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Culture

Re-Creation of Hitler's Office Evokes Neo-Nazi Accusations

A virtual tour of Hitler's "New Chancellery" is causing an uproar, with critics saying it was created for neo-Nazis.

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The film shows the public many facets of the building for the first time

In late January 1938, Hitler called in his favorite architect Albert Speer. "I have an urgent mission for you," he said, as Speer recalled in his memoirs. "I have meetings with important people and I need grand halls and rooms with which to impress them. I need this built fast and solid and by next January."

And a year later, the testament to Nazi power was finished.

The New Chancellery's stern exterior was sparsely decorated and featured a statue of a nude soldier carrying a sword. Inside, the corridor was 300 meters (328 yards) long. There was a court of honor, a mosaic hall, a round hall and a marble gallery. The reception hall was 146 meters long, twice that of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Hitler's office was a staggering 400 square meters with 10-meter high ceilings.


Neue Reichskanzlei: Präsidialkanzlei Haupteingang in der Vossstrasse

Hitler liked to have guests take a tour of the building


The chancellery was Hitler's pride. At the end of World War II, the building was damaged in the fighting. Later, it was demolished by East Germany.

Gone but not forgotten

Using his computer, graphic artist Christoph Neubauer decided to bring the building back to life and reconstructed Hitler's chancellery on DVD, capturing the oppressive atmosphere of the Nazi construction.

And that was no mean feat, as very little information and few photos of the building still exist. The Nazis tried to prevent unflattering pictures of the building, usually only allowing the outside or the grand rooms to be photographed.

Neue Reichskanzlei: Innenansicht des Speisesaals gesehen von den Stufen des Mosaiksaals

The dining hall

Thus, more than 50 years later, the public can for the first time see razor-sharp pictures with all the building's sundry details. In around three years, the Brandenburg-born graphic artist created an elaborate three-dimensional virtual tour through the long-gone structure.

Causing a scandal

The 90-minute DVD went on the market recently, but not before Neubauer became the subject of vehement criticism. A public viewing of the film left some in the audience outraged: critics wondered if he had deliberately created a movie that would delight neo-Nazis.

"I have nothing to do with neo-Nazis," Neubauer told Der Spiegel weekly.


Supporters, such as Laurenz Demps of Berlin's Humboldt University have said the work is indeed worthwhile.

Demps called the animation fascinating and said the images evoked "the mood of such buildings that can never be captured by photos," Der Spiegel wrote.

And that was exactly the effect Neubauer was shooting for.

Showing the underbelly

Making the film also showed him how fixated Speer was on Hitler's needs, even as he was indifferent to the working conditions of civil servants in the building.

Indeed, Hitler's favorite architect designed the reception halls and top offices lavishly.


Neue Reichskanzlei: Ehrenhof mit Hauptportal

The building was intended to reflect the power of the Third Reich


On the other hand, in the humble offices of the civil servants, there was an overpowering drabness. Quite a few rooms were only lit by indirect light. Under the hastily constructed roof, it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. There were no passages connecting the upper offices of two sections of the building -- occupants had to use cellar passages instead.

Nevertheless, Hitler liked to bring foreign guests to this building to show off the "power and dominance of the Third Reich," as Speer wrote in his memoirs.

And many say the film captures both the power and banality of a symbol of those times.

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