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Welthauptstadt ("World Capital") Germania was the name Adolf Hitler gave to the projected renewal of the German capital Berlinmarker, part of his vision for the future of Germanymarker after the planned victory in World War II. Albert Speer, "the first architect of the Third Reich", produced many of the plans for the rebuilt city, only a small portion of which was realized before World War II.

The title "Welthauptstadt" was chosen because it was felt that Berlin's architecture was at that time too provincial and that there was need to put Berlin on a par with and exceed the quality of other world capitals such as Londonmarker, Parismarker and Washington, D.C.marker

Some projects, such as the creation of a great East-West city axis, which included broadening Charlottenburger Chaussee (today Straße des 17.marker Junimarker) and placing the Berlin victory columnmarker in the center, far away from the Reichstagmarker, where it originally stood, succeeded. Others, however, such as the creation of the Große Hallemarker (Great Dome), had to be shelved owing to the beginning of war. A great number of the old buildings in many of the planned construction areas were however demolished before the war and eventually defeat stopped the plans.

Monumental architecture planned

The first step in these plans was the Olympic Stadiummarker for the 1936 Summer Olympics. This stadium would promote the rise of the Nazi government. A much larger stadium capable of holding 400,000 spectators was planned but only the foundations were dug before the project was abandoned. Had this stadium been completed it would remain the largest in the world today by a considerable margin.

Speer also designed a new Chancellerymarker, which included a vast hall designed to be twice as long as the Hall of Mirrorsmarker in the Palace of Versaillesmarker. Hitler wanted him to build a third, even larger Chancellery, although it was never begun. The second Chancellery was destroyed by the Soviet army in 1945.

The Avenue Of Victory

Almost none of the other buildings planned for Berlin were ever built. Berlin was to be reorganized along a central 5 km-long boulevard known as the Avenue of Victory. This would run south from a crossroads with the East-West Axismarker close to the Brandenburg Gatemarker, following the course of the old Siegesalleemarker through the Tiergartenmarker before contininuing down to an area just west of Tempelhof Airportmarker. This new North-South Axis would have served as a parade ground, and have been closed off to traffic. Vehicles would have instead been diverted into an underground highway running directly underneath the parade route; sections of this highway's tunnel structure were built, and still exist today. No work was ever begun above ground although Speer did relocate the Siegesallee to another part of the Tiergarten in 1938 in preparation for the avenue's construction.

The plan also called for the building of two new large railway stations as the planned North-South Axis would have severed the tracks leading to the old Anhaltermarker and Potsdamermarker stations, forcing their closure. These new stations would be built on the city's main S-Bahn ring with the Nordbahnhof in Weddingmarker and the larger Südbahnhof in Tempelhof-Schönebergmarker at the southern end of the avenue.

The Großer Platz

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Model of the Volkshalle
the northern end of the avenue on the north side of the East-West Axis there was to be a large open forum known as Großer Platz with an area of around 350,000 square metres. This square was to be surrounded by the grandest buildings of all, with the Führer's palace on the west side, the 1894 Reichstag Buildingmarker on the east side and the third Reich Chancellery and high command of the German Army on the south side (on either side of the square's entrance from the Avenue of Victory). On the north side of the plaza Speer planned to build the centrepiece of the new Berlin, an enormous domed building, the Volkshallemarker (people's hall), designed by Hitler himself. It would still remain the largest enclosed space in the world had it been built. Although war came before work could begin, all the necessary land was acquired, and the engineering plans were worked out. The building would have been over 200 metres high and 250 metres in diameter, sixteen times larger than the dome of St. Peter'smarker.

The Arch Of Triumph

Towards the southern end of the avenue would be an triumphal archmarker based on the Arc de Triomphemarker in Parismarker, but again, much larger; it would be almost a hundred metres high, and the Arc de Triomphe would have been able to fit inside its opening. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 caused the decision to postpone construction until after the war to save strategic materials.

Planning

Doubts persisted at the time as to whether the marshy Berlin ground could have taken the load of the proposed projects, leading to the construction of an exploration building (Schwerbelastungskörpermarker, literal translation: Heavy load-bearing body), which still exists on the site where the Arch of Triumph would have been built. It is basically an extremely heavy block of concrete used by the architects to test how much weight the ground was able to carry. Instruments monitored how far the block sank into the ground. The Schwerbelastungskörper sank 18 cm in the three years it was to be used for testing, a maximum depth of 6 cm was allowed. Using the evidence gathered by these gargantuan devices, it is unlikely the soil could have supported such structures without further preparation.

Since there are no other references to the term "Welthauptstadt Germania" other than Albert Speer's autobiography, it is nowadays disputed whether the term was actually used by Hitler or if it had been made up by Speer himself.

At the time of the initial invasion of the Soviet Unionmarker (Operation Barbarossa) in June 1941, Hitler expected to win victory in World War II by 1945, and he then planned, after completing the construction of the Welthauptstadt Germania plan, to hold a great World's Fair in Berlin in 1950 and then retire to his hometown of Linzmarker.

In popular culture

The alternative history novel Fatherland (1992), by Robert Harris envisages a Nazi Germany that won the Second World War, and has eventually realised Hitler's and Speer's vision of a rebuilt and monumental Berlin by about 1964.

The 2004 film Downfall portrays Hitler wistfully looking over a model of the planned city.

Gallery:Image:Berlin belastungskoerper.jpg|The Schwerbelastungskörpermarker was built in order to determine whether Berlin could support its massive renewalImage:1936 Olympics Stadium - Berlin.jpg|The Olympiastadionmarker in 1993, its pre-War architecture intact. Photo: James G. Howes.

References

  1. Speer, Albert (1970). Inside the Third Reich. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-82949-5.
  2. History Channel, Cities Of The Underworld: Episode: 01 - Hitler's Underground Lair (5/5/07)
  3. Speer, Albert Inside the Third Reich New York:1970--Macmillan P.139


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