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Nazi architecture

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A model of Adolf Hitler's plan for Germania (Berlin) formulated under the direction of Albert Speer, looking north toward the Volkshalle at the top of the frame
Former Ministry of Aviation in Berlin
Lower Silesian Province Office in Wrocław (former Breslau)
Haus der Kunst art museum in Munich

Nazi architecture is the architecture promoted by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime from 1933 until its fall in 1945, connected with urban planning in Nazi Germany. It is characterized by three forms: a stripped neoclassicism, typified by the designs of Albert Speer; a vernacular style that drew inspiration from traditional rural architecture, especially alpine; and a utilitarian style followed for major infrastructure projects and industrial or military complexes. Nazi ideology took a pluralist attitude to architecture; however, Hitler himself believed that form follows function and wrote against "stupid imitations of the past".[1]

While similar to Classicism, the official Nazi style is distinguished by the impression it leaves on viewers. Architectural style was used by the Nazis to deliver and enforce their ideology. Formal elements like flat roofs, horizontal extension, uniformity, and the lack of decor created "an impression of simplicity, uniformity, monumentality, solidity and eternity," which is how the Nazi Party wanted to appear.[2]

Greek and Roman influence could also be seen in Nazi architecture and typography, as they drew inspiration from monumental architecture of ancient Rome and Greece to create a sense of power. The Nazis also shut down the Bauhaus movement, which emphasized functionalism and simplicity.

The Nazi regime also staged several "Degenerate Art" exhibitions to condemn modern art as harmful to German culture. This led to the persecution of many artists and architects, including members of the Bauhaus movement.

The Volkswagen was also a product of Nazi architecture and industrial design. Hitler commissioned Ferdinand Porsche[3] to design a "people's car" that was supposed to be affordable and accessible to all Germans, which resulted in the creation of the Volkswagen Beetle.

Adlerhorst bunker complex looked like a collection of Fachwerk (half-timbered) cottages. Seven buildings in the style of Franconian half-timbered houses were constructed in Nuremberg in 1939 and 1940.[4]

German Jewish architects were banned, e.g. Erich Mendelsohn and Julius Posener emigrated in 1933.

Forced labor[edit]

The construction of new buildings served other purposes beyond reaffirming Nazi ideology. In Flossenbürg and elsewhere, the Schutzstaffel built forced-labor camps where prisoners of the Third Reich were forced to mine stone and make bricks, much of which went directly to Albert Speer for use in his rebuilding of Berlin and other projects in Germany. These new buildings were also built by forced-laborers. Working conditions were harsh, and many laborers died. This process of mining and construction allowed Nazis to fulfill political and economic goals simultaneously while creating buildings that fulfilled ideological expression goals.[5]

Greek and Roman influence[edit]

Unbuilt Volkshalle

Hitler was fascinated by the Roman empire and its architecture, which he imitated with a stripped-down style called "starved neo-Classicism." In 1934, he put Albert Speer in charge of building construction and began an ambitious program to create massive public buildings, including a Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. Hitler had a long-standing vision for a monumental Volkshalle or Grosse Halle, and Speer created a design for a building that would dwarf any structure in existence at the time, with a seating capacity of 180,000 and a dome 16 times larger than that of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The building was meant to inspire awe and emphasize the power of the Nazi state, rather than any spiritual or religious sentiment unlike Roman or Greek buildings.[6]


Example of Nazi style typography

The Nazis wanted to bring all aspects of society together under a process called Gleichschaltung. It began immediately after the Nazis came into power. They used propaganda, censorship, and mass rallies to enforce their message. The new typography was inspired by Classical Roman Imperial letterforms, which was Hitler's own preference.[7]

Welthauptstadt Germania[edit]

KZ Mauthausen gate

The crowning achievement of this movement was to be Welthauptstadt Germania, the projected renewal of the German capital Berlin following the Nazis' presumed victory of World War II.[8] Speer, who oversaw the project, produced most of the plans for the new city. Only a small portion of the "World Capital" was ever built between 1937 and 1943. The plan's core features included the creation of a great neoclassical city based on an east–west axis with the Berlin Victory Column at its centre. Major Nazi buildings like the Reichstag or the Große Halle (never built) would adjoin wide boulevards. A great number of historic buildings in the city were demolished in the planned construction zones. However, with defeat of the Third Reich, the work was never started.

Nazi Austria[edit]

Greater Vienna[edit]

Haus des Meeres
Albert Speer's New Reich Chancellery with Arno Breker's two statues, completed in 1939

Greater Vienna was the second-largest city of the Reich, three times greater than old Vienna.[9][10] Three pairs of concrete flak towers were constructed between 1942 and 1944; one of them is known as Haus des Meeres, another one, Contemporary Art Depot (currently closed).[11]


Linz was one of the Führer cities. Only Nibelungen Bridge was constructed.[12]

Housing construction[edit]

The Nazis constructed many apartments, 100,000 of them in Berlin alone, mostly as housing estates e.g. in Grüne Stadt (Green Town) in Prenzlauer Berg.[13][14][15] Volkswagen's city Wolfsburg was originally constructed by the Nazis.

Degenerate Art[edit]


The Nazis associated modern art with democracy and pacifism and labeled it "degenerate" due to supposed Jewish and communist influences. They sought to control art and favored more realistic and classical styles over avant-garde art. This was the result of disagreements among leaders, including Alfred Rosenberg and Joseph Goebbels, with Goebbels ultimately conforming to Hitler's preference.[16]

In July 1937, the Nazi Party held two art exhibitions in Munich. The Great German Art Exhibition displayed works that Hitler approved of, while the Degenerate Art Exhibition showcased modern, abstract, and non-representational art that the Nazis deemed "degenerate." The aim of the exhibition was to encourage a negative reaction and portray it as a symptom of an evil plot against the German people. The exhibition attracted over a million visitors, and some of the art was later burned by the Nazis. However, being banned by the Nazis gave some of the artists a positive image, and they are now considered among the greats of modern art.[17]

Front cover of the guide for the "Degenerate Art Exhibition"

Disposal of Degenerate Art[edit]

In 1937, the Nazis took over 20,000 modern artworks. The next year, they made selling confiscated artworks legal and sold the artworks at a large auction in Switzerland, and In 1939, the Nazis burned 5,000 paintings they couldn't sell.[18]

The Bauhaus[edit]

The Bauhaus movement began in 1919, in Weimar, Germany. It was a school that brought together artists and craftspeople to pursue and master their crafts together in one place. The movement's aim was to create a utopian society for artists and designers. The first version of the school was under the leadership of Walter Gropius for nine years. The school then moved to Dessau in 1925, where Gropius designed the Bauhaus Building and several other buildings. The school moved to Berlin in 1932, but under constant harassment by the Nazis, it finally closed.[19]

Proponents of Nazi Architecture[edit]

Surviving examples of Nazi architecture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nazi architecture, in "Oxford Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture", 2006, p. 518.
  2. ^ Espe, Hartmut (1981). "Differences in the perception of national socialist and classicist architecture". Journal of Environmental Psychology. 1 (1): 33–42. doi:10.1016/s0272-4944(81)80016-3. ISSN 0272-4944.
  3. ^ "Volkswagen is founded". History.com. Retrieved 2023-04-16.
  4. ^ "15. Transformer Building and Workers' Housing | General Plan of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds".
  5. ^ Jaskot, Paul B. (2000). The architecture of oppression: the SS, forced labor and the Nazi monumental building economy. London: Routledge. ISBN 0203169654. OCLC 48137989.
  6. ^ "Nazi Architecture: Hitler's Grandiose Plans for Imperial Berlin - Articles by MagellanTV". www.magellantv.com. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  7. ^ Aynsley, Jeremy. Graphic design in Germany 1890 - 1945. ISBN 0-500-51007-5. OCLC 723452550.
  8. ^ Griffin, Roger (2018-05-05). "Building the Visible Immortality of the Nation: The Centrality of 'Rooted Modernism' to the Third Reich's Architectural New Order". Fascism. 7 (1): 9–44. doi:10.1163/22116257-00701002. ISSN 2211-6249.
  9. ^ "Exhibition: »Vienna. The Pearl of the Reich« Planning for Hitler".
  10. ^ "Vienna under the Nazi-Regime - History of Vienna".
  11. ^ Chornyi, Maxim (3 November 2017). "Vienna Luftwaffe Anti Aircraft Flak Towers today".
  12. ^ "The "Führer's prerogative" and the planned "Führer Museum" in Linz - Art Database".
  13. ^ "Der Wohnungsbau der Nazi-Zeit – Unbekanntes Erbe". 28 November 2006.
  14. ^ Haben, Michael (2017). Berliner Wohnungsbau 1933 – 1945 (PDF). Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7861-2786-4.
  15. ^ "Grüne Stadt | Michail Nelken". Archived from the original on 20 Apr 2021.
  16. ^ ""Degenerate" Art". encyclopedia.ushmm.org. Retrieved 2023-04-11.
  17. ^ "Degenerate art: Why Hitler hated modernism". BBC News. 2013-11-06. Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  18. ^ ""Degenerate" Art". encyclopedia.ushmm.org. Retrieved 2023-04-16.
  19. ^ "Bauhaus". History.com. Retrieved 2023-04-16.

Further reading[edit]

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