The Congress Hall is huge, about twice the size of the Colesseum in Rome and built in the shape of a horseshoe. If you imagine this with each end of the horseshoe having a rectangular shaped foot and each foot being a building with four walls and an open courtyard inside. These 'feet' are about fives or so stories high and the size of an average apartment block. On one side you have the Documentation Centre and on the other you have a twin building now used by the Nuremberg Symphony. The main curved part of the building is empty, other than being used for some storage.
This building is the one of the best and last remaing examples of Nazi architecture. It was designed by Albert Speer, Hitler's architect. They certainly didn't think small, in any sense of the word. The entire project including this building, the Zepplin field, the never built `German Stadium`which was to seat 400,000 people and the other buildings cover an area of 11 hectares!
The Nazis never used the Congress Hall as it was never finished, construction was abruptly halted in September 194?. The open air portion was to be covered and it was to be a giant theatre type space for the party rallies.
The daylight was beginning to fade so we made our way down the "Great Road", which leads in the direction of the castle in the old town as a way of mentally and physically linking the Nazi's with the old Imperial regime. This is the sort of mind games the Nazi's excelled at. This was quite a walk. The brochure suggested it will take you an hour and a half to do the circuit and they weren't wrong! If you've ever been to Downsview Park in Toronto, imagine walking the perimiter and you will have an idea of the scale of this place.
As we walked along the Great Road, or Hitler's parade route really, we could see the remains of raised stone steps along the side. These had been built so spectators could stand in awe of the military might as it passed by. Much of it was overgrown, but the actual parade roadway looked like it had been laid yesterday.
Finally we came to a quiet footpath that would lead us through thick woods for a bit then past the old stadum where the Hitler youth had once gathered to worship their leader. Suddenly, as we rounded a bend the forest yielded to acres of asphalt and roadways and there on the left was a row of monothic pillars.
Constructed of huge blocks and filled with steps in between. Each had once supported a form of Nazi symbolism, an eagle or perhaps a giant swastika. These giant structures went on for several hundred metres. We quickly realized that this was the outline of the Zepplin Feild and the main grandstand was on the other side opposite to where we were standing.
As we made our way around the perimiter of the field I was a bit disappointed as the entire site seemed to be fenced off. Fortunately, this fence was only to close off what had once been the Zepplin field, which I was not as interested in visiting. We were there to see the grandstand. The main grandstand was quite open and a sign warned; "Enter at your own Risk". They should have had that up in Hitler's day.
Looking out onto Zepplin Field I tried to imagine, not the present tractor-trailer trucks, open grass field and soccer pitch, but the the thousands of faces and raised hands of Hitler's minions who witnessed this nut first hand, hanging on every crazed word, each one facing him. It was easy to see how the ego can take over. I could almost hear the chants of "Sieg Heil" and "Heil Hitler" in the chilled autumn air.
A bit of mist and fog began to move in and the street lights came on. As we walked away, I looked back and trying to envision the huge red banners and hundreds or anti-aircraft lights that had been used to create Hitler's so called 'Cathedral of Light' it was easy to see how the average man would have been swept up in this well orchestrated madness.
We made our way around the other side of Lake Dutzendteich and were presented, for the first time, the monolith that is the Congress Hall in all it's glory. The place is so huge, we had never really seen it all at once when we were actually in it and walking around it. Seeing it from across the lake as the sun faded, it was impressive and beautiful and terrifying all at once.
|Nazi Party Congress Hall At Dusk. Nuremberg, Germany|