Losing the War
At another website, I saw this essay linked. It’s good stuff, give it a read.
Here’s a small taste of it:
Hitler loved architecture. He’d been an architecture student when he was young; his few surviving paintings from those years are studies of the classic buildings of Vienna. He sometimes seemed to get more pleasure out of architectural tours of his conquered territories than he did from all their looted wealth. When he went to France after it fell to his armies in 1940 he didn’t give a damn about lording it over his abased enemies. All he wanted was a private visit to the Paris opera house, with a knowledgeable guide to show him the fine points of its design. That’s why to this day the only book that conveys any sense of the personality behind his tirades is Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich—the memoirs of Hitler’s architect.
Hitler and Speer talked endlessly about theories of architecture and urban planning. They grew particularly fascinated by a concept they called “ruin value.” They’d both been impressed by how imposing and beautiful the monumental constructions of the Roman empire still looked after so many centuries of catastrophe and vandalism, of storm and earthquake and the slow incessant gnawing of the wind; and they wondered how the great works they were planning would hold up a couple of thousand years down the road, when the Reich itself was half forgotten and new empires were contending for the world. Maybe it was possible to factor a certain decay mode into their designs, to ensure that some picturesque element of each structure would survive. Arches or pediments or rows of pillars could be reinforced far beyond the requirements of the load they would carry, so that they would still be standing after the rest of the structure was dust—ensuring that even the wreckage of the Reich would inspire awe.
Speer’s memoirs reproduce some of the sketches he did to illustrate the idea of ruin value. They show the immense public works projects he’d been designing—the titanic capitol dome, the new ministerial buildings, the 300-foot-tall triumphal arch—in a state of picturesque decay, half-crumbled and overrun by weeds. Hitler adored them. The members of his inner circle loathed them. They were uncomfortable with the idea that the Reich would ever fall, then or in a thousand years, and they darkly wondered if Speer was some kind of subversive troublemaker, playing to the fuhrer’s mysterious and disturbing fondness for images of twilight, decay, and tragedy.
For those here with the patience for probably 40 pages or so of reading, your time will be well spent.