Geoff Walden


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Nürnberg Part 2

The Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Luitpold Arena, Ehrenhalle, and Zeppelinfeld

 

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This architectural model by Albert Speer shows the planned completed state of the Parteitagsgelände (Party Rally Grounds).
At the top is the Märzfeld, a large field for military maneuvers and parades. From there, the Große Straße (Great Road)
was to lead past the Deutsche Stadion (large coliseum on the right), to the Kongreßhalle (lower center), with the 
Luitpold Arena
at the bottom. At the left side of the model is the Zeppelintribüne and Zeppelinfeld. Several of the structures
shown here were never built, such as the Deutsche Stadion, the pylons at the end of the Große Straße, the Culture Hall
(opposite the Kongreßhalle), and the Exhibit Hall (low building near the Kongreßhalle). The Kongreßhalle and the Märzfeld
 were never finished.  (from "Das Bauen im neuen Reich" by Fr. Prof. Gerdy Troost, Bayreuth, 1938)

Click here for a MapQuest map showing the Reichsparteitagsgelände area.
(This link points specifically to the Zepp
elintribüne; you can orient this map to the rest of the site using the plan above.)

 

Luitpold Arena

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The Luitpold Arena could hold over 150,000 Nazis, and was the scene of SS and SA gatherings. At one end was the Ehrenhalle, a war memorial built in 1929. The arena is now a large grassy park, very popular on sunny afternoons. Only the Ehrenhalle is left at this end, the adjacent grandstands having been removed(U.S. National Archives RG 242)

 

The other end of the Luitpold Arena was a grandstand with a speaker's platform and three tall swastika banners, designed by Albert Speer. The large eagles on either end were by the sculptor Kurt Schmid-Ehmen. On the right above, the ruins as seen by U.S. Army GIs on 27 April 1945. Only the steps at one end of this grandstand remain today, all the other ruins having been removed and covered over with earth.  (above left and below - period postcards; above right - National Archives Record Group 111-SC, #205452)

 

These aerial views show the Luitpold Arena, with the Ehrenhalle at the lower center and the grandstand at the upper center (in the view on the left). The long building at the upper left was the Luitpoldhalle, scene of the Nazi Party congresses. The Luitpoldhalle was a converted industrial exhibition building. It was badly damaged during wartime bombing attacks and its ruins were later removed.  (period postcards)

 

A view of the Luitpold Arena podium during a Reichsparteitag celebration.  (Life collection) Period postcard of the Luitpoldhalle decorated for a Reichsparteitag celebration.  (courtesy Al Taylor)

 

The Luitpoldhalle was badly damaged during wartime bombing attacks, and its ruins were removed after the war. A portion of the steps in front remain today.  (from Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938; below left - Life collection)

 

A nazi gathering in the Luitpoldhalle in 1933, from a period postcard.

 

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The SS and SA gathered at the Luitpold Arena to participate in a ceremony honoring Nazi dead at the Ehrenhalle. On the left - Hitler's speaker's platform.  (left - period postcard; right - National Archives RG 242-HB)

 

The view from Hitler's speakers platform looking across the Luitpold Arena toward the Ehrenhalle. This view shows some of the large bleacher seating areas that extended around three sides of the Luitpold Arena, which were removed during post-war rebuilding. The Luitpoldhain park is today a favorite spot for sunbathers on warm summer days.  (1936 postcard)

 

Hitler, flanked by the chiefs of the SS and SA, marched the length of the arena, to salute the Blutfahne (Blood Banner from the 1923 Munich putsch) at a memorial wreath laid in front of the Ehrenhalle.  (left - Gerd Rühle, "Das Dritte Reich," Berlin, 1938; right - Bundesarchiv 102-16196)

 

On the left, this rare 1933-dated postcard shows Hitler standing during the memorial ceremony in front of the Ehrenhalle with his SA chief Ernst Röhm. Röhm was executed during the 1934 purge of Hitler's perceived enemies ("Night of the Long Knives"), and Röhm's photo was removed from subsequent Nazi publications. In the photos shown earlier on this page, the SA chief is Röhm's successor Viktor Lutze, and the SS chief is, of course, Heinrich Himmler. This group is shown in the painting of the 1934 ceremony seen on the right.  (left - author's collection; right - period postcard)

 

An SS officer directs marching columns into place during one of the annual ceremonies.  (U.S. Library of Congress)

 

The view from ground level, in front of the Ehrenhalle. The paving stones at the spot where Hitler stood have been removed by souvenir hunters (see period photos above).  (period postcard)

 

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The Ehrenhalle (Hall of Honor) was built to memorialize soldiers of the First World War, but was appropriated by the Nazis. The memorial is now dedicated to all the victims of war and National Socialism.  (1941 postcard in author's collection)

 

On the left, a closer view of the Ehrenhalle with its memorial wreath. On the right, SS bandsmen listen to Hitler speak in the Luitpold Arena in 1938.  (left and below - period postcards; right - Baldur von Schirach, "Das Reich Adolf Hitlers," Munich, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1940)

 

Panoramic view showing 150,000 SS and SA men in the Luitpold Arena; the Ehrenhalle is in the distance.
(from
"Deutschland erwacht - Werden, Kampf un Sieg der NSDAP," Hamburg, 1933)

 

Above, triumphant U.S. Army soldiers on Hitler's speakers platform in April 1945. On the right is one of Kurt Schmid-Ehmen's eagles showing battle damage. On the left below, GIs enjoy the "Yankee Doodlers," a jazz band that played in the Luitpold Arena on 26 April 1945. Below right, the U.S. Army turned the Luitpold Arena into a vehicle motor park. Note the curbed shaft entrance at the lower right of this photo - this was a stairway leading to a tunnel beneath Bayernstraße, so pedestrians would not have to cross the busy street between the Luitpold Arena and the Kongreßhalle - this stairway can still be seen today.   (U.S. Army photos; below left - courtesy Digital History Archive)

 

This aerial photo of the Luitpold Arena taken on 25 April 1945 shows several interesting features. To the left is the Ehrenhalle with grandstand bleachers
surrounding the arena field; there are no remains of these grandstands today. Just at the top of the arena are the skeletal girder remains of the bombed
and burned-out Luitpoldhalle. In the upper right corner of the photo are the buildings of the SS Kaserne (post-war Merrell Barracks).
(U.S. National Archives, RG 111SC-206739, courtesy Digital History Archive)

 


Zeppelinfeld

Another demonstration field designed by Albert Speer was the Zeppelinfeld, with its massive colonnaded Zeppelintribüne grandstand. Above, German athletes and Labor Service assemble before Hitler.  (above left - National Archives RG 242-HB; above right - Bundesarchiv; below - period postcard, courtesy Rob Berg)

 

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The Zeppelinfeld was first used for Parteitag demonstrations in 1934, before the Zeppelintribüne was finished. Here, Pzkw. I tanks parade past the grandstand, which is lacking the later side columns. The first Hoheitszeichen national insignia on the Zeppelintribüne was a large wooden eagle designed by Speer for the 1934 Parteitag.

A rare color image of the Zeppelintribüne in its finished state. "Tag der Gemeinschaft" (Day of Community) during the 1937 Parteitag (Life collection).

 

More color images from the 1937 Reichsparteitag. On the right, the girls from the "Glaube und Schönheit" (Faith and Beauty) movement perform.  (Life collection)

 

Members of the Kriegsmarine (Navy) parade past Hitler at the 1935 Parteitag. This photo shows a good view of Speer's initial wooden eagle. ("Adolf Hitler, Bilder aus dem Leben des Führers," Altona, 1936)

By 1936, the Zeppelintribüne grandstand was finished, although the final touches were not added until 1937. 1936 also saw the completion of the stands surrounding all sides of the field. Compare this view to the 1945 photo at the bottom of the page. The long building seen at the center top of this view was a transformer building for electrical power (see below).  (period postcard)

 

These comparison views from 1935 (left) and 1938 (right) show the Zeppelintribüne before the central tribune and the columns were added, and with Speer's original wooden eagle (on the left), and then in its final configuration.  (period postcards)

 

The Zeppelintribüne under construction. On the left, Reichs Arbeits Dienst (RAD) workers parade in 1936. The structure seems complete except for the large swastika on top and the fire cauldrons on the side pillars. On the right, girls of the BDM (Bund deutscher Mädel) take a break from a formation in 1937 - the final touches are being put to the huge gilt swastika that crowned the grandstand, and the cauldrons have been mounted.  (left - period postcard; right - Ausstellung "Faszination und Gewalt")

 

Comparison views showing the Zeppelintribüne under construction in 1937 (above) and in its final appearance in 1938 (below). In the view above a model stands in for the gilt wreathed swastika.  (above - original photo in author's collection; below - period postcard)

 

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The Zeppelinfeld during a parade in 1937. The U.S. Army blew up the large swastika on the top of the Zeppelintribüne in 1945. The columns on either side of the grandstand were removed in 1967 because they were thought to be deteriorating and considered dangerous.  (Bundesarchiv Koblenz)

 

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An artillery crew demonstrates a 150mm howitzer on the Zeppelinfeld during Army Maneuvers Day in 1937. Hitler spoke from the platform at the center-front of the grandstand (covered with a swastika flag in the photo to the left).  (Bundesarchiv Koblenz)

 

Hitler at the speaker's platform, during an RAD (Reichs Arbeits Dienst - Labor Service) rally. An RAD man holds the Führer's personal standard. A taller iron railing has been added around the speaker's platform, replacing the original seen in the period photo. (Bilderdienst Süddeutscher Verlag)

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The SA assembled on the Zeppelinfeld - a view from just behind the speaker's platform. The configuration of the steps has been changed since the Nazi period - originally there was a platform behind the dais with steps leading up on either side, but these steps and platform were removed in the 1980s and steps were added inside the speaker's dais - one of several post-1945 changes to the Zeppelintribüne. Compare this photo taken in 1945, which shows the original configuration. (Many visitors who stand here assume that they are standing on the spot where Hitler once stood, but they actually are not, due to the added steps - note that the metal railing is also different.)  (Bundesarchiv)

 

Hitler at the speaker's platform during the 1938 Parteitag Großdeutschland.
(Gerd Rühle, "Das Dritte Reich," Berlin, 1938 ed.)

 

The Zeppelintribüne during its heyday in the late 1930s. The design was influenced by the Pergamon Altar, a classical Greek structure from ancient Turkey, on display in a Berlin museum. (left - 1938-dated postcard; right - Münchner Illustrierte Presse, 8 September 1938)

 

In 1967 the columns on either side were removed. Below, the Zeppelintribüne as it appears today. The upper parts of the end structures were removed in the mid-1970s.  (Ausstellung "Faszination und Gewalt")

 

View of the rear of the Zeppelintribüne. The removal of the side columns in 1967 radically changed this view. The staircases for the side wing doors in the back of the Tribüne were also removed.  (above - Fr. Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen in neuen Reich," Bayreuth, 1938; below - Hubert Schrade, "Bauten des Dritten Reiches," Leipzig, 1937)

 

The Pfeilerhalle, or Hall of Pillars, on one side of the Zeppelintribüne, with a similar view today. Note:  In 2008 the concreted openings shown here, covering the stairwells that led from the interior up into the Pfeilerhalle, were reopened to remove rubble from the staircases beneath. They were covered over with plywood covers, and these areas are now off-limits and fenced off.  ( Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

 

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Thirty-four small buildings were grouped around the periphery of the Zeppelinfeld, dividing the seating areas. Each mounted six flag poles, but in reality, the buildings were actually toilet facilities.  (Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938; below - 1938-dated postcard; bottom - courtesy Rob Berg)

 

Further views of the Zeppelinfeld seating areas and flag towers today.

 

The large columns at either end of the Zeppelintribüne mounted cauldrons which were lit during nighttime gatherings. These cauldrons have been preserved - one (shown above) is inside the Zeppelintribüne (but not accessible to the public, as the display inside is now closed). The other is now displayed at the rear of the Zeppelintribüne. It is painted in garish colors because it used to be located beside the swimming pool at the nearby Franken Stadium.  (National Archives RG 242-HB)

 

The display that used to be inside the Zeppelintribüne is now in the Dokumentationszentrum museum in the Kongreßhalle, and the Zeppelintribüne is no longer open to the public, except on special tour days. The interior of the Zeppelintribüne is in a somewhat deteriorated condition today. 

 

The ceilings inside the Zeppelintribüne feature intricate mosaics. The mosaic on the right below had a black swastika in the center, which was removed by the U.S. Army in 1945. But enough of the black mosaic tiles remain that you can still pick out the swastika shape if you look closely.

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Because the Zeppelintribüne was built hastily, of somewhat shoddy materials, it is deteriorating today. Wire guards protect visitors from pieces of masonry that come loose from the upper façade. The entire rear wall has been fenced off for the same reason. Above right - A section of the rear wall shows damage from the impact of a high explosive round, presumably fired in 1945 (see also similar damage to the Kongreßhalle). These views also show how the Zeppelintribüne, in common with many other Third Reich structures (such as the Kehlsteinhaus "Eagles Nest"), was not built of solid rock, but of stone blocks laid over a brick or concrete base (in this case, limestone laid over brick).

 

For nighttime rallies, Albert Speer designed a "Lichtdom," or Cathedral of Light around the Zeppelinfeld. The beams from 120-150 Army flak searchlights around the periphery of the field went thousands of feet into the night sky.  (period postcards; lower left - from Baldur von Schirach, "Das Reich Adolf Hitlers," Munich, Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1940; bottom left - Bundesarchiv, right - courtesy Rob Berg)

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The electricity needed to power the searchlights that surrounded the Zeppelinfeld was supplied from a transformer building (Umspannwerk) on Regensburgerstraße, behind the Zeppelintribüne. The original location of the eagle and swastika over the doorway can still be plainly seen.  (Bundesarchiv)  July 2006 Note - A Burger King restaurant has now opened inside the Umspannwerk building.

 

The original location of the eagle and swastika Hoheitszeichen shows clearly in the closer view.

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On 22 April 1945 the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division ("Rock of the Marne") held a ceremony at the Zeppelinfeld to commemorate the capture of the Nazi city of Nürnberg (a similar ceremony had been held downtown at the Adolf-Hitler-Platz two days earlier, on Hitler's birthday, immediately following the fall of the city; see photo here). A large United States flag was raised to cover the swastika on top of the Tribüne (the swastika was blown up by explosives on 25 April, see below). During the ceremony, the Medal of Honor was awarded by 7th Army commander Lt.Gen. Alexander Patch to the following Marne-men: Lt.Col. Keith L. Ware (later killed in Vietnam as a Maj.Gen.), Lt. John J. Tominac, T/Sgt. Russell E. Dunham, S/Sgt. Lucian Adams, and PFC Wilburn K. Ross.  (Donald G. Taggart, "History of the Third Infantry Division in World War II," Washington, Infantry Journal Press, 1947)

 

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The 7th Army commander's viewpoint during the Medal of Honor ceremony. Compare to the photo of
Hitler reviewing the RAD on the Zeppelinfeld, above(Rupert Prohme, "History of 30th Infantry Regiment
World War II," Washington, Infantry Journal Press, 1947)

Pass-in-Review during the ceremony, 22 April 1945. Note that the square holes that appear today along the lower façade of the Zeppelintribüne are not original to the structure (these holes and a doorway were added in the 1980s).  (National Archives RG 111-SC-335632)

 

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This photo of the Zeppelinfeld was taken just after the capture of Nürnberg by the U.S. Army, and before the swastika
was blown from the top of the Tribüne on 25 April 1945. The transformer building on the Regensburgerstraße is the rectangular
white object near the right edge of the photo.  (Rupert Prohme, "History of 30th Infantry Regiment World War II," Washington, Infantry Journal Press, 1947)

 

Before the huge swastika was blown off the top of the Zeppelintribüne, these GIs couldn't resist expressing their feelings as victors. Note the camouflage netting hanging off the front of Hitler's podium.
(left - "Life," 14 May 1945; center - "Yank," 1 June 1945; right - U.S. Army Signal Corps Collection)

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The U.S. Army blew the swastika from the top of the Zeppelintribüne on 25 April 1945, shown in this sequence of Army Signal Corps photos (a similar motion picture also exists).  (National Archives Record Group 111-SC, #205199-205201)  (Watch the film on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEAo7JnDm_I - thanks to Willem Oosterhof for the link.)

 

The Zeppelintribüne as it appeared in April 1945, and a similar view as it appears today. The dark mottling on the steps in 1945 was from bricks placed in patterns as camouflage.  (National Archives Record Group 111-SC-205454; courtesy Digital History Archive)

 

Above, a GI's photo of the Zeppelintribüne in July 1945, still with camouflage pattern bricks on the steps. Below, GI photos from July and August 1945. The August photo shows the view after the site was cleaned up and the grandstand decorated as SOLDIERS' FIELD with a Third Army symbol. 

 

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These remarkable aerial photos show the Zeppelinfeld in May 1945, very shortly after the end of the war. The large swastika has already been blown off the top of the Tribüne, but the stairs still show the camouflage patterns (a rather futile effort). In the lefthand photo, the Umspannwerk transformer building is visible over the right edge of the Tribüne, and several anti-aircraft gun emplacements appear in the foreground. Craters from bombs or artillery shells can also be seen.  (U.S. Army photos. National Archives RG 342FH)

 

This color photo was taken in 1960, before the colonnades and end structures were demolished.  (courtesy Jim Walsh)

 

Two unusual color slide views from 1964, showing the front and back of the Zeppelintribüne before the colonnades and end structures were demolished.  (private collection, used by permission)

 

Click here to visit a page featuring a virtual tour of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds.

Click here to visit the "Geschichte in Stein" page, with excellent photos of the Party Rally Grounds and other ruins in the Nürnberg/Erlangen area.

Click here to visit the "Bauten in Nürnberg 1933-1945" page, with in-depth coverage of Third Reich buildings in the area.

 

Rstone.gif (1273 bytes)   Continue to Nürnberg Part 3 - Nazi Party Rally Grounds (cont.), featuring the Kongreßhalle, Deutsche Stadion, Große Straße, and water tower for the Parteitag camps.

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All contents copyright © 2000-2014, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.  All photos taken by or 
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and the rights of others who have graciously allowed me to use their photos on this page,
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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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