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Nürnberg: Hitler’s Propaganda Stage

Nürnberg, Germany

Hitler used Nürnberg’s huge Zeppelin Field to stage his Nazi Party rallies. His unfinished Congress Hall now houses the Nazi Documentation Center, which explains the evolution of the Nazi movement in the hopes of preventing its recurrence.

Complete Video Script

Nürnberg, so steeped in German history, was nicknamed the "most German of German cities." That's one reason it was a favorite of Hitler's. A short tram ride from the center is a collection of important Nazi sites.

When Hitler took power in 1933, he made Nürnberg's Zeppelin Field the site of his enormous Nazi Party rallies. The stark remains of this massive gathering place are thought-provoking. For several years, increasingly elaborate celebrations of Nazi culture, ideology, and power took place right here.

Thomas: Imagine, Hitler stepping out of that door, overlooking the masses — 200,000 people being lined up. He used propaganda to create a new community — in fact we even have a word for it: It's called Volksgemeinschaft.

The chilling images from Leni Riefenstahl's documentary Triumph of the Will were filmed at the 1934 Nürnberg rallies, and then shown in every theater and schoolroom in the country. The goal? To bring a visual celebration of the power of the Nazi state to every person in Germany.

Looming over a now peaceful lake is another remnant of the dictator's megalomania — his huge-yet-unfinished Nazi Congress Hall. Hitler was enamored with the Roman Colosseum. He had his congress hall modeled on that…but built much bigger.

Thomas: Imagine — 50,000 leading Nazis in here. One third higher, covered by a roof. A window inside the ceiling, sunshine would have fallen down to the podium. Once a year, one speech, of Adolf Hitler.

Thomas: Adolf Hitler liked huge buildings. He was a big fan of the architectural style named Neoclassicism. The idea was to make the individual feel small.
Rick: This really makes me feel small here.
Thomas: Yeah, you give away the responsibility of your life and you get something back in return. That is, a bright new future.

The Nazi Documentation Center fills one small wing of the hall. This superb museum does its best to answer the question: "How could Germany's Nazi nightmare have happened?" It traces the evolution of the Nazi movement, focusing on how it somehow both energized and terrified the German people.

This is not a WWII or Holocaust museum; in fact, those events are barely mentioned. Instead, the center frankly analyzes the origin and evolution of the Nazi phenomenon, to help better understand it and to help prevent it from ever happening again.

Exhibits offer insights into the creation of the Messiah/pop star image of Hitler — the mass hypnosis of the German nation. You'll see his manifesto Mein Kampf, mementos that placed the dictator alongside Bismarck and Beethoven in the pantheon of German greats, and souvenirs from his rallies. With postcards like these, the Hitler-mania generated by these rallies was shared across the land.

Of course, Hitler's promises were trumped up, and led not to glory but to war, the Holocaust, and the devastation of Germany. The challenges of building and maintaining a peaceful future are ongoing.

Thomas: Incorporated into these museums are classrooms like this.
Rick: Why is that?
Thomas: Because every student, military, policeman should learn from our difficult history.
Rick: So this really is, today, part of German education.
Thomas: Yeah. It finally arrived in our education system.