika

Speer was preoccupied with the ways in which his building could look once destroyed. He was interested in modifying the fragments of his buildings by strengthening some elements and weakening others, so that decades later they would still function as a monument for themselves. Speer had been deeply impressed by the ruins which he saw during his trip to Rome after he graduated from the university. His awareness of the process of decay of his own buildings is itself quite fascinating. He referred to his theory of ruin value while imprisoned at Spandau:

’A Theory of Ruin Value’… The idea was that buildings of modern construction were poorly suited to form the ‘bridge to tradition’ to future generations which Hitler was calling for. It was hard to imagine that rusting heaps of rubble could communicate these heroic inspirations which Hitler admired in the monuments of the past. My ‘theory’ was intended to deal with this dilemma. By using special materials and by applying certain principles of statics, we should be able to build structures which even in a state of decay, after hundreds or thousands of years would more or less resemble the Roman models.[21]      

If he would be successful, then the destiny of his designs would be the same as that of their Italian predecessors:

Today, for example, Mussolini could point to the buildings of the Roman Empire as symbolizing the heroic spirit of Rome. Thus he could fire his nation with the idea of modern empire. Our architectural works should also speak to the conscience of future Germany centuries from now.[22]

The massive use of materials, particularly stone, embodied Speer’s desire to create monumental and colossal architecture. It was meant to insure that the Nazi ruins would be left as evidence of the power of the Third Reich centuries after their demolition. Indeed, seventy years after some of these buildings were completed, getting rid of the fragments of Nazi architecture still seems impossible. The complex in Nuremberg looks almost untouched, a fact which did not prevent Speer from saying, after being released from prison and visiting the site, that he was sorry that the original columns had been shortened in some cases.[23] [Figure 6 a+b] 


Nurenberg arena during the 1940's and today


The stadium designed for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin[24] provides another example. The Olympic arena (Olympiastadium) was originally designed for the 1916 Summer Olympics by Otto March.[25]  In 1934 Hitler instructed Otto March and his brother to enlarge the complex. The March brothers added the Mayfield, an amphitheater with a huge entrance and some 150 buildings designed for various branches of sport and athletic activities. The entrance to the complex has hardly been altered over the years and today, after another renovation, it is a Berlin tourist attraction. As in Nuremberg, the strategy here was cosmetic change.

Little has changed; history reveals itself to the visitor.


C. Second preservation strategy: Repositioning or repopulating buildings designed during the Nazi era

Only a fraction of the Nazi buildings built between 1933 and 1945 were designed for political functions and had particular symbolic value. Most of the buildings were used for everyday purposes and survived the War. After reunification great consideration was given to the ways in which these buildings could be made part of their contemporary urban environments. The issues connected to this process are far from being resolved and continue to be problematic. Almost every decision made has led to debates, ironies, and incomprehensible situations.  

The Haus der deutschen Kunst is an example. Hitler initiated the project as a temple for mobilized art; it was built according to plans drawn up by Paul L. Troost (1878-1934). Its first use was in 1937 for the first Grosse deutsche Kunstausstellung. By 1944 eight such exhibitions were held inside this neo-classical building; Hitler’s cultural speeches echoed past its huge columns.[26] After the War, the building was left untouched, a phantom in the midst of Munich. [Figure 7 a+b] The fact that it was a Nazi symbol from the Third Reich led Munich city planners to neglect it completely, perhaps as part of the desire to do away with the image of Munich as the Hauptstadt der Bewegung.[27] During the 1990s it was sometimes a discotheque and sometimes a space for traveling exhibitions. In the last decade it has reopened its gates as the Haus der Kunst (House of Art). A Nazi building has paradoxically returned to its original function. 

Haus der deuschen Kunst in the 1930's and today


The Nazi Air Ministry building (initiated by Herman Göring) was designed by Ernest Sagebiel[28] and completed in 1936; it is another example of a Nazi building which has again become part of the contemporary urban landscape. Even though Nazi architecture did not reach its intentioned thousand years, traces of the style of Albert Speer are apparent. As with Riefenstahl in the film industry, Speer set the tone and principles of Nazi architecture. This structure shows how other Nazi architects internalized his principles.

During the 1950s, after the division of Berlin and before the building of the Wall, the German painter Max Linger was asked by D.D.R. Prime Minister Otto Grotewohl to decorate the interior court of the building. The result was an 18 meter-long Socialist-Realist painting which took two years (1950-1952) to complete and describes everyday life in an optimistic Socialist-Realist manner. The building stands as it did during the Third Reich with no apparent changes, [Figure 8 a+b] and today it is the headquarters of the German Finance Ministry.

Nazi Air Ministry building in the 1940's and today


 The fact that government representatives use the premises for administrative work, doing what the building was originally designed for, causes problems. After the fall of the nearby Wall, a transparent memorial was placed in the courtyard. [Figure 9] The principle of the transparent commemoration, which is discussed in the next section, creates here a mixture of ironic historical paradoxes; the transparency of the materials gives an even better view of Sagebiel’s Nazi architecture.


Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Transperent commemoration number 1, 2002



D. Transparent Commemoration, Depressed Commemoration, and the Commemoration Industry 

German cities in general, and particularly Berlin, are dealing with commemoration in an almost obsessive manner. The increasing number of memorial sites, monuments, museums, transparent directing signs, and bricks – all indicate a trauma,[29] and may justify the use of the term Cultural Trauma.[30]   

Transparent signs, as can be seen here, [Figure 10] appear throughout Berlin, especially in places where the Nazi Party was particularly active. There are also transparent memorials, and together they make up a comprehensive mechanism of transparent commemoration. This term describes a pattern which has recently become apparent to me, most clearly after reunification. It is characteristic not only of the reaction to Nazi architectural remnants, but can also be seen in other projects, most of them initiated after reunification, such as the new Reichstag dome. The commemoration is transparent because most of the frequently-used materials in these projects are transparent. The choice of a transparent dome or a glass ceiling is symbolic and meant to show that the German parliament aspires to be as open to public examination, democratic, and pluralistic as possible.


Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Transperent commemoration number 2, 2002


Micha Ullman's[31] 1995 Bibliothek memorial in the middle of the Bebelplatz in Berlin is a brilliant example of “transparent commemoration” combined with underground, unseen, and depressed commemoration. The memorial is not Ullman's the first underground project; since the 1970s he has placed most of his statues underground. The archeology of commemoration and his choice to create unseen traces in the square are characteristic of his creation. Building underground is an example of the principle of depressed commemoration. The underground commemoration is mostly unseen, while the transparent commemoration is trying to be unseen, even though it is aboveground.

These methods of commemoration raise questions about psychological issues of awareness and suppression, but at the same time converse with history. The fact that Ullman’s library may be unseen for some of the visitors to the Bebelplatz is crucial, not only because it suggests the history of the pits in which the Nazis carried out mass murder, but mainly because it is functional for those who live in Berlin and are struggling to survive. The combination of transparent commemoration and depressed commemoration which may be unseen is characteristic of Ullman’s work, and has had a profound impact on other commemoration projects completed in Berlin in the last decade. It can be claimed that Ullman’s Library has pushed to an extreme the tendency to underground commemoration which Young has called Counter-Monuments.[32] Ullman’s project can be seen as echoing the 1986 disappearing monument of Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz and the 1987 Horst Hoheisel project.[33]

Transparent and depressed commemoration, in dialogue with Young’s “Counter-Monument”, call for commemoration that is part of the scene, yet does not dominate it. In doing so they negate the logic and conventions of the period between the wars, when the monumental and the colossal were the leading concepts. In using the term “transparent commemoration” I refer not only to the materials used but also to their location in the urban space. The combination is as a survival strategy; if you feel like it, you can look, but if you don’t, you can walk through without looking. Otherwise it is impossible to survive in Berlin on a day-to-day basis. On the one hand, "transparent commemoration" tries to deal with accusations of repression and oblivion, but on the other tries to enable normal life in a city suffering from post-trauma. The logic is that it is impossible to lead a normal life in a city which functions as an urban monument. The result is that only a transparent sign hints today at the location of Ex-Nazi sites. The location of the Neue Reichskanzlei, for example, appears on such a transparent site; it states that the building had been inaugurated there on January 9, 1939. [Figure 10]

Twenty years ago it was almost impossible to visit Nazi sites and buildings, but today the opposite is true; there is a commemoration industry which includes Holocaust sites, commemoration sites, and the remnants of Nazi architecture. Tourists move from one site to another. Tours following Nazi architecture do not restrict themselves any longer to sites of oppression, but now include sites of aggression where the Nazi elite spent time, dined, or ruled. The commemoration tourist industry raises again the idea of “fascinating fascism”, the question why is Nazism so fascinating? This fascination is not limited to Nazi architecture; the Nazi phantom has been brought back to life in films dealing with the period, such as The Downfall (2005) and Rosenstrasse (2003). Walking in the footsteps of the dictatorship became even more real through the processes of personification intensified by movies like Goodbye Lenin (2003) or The Lives of Others (2006). The reconstruction of everyday life, obtained through objects and personal artifacts certainly contributed to this intensification.

In 2002, while staying in Berlin, I participated in one of the tours following Nazi architecture. The guide stopped near the unseen entrances to the Fuhrer’s bunker, pointed to holes left on buildings where a swastika had once been attached, and pointed to many other indications of phantoms. The impression I got was that in cases where the historical evidence no longer exists the lack creates more enthusiasm. Fascination increases in the case of phantoms as opposed to real houses. As Yoav Horesh’s photographs taken recently indicate, the commemoration industry is still going strong.[34] In one image a group of tourists visits the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. [Figure 11] The Hofbrauhaus was the Nazi convention place and headquarters in Munich and is an important reference point on tours following Nazi architecture. The commemoration industry in Munich is much more ironic, as some of the tourists visiting the beer cellars are told where Hitler stood as he gave his first speeches as member number 7 of the new National-Socialist Party. How many of the visitors are doing research on the topic and how many are curious tourists? Does this so-called industry lead to further fascination? Which of the participants are World War II memorabilia lovers? Do neo-Nazis participate as well? If not, why would people want to come to these sites of horror? All of these questions certainly point to the need for further research.

Yoav Horesh, Third Reich tour photo group, Munich, 2007


In some cases in the meeting points between transparent commemoration, depressed commemoration, and the commemoration industry are absurd; the 2002 Michelin guide to Berlin calls on tourists to relax in Wannsee. [Figure 12] Images like this and Dachau’s gate [Figure 1] motivated me to begin studying this issue.


Michelin Tourist guide to Berlin, 2002


Even in the midst of the postmodern era, when there seems to be an agreement that there is no one historical “truth”, it appears that dealing with the remnants of the oppressors can be problematic, at the very least. This problematics becomes apparent when looking at cities which are trying, at the beginning of the 21th century, to include the remnants of Nazi architecture as part of their urban spaces. These sites of oppression become even more problematic when tourists began visiting, due to a mix of fascination and horror.

Fragments of history are evident everywhere. In Paris there are fragments of the French Revolution, and other cities display the remnants of acts of terror acts or political assassinations. In Mexico City, the visitor stands in front of Leon Trotsky’s bloodstained pages, part of a novel he was working on when his assassin finally found him in the yard of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s villa in Koyakan. Cairo lights the parade stand Sadat sat in just before he was assassinated, and in Tel Aviv the visitor follows the assassin's footsteps as he looks at the floor in the city center where Rabin was murdered. [35] All of these fragments of history eventually lead to art and commemoration industries.

Phantoms of history are evident yet latent in big cities. They create traces of memory. Dealing with these fragments is always a complex issue, and it appears that in the case of German cities trying to come to terms with their past is an even more complex issue. The radical changes in German cities after the Allied bombing left fragile urban spaces, and given the circumstances city authorities, architects, and urban planners wanted to delay the discussion of the Nazi phantoms left behind as long as possible. After reunification, some German cities adopted the solutions discussed in this paper, which can often be described as trying to have their cake and eat it too. German cities are trying to do the impossible: combining ancient legacies, buildings designed during the Third Reich and left untouched for decades, and modern and postmodern construction. The resulting mixture has a complexity not found anywhere else.

The solutions adopted in order to face the architecture of oppression have paradoxically given birth to a commemoration industry where the boundaries between oppressed and oppressors have been blurred. They illustrate why Europe has faced and still faces difficulties with its past. The debates are not limited to the Nazi remnants; they also cover the nature of commemoration sites, as is so apparent in the case of the Memorial to the Jews in Berlin.[36] Memorial sites and Holocaust museums have sprouted in various places in Europe and elsewhere. They create challenges for researchers who have rightly described them as a “Museum Boom”.[37] This is a relevantly new field of study, and the question of commemoration, which has provoked cultural activity in Europe in the last decades, is still developed. Although some valuable research has been published, there is still a lack of research on ordinary commemoration looking at everyday objects.





1.      Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Dachau’s gate, 1985

2.      The New National Socialist Government Quarter in Berlin

3.      Hitler’s bunker plan

4.      a. Anselem Kiefer, Innenraum, 1981. b. Image form Downfall

5.      Bombing the swastika

6.      Nurenberg arena during the 1940's and today

7.      Haus der deuschen Kunst in the 1930's and today

8.      Nazi Air Ministry building in the 1940's and today

9.      Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Transperent commemoration number 1, 2002

10.  Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Transperent commemoration number 2, 2002

11.  Yoav Horesh, Third Reich tour photo group, Munich, 2007

12.   Michelin Tourist guide to Berlin, 2002



[1] The term Nazi Architecture refers to public and private buildings designed and built in German cities and elsewhere in Europe between 1933 and 1945.

[2] Barbara Miller-Lane, Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918-1945 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985); Alexander Scobie, Hitler's State Architecture: The Impact of Classical Antiquity (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990); Brandon Taylor and Wilfried van der Will, eds., The Nazification of Art: Art, Design, Music, Architecture and Film in the Third Reich (Hampshire: Winchester Press, 1990); Dana Arieli-Horowitz, “An Architect of Race: Paul Schultze-Naumburg and National-Socialism,” Yad Vashem Studies 24 (1994), 223-246.

[3] Hans M. Wingler, Das Bauhaus: 1919-1933 Weimar, Dessau, Berlin und die Nachfolge in Chicago seit 1937 (Cologne: Dumont, 2002), 173-198; Deborah Irmas, "Bauhaus and Exile: Bauhaus Architects and Designers between the Old World and the New" in Exiles+ Emigrés, The Flight of European Artists from Hitler, ed. Stephanie Barron (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1997), 211-224.   

[4] In recent years pioneering research has been done on Nazi architecture and the mechanisms for mass murder. See Paul Jaskot, The Architecture of Oppression: The SS, Forced Labor and the Nazi Monumental Building Economy (London: Spon Press, 2000); Eric Katz, ed., Death by Design: Science, Technology and Engineering in Nazi Germany (New York: Pearson, 2004).

[5] Nazi buildings are thoroughly discussed in Wikipedia. The site Third Reich in Ruins deals with the fate of Nazi architecture after 1945. Jeff Walden is responsible for updating this site. See  http://www.thirdreichruins.com. See also "Top Ten Nazi Architecture,"


The 2003 documentary Visions of Space by the architectural historian Robert Hughes focuses on Albert Speer. It is part of a trilogy including Gaudi and van der Rohe. See Robert Hughes, Visions of Space: Albert Speer – Size Matters (London: BBC, 2003).

[6] Movies like Die Untergang are great examples of the process of personification. Other examples are artworks such as Maurizio Cattelan, Him (2001), Boaz Arad, Vuzzvuzz (2007). For more on this topic see Dana Arieli-Horowitz, “Boaz Arad: Vuzzvuzz”, In: Protocollage: Selected essays form Protocols: History and Theory (Jerusalem: Bezalel), 2009 [In Hebrew].

[7] For Speer’s architectural designs, see Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich – Memories (New York: Bonanza Books, 1982); Joachim Fest, Speer: The Final Verdict (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001); Karl Arndt, George Friedrich Koch, and Lars Olof Larsson, Albert Speer: Architektur, Arbeiten 1933-1942 (Vienna: Propylaen,1995); Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995); Stephen Helmer, Hitler's Berlin: The Speer Plans for Reshaping the Central City (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1985); Leon Krier, Albert Speer: Architecture (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1989).

[8] Jörg Friedrich, Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945 (Berlin: Propylaen, 2002).

[9] The map comes from Alexandra Richie, Faust’s Metropolis: A History of Berlin (New York: Carol & Graf, 1998).

[10] Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich – Memories (New York: Bonanza Books, 1982), 102. On the web there are many movies depicting the Neue Reichskanzlei in third dimensional graphics. Some of them have very nostalgic narrators. For an example, see:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk5VlMfnMA0&feature=related

[11] Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich – Memories, (New York: Bonanza Books, 1982), 114.

[12] A sign relating the history of the bunker was placed at the corner of Gertrud-Kolmar and Ministergärten streets, next to the Potzdammerplatz, in 2006.

[13] Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992); Joachim Fest, Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004).

[14] Oliver Hirschbiegel directed this fascinating movie with Bruno Ganz as Hitler. The movie describes Hitler’s last days in his bunker in Berlin. Great efforts were made to present the bunker as it is described in the literature.

[15] Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992).

[16] Alexandra Richie, Faust’s Metropolis: A History of Berlin (New York: Carol & Graf, 1998).

[18] The Nazi party rally grounds complex includes the Zeppelin Field, the Lvitpoldarena, the Märzfeld, and the Deutsche Stadion, all designed by Speer. The Congress Hall, which was also part of this huge complex, was designed by Ludwig and Franz Ruff.

[19] Riefenstahl produced four films during the Third Reich: Der Seig des Glaubens, 1934; Triumph des Willens, 1935; Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht, 1935; Olympia: Fest der Völker und Fest der Schönheit, 1938.

[20] French photographers of the late nineteenth century were the first to adopt this solution.

[21] Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich – Memories (New York: Bonanza Books, 1982), 56. See also Paul Virilio, Krieg und Kino: Logistik der Warhrnehmung (Munich: Hauser, 1986).

[22] Ibid.

[23] The original interview was recorded for BBC Radio during the 1970s. It is included in Robert Hughes, Visions of Space: Albert Speer – Size Matters, (London: BBC, 2003). The Collumes were designed by Adolph Hitler as can be seen in a book including, among other things, his architectural sketches. See: Billy Price, Adolf Hitler: The Unknown Artist, Billy Price Publishing: Verona, 1984, p. 230, number 621.

[24] Susan D. Bachrach, The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936 (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 2000); Richard D. Mandell, The Nazi Olympics (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987).

[25] These 1916 summer Olympics was cancelled due to World War 1. In 1931 the International Olympic Committee decided that Berlin would host the 1936 Games.

[26]  Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Romanticism of Steel: Art and Politics in Nazi Germany (2nd edition Jerusalem: The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2005,), 64, 97, 213-215.

[27] Richard Bauer , Hans G. Hockerts, and Brigitte Schütz, München – Hauptstadt der Bewegung, Bayerns Metropole und der Nationalsozialismus (Munich: Edition Minerva, 2002).

[28] Ernest Sagebiel (1892-1970) later designed the Tempelhof airport building in Berlin.

[29] In this context, like many others, I have found Dominick LaCapra's book very helpful. See Dominick LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).

[30] Jeffrey Alexander, “Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma” in Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, eds. Jeffery Alexander, Ron Everman, Bernhard Giesler, Neil Smelser, and Piotr Sztompka (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 1-31.

[31] Ullman won the esteemed Israel Prize in 2009.

[32] James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993); idem, “Memory and Counter-Memory: Toward a Social Aesthetic of Holocaust Memorials” in After Auschwitz: Response to the Holocaust in Contemporary Art, ed. Monica Bohm-Duchen (London: Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, 1995), 78-102.

[33] The "Monument against fascism" was designed by Jochen Gerz and Esther Shalev-Gerz. The commemorative pillar is twelve meters tall and was placed on-site in Hamburg in 1986. Over a number of years the pillar sank into the ground and was finally dedicated in 1993, after it had completely disappeared.  A disappearing fountain was dedicated in Kassel in 1987; it was placed at the same spot where the "Jewish Fountain", destroyed by the Nazis in 1939, had stood. For more on this topic, see Aviv Livnat, "Moment, Monument, and Document: On Memory, Commemorative Structures, and 'Bereaved Places' in the German-Israeli Space," History and Theory: Protocols (Vol. 14, October 2009) (Hebrew); Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen, “The Monument Vanishes: A Conversation with Esther and Jochen Gerz” in The Art of Memory: Memorials in History, ed. James E. Young (New York: Prestel, 1994), 69-76; Sergiusz Michalski, Public Monuments: Art in Political Bondage (London: Reaction Books, 1998); James E. Young, At Memory's Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

[34] Yoav Horesh's project is included in History and Theory: Protocols (vol. 14, 2009). The pictures were taken in 2007 and 2008 when Horesh visited Europe.

[35] In Israel, Boaz Arad and Miki Kratsman have created a video art , 21:40, reconstructing Rabin’s assassination.

[36] Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, "The Architects’ Debate," History and Memory 9 (1997), 189-225; Mark Godfrey, Abstraction and the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 239-265; Irit Dekel, “Ways of Looking: Observation and Transformation at the Holocaust Memorial, Berlin,” Memory Studies 2 (2009), 71-86.

[37] James Young uses the term Museum Boom, claiming that for various cultural and demographic reasons the memory of the Holocaust has reached critical mass in the last two decades. See James Young, ed., The Art of Memory: Holocaust Memorials in History (New York: Prestel, 1994), 19.

Dr. Dana Arieli-Horowitz, Senior Lecture and the Head of the History and Theory Department in Bezalel. She studies the interrelations between art and politics in totalitarian and democratic regimes. Currently she is working on a new book entitled Art, Trauma, Terror and Politics: The Israeli case.

Germania, September 2009