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November 15, 2010

Nazi party rallies in Nürnberg, 1927 to 1938

Filed under: Germany — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 12:03 pm

The photo above was taken during the August 19-20, 1927 NSDAP (Nazi) party rally in the city of Nürnberg (Nuremberg to Americans).

Georg Halberman and Pfeffer von Salomon stand in the front, wearing Bavarian lederhosen (leather shorts) and knee socks, while Hitler and his right-hand man, Rudolph Hess, who is smiling in the background, salute the parade of Sturmabteilung (SA) troops that are marching by.

In the photo above, Heinrich Himmler stands behind Hitler during the 1938 Nazi party rally.

Himmler was a strong nationalist, even more so than Hitler; he wanted to return to the past and to bring back the ancient German culture. The medieval city of Nürnberg, with its castle dating back to the reign of Kaiser Frederick Barbarossa, was one of Hitler’s favorite cities, because it is rich in German history.

The ancient castle in the city of Nürnberg

It was because of the historical significance of Nürnberg that Hitler selected the city as the site of the annual Nazi Parteitage (Party Day). The first official party rally was held in 1927 in the city itself with speeches given at the Hauptmarkt, the main town square. Before 1927, there had been rallies in Nürnberg on German Day which Hitler and other party members attended.

The Nazi party rallies in Nürnberg were designed to impress the rest of the world with Germany’s military might and the party’s solid support of Hitler. To people who were alive before World War II started, the name Nürnberg immediately evokes images of the spectacular Nazi rallies. The speeches were broadcast around the world by radio, and films of the event were shown in the newsreels that preceded movies in theaters, the 1930ies substitute for television world news. In 1935, Hitler commissioned the beautiful and talented movie actress, Leni Riefenstahl, to produce the film “Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), which is still frequently shown on the History Channel on cable television; it is a propaganda documentary of the 1935 annual party rally at the Zeppelin Field.

Go to YouTube to see a video which shows members of the SA marching toward the Nürnberg Hauptmarkt in 1927, singing “Die Fahne hoch!” also known as “the Horst Wessel Lied.”
The Nazi party rallies would begin with a performance of “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” an opera by Richard Wagner, which was Hitler’s favorite. The cult of the Nazis had its origins in the music of Wagner which glorified the German past. The rallies lasted for a week and included many speeches, parades, sporting events, and a folk festival.

After Adolf Hitler was appointed the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, an airfield called the Zeppelin Field, outside the city center, was first used for the party rally. The Zeppelin Field offered a huge space for party members to gather and listen to nationalistic speeches.

Albert Speer, who was Hitler’s favorite architect, was commissioned to design a temporary reviewing stand at the Zeppelin Field. He designed a gigantic eagle with a wingspread of over 100 feet. “I spiked it to a timber framework like a butterfly in a collection,” Speer wrote.  The eagle, which is shown in the photo below, was replaced in 1934 by a large reviewing stand.

In 1934, Albert Speer was commissioned to design a permanent stone structure for the party rallies at the Zeppelin Field. According to Speer, his design was “a mighty flight of stairs topped and enclosed by a long colonnade, flanked on both ends by stone abutments. Undoubtedly it was influenced by the Pergamum altar.” He added that “The structure had a length of thirteen hundred feet and a height of eighty feet. It was almost twice the length of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.”

Entrance to the Tribune and the Golden Hall

Speer wrote that he designed the Tribüne at the Zeppelin Field so that it would still look beautiful even “after generations of neglect, overgrown with ivy, its columns fallen, the walls crumbling here and there, but the outlines still clearly recognizable.”

Regular viewers of the History Channel will recognize the marble reviewing stand at the Zeppelin Field, shown in the photograph above, as the place where the Nazi swastika was blown up by the Allies in a symbolic display of victory over the Nazis on April 24, 1945. The film clip of the dynamiting of the swastika has been shown thousands of time on American TV. On the central promontory, which is the speaker’s stand where Hitler used to give his speeches, you can still make out the faint outline of another swastika which was removed from the marble by the American military.

The destruction of the hated Nazi swastika emblem, encircled by a gold-plated laurel wreath, took place four days after three divisions of the American Seventh Army had captured the city of Nürnberg. The American conquest of Nürnberg was on April 20, 1945, which happened to be Hitler’s 56th birthday. On the day that the swastika was blown up, the victorious Americans held their third victory parade on the Zeppelin field.

This quote is from the newsreel shown in American theaters about the conquest of Nürnberg:

A swastika will no longer flaunt its crooked arms above the Nazi shrine. With the situation well in hand, the Yanks stage a review. Newsreel and Signal Corps camera men made this record of the last days of Hitler’s Germany. The cleansing fires of the war have purged Germany of Nazi power. Let’s be sure it never again rises from her ashes.

The three divisions that fought in the battle of Nuremberg were the 3rd, the 42nd and the 45th Infantry divisions. The 42nd Rainbow Division and the 45th Thunderbird division went on to liberate the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945.