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Friday, March 10, 2006
I have in front of me a book of extracts from Signal, the colourful magazine extolling the virtues of Nazi Europe that Goebbels had distributed all over occupied Europe and elsewhere. Signal had an English language edition aimed at the US and Ireland and also sold in occupied Jersey and Guernsey.
I'm looking at an article called "The New Reich Chancellery". It says
On 11th January 1938, the Führer commissioned Prof. Speer, Inspector-General of Building Construction, with the erection of the New Reich Chancellery ... During the remaining 9 months fixed for its completion, the Inspector-General and his staff of architects, artists, workmen and artisans from all provinces completed this work, which represents the Reich in modern classical form.Copious illustrations are provided. This website shows similar pictures. You can find more pictures by doing an Image Search but not all the websites hosting them are as respectable as this one, produced by Professor Randall Bytwerk of Calvin College, Michigan.
The crimes of the Nazis are such as to make one hope there is a hell. They can be made not one whit worse by the fact that I don't care for the skimpy square pillars at the front of Speer's project (the overall effect is a bit like Walthamstow Town Hall, only not as impressive.) Nor are their crimes made one whit less dreadful because Speer's "Long Hall" (called "the marble gallery" in the Calvin College link) looks rather nice. If it hadn't been dismantled by the Red Army it might have made a pleasant place for a cup of tea in the afternoon - and Speer was still a willing tool of tyranny.
Although there are interesting things to be said about the way dictatorships build, in moral terms it doesn't matter how good or bad Nazi architecture was. To condemn a style because Hitler approved of it is as cheap a shot as to condemn vegetarians because Hitler approved of vegetarianism. I can see why they sandblasted out the swastikas in 1945 but if by any chance they missed any, I'd say leave them in place on grounds of historical interest. Although the juxtaposition of the words "Nazi" and "architecture" can still stir passion and controversy sixty years on, I thought that none of this would disturb my Olympian cool...
...but even I was disturbed by the idea of a Nazi church. The photo is not online but the print edition of the Times shows a carved font with a stormtrooper standing next to Jesus. Apparently the church was in use until a few years ago, so I presume babies were baptized in it until recently.