Background: This is the introduction to the official NSDAP book on the proceedings of the 1936 Nuremberg Rally. Walther Schmitt summarizes the course of the rally, and explains what the Nazis thought it meant.
The source: Der Parteitag der Ehre vom 8. bis 14. September 1936. Offizieller Bericht über den Verlauf des Reichsparteitages mit sämtlichen Kongreßreden (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1936), pp. 7-13. The essay is titled “Parteitag der Ehre.”
A clear tradition determines the course of the National Party Congress of the NSDAP. It begins with the ringing of every bell in Nuremberg. The party calls Germany to the great gathering of the Germans and announces simultaneously that the Führer has entered the city. Nuremberg then greets the Führer and the party in the old, splendid city hall. The congress gathers the next day to hear Adolf Hitler’s yearly proclamation The Führer reviews what has been accomplished and outlines and gives orders for the future. This annual gathering is a powerful arena in which the energy of the entire people is gathered to set the next goals and receive new direction. The cultural session takes place that evening. Adolf Hitler gives a major speech that expounds on the cultural duties of the movement.
Adolf Hitler’s double proclamation to the party rally makes clear the inner National Socialist unity of political accomplishment and cultural guidance. That alone says more about the National Socialist movement than all the intellectual analysts could say with a thousand essays. The combination of politics and culture in the party rally’s program is clear proof of the enormous confidence that fills the German renewal movement, and which as always spurs it on to still greater accomplishments. No matter how splendid and triumphant the political accomplishments discussed in the morning are, come evening the party reports on it cultural strengths and achievements. It knows that great political accomplishments also demand great works of art, and that only these will justify its position in history. As the Führer has said, National Socialism sees artistic creations as the highest expression of a nation’s being. This view, which breaks decisively from the past, was expressed in the conclusion of his speech about the new German cultural era at Nuremberg in 1936: “Art is the only truly immortal product of human activity.”
On the next day, the series of powerful marches by National Socialist organizations begins. Each has its own characteristics that give expression to a part of National Socialist life and National Socialist behavior. Although much in the marches is different, all are united by a single rhythm and a single will. Each follows the beat of the German march that determines its pace, each looks to the Führer and repeats each year the pledge of loyalty that is within their hearts.
It is only natural that the series of marches begins each year with the Day of the Labor Service. The lives of these young working men give the clearest and most beautiful expression to the will, the goals and the longing of fighting National Socialism. Here we see selfless service to the community of the people and the unprejudiced camaraderie of all Germany in service of the great law they all serve. “You do not know how much the German people love you. You have become such a part of our national life that we can no longer imagine it without you,” said the Führer to the 45,000 young German workers who appeared before him on 10 September 1936.
The march of the political leaders follows that of the Labor Service, then the Day of the Hitler Youth, the roll call of the SA, SS and NSKK, and finally the Day of the Army. Always new images, new columns, each committed to certain tasks and obligations in service to Germany, showing always therefore the same unshakable unity.
At the same time, numerous meetings of party offices and commissions occur, along with sessions of the larger congress. In these meetings, party offices report on what they have done and outline what they plan to do in the coming year. These meetings too are “roll calls,” examinations of what has been done and of what will be done. Besides the presence of the Führer, the size of the mass meetings, the days of the National Socialist Women’s League and the annual meeting of the German Labor Front are particularly impressive.
On the seventh day, after all the meetings are finished and the series of great marches concludes with the military, the party congress gathers a final time. The Führer appears in person and in his final speech sends the party home to take up the work of the coming year. The words Adolf Hitler speaks to his comrades and followers stay with them for the next twelve months, and are at the same time a call for everyone who lives and fights in the German community. The Führer has the last clear word, showing how the movement is doing in meeting its historical mission. He tells each National Socialist what his place is and what his duties are. The party rally finds its clearest symbol and its greatest power in this last dialogue between the Führer and his followers, all of whom are stall deeply moved by what they have experienced and also looking forward to the tasks awaiting them at home.
That is the external course of the party rally that has developed over the past three years, slowly and organically, and which now has its final form. This is not a calcified form, however, rather the vast and necessary frame that organizes the concentrated power of National Socialism within a limited space. There are already plans and ideas to give today’s structures new power, and which within a few years will give the Reich party rally even greater scope.
National Socialist unity is obvious, displaying an ever living dynamic both in spiritual directions as well as in artistic achievements.
The proclamations the party gives to the public grow sharper, more precise each year. Each party rally is a blacksmith’s anvil under which the profile of the new Germany is receiving its clear lines and shape.
Simultaneously and serving as powerful witnesses to a unique will, the buildings of the party rally are taking shape. The Luitpold Arena was used for the first time in 1935 as the marching ground for the brown army in its new form. This field unites in stone the youthful power of the movement with the memory of the dead of the war. Three enormous 24-meter flags of the movement hang above the bright white limestone platform. Even higher stand the two eagles of the movement, unique in their artistic form, and also the two largest bronze castings made in Germany in decades. This new field is the first example of National Socialist Germany’s new architectural style, expressed in the form of a large arena for marches and ceremonies.
More powerful and impressive still is the large Zeppelin Field, completed for the 1936 Parity Congress of Honor. A shimmering row of columns 350 meters long leads from the large platform from which the Führer speaks. The proud bright marble joins with the brilliant red of the swastika flags to form an indescribably festive harmony.
On the banks of Nuremberg’s Dutzendteich, work is progressing on the enormous new Congress Hall. Simultaneously the last changes are being made in the overall plan of the Reich Party Rally grounds as a result of the Führer’s thinking. Still to come are the May Field, a large culture building, an exhibition hall, a stadium, and a triumphal processional street of the movement. The original plans from 1934 are now only a part of the whole. The final form of this great artistic achievement will be five times as large.
Just as the will of the Führer gives each year gives new impetus to the architectural nature of the rally, so to the tasks and program grows in scope. As the final scope of the party rally’s grounds became clear, Adolf Hitler announced at the conclusion of the 1936 party rally that it will in the future become a great German Olympic festival: “What came of the pitiable rallies of our former opponents! Now we see a great exhibition of the nation in political, military, spiritual, cultural and economic arenas. The physical activity of the nation must also be included in the splendid new facilities of the party rally grounds. It will be a new Olympia, one in modern form and under a different name!” Once again the Führer revealed in these words the greatness of an idea which is not a dead teaching, rather part of our innermost being, an ever living appeal to all sound feelings and to the creative strength of each German.
This plan for future Reich party rallies is part of Adolf Hitler’s larger plans, including a new Nuremberg, the transformation of the capital of the movement [Munich], and the reconstruction of Berlin, the capital of the German Reich. We sense that just as Napoleon transformed Paris into the glittering center of his state with monumental plans, so too the national capital of Berlin will become a source of pride and greatness for the entire nation.
It finally would be improper if the artistic level of the ceremonies themselves were not of a level keeping with their vast new surroundings. This was evident both in the youth ceremonies and those of the Labor Service at the 1936 Party Rally of Honor. Their simple clarity and almost architectural form were a deep expression of the new German life. The same was true of the powerful oath of political leaders of the movement, held under the deep black night sky. As Adolf Hitler was greeted, spotlights suddenly shot up 150 kilometers into the heavens, creating a dome of light of unimaginable splendor above the Zeppelin Field. This political roll call of National Socialism took place under a symphony of flags, light and disciplined columns, towered over by the marble platform.
Every moment of this party really demonstrated the creative, constructive will of the National Socialist movement. Everyone in Nuremberg felt this and was swept away by its force. The spiritual strength of the party of construction led to an inevitable confrontation with Jewish-International Bolshevism, whose systematic work of destruction has brought one nation after another in Europe to crisis and misery.
As a proud victor, the Führer in his opening proclamation could list the accomplishments of his government and the movement, which National Socialism has done in less than four years since it took power. The battle against unemployment and the large new economic undertakings are part of a long series of accomplishments that only four years ago seemed an impossible dream, but today are already part of a history that National Socialism hardly speaks about any longer. Yet these great achievements are not the party’s crowning glory. More beautiful and glorious is the educational work of the movement, its building of a new German man. The accomplishments thus far have never been rivaled by any previous government in so short a time. Already the Führer sets the goal for the coming four years:
“In four years Germany must be independent of all foreign raw materials. We must produce them ourselves, whether by German ability or through our chemical, machine and mining industries.”
The foundations for our economic and social well-being have been laid in the first four years. This alone would have taken previous governments a long time indeed. But for National Socialism it is only the first step on which a truly new chapter of the German people can be based. The ability of the movement to energetically take on this task was proven by Adolf Hitler’s declaration that he had already given the first orders for this new Four Year Plan.
The man who has such constructive accomplishments behind him, and who sets as the goal for the coming years not wars of conquest, rather putting the energies of his people to new economic and cultural goals, has every right at the close of the National Socialist rally to warn the entire world, and Europe in particular, of the Bolshevist world plague. The Führer spoke of the lessons of political development in recent years. He spoke as well of the experiences that Germany and the National Socialist movement have had with the destructive Bolshevist idea. He proclaimed the iron will of the new Germany to drive back with force any Bolshevist attack. In this moment the Führer of Germany became the greatest political prophet in all of Europe.
The National Socialists who heard Germany’s Führer know that the words Adolf Hitler spoke in Nuremberg are the result of serious, mature reflection, careful observation, and irresistable logic. Here speaks a man who knows better than anyone else the bestial nature and methods of Bolshevism. His warning and firm bearing were therefore a political prophecy that will guide the future development of European politics. The movement in Nuremberg understood. The thanks and jubilation of his followers doubled as he called up the old iron laws and virtues of the National Socialist movement to stand up to Bolshevism, hammering them once more into the hearts of his followers. Our brown army overcame Jewish-Bolshevist anarchy in Germany, marching under the eagles of the National Socialist standards and our red battle flags. The spirit that led the German war for independence against Moscow will make Germany strong in the future, defeating any Bolshevist attack on central Europe. That is the message of Nuremberg.
[Page copyright © 1998 by Randall L. Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]
1936 Party Rally Page.
the German Propaganda Archive Home Page.
Handout – The Nuremberg Rallies
Powerpoint Presentation –
Movietone Newsreel of the Nuremberg Rallies
Short video clip – two historians discussing Leni Reifenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and it’s use as propaganda –
The Complete ‘Triumph of the Will’ – 1hr50mins