Posts Tagged ‘Germania’

Schwerbelastungskoerper for Germania

Monday, June 12th, 2017


The Schwerbelastungskoerper in Berlin (heavy load-bearing body) is a colossal concrete cylinder from the Nazi era. It is the only remaining tangible relic of Adolf Hitler’s vision of transforming Berlin into Germania, the capital of the world. Since 2002, Berlin’s borough of Tempelhof owns this one-of-a-kind concrete tube. Open to the public, the Schwerbelastungskoerper is located on General-Pape-Strasse, not far from Tempelhof airport.

Two enormous structures to anchor Hitler’s Germania

In the summer of 1936, Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, handed Albert Speer, his chief architect, two postcard-sized sketches that were about 10 years old. The rough drafts outlined two monumental buildings that were to define Germania: the Great Arch and the Great Hall. The triumphal Great Arch was to honor the soldiers killed in World War I and to be three times as large as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The Great Hall, a gigantic domed assembly hall, was to be Berlin’s most impressive building. It was to be so large that it would eclipse every structure in Berlin.

Why the Schwerbelastungskoeper was built

In March 1928, Albert Speer created Project no. 15: Soils tests to determine whether Berlin’s sandy and swampy soil could support such large monuments. A test cube with 33-foot sides was to be constructed. In the end, it turned out to be a cylinder, close to 100 feet high with a 33-foot diameter underground and a 69-foot diameter above the surface. Between April and November 1941, almost 14,000 U.S. tons of concrete were poured at a cost of 400,000 Reichsmark.


Schwerbelastungskoerper in Berlin-Tempelhof, relic of the Nazi era. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Schwerbelastungskoerper in Berlin-Tempelhof, relic of the Nazi era. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

But because of the start of World War II, the Schwerbelastungskoerper remained unfinished. When the heavy load bearing capacity of the soil underneath was finally measured in 1948, the colossus had sunk 19.4 cm (7 inches) in a period of two and a half years. The maximum acceptable settling without additional stabilization of the ground prior to construction was 2 cm. In other words, without additional work, the Great Arch and the Great Hall could not have been built.

The Schwerbelastungskoerper below ground. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

The Schwerbelastungskoerper below ground. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Fate of the Schwerbelastungskoerper

After the Second World War, plans to blow up the Schwerbelastungskoerper were discarded because of the dangers explosives might have presented to nearby train tracks and apartment buildings. For a while, the German Society for Soil Mechanics used the cylinder to perform various tests on site. But after 1983 the structure was no longer needed and the Schwerbelastungskoerper was abandoned. For a number of years, the cylinder was neglected, and the area around it became overgrown. Now it is open to visitors. From an adjacent observation platform, the visitor can even overlook the area that Hitler once envisioned as the heart of Germania.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of

Germania – Hitler’s Utopian Quest

Monday, June 5th, 2017


In 1937, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler assigned his chief architect, Albert Speer, the task of developing a plan for transforming Berlin into the “capital of the world.” Hitler envisioned a metropolis with monumental architecture that would rival those ancient Egypt, Babylon, Rome and Athens. He named this utopian dream Germania. The plan was so impressive that even the New York Times described the project as “perhaps the most ambitious planning scheme of the modern era.”

Speer’s model of the proposed Germania

Speer went to work and within a year presented Hitler with a model of his grand design. At the core of the model were two broad boulevards, which would run through the heart of Berlin: a north-south axis and an east-west axis. He called the three-mile long north-south boulevard Prachtstrasse (Street of Magnificence). In the north, the Prachtstrasse terminated in a Volkshalle (People’s Hall); its southern end terminated in a triumphal arch. In Speer’s design, the Volkshalle rose to a height in excess of 700 feet. Its dome was to be sixteen times larger than that of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Hall would accommodate 180,000 people.


Model of Hitler's proposed Germania. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Model of Hitler’s proposed Germania. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017.

Speer’s triumphal arch was close to 400 feet high so that Paris’ Arc de Triomphe would easily fit inside its opening. Oodles of proposed new civic and commercial buildings along the north/south axis would link these two massive monuments. Roads, would to be realigned, Berlin’s parks would be revamped and two new rail stations would replace three existing timeworn termini. Speer proposed that entire suburbs would to be constructed to provide modern housing so that over 200,000 Berliners could move out of the slums and into the heart of the city. Furthermore, a plethora of new administrative buildings and commercial developments would be constructed. To see a model of Hitler’s utopian metropolis visit Mythos Germany in the Gesundbrunnen subway station. For hours and fees contact

Did Germania come to pass?

Albert Speer designed many grand structures in and outside of Berlin. In Berlin, he completed the Olympic Stadium in 1936, Hermann Goering’s Air Ministry (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) in 1936 – the largest office building in the world at the time with over 4 miles of corridors – and Hitler’s new Reich Chancellery in 1938. But only a tiny fraction of Hitler’s grandiose plans for Germania ever came to pass before the project came to a halt on account of World War II. Today, only Speer’s almost 14,000 U.S. ton Schwerbelastungskoerper (heavy load bearing body) near the Airport Tempelhof still stands. It was built to determine whether Berlin’s sandy and swampy soil could support Germania’s large monuments.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of



Albert Speer Designed for Ruin Value

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Albert Speer (1905-1981) was Adolf Hitler’s chief architect. Speer’s career skyrocketed after joining the Nazi Party in 1931. Blessed with strong architectural and organizational skills, he became a powerful man during the Nazi era, both in government and in politics. As part of Hitler’s inner circle, Albert Speer designed many well-known projects. Always on a grand scale, his projects included the Zeppelinfeld Stadium in Nuernberg, the Reich Chancellery and above all, Germania, Hitler’s utopian notion of transforming Berlin into the capital of the world.

Albert Speer (1905-1981) Adolf Hitler's chief architect. Photo courtesy of Spartacus Educational.

Albert Speer (1905-1981) Adolf Hitler’s chief architect. Photo courtesy of Spartacus Educational.

Speer designed for “ruin value.” That meant that buildings had to be constructed in such a way that they would make aesthetically pleasing ruins. It would guarantee, his thinking was, that Nazi Germany ruins would remain symbols of greatness throughout history, akin to ancient Greek and Roman ruins.

Albert Speer’s Rise to Power

Albert Speer was a third generation architect from an upper-middle-class family. He met Hitler for the first time when the organizers of the 1933 Nuernberg Rally asked him to submit designs for the rally. Speer quickly became close to Hitler, which guaranteed him a steady stream of government commissions. Before long, he was the Party’s chief architect.

When Hitler asked Speer to build him a new Reich Chancellery in 1938, Speer’s design included a 480-foot Marble Gallery, almost twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors of Versailles. Damaged in the Battle of Berlin in 1945, the Reich Chancellery was eventually dismantled by the Soviets. They used the stone to build the Soviet War Memorial in Treptow Park. As Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer applied his organizational skills toward the end of the war to overcome serious war production losses due to Allied bombings. Under his direction, German war production continued to increase despite the bombings.

Albert Speer during the Nuernberg Trials

Following World War II, Albert Speer was tried at Nuernberg and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his war crimes and crimes against humanity. He served the full sentence, most of it in the Spandau Prison in former West Berlin. He was released in 1966. During his testimony, Speer accepted responsibility for the Nazi regime’s actions. However, he claimed to have been unaware of Nazi extermination activities. That assertion was proven to be false. He did, however, deliberately disobey Hitler’s orders when the dictator issued the Nero Decree in March of 1945. The Nero Decree demanded the destruction of infrastructure within Germany and all occupied territories to prevent their use by Allied forces.

What remained of Albert Speer’s “grand” designs

Little remains of Albert Speer’s designs, short of plans and photographs. In Berlin, only the Schwerbelastungskoerper (heavy load bearing body), not far from Tempelhof airport, still stands and is open to the public. The concrete cylinder was built in 1941/1942 to determine the feasibility of constructing giant buildings on Berlin’s sandy soil – envisioned for Germania – without additional stabilization. In Nuernberg, the partially demolished tribune of the Zeppelinfeld Stadium survived.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of