Saturday, 29 January 2011

Nuremberg Stadium

As I have already mentioned, I have been clearing out the workshop over the last couple of weeks and coming across old photos from years back. Here is another of them. I took it in the Nazi stadium of Nuremberg, Germany, when I was working for a traveling theatre company and we did a show there (Nuremberg, not the stadium), and couldn't resist a peek at the vast area, hidden behind battered hoardings on the outskirts of town.

At the time, they did not exactly encourage tourists to visit the place, but they did not discourage it either. The sense of national guilt was still extremely acute, but a sense of historical inheritance was beginning to develop, and the duty to preserve on record the monuments of a previous, despotic and evil generation was becoming quietly imbued in the civic authorities. Subtle repairs had been made to the crumbling stonework, one of which you can see in the foreground of this photo. I have just heard that Nuremberg has just opened an 'information centre' (museum) of it's Nazi past, as many other towns and cities have done recently.

It is still illegal to display or depict a swastika in Germany, but the huge, bronze one that used to adorn the main building in this photo was pulled down by the Americans way back in the 1940s - there is film of them doing it - but I would guess that the bullet scarred original is now in storage somewhere, if it has not been melted down for scrap. The first thing I noticed when we crept through a hole in the wooden hoarding, was the freshly painted, white flag-pole in the arena, and the bright 'stars and stripes' flag of the USA hanging from it in place of the emblem of the Third Reich. These were the days when the American Commander of US forces in Europe was quoted as saying, "I am the last Reich Chancellor of Germany, and I'll do what I damn well please" when the locals complained of low-flying, US jets over the peaceful Rhine Gorge on sundays.

To the centre left of the photo, you can see the little podium where Adolf Hitler made all those fiery speeches to the thousands of adoring Nazis below in the stadium. I could not resist walking up to it and standing where the man himself has stood - there is only enough space for one in it, so you know you have exactly the same view as he had, all those years ago. I felt extremely uneasy when I stood there, however, and had to leave almost immediately. A little later, I noticed a middle-aged German man do the same thing, and he, too, obviously became acutely embarrassed about what he had done and furtively and quickly exited the box.

I went around the corner of the great stadium, and came across a curious, wooden structure on wheels, tucked away for storage, out of sight. As I examined it, I realised that it was the very same, portable gallows on which many of the old Nazis met their end after the famous trials in the city. It was in very good condition, and had been regularly maintained in working order.

For a regime which predicted that it would last for a thousand years, the stadium was extremely badly built and in need of drastic repairs, only a few decades after completion. This is because it was built by slave-labour - all the Jews and Gypsies that knew they would meet their end when it was finished, if they didn't meet it before. It was thrown together cosmetically, with a deliberate, built-in obsolescence.

Just after I took this photo, a hare went running up the steps in great bounds and leaps. A hare, in the centre of Nuremberg - how strange is that?


  1. 'Thousands of adoring Nazis'? I am constantly being told that they were all 'just following orders'.

  2. Who tells you that, Cro? I thought that all the ones who said that in self-defence ended up on those wooden gallows.

  3. An interesting photo and story Tom. Last year at a second hand store I found a gorgeous white stoneware platter. When I got home and put my glasses on, I discovered it had a swastika and eagle on the back and the date. I couldn't keep it and ended up donating it to the Halocaust museum in Montreal. I can understand you sens of ill ease while stading at the podium.

  4. Perfect example of how are the mighty fallen I would have thought.

  5. I would have stood at that podium as well but I'm sure a shiver would go up and down my spine. Fascinating story to go with the picture. Ann