Nazi architecture: the Zehlendorf SS settlement

Semi-Detached House, Zehlendorf, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

The mammoth neo-classical architecture that Albert Speer hoped to realize in the Berlin city centre had little impact on daily construction in the Third Reich. Most of the residential buildings and settlements … were given a more traditional form. The buildings had steep tile roofs; the windows could be closed with shutters. The appearance of half-timbered construction gave the houses a local flare. A typical example of this is the Zehlendorf SS settlement built in 1938 – 1940 in Berlin that now bears the name Waldsiedlung Krumme Lanke.                                                                                             – Matthias Donath, Architecture in Berlin 1933 – 1945, A Guide Through Nazi Berlin

The Nazis built housing for their SS troops on the west side of Berlin in Zehlendorf, on the shores of Krumme Lanke. The SS or Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron or defence corps) was a major paramilitary organization under Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during WW II. After 1945, the SS was banned in Germany, along with the Nazi Party, as a criminal organization.

The photograph above shows a typical example of what Matthias Donath refers to as a traditional residential settlement, consisting of houses with steep tile roofs and shuttered windows. These detached, semi-detached and terraced houses were allocated to SS officers according to rank.

To see examples of what Donath refers to as the mammoth neo-classical architecture that Albert Speer hoped to construct for Hitler’s  new world capital Germania, please see my previous posts of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Stadium and Tempelhof Airport.

VIP Stairway, 1936 Olympic Stadium

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