Nuremberg: City with a Past

Today a Documentation Centre stands on the site of the former Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg. Neil Gregor reflects on the city council’s response to the neo-Nazi revival of the 1960s.

Few German cities were left as awkward an inheritance by the Nazi regime as Nuremberg. The annual gatherings of the Nazi faithful had symbolized both the propagandistic display and the destructive will to power of the Nazi movement, and served to ensure that the name of the city would for ever be associated with the Third Reich.

The announcement of Hitler’s infamous racial laws at the party rally in 1935 not only underlined this association but linked the city’s name specifically to the most notorious legislation of the regime. The presence of the local Gauleiter Julius Streicher – and the publication of his abysmal anti-semitic rag Der Stürmer provided a further embarrassing set of links for the city to deal with after the war. Not for nothing did the victorious allies decide to stage their postwar trials of the Nazi leadership in the city.

In 2001 the combined efforts of local, state and national authorities to acknowledge Nuremberg’s challenging history culminated in the opening of a Documentation Centre on the site of the former party rally grounds. Interest in the history underlying the Centre and the significance it has quickly attained in the museum topography of contemporary Germany are underlined by the fact that in May 2007 it recorded its millionth visitor.

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