Geoff Walden


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Munich / München

Part 3 - Nazi Party Buildings on the Königsplatz

   

   The most profound architectural changes completed by the Nazis in Munich involved the Königsplatz (also called the Königlicher Platz), King Ludwig I's Royal Square bordered by Karlstraße, Luisenstraße, Gabelsbergerstraße, and Arcisstraße-Meiserstraße (note that Meiserstraße was a post-1945 name, and that section of the street was recently renamed Katharina-von-Bora-Straße). The former grassy square, with the antiquities museums around its periphery, was covered with paving stones by the Nazis, and two large office buildings were added to the open end. Between these two buildings were the Ehrentempel graves and memorials of the fallen putschists of November 1923. This area was the scene of annual Nazi parades and memorial services.

 

This 1940-dated postcard shows the Königsplatz, sometimes called the Königlicher Platz, from the west end.
In the foreground is the Propyläen, with the Glyptothek and Antikensammlung museums on either side of the square.
The large buildings on either side of the far end are the Führerbau (left) and Verwaltungsbau (right - see below).
The smaller columned structures in the center are the Ehrentempel. Behind the left-hand Ehrentempel is
the Braune Haus(period postcard in author's collection)

 

A view of the Königsplatz, then and now. The 1936 photo from a family album shows the Ehrentempel and office buildings on either side. The modern view shows how the grass lawns have been re-established and a street (Briennerstraße) going through the center. In both views, the Obelisk monument rises from the Karolinenplatz in the distance. The Münchners exhibited their sense of humor by nicknaming the Königsplatz the "Plattensee" lake, because rainwater formed a large pool after the Nazis laid down all the paving stones.   (author's collection)

 

These two views were taken from either side of the Königsplatz, looking toward the Ehrentempel shrines in the distance. On the left of the view above is the Glyptothek Greco-Roman museum, with the steps of the Antikensammlung (Antiquities) museum on the right of the view below. The building in the center distance in the view below is the Braunes Haus (the building visible in the center of the modern photo is not the Braunes Haus, which no longer exists).  (above - Baldur von Schirach, "Das Reich Adolf Hitlers," Munich, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1940; below - Georg Schorer, "Deutsche Kunstbetrachtung" Munich, 1941)

 

Further views of the Königsplatz from period sources.  (above - Albert Speer, "Neue Deutsche Baukunst," Berlin, 1941; below left - Werner Lindner & Erich Böckler, "Die Stadt - Ihre Pflege und Gestaltung," Munich, 1939; below right - author's collection)

 

Further period views of the Ehrentempel ... left - a period postcard, right - a candid snapshot of visitors in 1940.  (right - from a period photo album)

 

Above - SA units hold a memorial service for freedom fighter Albert Leo Schlageter on the Königsplatz in 1923, with the Glyptothek museum in the background. Below - Eleven years later, Hitler's bodyguard unit "Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler" parades through the Königsplatz, in front of the Propyläen.  (above - "Das braune Heer," Munich, 1932; below - Hans Quassowski, ed., "Zwölf Jahre: 1.Kompanie Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler," Rosenheim, Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1989)

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The Nazis built two office buildings at the east end of the Königsplatz, along Arcisstraße - the Führerbau (Führer Building) and Verwaltungsbau (Administration Building), designed by architect Paul Ludwig Troost (during the Third Reich period, the entire street was named Arcisstraße, but the part south of Briennerstraße was renamed Meiserstraße after the war; this part (where the Verwaltungsbau is located) has recently been renamed Katharina-von-Bora-Straße). The Führerbau housed Hitler's office and offices for his closest staff while in Munich. These buildings were only lightly damaged during the World War II bombings, and both still exist today. The Führerbau houses a music school, and the Verwaltungsbau houses museum offices and antiquities displays. In the view above of the Führerbau, one of the Ehrentempel is seen to the right; this location today shows only the foundation overgrown with bushes. (See further below for photos of the Verwaltungsbau.)  (above - "München, Hauptstadt der Bewegung," 1939/40; below - Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

 

The period images above show the two large bronze eagles that appeared over either main doorway of the Führerbau. Today, the mounting points for those eagles can still be seen on the building façade. (The doorways on the left are blocked today, with the main entrance to the music school being through the right-hand doorways.)

 

On the left is a period view looking down the front of the Führerbau. On the right is a modern view of the architectural details on the side of the building.  (Fritz Wächtler, "Die Neue Heimat," Munich, 1940)

 

The Führerbau under new management, flying the Stars and Stripes. Note the camouflage nets hanging over the front in the 1945 view at left. At right, the Führerbau later served as the "Amerika Haus" for several years, making American library and cultural materials available to Munich residents.  (left - Munich City Museum; right - author's collection)

 

The main entrances to the Führerbau led to large porticos (Lichthof), open to the skylights in the roof, with marble staircases leading to the upper floor and columned balconies.  ("Illustrierter Beobachter," 10 March 1938)

 

The steps in the center view lead out to the south entrance (today's entry). The wooden doorway above the glass doors led into Hitler's office (today's Room 105).

 

Long hallways on both sides of the building led to entrances to other rooms on the ground floor. Today, these hallways have been subdivided into smaller rooms (the modern cloak room is part of one of these hallways).  (Georg Schorer, "Deutsche Kunstbetrachtung" Munich, 1941)

 

The largest room on the ground floor was the Great Hall, which was used for conferences and entertainments. The hall featured Belgian tapestries and a fireplace and doorways with marble surrounds. Today this room has been totally remodeled to serve as a concert hall for the music school (below).  ("Kunst im Dritten Reich," 1938)

 

Hitler entertains in the Führerbau Great Hall. Other Nazi leaders seen in these photos include Philip Bouhler and Adolf Wagner, and adjutants Albert Bormann and Otto Günsche.  (Life Collection)

 

The doorway on the left, now Room 105 on the first floor (second floor to Americans), led to Hitler's office above the south entrance to the building (today's main entrance), where the Munich Accords were signed (see below). The doorway on the right led to a smoking room with a balcony above the north entrance (blocked by a bust of Brahms today).

 

This room was the main smoking salon. Although Hitler did not smoke, he knew the value of smoking rooms in the large office building. In addition, there was a bar adjacent to this smoking room (see below). This room serves as the music school library today. The modern comparison actually shows the opposite view, because the wood carvings flanking the door into the bar, seen in the period view,  are now gone. The opposite end of the room has two carvings of pipe smokers (below) - a figure on the left that probably represented an architect, and a farmer on the right (with an added moustache of cloth).  ("Kunst im Dritten Reich," 1938)

 

The bar room next door (now also part of the library) still displays period wall paintings by the Munich artist Karl-Heinz Dallinger, representing the Four Seasons - Spring (above left), Summer (above right), Fall (below left), and Winter (below right). The Winter scene (close-up at bottom) shows an Alpine custom of people dressing as witches and fantastic animals (Perchten) to scream and make noise on winter nights in December and January, in order to drive away the evil spirits of winter.

 

Another smaller smoking room was at the opposite corner of the building. This Rauchzimmer was paneled in wood with a red marble fireplace. The walnut paneling and ceiling remain in original state, but the fireplace was removed after 1945.  ("Kunst in Dritten Reich," 1938)

 

On the same side of the building (the back or east side) was an ornate lounge room called the Kaminzimmer (Fireplace Room). Above the fireplace was Adolf Ziegler's 1937 painting "Die vier Elemente" (The Four Elements - Fire, Water, Earth, and Air). Hitler himself bought this painting for the Führerbau (the painting survived and is now in the collections of the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich). The Kaminzimmer has been greatly modified since 1945, with subdivisions into storage closets and the fireplace removed. The only part of the room that has its original form today is the ceiling.

 

Next to the Kaminzimmer was a large dining hall with ornate wall decorations. This room is also greatly changed today and smaller than it was during the Third Reich period.

 

Many of the rooms in the former Führerbau still have period fixtures such as their original brass and wooden radiator covers, and original brass ashtrays are still on the hallway walls. In addition to the two main grand staircases, there are marble stairs at each end of the building.

 

Above - beneath the cellar level of the Führerbau is an air raid shelter (Luftschutzraum). Below left - original bomb shelter bunker door labeled "Kein Zugang!" - "No Access." Below right - original air filtration system by the Dräger company of Lübeck - the same company that made the tunnel filter systems in Berchtesgaden and on the Obersalzberg.

 

Above - the cellar of the Führerbau was used to store foodstuffs and artwork. In the confusion during the period when the U.S. Army was taking Munich, these storage areas were plundered by locals, who damaged and stole many of the artworks, and broke into this locked potato cellar by shooting around the lock. Below - a tunnel ran from the Führerbau, beneath the Ehrentempel, to the Verwaltungsbau.

 

Graffiti scratched in the tunnel walls by U.S. soldiers in 1945 has been preserved.
A soldier apparently named Klondyke made this inscription:

                                                                                                                                        England  -  44 Jan Feb. 23
                                                                                                                                        France  -  44 June 17
                                                                                                                                        Luxembourg  -  44 Sept 12
                                                                                                                                        Belgium  -  44 Dec 4
                                                                                                                                        Holland  -  44 Dec 5
                                                                                                                                        Germany  -  44-45 Dec 6
                                                                                                                                        U.S.A.  -  45 (We hope by Xmas)                                                                                                

 


The Munich Accords of September 1938

The Führerbau was the scene of the climactic meetings that capped the so-called Munich Accords (Munich Agreement, Munich Pact) of late September 1938. In this pact, the British and French governments agreed to Hitler's demands that Czechoslovakia should cede the Sudetenland, the border area with Germany that had been settled by ethnic Germans for decades, to Germany. The pact was signed in the early morning hours of 30 September 1938, and the Germans immediately annexed the Sudetenland. Above - the south building entrance was decorated with the flags of Nazi Germany and Italy, for the arrival of Hitler and Benito Mussolini (who was a partner to the negotiations). The pact was signed in the balcony office, just below the eagle (Hitler's office). Below - the north entrance was decorated with the flags of France and Great Britain, for the arrival of French Prime Minister Édouard Deladier and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (this photo shows Hitler arriving earlier).  (Hoffmann Collection, U.S. National Archives RG 242)

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The Munich Accords were signed in Hitler's office, above the south entrance to the building. The portrait over the fireplace was Otto von Bismarck, by Lenbach. The room has changed little today, although it has been subdivided and is no longer as large as it appears in the period view above. Today it is a music practice room (Room 105).  (above left - "Kunst im Dritten Reich," 1938; below left - U.S. National Archives; below right - Life Collection; bottom - Heinrich Hoffmann, "Hitler befreit Sudetenland," Berlin, 1938)

 

The main light fixture in the former office room is the original, although the smaller globes are replacements. Hitler had his own private bath and toilet facility adjacent to his office, reached by a hidden doorway to the right of the fireplace (which no longer exists). The bathroom is now a storage area, without the tub and toilet fixtures. Below - on the opposite side of Hitler's office, the corner room on the southwest side of the building was for Hitler's personal adjutants (a music practice room today).  ("Kunst im Dritten Reich," 1938)

 

Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain, and Deladier meet with others during the negotiations. Below right, front row, left-right: Chamberlain, Deladier, Hitler, Mussolini, and Count Galeazzo Ciano, Mussolini's foreign minister (and son-in-law). Bottom, left-right: Mussolini, Hitler, Hitler's interpreter Paul Schmidt, and Chamberlain. The radiators retain their original decorated wooden covers.  (Bundesarchiv)

 

On the left, Hitler signs the Munich Accords. Beside him is his personal adjutant Julius Schaub, with foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop looking on at the right. In the background, Hermann Göring talks with Mussolini. On the right, the party leaves the Führerbau during a break in the conference. Left-right: Göring, Mussolini, Hitler, Ciano; Heinrich Himmler is in the background between Hitler and Ciano. The group also included Rudolph Hess, Wilhelm Keitel, and adjutant Albert Bormann.  (Bundesarchiv)

 

The party leaves by the north entrance, after signing the Accords in the early morning hours of 30 September 1938. Hitler leads Mussolini, Ciano, Göring, and others down the steps, as the SS-Leibstandarte guards present arms. These doorways are blocked today.  (Munich City Archive)

I wish to thank the Chancellor and staff of the Hochschule für Musik for allowing me to photograph inside the former Führerbau.


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The Verwaltungsbau, or Party administration building located today at Katharina-von-Bora-Straße 10, was the twin to the Führerbau (although not its identical twin). Today the building houses collections and administrative offices of various archaeology, Egyptology, and art collections. In the photo on the left at the bottom, the back of one of the Ehrentempel can be seen at the right side.  ("Kunst im Deutschen Reich," 1939)

 

Above left - entry foyer in the Verwaltungsbau - lacking the grand staircases of the entry foyers in the Führerbau. In the Verwaltungsbau, the stairs are found at the sides of the entry foyers, with a then-and-now comparison presented above. The sculptures are reproductions of famous works.  (Bundesarchiv)

 

Two period furnishings that can still be found in the Verwaltungsbau today. On the left is an original table - the same style was found in the Führerbau. On the right is an original bronze light fixture.

 


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Two "Honor Temples" (Ehrentempel) designed by architect Paul Ludwig Troost were built between the Führerbau and Verwaltungsbau, to house the cast-iron sarcophagi of the sixteen Nazis killed during the 1923 putsch. These views show how the actual entrances to the Ehrentempel, where the SS guards were posted, were on the back sides, away from the Königsplatz.  (left - period postcard; right - Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

 

On the left is a view of the Ehrentempel under construction - note the locations in the depressed center areas for the sarcophagi. On the right, the eight sarcophagi in place in the northern Ehrentempel (beside the Führerbau), with the southern Ehrentempel and the Verwaltungsbau seen beyond. Each sarcophagus was labeled with "Der Letzte Appell" (The Last Roll Call), the last name of the deceased, and "Hier" (Here).  (left - Bundesarchiv; right - period postcard)

 

In 1935 the bodies of the sixteen dead putschists were removed from their various graves and placed in cast-iron sarcophagi, which lay in state at the Feldherrnhalle on 8 November 1935. On 9 November 1935 the sarcophagi were placed in the Ehrentempel during elaborate ceremonies (left).  (left - Munich Stadtmuseum; right - period postcard)

 

Period postcard views of the Ehrentempel, guarded by SS-Standarte "Deutschland," and the sarcophagi of the dead putschists.

 

Left - Hitler salutes the "Martyrs of the Cause" during the annual putsch commemoration ceremonies on 9 November 1936. On the right is a mass nighttime ceremony.  (left - "Illustrierter Beobachter," 12 November 1936; right - Hans Schemm, ed., "Deutsches Volk - Deutsche Heimat," Vol. 1, Munich, 1942)

 

Left - Hitler lays a wreath during the commemoration ceremony on 9 November 1935. Right - a view from a 1936 family photo album. The lamps designed by Albert Speer, which ringed the Königsplatz, can be seen in the background.  (left - from Fritz Maier-Hartmann, "Dokumente des Dritten Reiches," Munich, 1943; right - author's collection)

 

Design details of the Ehrentempel can be seen in these views. Note how the entire structures were open-air, and also the interlocked swastika motif on the open ceiling.  (left - Albert Speer, "Neue Deutsche Baukunst," Berlin, 1941; right - "Kunst im Deutschen Reich," 1939)

 

The Ehrentempel were guarded by a perpetual SS honor guard, but the sites were also said to be watched over by the "Ewige Wache,"
or Eternal Guard of the souls of the dead putschists themselves.  (period postcard, courtesy Greg Walden)

 

Left - Two guards from SS-Standarte "Deutschland" were normally stationed at the top of the stairs of each Ehrentempel. Right - a view showing the sarcophagi of the putsch martyrs.  (left - Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im neuen Reich," Vol. 1, Bayreuth, 1938; right - period postcard)

 

The northern Ehrentempel, beside the Führerbau, from a 1936 family photo album. On the right is a modern view from a somewhat different angle. Since the opening of the adjacent Documentation Center in 2015, much of the brush and small trees that covered the base of the Ehrentempel have been removed. On the right below can be seen the remains of the staircase at the rear of the base, which led up into the Ehrentempel. The view at bottom shows the Documentation Center, on the site of the "Brown House" Nazi headquarters, beside the Führerbau and the Ehrentempel base.  (above - author's collection; below - Hubert Schrade, "Bauten des Dritten Reiches," Leipzig, 1937)

 

This elevated view shows the Ehrentempel beside the Verwaltungsbau. The base of this Ehrentempel can be seen in the modern photo, with the Verwaltungsbau beyond.  (left - Bundesarchiv)

 

Left - a U.S. Army GI inspects the Ehrentempel at the end of the war. The tops of some of the sarcophagi have been disturbed (opened?). Battle damage can be seen on the Ehrentempel columns, and camouflage netting can be seen hanging from the structure. Right - a reporter from the Washington Star visits the Ehrentempel in early May 1945.  (U.S. National Archives, RG 111SC, courtesy Marc Romanych)

 

In January 1947 the U.S. Army occupation authorities ordered the Ehrentempel to be destroyed. The sarcophagi of the putschists had already been removed in 1945, and the bodies returned to their families or buried in unmarked graves in various Munich cemeteries. The cast-iron sarcophagi and inner coffins of tin were melted down, and the materials used in city reconstruction. The postcard view above shows the Ehrentempel after the columns were blown and the roofs collapsed. All of the rubble was eventually removed from the bases, and the depressed interiors where the sarcophagi had been located were filled with earth. These are now overgrown with trees and brush, but the bases are still visible. These environments are now protected biotopes. The bombed ruins of the Braunes Haus can be seen in the right background, above.  (above - courtesy Roland Fogt)

 

Two very different parades on the Königsplatz, ten years apart. On the left, Hitler's bodyguard regiment Leibstandarte-SS parade in front of the Ehrentempel in 1935. This is a good view of the Braune Haus, behind the Ehrentempel in the center. On the right, the U.S. 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division holds a parade in the Königsplatz in May 1945.  (left - from "Adolf Hitler," Hamburg,  Cigaretten-Bilderdienst, 1936; right - from "42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division," Baton Rouge, Army & Navy Publishing Co., 1946)

 

   Continue to Part 4, Haus der Deutschen Kunst

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