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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • EAT MORE FISH, 1917

Reichs-Chapel: 1938

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Reichs-Chapel: 1938

Germany circa 1938. "Meeting room of Nazi Party facility in Upper Bavaria." The swastika candles lend a rustic note. This looks like something out of a comic book or movie serial, but it was all too real. Photo-Pfaller print. View full size.

Additional details on this photo, one of seven pictures in a portfolio that's part of the Third Reich Collection at the Library of Congress:

One portfolio (seven photographic prints); 13 x 18 cm. Photographs on mounts 23 x 29 cm. No captions. Ink stamp on back of mounts: "Photo-Pfaller, Traunstein/Obb. Tel. 451." Confiscated by U.S. military intelligence authorities, 1945-1946. Transfer; 1947. Photographs show a chapel (?) in a Nazi party house in Bavaria. Includes wooden carved benches and podium; elaborate Nazi eagle and swastika symbol made of wood; mural of fallen soldier and SA companion; light fixture incorporating a helmet. Also includes exterior views of the house showing a mural with SA soldier with swastika flag and farmers with tools.

 

Creepy faux-religious theme

Adolf and his crowd were anti-Christian as well as anti-Jewish (and anti-any-other-religion), and sought to displace Christianity and other religions with the nazi paganism. One way to do this, and make the transition easier, was to co-opt religious symbols, themes, and rituals.

One of my boyhood neighbors, and a university professor, delivered a lecture in my college history class about his time as a boy growing up in Nazi Germany. He stated the Nazi Party borrowed organizational structures from the Catholic church.

Although the "Nazi Chapel" seems over-the-top, that's exactly what it was.

Teuton Pagans

Hitler was not a Christian. He was a pagan, whose nationalism drove him to re-establish Germanic paganism as a national religion. It is no surprise to find a Nazi chapel as part of party apparati, a place in which the faithful may be sermonized, surrounded by symbols to inflame their hearts.

Fascinatingly abhorrent.

Some traces remain

Years ago when I was travelling with a choir in Europe there I saw avsurviving Nazi altar in the basement of some building we were touring, right around the corner from the room where they shot political prisoners. It was the only place I have ever felt a palpable sense of evil.

Satanic

It's the only adjective that works here.

Whoa.

Hope a few Allied bombs blew that place to smithereens.

True religion, but false

Well, nazism was a religion, indeed. It had all elements of religion. And, above all, it was one and only way, to keep masses of people supported. Nice to see some photo from outside USA. Next time, could be more pleasant.

Nazi Kitsch or just plain Fake?

When I really looked at the details in this photo I was led to wonder if it could be a fake, created in a modern studio or by clever use of Photoshop software. The woodgrain of the "pews" looks fake enough to be contact paper from the bargain aisle of Wal-Mart, and the eagle looks like it was made by an 8th grader who has just spent a week studying the Art Deco movement. Surely, by 1938 Germany could have produced décor in better taste?

Likewise, the fresco, or whatever, in the background seems almost prophetically tragic with the soldier with the tattered flag bending over a dead comrade or enemy -- could this have been created before the war? I find the entire photo suspect.

As the caption says, it looks like something out of a comic book. Could it be a scam? Is it the real thing? Only Shorpy knows for sure.

[The photo, part of the Third Reich Collection at the Library of Congress, was confiscated by American military intelligence authorities in 1945. See the caption for additional details. - Dave]

Nazi Pieta

What I find really disquieting is the appropriation of the pieta symbolism for the mural on the far wall.

Full Employment

Window dressers and set decorators -- at least, those with vulgar taste -- experienced boom times when the Nazis came to power. ("If you gild it, they will come.") Also, I believe the effect on the pews is called "flame graining," and consisted of running a blowtorch along the material to scorch some of the surface grain for emphasis. It was very popular as an enhancement to cheap plywood paneling in '50s man-caves in the US, and Army barracks day rooms worldwide. Top with a coat of hi-gloss Valspar, and the ciggie smoke just rolls off the walls.

Syncretism

The transformation of the old rugged cross into the old rugged swastika the eagle is clutching is more disturbing than the hokey nazi candles (which are disturbing enough).

Flamed

I noticed the selection of wood also. To get that raised-grain effect the wood is "flamed" or burnt with a blow torch.

Thankfully, everything and everyone involved was eventually flamed in hell too.

All Too Real, Indeed

Seeing this photo actually turns my stomach. It's hard to imagine that people bought into this ideology with such fervor and zeal. Nazism was indeed a religion--a religion of terror, hatred and extremism, but a religion nonetheless.

With that said, seeing this photo should also remind us that all of this really DID happen, despite the belief of some today who claim that it didn't.

We would be wise to never forget.

Comic Book

Looks like a great set piece for a Jack Kirby BOY COMMANDOES cover.

I don't want to speculate what the SS used for wood stain.

Worship

It looks like a perverse place off worship to me. Creepy.

Hitler's Holy Relics

Sidney Kirkpatrick has an interesting description of the search for the Spear of Destiny and the Crown Jewels of the Holy Roman Empire that the Nazis plundered during the war in his book "Hitler's Holy Relics". Those most holy and precious artifacts were destined to go into places like this. Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark was not far from the truth of what they were doing.

Self-Deification

The co-opting of the style and furnishings of a worship space is jarring, and speaks rather terrifyingly of the cult of personality.

Millwork

The wood used in those "pews" is quite striking. The less said about the rest of the place the better. I'm reminded of what Indiana Jones always said.

 
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