Difficult heritage : negotiating the Nazi past in Nuremberg by Sharon Macdonald

By Sharon Macdonald

How does a urban and a kingdom care for a legacy of perpetrating atrocity? How are modern identities negotiated and formed within the face of concrete reminders of a prior that the majority want they didn't have? concentrating on the case of Nuremberg, this article explores those questions and their implications.

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Superlatives are perhaps even more perplexing. 43 Relating superlatives, or using comparatives – pointing out, for example, that had the German Stadium been built, even today it would be the biggest stadium in existence – conveys what has been called Nazi ‘gigantomania’. But highlighting the enormity of the Nazi enterprise also risks ushering in admiration, a dilemma of which guides are well aware, and that they carefully try to negotiate, as we see in Chapter 7. Here is something that they say to illustrate the perverse priorities and chilling ambition of ‘gigantomania’: the dimensions of the German stadium, they explain, were so vast that those seated at the rear would have had difficulty seeing the events.

But when I looked at them today, perhaps because I had spent so much time there and they had become so familiar, that wasn’t really so. With all the weeds and broken bottles (evidence of both being around us), and with the side wings gone from the Zeppelin Building, they seemed more – I 43 Bui lding heritage hesitated while trying to find an appropriate expression – ‘pathetic really’. So, to me, I concluded, they didn’t have the kind of power that he felt. Mr Smith vehemently agreed that the removing of the side galleries was ‘a crime’ (though that had not been my interpretation).

These are questions that I puzzle over again and again as I encounter buildings, Nazi and not Nazi. 24 Architecture as material ideology Before looking at some of the architectural features that were intended to have effects, I should note two other areas of debate about Nazi architecture. 25 As noted above, the National Socialists built in a mix of styles, in Nuremberg and elsewhere. 27 This point can certainly help to explain why a First World War memorial on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds – a building commissioned by the democratic Lord Mayor Hermann Luppe and completed in 1929, before the area became part of the Rally Grounds – could once have been seen as a beautiful example of Weimar architecture, expressive of liberal ideals, but could later seem so in keeping with the Nazi buildings that came to surround it.

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