A Thingspiel (plural Thingspiele) was a kind of multi-disciplinary outdoor theatre which enjoyed brief popularity in pre-war Nazi Germany during the 1930s. A Thingplatz or Thingstätte was a specially-constructed outdoor amphitheatre built for such performances. About 400 were planned, but only about 40 were built between 1933 and 1939.
Here, the Volk would gather for völkisch meetings and to view theatre and propaganda presentations. A Thing was an ancient Nordic/Germanic gathering of the people, in an outdoor setting. The Thing sites were to be built as much as possible in a natural setting, incorporating rocks, trees, bodies of water, ruins, and hills of some historical or mythic significance.
The first officially designated Thingplatz was dedicated on 1 May 1934 in the Brandberge in Halle. 400 Thing sites were planned, but only approximately 40 were built. They were intended to be used for immersive multi-disciplinary theatre of a new type. As set out in a 1934 speech by Reich drama advisor Rainer Schlösser, the objective was "a drama that intensifies historical events to create a mythical, universal, unambiguous reality beyond reality." However, Hitler himself was not a big believer in the revival of ancient Germanic practices, and outdoor performances were not popular in the commonly cold and damp German weather. It proved impossible to build so many new theatres quickly, and playwrights also failed to write enough suitable works. Beginning in 1935, many existing and all new Thing sites were renamed to Feierstätten (festival sites) or Freilichtbühnen (open-air theatres) and they were used for performances of conventional plays and folk festivals such as those celebrating the summer solstice. One of the promoters of the movement died, and by 1937, when Joseph Goebbels officially withdrew support from the movement, it had already petered out. The one successful Thingspiel was Eberhard Wolfgang Möller's Frankenburger Würfelspiel, which received its première at the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne in Berlin in 1936 in association with the 1936 Summer Olympics.
According to Rainer Stommer in his study of the Thing movement, the following official sites were completed (date is that of completion or dedication):
- Annaberg (now Góra Świętej Anny, Poland) 23 August 1936
- Rugard, Bergen auf Rügen 21 June 1936
- Waldbühne, Berlin 2 August 1936
- Borna (de:Volksplatz Borna) 31 August 1935
- Brandenburg 1936?
- Braunschweig (de:Nußberg (Braunschweig)) 18 August 1935
- Drossen (now Ośno Lubuskie, Poland) 1939?
- Freyburg an der Unstrut 1935?
- Glauchau 1937?
- Brandberge, Halle (Saale) 1 May 1934
- Heiligenberg, Heidelberg (de:Heiligenberg (Heidelberg)#Thingstätte) 22 June 1935
- Heringsdorf auf Usedom, Pomerania 1 May 1934
- Holzminden 22 September 1934
- Jülich (de: Brückenkopf Jülich) 28 October 1934
- Kamenz (de:Hutberg, Kamenz) 2 June 1935
- Electoral Palace, Koblenz 24 March 1935
- Lamspringe 28 June 1936
- Leutkirch November 1940
- Freilichtbühne Loreley, St. Goarshausen 21 June 1939
- Northeim 6/7 June 1936
- Veste Oberhaus, Passau 22 September 1935
- Preußisch-Holland (now Pasłęk, Poland) 1936
- Rössel (now Reszel, Poland) 1939?
- Rostock 12 May 1935
- Schildau 1935?
- Schmiedeberg, Saxony 16 September 1934
- Rockelmann, Schwarzenberg, Saxony May 1938
- Kalkberg Stadium, Bad Segeberg 10 October 1937
- Soldin (now Myślibórz, Poland) 1939?
- Stolzenau 10 May 1934
- Tilsit (now Sovetsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia) 30 April 1935
- Werder 1936–38?
Stommer lists the following theatres that were not officially sanctioned but are known to have been completed (with date of completion or dedication):
- Brusendorf, Mittenwalde, c. 1934
- Bückeberg (Hagenohsen) 1 October 1933; reconstruction in more monumental form incomplete
- Ordensburg Krössinsee 25 April 1936
- Oliva, Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) 1 September 1934
- Gerresheim, Düsseldorf 1933, 1938 (renovations of a former sandpit already used as a Thingplatz by Wandervögel by 1920)
- Eichstätt 1938?
- Nied, Frankfurt by 1935; later converted into a monument with marching ground
- Giebelstadt 16 June 1935
- Hösseringen 28 June 1936 (adaptation of a 13th–17th century regional assembly ground)
- Warndt forest, near Karlsbrunn 1938
- Kommern, Mechernich 25 August 1935
- Mainz 1 May 1935 (essentially the same as a park development planned in 1930)
- Mettlach 1936
- Rheinsberg July 1935 (for a national Hitler Youth camp)
- Ordensburg Sonthofen 1 October 1936
- Stedingsehre, Bookholzberg, Ganderkesee (de:Stedingsehre#NS-Kultstätte Freilichtbühne „Stedingsehre“ (Bookholzberg)) 13 July 1935
- Verden an der Aller (de:Sachsenhain) 1935–37 (built as an SS shrine instead of in the form originally planned)
- Ordensburg Vogelsang 25 April 1936
- Wattenscheid 5 July 1936
- Wesselburen September 1935?
- Windsheim 1936
Others inspired by or used by the Thing movement but not listed by Stommer include:
- Freilichtbühne Mülheim an der Ruhr
- Porta Westfalica (de:Goethe-Freilichtbühne Porta Westfalica) (opened 1927)
- Herchen, Windeck (de:Herchen#Sehenswürdigkeiten) (part of a memorial)
- Rathen Open Air Stage
- Glen Gadberry, "The Thingspiel and Das Frankenberger Wurfelspiel", The Drama Review 24.1, March 1980, pp. 103–14, p. 105.
- Rainer Stommer, Die inszenierte Volksgemeinschaft: die "Thing-Bewegung" im Dritten Reich, Marburg: Jonas, 1985, ISBN 9783922561316 (German), pp. 61–62, 212, points out that although the Halle Thingplatz was officially the first, the arena at Heringsdorf was begun earlier and dedicated the same day; it was only later given the name Thingplatz, possibly so as not to overshadow that at Halle.
- Frank Knittermeier, "Bad Segeberg: Heute vor 70 Jahren wurde in der Kreisstadt die Kalkbergarena eröffnet. Es begann 1937 - als Feierstätte der Nazis", Hamburger Abendblatt, 10 October 2007 (German) (paywalled): "400 Feierstätten dieser Art wollten die Nazis in Großdeutschland bauen. Nach dem Masterplan des Regierungsbaumeisters Schaller werden schließlich jedoch nur 40 fast baugleiche Stätten errichtet."
- According to Geoff Walden, Thingplatz / Thingstätte Sites, Third Reich in Ruins, about 1,200 were planned and about 45 built.
- Karl-Heinz Schoeps, Literature and Film in the Third Reich, tr. Kathleen M. Dell'Orto, Studies in German Literature, Linguistics, and Culture, Rochester, New York: Boydell & Brewer/Camden House, 2004, ISBN 1-57113-252-X, p. 153, wrongly dating the speech to 1935.
- Gadberry, p. 104.
- Gadberry, p. 106.
- Gadberry, p. 114.
- Schoeps, note 11, pp. 164–65.
- Schoeps, p. 157.
- Stommer, pp. 205–20.
- Stommer, pp. 233–40.
- Rainer Stommer. Die inszenierte Volksgemeinschaft: die "Thing-Bewegung" im Dritten Reich. Marburg: Jonas, 1985. ISBN 9783922561316 (German)