'Germania': Hitler's Vision for a Capital

A new exhibit shows Adolf Hitler's controversial plans for Berlin.

February 10, 2009, 4:28 PM

PASSAU, Germany, March 12, 2008— -- Hitler was confident of winning World War II and one of the top priorities on his post-war agenda was a monumental makeover of Berlin as the capital of the Nazi-run world.

Three years before the end of WWII, in 1942, Hitler said, "Berlin will be comparable as a world capital only to Egypt, Babylon or Rome."

His vision of Berlin as a city full of bloated marble architecture and grandiose boulevards broader than the Champs Elysee reflected his idea that Berlin would become the center of his global Third Reich.

The plans for what Hitler dubbed "Germania" – a grand Fascist city that would outdo London and Paris – were carefully drawn up in detail by his favorite architect, Albert Speer, one of his intimates.

Hitler had always disliked the city of Berlin. He regarded it as a dirty, liberal-minded place and was disdainful of its leftist political attitudes. He was determined to fix it once he had dealt with World War II.

For many decades his plans were considered so outrageous that they were kept from the public and confined to specialist books and institutes.

It is only now that they will be revealed in a new Berlin exhibition. It will show models and plans for Hitler's "Germania" vision, including photos and documentation that evidence the Nazi's plans to throw out thousands of Jews from their homes to make space for the massive new capital — a super-sensitive topic even more than 60 years after World War II.

"We are showing that 'Germania' was to be built at the expense of the Jews, who were the first to be relocated to make space for the gigantomania. And as we all know, the so-called relocation was the first step on a terrible path that lead to certain death, either in ghettos or in concentration camps," Dominic Ponce, spokesperson for the "Myth Germania" exhibition, told ABC News in a telephone interview.

"There is always a risk that some people might regard the exhibit as seeming to glorify the Nazi's aesthetic vision, but we're confident there cannot be a misunderstanding of our intentions," Ponce added.

The exhibition, open from March 15 through Dec. 31, is under the auspices of German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, who unveiled a scale model of "Germania" at a press conference. He told reporters, "The exhibition shows just how far from reality Hitler's mind was when he dreamed of Germany's future. The positioning of this exhibition next to the Holocaust Memorial puts his 'vision' into perspective and reminds us of Hitler's intentions to exterminate the Jews."

Although some space was cleared and the architect's plans were ready to be executed, not much work had been done on "Germania" by the time the tide of the war turned against the Nazis, and much of Berlin was left destroyed by the war.

The exhibit's scale model center piece is the domed "Volkshalle," or People's Hall, which would have been 950 feet high, and would have been big enough to accommodate a crowd of 150,000.

"Volkshalle" was modelled on Hadrian's Pantheon in Rome, the exhibit's model makes scale models of the famous Brandenburg Gate and the Parliament Reichstag Building looks like toys from a model train set in comparison.

Also featured is a model from the Hitler movie "The Downfall," showing the so-called "North-South Axis" – a multi-lane boulevard the Nazis had hoped to build lined with theatres, shops and government buildings for which Hitler had approved the destruction of tens of thousands of buildings.

The organizers of "Myth Germania," a group which normally conducts tours of unused tunnels and bunkers in Berlin, are also preparing special guided tours through "Germania" constructions sites dug by the Nazis under Berlin's Tiergarten park.

Some of the blind tunnels, mainly subway and traffic tunnels lined with marble, were re-discovered in the early 1960s and were made semi-accessible in 2001, when a new underground road called "Tiergarten Tunnel" was completed.

The preparations for those tours, however, need a little more time and for now the organizers are looking forward to the opening of the "Myth Germania" exhibition at which they expect up to 100,000 visitors.

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