Adolf Hitler and his favorite architect Albert Speer wanted to change Berlin into a pompous capital called Germania. They had plans to build huge domes and large buildings where people could gaze at the nazi architectural achievements. A lot of buildings were never build. The best known that are still visible in Berlin probably are Ministry of Aviation and airfield Tempelhof. But the nazis did not only want to build big pompous domes, they also created apartment blocks for the ordinary nationalist folks of Berlin. The best example of this building style can still be found at Grazer Damm. Here you can spot a lot of classic columns and friezes of hard working countrymen and Hitler Boys.
Nazi apartments at Grazer Damm
After World War two the people of Berlin were very ashamed of the nazi past of the capitol. They preferred to demolish all the buildings that were created during the nazi period. But they simply didn’t because the city was bombed to pieces. All the buildings that were not in ruins had to be used again because the ones that survived the war needed a roof over their heads. Even if those roofs were created by the nazis.
Nazi apartments in Berlin
There are not a lot of nazi apartment buildings in Berlin. The nazis had plans to create a lot of new buildings, but only a few apartment zones in nazi architectural style were actually build, because the builders had to fight in the war. The main ones can be found at Krumme Lanke, Togo- and Mullerstrasse in Wedding, Roedeliusplatz in Lichtenberg and Grazer Damm in Schoneberg. There is a big difference in architecture. The buildings at Krumme Lanke have small gardens, steep rooftops and shutters. Those buildings look like they long for the ‘good, old times’ in rural Germany, where people grew their own vegetables and fruit. Because of the shutters they resemble old, traditional farmhouses you will also find in the southern part of Germany and in Austria. Grazer Damm looks very different. You won’t expect to see farmers if you look at the nazi apartments in Schoneberg. The apartments have small rooms and are divided into large blocks. It looks a bit like army barracks. The walls are tight, monotonous, meant to impress with its shapes and hight and make people feel small at the same time.
Hitler boys on the facades of Grazer Damm
But there were no soldiers living in these apartments, but ordinary people. The buildings they were living in were demolished to make room for the large streets of Germania. To console the people that lost their homes a little, the buildings at Grazer Damm were build. If you are walking past the nazi apartments at Togo- and Mullerstrasse, you can only spot the buildings have a nazi past by the classic columns and monotonous building style. The buildings at Grazer Damm have something extra that makes it easier to explore its sad past. The ferocious lions in front of the buildings are created in nazi style, for example. And on the facade you can spot Hitler boys in Hitler youth outfits, as well as hard working people. The nazis glamorized the hard working German laborers by depicting them on buildings and apartments, as you can see at Grazer Damm. German history and stories were important to highlight as well. The story of the Townmusicians of Bremer, the famous fairy tale by the Grimm brothers is depicted on the walls of Grazer Damm.
Bombs and fire at Grazer Damm
Before World War Two started Hitler always stressed he wanted to have peace with England, France and other European countries. But in 1938 he was ready for war. The architects that created the apartments at Grazer Damm in 1938 took into account Berlin would be heavily bombed. In German they call this “Luftschutzgerechte Stadt” in English: air raid precaution city. Normally, if a heavy bomb would fall on a Berlin apartment, it would not only be ruined by the bomb, but also by the severe fires that break out in the small courts and alleys between and inside the buildings. The apartments at Grazer Damm were designed in such a way that if a bomb dropped down, the inhabitants would not suffer from those blazing fires. The architects created openings between the buildings to stop the terrifying by-effect from bombs. The so called ‘stack effect’ would not be taking place, so there would be less victims than at other buildings in Berlin when the allied bombs would drop.
Grazer Damm after the war
Hitler and most of his nazi friends did not survive World War Two, Grazer Damm did. After the war, nobody really knew what to do with the apartments. But since so many people died and a lot of buildings were in ruins, the people of Berlin decided to use the nazi buildings at Grazer Damm. They didn’t like it though, and the history of the place was avoided in conversations. It was not a heritage to be proud of. On the contrary. Even architects didn’t want to talk about nazi buildings. Every word about the nazi architecture is one word too much, said the well known German born British scholar of History of history of architecture Nikolaus Pevsner in his book on European architecture. And that’s exactly how most people felt about buildings with a nazi past right after the war and in the sixties and seventies. Later on, people debated heavily about what to do with the past of these buildings. Some wanted to continue not talking about the subject, others wanted to preserve the buildings. Now the buildings are under monument protection. Debates are still going on, but the subject has changed. The apartment blocks have been bought by a private investor and the buildings have been renovated. The people at Grazer Damm are not happy with the changes though. They stress the renovations have been too luxurious. Some people pay 100 euros per month more for extras, such as a small balcony on the north side of their house, they hardly ever use. And that debate is not finished yet. The fights over Grazer Damm continues, but in a very different way…