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The Third Reich in Ruins website – amazing resource, check it out!

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The Third Reich in Ruins  …  This page presents photos of historical sites associated with Germany’s Third Reich (1933-1945), both as they appeared while in use, and as the remains appear today. These photos give a “then and now” perspective, in many cases, a virtual tour of the sites. I was originally inspired to write this page by a collection of photos taken by my father, U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Delbert R. Walden, when he was stationed in Germany in 1945-46

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)

 

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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)

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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)

 

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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)

 

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

 

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)

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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)
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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)
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On the left, an SS officer directs marching columns into place during one of the annual ceremonies. On the right, 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.  (left – Library of Congress; right – author’s collection)

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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)

 

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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)
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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)

 

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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)

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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

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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).

 

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

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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The Zeppelintribüne under construction. On the left, Reichs Arbeits Dienst (RAD) workers practice a parade in 1936. The structure seems complete except for the swastika on top and the 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.  (Ausstellung “Faszination und Gewalt”)

 

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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)

 

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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 (possibly as late as 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)

 

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

 

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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)

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In 1967 the columns on either end 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”)

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View of the rear of the Zeppelintribüne. The removal of the side columns in 1967 radically changed this view.  (above – Fr. Prof. Gerdy Troost, “Das Bauen in neuen Reich,” Bayreuth, 1938; below – Hubert Schrade, “Bauten des Dritten Reiches,” Leipzig, 1937)

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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)

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

 

You will spend hours reading this amazing website and well done to all those involved – The Third Reich in Ruins

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