When I hear Nuremberg, I think of the trials at the end of World War II, but Nuremberg was the city beloved by Adolph Hitler. In Michael Kloft’s documentary, “Führer Cult and Megalomania,” Nuremberg’s position of prominence in the Nazi regime is explored and this documentary is subtitled: “Nuremberg: The Holy Shrine of the Nazis.” Although the DVD package states this is a 2011 release, the title is the same as the 1996 German release: “Führerkult und Größenwahn – Das Parteitagsgelände in Nürnberg.”
Historically, Nuremberg was the location of an imperial castle and the place where the Imperial Diet and courts met during the time of the Holy Roman Empire. There were Jews in Nuremberg and they were not kindly treated. They were killed in large numbers, sometimes burned at the stake like witches and finally were driven out in 1349. The Jewish quarter was then demolished and a marketplace was built over it.
If Nazi Germany was the Third Reich, then the Holy Roman Empire (800-1800) was the First Reich and the German Empire, which ended with the First World War (1871-1918) was the Second Reich.
Because of this connection to the Roman Empire, Nuremberg was chosen by Hitler to be the host for Nazi Party conventions, the Nuremberg rallies in 1927, 1929 and then annually from 1933 to 1938. For most of use, what we know of these rallies comes from Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film “Triumph of the Will” (Triumph des Willens) which recorded the 1934 rally.
If you’ve seen the History Channel’s “The World Wars” or are up on your Adolph Hitler history, then you’ll know Hitler had a thing for architecture. By the time of the rallies, he was in full megalomaniacal swing and he was determined to leave monuments to commemorate his historical significance. With his architect Albert Speer, he set out to make the landmarks of the ancient past seem insignificant, saying “Even the pyramids will be dwarfed by the stone and concrete masses I plan to erect.”
Kloft isn’t satisfied with what Riefenstahl has shown us of the past and brings together rare film footage of the construction and includes some amateur film shot in color.Kloft also includes interviews with eyewitnesses to the construction and rallies. The model of Nazi Germany efficiency begins to crumble as we come to understand the extend of Hitler’s ego. His will determined what was built and where, and we already see how ego was at war with reality.
At one time, as many as 1.5 million people attended a party rally, an 8-day affair of propaganda production. Yet now some 70 years later, the city that had once been the headquarters of the Nazi military district, the subcamp Flossenburg concentration camp and the site of Hitler’s most infamous rally, has mostly recovered from the humiliation of World War I, the severe damage of Allied strategic bombing and the crushing weight of Holocaust hubris revealed in the Nuremberg Military Tribunals.
Only 52 minutes long, this documentary, “Führer Cult and Megalomania,” is a swift and eloquent documentary that ironically shows the other side of “Triumph of the Will,” the triumph of the elements and the Allies. The West Germany-born 53-year-old Kloft has made a career of creating documentaries about the Nazi regime. This is a fascinating brief history lessons from a German point of view and well worth viewing. In English with German subtitles.
First Run Features has several other films about World War II and has a DVD box set of four other Kloft documentaries.