The Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände is quite a mouthful. In my opinion, these two words that take about a minute to say out loud (and even longer to type) are a prime example of the hilariosity of the German language (and let me tell you, as a German student who has cried into her grammar books on more than one occasion, it ain’t always so amusing.) Oh, and it translates as ‘The Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rallying Grounds’, if you were wondering. Because that makes so much sense.
As well as being a ridiculous two words, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände in Nuremberg is a museum all about the Rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany. Now, as someone who finds German history in general and the time of the Third Reich in particular absolutely fascinating, I’m so glad I got the chance to visit the museum before leaving Germany.
However, even if you’re not particularly fussed about this particular period of history, I think it’s impossible not to find the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände interesting, largely because the whole topic is incredible. I’m not about to give you a history lesson, but we all know that what happened in Germany under Hitler’s dictatorship was so extreme one struggles to find the right words to describe it.
I’ll be honest with you guys, I’m not much of a museum fan. I know, I know, this is awfully uncultured of me blah blah blah. But the thing is, more often than not, they’re pretty pricey and if the topic doesn’t massively interest me, I'd rather spend my time and money elsewhere (not just on bags, I promise!)
However, for a mere 3€ (student price) and considering I was there for a solid three hours, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände was a total barg. And let me tell you, I would’ve stayed longer if I could – unfortunately I had to leave and thus rushed round at the end. The museum was that interesting, honestly.
The Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände is slightly out of Nuremberg city centre, but by taking a short journey either on the S2 train (to Dutzendteich station) or no. 9 tram (to Doku-Zentrum stop) you’ll be there in a mere few minutes.
|The rally grounds now|
Nuremberg was basically Hitler’s favourite city – I can understand why, but that’s by the by – and the site of the museum is where the Nazi party held six of their huge rallies between 1933 and 1938. At the end of the museum (it follows a route), you get to go outside and see the remains of the massive open air ‘arena’ where the rallies were held. It’s actually pretty crazy to be there and think back to who was there and why 70 years earlier.
Once you buy your ticket, you’re then given an audioguide with a choice of various languages. I ambitiously as ever went for German first, but later realised this was still a bit too optimistic and went back to switch for an English one. I figured that considering I really wanted to learn and understand everything the museum had to offer, English was the better choice. Equally, as you go round the main exhibition – you’re taken from room to room in chronological order, each focussing on a different aspect – all the text on the panels is displayed in German, but the audioguides are direct translations of that.
I quote: "[The museum] focuses on the topics which have a direct link to Nuremberg, and is centred on 19 exhibition areas which are structured in chronological order: the history of the party rallies, the buildings of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, the "Nuremberg Racial Laws" of 1935, the "Nuremberg Trials" of the main perpetrators of Nazi crimes in 1945/46 and the twelve follow-up trials, as well as the difficult problem of dealing with the National Socialists' architectural heritage after 1945."
The interior of the museum is really well done. It’s all exposed bare brick walls combined with sleek modern screens and glass panels. Somehow simultaneously stylish and bleak. (Just trust me.) As you go through the exhibition, it’s not just a case of listening to your audioguide and reading German text either, oh no. There are short films to watch, bits of audio to listen to, interactive touch screens to play with and more.
It’s a big museum, and you’re taken from the start of Hitler’s rise to power right through to his death and the execution of his fellow Nazi leaders, yet at the same time I didn’t feel too overwhelmed with information that I couldn’t take it in. What’s more, if you want to skip a little bit you can – in each room, there are different numbers to key into your audioguide depending on which bit you want to hear about.
Let me tell you, I sure learnt a lot of interesting things. For example, I watched a video of one old lady who was a teenager at the time Hitler was in power, and she said that she and her friends used to compete with each other as to who could see Hitler at his rallies the most times in a year. It almost reminded me of girls today – Directioners* and Beliebers doing anything they can to get to their idols. It’s just amazing how Hitler built up this massive cult and following. And the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände kinda shows you how he did.
I also thought it was fascinating to look at how what was going on in Germany was reported in the foreign press – through looking at the front pages and articles, it was clear they didn’t all take the same stance.
Most interesting for me, however, was the whole room dedicated to how Hitler used the media, press censorship and propaganda. This room was completely separate to the rest of the museum, and having gone the wrong way to begin with (oops, embarrassing), I started off thinking this was the whole museum. To be fair, it was so interesting I was in that one room alone for an hour and a half…
As well as learning about how the Nazis manipulated the press, I enjoyed watching some TV shows, listening to the radio, and even flicking through copies of the actual newspapers of the time. As someone who wants to be a journalist, it was just crazy to think about what it must’ve been like to be one during the Third Reich in Germany.
And just to give you a taster of the sort of fascinating (I'm seriously struggling to think of synonyms for 'fascinating' and 'interesting' in this blog post, sorry) info that has hopefully been absorbed by my brain, have a little read of the below... (Whether you go for the German or the English is up to you, my friends!)
|I thought this was such an interesting image, in many ways.|
*Should I be proud or ashamed that I managed to get a One Direction mention into this post?