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‹ Return to Berlin
It means Heavy Load Testing Body. It does what it says really. This concrete lump is as far as Hitler’s plans for the capital of his new empire got. It was built by French forced labourers to test the ability of the ground to bear the weight of a Triumphal Arch.
Adolf had big plans for Berlin. He had many architects, but his favourite was Albert Speer because where other architects tried to tone down the scale of Hitler’s plans for enormous buildings, Speer told him they should be even bigger.
The ‘Volkshalle’, with its copper clad dome rising 1000 feet above street level would be the world’s largest building and would sit at one end of a wide boulevard 5km long which would end with the world’s biggest railway station and an Arch of Triumph, so big the Arc de Triomphe in Paris would have fitted inside it 9 times over. Hitler expected all the building to be completed by 1950, but war got in the way.
Speer introduced to Hitler the notion of “Ruin Value”, that thousands of years hence the ruins of these buildings would be like the ruins of ancient Rome or Greece or Egypt. Not that he expected his Reich to end any time soon. “These buildings,” he said in 1937, “should not be conceived for the year 1940, no, nor for the year 2000, but like the cathedrals of our past they shall stretch into the millenia of the future.”
Speer got 20 years imprisonment at the Nuremberg war crimes trials where he apologised for his part in Nazism. Upon release in 1966 he became something of a celebrity, photoshopping his history to take out any knowledge of the Holocaust. But this was clearly disingenuous. Apart from those worked to death in the quarries and building sites, Speer was responsible for the eviction of thousands of Jews from their homes. And in his efforts to maintain industry, Speer prolonged the war for many months and so was responsible for the deaths of thousands more. He died in London in 1981.
Hitler and Speer admire a scale model of their designs for Berlin. When Speer showed the models to his father (also an architect) the older man said “You’ve all gone completely mad.”
A scene from Downfall showing Speer indulging Hitler in his megalomaniac fantasies as the Allies and Soviets closed in.
see this blog for photos of the models Speer made for Hitler.
More on the Schwerbelastungskörper here
Roger Moorhouse, 2010, “Berlin at War”
Albert Speer, 1971, “Inside the Third Reich”
Maik Kopleck, 2007, “Past Finder, Berlin 1933-1945”