German Neo-Nazi "Shrines"

Inspired by this thread about Hitler’s bunker.

In reading about the Fuhrerbunker, as a history buff it annoys me to no end that it was demolished. There are plenty of places with awful histories in the world that are kept intact, including many from WWII (the camps, for one).

I’ve heard over the years countless times that the post-war Germans (in particular, West Germans) routinely demolished and destroyed places associated with Hitler in order to avoid “neo-Nazi shrines.”

How likely would that have been? Are there locations now in Germany that routinely attract neo-Nazis? My understanding is there is still a lot of WWII-era construction out there, any of which could be adopted as a “shrine.” What kind of standards did post-war Germany use as a rule of thumb for demolish vs. keep as a museum vs. keep but just ignore it?

P.S. I know that the Fuhrerbunker was in Soviet- (later DDR-) controlled territory, so the normal rules of historical preservation most certainly don’t apply. Then again, why would the Soviets have worried about neo-Nazi shrines in occupied territory? Folks could protest in the West, but you gather a bunch of skinheads in Soviet-occupied Berlin, it’d have been off to prison (or worse) for the lot of them. Was this just Stalin being thorough about wiping anything and everything to do with Hitler from the Earth?

Well, Naziism was really really popular in Germany before, say, 1944. With hindsight we can see that losing the war in such a spectacular fashion utterly crushed Naziism. But in the late 1940s there was a lot of suspicion that altough the Germans were outwardly committed to the new liberal democratic principles, if you gave them their choice they’d be back goose-stepping and sieg hieling in no time. Like how the disaster of WWI didn’t crush German militarism, and just a generation later we had WWII.

So there was a lot of thinking that without some severe reconstruction Germany would return to its old habits. The Soviets had their ideas about how to proceed, the western allies had theirs.

There are some locations like that which keep attracting Neo-Nazis. One example is the grave of Rudolf Heß (or Hess), a Nazi politician and for some time Hitler’s deputy. He remains a prominent figure in the Neo-Nazi community, despite the fact that he clearly lost the Führer’s affection with his solo flight to Scotland in 1941. He wanted to negotiate peace with the UK, a move which didn’t find a lot of support, neither from the British nor the Nazis.

There have also been reports of an old bunker near the Obersalzberg (Hitler’s mountain residence) being used as a kind of Neo-Nazi shrine in 2007 (I think that has been dealt with somehow, like closing down the whole thing, but I couldn’t find any info on that).

Regarding why Stalin wanted the Führerbunker destroyed: Why not? Preserving historical sites (at least those they don’t approve) hasn’t really been a strength of socialist governments in general. They wanted a nice new socialist Berlin, and the bunker didn’t fit in there.

Hitler’s summer retreat 9in the mountains). I read that the house was destroyed in an allied bombing raid. Has anybody rebuilt at the site?

The Berlin Führerbunker has not been completely destroyed. Lot’s of deliberate but unsuccessful attempts plus damage due to above ground construction.

The Berghof complex has been almost completely obliterated. The German government has from time to time even hauled away some of the ruins.

Wolfsschanze is the most complete former Führer HQ, but it’s in Poland so neo-Nazis are clearly unwelcome.

In many cases, the Allies made serious efforts to avoid gravesite memorials after the war. Himmler was secretly buried, Göring’s ashes were dumped in a river, etc.

This doesn’t directly answer your main question, but here’s a website about Nazi-era buildings: Third Reich in ruins

Quite a few symbolic buildings were demolished, but there’s a lot of stuff still there. You’d think if they were worried about shrines, they’d have completely destroyed the Nuremberg party rally buildings, but some of them are still there.

Sadly, the Soviet ideas didn’t actually work very well. To the extent far-right parties are still popular in Germany, they enjoy their greatest support in the east.

“We taught the Germans a lesson in 1918 and they’ve hardly bothered us since then!” - Tom Lehrer

Other than Wunsiedel (where demonstration bans have been upheld in court there last few years) Neo-Nazis have not succeeded to create a noticeable geographical focus - there are quite a lot of buildings that would be suitable, but the overwhelming majority are the property of or administered by the Federal Republic, a state or municipiality, or a trustworthy organization (e.g. the Wewelsburg is a youth hostel and museum), so they can readily be made unavailable if the Neo-Nazis develop much of an interest.

They have tried rallies e.g. in Bad Nenndorf, drawing on publications about the Bad Nenndorf Interrogation Center. Otherwise, here and there in a sort of cat and mouse game - when they try it in a location for several years running the authorities and the public are better prepared after the first time.

Neo-Nazi parties seem to have hit on to a rewarding racket in the last decade or so: They announce that they are going to acquire a rundown, unsaleable property (usually without any Nazi antecedents) in some town as an education/rally venue. After this hits the media the local authorities usually yield to political pressure that they buy the property instead. It is widely assumed the party then gets its cut in some way by the property owner.

Well, that was always true. Nazi support was always strongest in eastern Germany, in Prussia & Brandenburg.

That’s generally thought not to be due to any historical patterns but to a postwar ideological delusion.

West Germany underwent acrimonious debates mainly in the 1960s and 1970s on the topic of ‘did we really get Nazism out of our system? Was de-Nazification not nearly thorough enough? What did X-politician do as a young man?’ and Neo-Nazism was/is an ever-present irritant to public consciousness.

In contrast, as East Germany considered Nazism an outgrowth of capitalism, the government considered East Germany inherently immune simply by virtue of being socialist. The state suppressed Neo-Nazi organization but did not consider it necessary to have a debate about xenophobic ideas and bigotry - result of capitalism, or so they thought.

So, after communism fell, rightists could in a lot of places establish themselves in a politically naive population (a blank slate, as it were) that had not experienced decades of debate about Nazism as an ongoing issue.

according to this :File:NSDAP Wahl 1933.png - Wikipedia you are correct. For some reason I had it in my head that they were strongest in Bavaria.

Anyways, those eastern territories that were so pro nazi are now part of poland. If we assume that many of the germans expelled from Prussia ended up in what became the GDR, you would think their experiences in 1945 would make them very anti Nazi.

To the extent that a general rule is possible, so much was in ruins in 1945 that surviving Nazi buildings tended to be kept and converted to other purposes. Thus Göring’s huge Reich Aviation Ministry, possibly the most totalitarian piece of architecture they completed in the centre of Berlin, was used as government offices under the GDR and now houses the finance ministry.
Many of the prominent arguments around preservation vs. obliteration have been many years later when forgotten Nazi structures were either newly recognised as such or re-discovered. With the fear that they become “shrines” always part of the, often bitter, debates. Brian Ladd’s book The Ghosts of Berlin (Chicago, 1997) is excellent on how the different layers of that city’s architectural past have been argued over since 1945.

FWIW, here in the US one of the monuments maintained by the National Park Service is a “Stonewall Jackson Shrine” in Virginia. For the non-Americans, Jackson was a prominent Southern (rebel) general in the Civil War. I’ve never heard of it being used as a focal point for white supremacists, however. Park Service maintenance seems to suck the drama and life out of many of its sites, so it has probably done something similar to the Confederate ones as well.

No, they flock to the Nathan Bedford Forest sites. He was a fairly good cavalry raid leader- but hardly an important General- who would have been almost completely forgotten by all but Civil War buffs, had he not founded the KKK. He has more sites in the South than any other General except Lee.

One more thought on Neo-Nazi “shrines”: Many of the sites mentioned here that Neo-Nazis are using (or trying to use) for rallies and such things are not actual Nazi structures, but rather sites that are linked to alleged allied war crimes or misdeeds: The Hess grave in Wunsiedel that tschild and I have mentioned above doesn’t exactly glorify the Nazi regime, but Hess died in prison and some conspiracy theorists blame the British secret service for murdering him. The British Bad Nenndorf Interrogation Center is of a similar type (there was a controversy about mistreatment of detainees by the British). And in the last years Neo-Nazis have held rallies in Dresden to capitalize on the controversial bombing of the city.

I guess this makes some sense: Any Nazi structures, especially the military ones, will in the end be associated with the total defeat of Germany and the Nazi regime. And there is no way of denying that defeat, no room for another stab-in-the-back legend as after WW I. So their strategy is claim instead that the allies were just as bad as the Nazis.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some Neo-Nazis that get a hard-on wandering through the remains of bunkers and other Nazi buildings.

Apparently very inefficiently – it took them 46 years to get around to doing it, waiting until he was 93 years old.

Might be more reasonable to suspect the accountants of murdering him – he was costing them a great deal of money. They were maintaining an entire prison for just this one prisoner for the the past quarter century.

Soon after he died, they demolished the prison and sold off the land for a Aldi supermarket and a parking lot.

The theory was that it was under serious consideration to release him. Even the Russians had softened their stance. They murdered him because he had info that various high level people were ready to cut a deal with Hitler, prompting his flight in 1941. They didn’t kill him before because it was never thought he would be released.

Who of those ‘high level people’ was still alive in 1987?

Hess was 93, and he was younger than most of the WWII leaders. (Churchill & Stalin were both about 20 years older, FDR about 15.)

Spandau was hardly impenetrable. Albert Speer managed to smuggle out most of his diaries while he was imprisoned. If Hess had some earth-shattering secrets, they would have gotten out long before 1987.