VIP Stairway, 1936 Olympic Stadium
by Leslie Hossack
Exactly 75 years ago, on August 1st, 1936, Hitler opened the XI Games in the Berlin Olympic Stadium.
VIP Stairway, 1936 Olympic Stadium, Berlin 2010
© Leslie Hossack
Exactly 75 years ago, on August 1st, 1936, Hitler mounted these stairs in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, entered his VIP box, and officially opened the XI Games. The Nazis used the Olympics as a showcase for their National Socialist dictatorship; however, these games are now often referred to as the Propaganda Games. At the same time that Hitler was opening the games, forced labour was being used only 35 km away to build Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
The Third Reich used “monumental” architecture to exalt the state and diminish the individual. In 1933, Hitler personally intervened in the design of the Olympic Stadium; he had his architect Albert Speer modify its outward appearance to keep it more in line with the Colosseum in Rome. The Berlin stadium, made of reinforced concrete, was covered with a veneer of limestone at Speer’s suggestion. Following the Olympics, Hitler attended many National Socialist events in the stadium. During a state visit in 1937, Hitler and Mussolini mounted these stairs and stood together to watch a nighttime rally in the arena. The spectacle included a “Dome of Light” created by Albert Speer using anti-aircraft searchlights.
During the recent modernization of the 1936 Olympic Stadium, the outside appearance was preserved as much as possible, with the exception of the new roof. However, the inside of the stadium was completely redesigned, except the rooms behind the VIP section which are protected by conservation laws. The stairs in this photograph are located in the protected area, and they lead up to the Balcony of Honour. It is said that during the Nazi regime, when it was time to leave the VIP lounge and go up to the Führer’s Box, Hitler alone would use these stairs and others would be directed to a different stairway.
Architect: Werner March Date: 1936
Conversion Architects: GMP Date: 2000 – 2004