Christian Travelers Guides

Christian Travelers Guides

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nazism and the distortion of travel and history

The main problem with writing about visiting Germany, particularly visiting Berlin, is that German history is so often confused with National Socialism. This, of course distorts history, yet it is an understandable distortion given the horrors of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime.

For example, as part of Rick Steves’ PBS travel program, now on DVD (1977), about the German city of Berlin a young tour guide explains that the German Finance Ministry on Wilhelmstrasse was originally built as Herman Göring’s Air Ministry. She then explains that this oppressive structure was built in the “neo-classical style.” This comment is wrong and actually quite misleading.

Designed by the architect Ernst Sagebiel, who also built Tempelhof Airport, the style is better described as a form of monumental functionalism as Prof. Ronald Taylor points out in his excellent book Berlin and its Culture (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997:272-274). This was one of the main Nazi styles, not neo-classicalism.

Neo-classicism is associated with the beautiful buildings of Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) that line Unter den Linden and are found throughout Berlin and the State of Brandenburg. These very human buildings are a far cry from the deliberately domineering style used by the Nazis and ought not to be confused with Nazi delusions of power.

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