explores ideology, consequences of Hitler's plans to
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[September 20, 2014]
By Helen Cahill
BERLIN (Reuters) - Adolf
Hitler's utopian plans to rebuild Berlin on a monumental
scale were never realized, but the preparations that got
under way involved demolitions and the use of slave
labor - the victims mainly Jewish, as a new exhibition
Masterminded by the Nazis' favorite architect, Albert Speer,
Hitler's grand vision of a new capital for "Germania" required
the clearance of swathes of Berlin, whose displaced tenants were
moved into apartments freed by deporting Jews.
A museum inside Gesundbrunnen tube station in northern Berlin
explores the ideology and the consequences of Hitler's
unrealized "Germania", to the rumbling of underground trains
passing through adjoining tunnels.
"This is not about 'Germania' as the hobby of a dictator," said
the exhibition's curator, Gernot Schaulinski. "It's about the
intentions of such a project, the ideology behind it, and those
who suffered because of it."
A giant map shows plans for a magnificent boulevard, seven
kilometers long and 120 meters wide, which was to be flanked by
towering buildings which would celebrate Nazi prestige.
A 320 metre-tall "Great Hall" was to stand at the end of the
avenue, dwarfing the neighboring Reichstag. Crowned with a
40-metre glass lamp, its green copper roof with an opening at
the top was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
The district surrounding today's Chancellery building where
Angela Merkel works was destroyed to make room for the Great
Hall. Relatives had to re-inter loved ones buried in cemeteries
which stood in the way of the gargantuan boulevard.
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The exhibition details how Speer, who was jailed for his role in the
Third Reich until 1966, worked closely with senior Nazis and
directly contributed to the terror of the death camps.
Speer ordered evictions in the demolition zones so building could be
completed quickly once Germany had won the war. "Aryan" residents
forced out were to move into 24,000 apartments formerly occupied by
Speer worked with prominent Nazis Reinhard Heydrich and Joseph
Goebbels to coordinate mass deportations from Berlin, which took
place in October 1941.
In 1942, he supported the expansion of death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau
as a destination for deportees. A diagram drawn by prisoner Rudolf
Kauer shows the planned enlargement under "Professor Speer's special
To meet demand for construction materials for "Germania", Hitler,
Speer and SS military commander Heinrich Himmler agreed to use
concentration camp inmates as manpower. The SS built the world's
largest brickworks in Oranienburg, a camp near Berlin where many
inmates were murdered or died from the work.
(Reporting by Helen Cahill; Editing by Stephen Brown)
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