Gustav Mahler – die arische Jude

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
please note: this blog is not intended to approve, condone or encourage any of the beliefs and/or ideologies described herein.
As a young man, when he was still living with his first – and possibly only friend – Gutsl Kubizek, Adolf Hitler would sit enthralled in the Wiener Hofoper as the Jew, Gutav Mahler, conducted the Operas of Hitler’s favourite composer, the vigorously anti-Semitic Richard Wagner.
According to ‘Mein Kampf’, at this time Hitler was already a confirmed anti-Semite – and yet – he had many Jewish friends, sold his paintings to Jewish dealers and art collectors, and didn’t seem to notice that his favourite conductor was a Jew.
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Gustav Mahler (7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was a late-Romantic Austrian composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation.

Gustav Mahler 

He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then the Austrian Empire.
His family later moved to nearby Iglau, where Mahler grew up.
While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect.
Born in humble circumstances, Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age.
After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Wiener Hofoper).
Mahler’s innovative productions, and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner.
Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.
Mahler’s œuvre is relatively small.
For much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor, but he devoted as much time as he could to his compositions, faithfully reserving his summer months for intense periods of creative concentration, supplemented as time permitted during his active concert seasons with the tasks of editing and orchestrating his expansive works.
Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler’s works are designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists. Most of his twelve symphonic scores are very large-scale works, often employing vocal soloists and choruses in addition to augmented orchestral forces.
These works were often controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 3, and the triumphant première of his Eighth Symphony in 1910.

Family Background

The Mahler family came from eastern Bohemia and were of humble circumstances; the composer’s grandmother had been a street pedlar.
Bohemia was then part of the Austrian Empire; the Mahler family belonged to a German-speaking minority among Bohemians, and was also Jewish.
From this background the future composer developed early on a permanent sense of exile, “always an intruder, never welcomed“.
Bernhard Mahler, the pedlar’s son, and the composer’s father, elevated himself to the ranks of the petite bourgeoisie by becoming a coachman and later an innkeeper.
He bought a modest house in the village of Kalischt, on a straight line roughly halfway between Prague in Bohemia and Brno in Moravia.
Bernhard’s wife Marie gave birth to the first of the couple’s 14 children, a son Isidor, who died in infancy. Two years later, on 7 July 1860, their second son, Gustav, was born.


Stadtwappen Iglau

In December 1860, Bernhard Mahler moved with his wife and infant son to the town of Iglau, 25 km to the south-east, where he built up a distillery and tavern business.

Iglau is a city situated on the river Igel, on the historical border between Moravia and Bohemia.
Among the principal buildings are the early Gothic churches of St. Jacob, Friars Minor church of Our Lady and Dominican church of Holy Cross, the Baroque church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Municipal Hall and a number of municipal houses containing Gothic and Renaissance details.
There is also a Jewish cemetery, containing some remarkable monuments including the tombstone of the parents of Gustav Mahler.

The family grew rapidly, but of the 12 children born to the family in Iglau only six survived infancy.
Iglau was then a thriving commercial town of 20,000 people where Gustav was introduced to music through street songs, dance tunes, folk melodies, and the trumpet calls and marches of the local military band.
Many of these elements would later contribute, in some measure, to his mature musical vocabulary.
When he was four years old, Gustav discovered his grandparents’ piano and took to it immediately.
He developed his performing skills sufficiently to be considered a local ‘Wunderkind‘ (child prodigy) and gave his first public performance at the town theatre when he was ten years old.
Although Gustav loved making music, his school reports from the Iglau Gymnasium portrayed him as absent-minded and unreliable in academic work.
In 1871, in the hope of improving the boy’s results, his father sent him to the New Town Gymnasium in Prague, but Gustav was unhappy there and soon returned to Iglau.
In 1874 he suffered a bitter personal loss when his younger brother Ernst died after a long illness.
(Adolf Hitler also lost a beloved younger brother (Edmund) in his childhood.)
Mahler sought to express his feelings in music: with the help of a friend, Josef Steiner, he began work on an opera, ‘Herzog Ernst von Schwaben’ (“Duke Ernest of Swabia”) as a memorial to his lost brother.
Neither the music nor the libretto of this work has survived.

Student Days

k.k. Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst

Bernhard Mahler was supportive of his son’s ambitions for a music career, and agreed that the boy should try for a place at the Kaiserlich und Königlich Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst (Vienna Conservatory).

Julius Epstein

The young Mahler was auditioned by the renowned pianist Julius Epstein, and accepted for 1875–76.
He made good progress in his piano studies with Epstein and won prizes at the end of each of his first two years.
For his final year, 1877–78, he concentrated on composition and harmony under Robert Fuchs and Franz Krenn.
Few of Mahler’s student compositions have survived; most were abandoned when he became dissatisfied with them.
He destroyed a symphonic movement prepared for an end-of-term competition, after its scornful rejection by the autocratic director Joseph Hellmesberger on the grounds of copying errors.

Hitler and Brukner

Mahler may have gained his first conducting experience with the Conservatory’s student orchestra, in rehearsals and performances, although it appears that his main role in this orchestra was as a percussionist.
Mahler was influenced by Richard Wagner during his student days, and later became a leading interpreter of Wagner’s operas
Among Mahler’s fellow students at the Conservatory was the future song composer Hugo Wolf, with whom he formed a close friendship.
Wolf was unable to submit to the strict disciplines of the Conservatory and was expelled.
Mahler, while sometimes rebellious, avoided the same fate only by writing a penitent letter to Hellmesberger.
He attended occasional lectures by Anton Bruckner and, though never formally his pupil, was influenced by him.
(Anton Brukner was one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite composers.)

Richard Wagner
Anton Bruckner

On 16 December 1877, he attended the disastrous première of Bruckner’s Third Symphony, at which the composer was shouted down, and most of the audience walked out.
Mahler and other sympathetic students later prepared a piano version of the symphony, which they presented to Bruckner.
Along with many music students of his generation, Mahler fell under the spell of Richard Wagner, though his chief interest was the sound of the music, rather than the staging.
It is not known whether he saw any of Wagner’s operas during his student years.
Mahler left the Conservatory in 1878 with a diploma, but without the prestigious silver medal given for outstanding achievement.
He then enrolled at the University of Vienna (he had, at Bernhard’s insistence, sat and with difficulty passed the “matura”, or entrance examination) and followed courses which reflected his developing interests in literature and philosophy.
After leaving the University in 1879, Mahler made some money as a piano teacher, continued to compose, and in 1880 finished a dramatic cantata, ‘Das klagende Lied’ (“The Song of Lamentation”).

Arthur Schopenhauer
Siegfried Lipiner

This, his first substantial composition, shows traces of Wagnerian and Brucknerian influences, yet includes many original musical elements.
Its first performance was delayed until 1901, when it was presented in a revised, shortened form.
Mahler developed interests in German philosophy, and was introduced by his friend Siegfried Lipiner to the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustav Fechner and Hermann Lotze.
These thinkers continued to influence Mahler and his music long after his student days were over.

Early Conducting Career – First Appointments

Gustav Mahler

In the summer of 1880, Mahler took his first professional conducting job, in a small wooden theatre in the spa town of Bad Hall, south of Linz.
In 1881, he was engaged at the Landestheater in Laibach, where the small but resourceful company was prepared to attempt more ambitious works.
Here, Mahler conducted his first full-scale opera, Verdi’s ‘Il trovatore’, one of more than 50 that he presented during his time in Laibach.
After completing his six-month engagement, Mahler returned to Vienna and worked part-time as chorus-master at the Vienna Carltheater.
In January 1883, Mahler became conductor at a run-down theatre in Olmütz.
He later wrote: “From the moment I crossed the threshold of the Olmütz theatre I felt like one awaiting the wrath of God.
Despite poor relations with the orchestra – (a common problem for Mahler), Mahler brought five new operas to the theatre, including Bizet’s ‘Carmen’.

Königliche Theater in Kassel

After a week’s trial at the Königliche Theater in Kassel (Royal Theatre in the Hessian town of Kassel), Mahler became the theatre’s “Musical and Choral Director” from August 1883.
The title concealed the reality that Mahler was subordinate to the theatre’s Kapellmeister, Wilhelm Treiber, who disliked him, and set out to make his life miserable.
Despite the unpleasant atmosphere, Mahler had moments of success at Kassel.

Joseph Victor von Scheffel
Carl Maria von Weber

He directed a performance of one of his his favourite operas, Weber’s ‘Der Freischütz’, and, on 23 June 1884, conducted his own incidental music to Joseph Victor von Scheffel’s play ‘Der Trompeter von Säkkinge’n (“The Trumpeter of Säkkingen”), the first professional public performance of a Mahler work.
An ardent, but ultimately unfulfilled, love affair with soprano Johanna Richter led Mahler to write a series of love poems which became the text of his great song cycle ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’ (“Songs of a Wayfarer”).
In January 1884, the distinguished conductor Hans von Bülow brought the Meiningen Court Orchestra to Kassel and gave two concerts.

Hans von Bülow

Hoping to escape from his job in the theatre, Mahler unsuccessfully sought a post as Bülow’s permanent assistant, however, in the following year his efforts to find new employment resulted in a six-year contract with the prestigious Leipzig Opera, to begin in 1886.
Unwilling to remain in Kassel for another year, Mahler resigned in July 1885, and through good fortune was offered a standby appointment as an assistant conductor at the Neues Deutsches Theater (New German Theatre) in Prague.

Prague and Leipzig

In Prague, the emergence of Czech National Revival had increased the popularity and importance of the new Czech National Theatre, and had led to a downturn in the Neues Deutsches Theater’s fortunes.
Mahler’s task was to help arrest this decline by offering high-quality productions of German opera.


He had early success presenting works by Mozart and Wagner, composers with whom he would be particularly associated for the rest of his career, but his individualistic and increasingly autocratic conducting style led to friction, and a falling out with his more experienced fellow-conductor, Ludwig Slansky.

Neues Stadttheater in Leipzig

In April 1886, Mahler left Prague to take up his post at the Neues Stadttheater in Leipzig, where rivalry with his senior colleague Arthur Nikisch began at once.

Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’

This was primarily over how the two should share conducting duties for the theatre’s new production of Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’.
Nikisch’s illness, in January 1887, meant that Mahler took charge of the whole cycle, and scored a resounding public success.
This did not win him popularity with the orchestra, who resented his dictatorial manner and heavy rehearsal schedules.
In Leipzig, Mahler befriended Carl von Weber, grandson of the composer, and agreed to prepare a performing version of Carl Maria von Weber’s unfinished opera ‘Die drei Pintos’ (“The Three Pintos”).


Mahler transcribed and orchestrated the existing musical sketches, used parts of other Weber works, and added some composition of his own.

The première at the Stadttheater, in January 1888, was an important occasion at which Tchaikovsky was present, as were the heads of various opera houses.
The work was well-received; its success did much to raise Mahler’s public profile, and brought him financial rewards.
His involvement with the Weber family was complicated by a romantic attachment to Carl von Weber’s wife Marion which, though intense on both sides, ultimately came to nothing.

Peter Cornelius
Im Walde – ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’
Schwind von Moritz

At around this time Mahler discovered the German folk-poem collection ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ (“The Youth’s Magic Horn”), which would dominate much of his compositional output for the following 12 years.
In May 1888, Mahler’s new-found financial security enabled him to resign his Leipzig position after a dispute with the Stadttheater’s chief stage manager.
Without a post, Mahler returned to Prague to work on a revival of ‘Die drei Pintos’ and a production of Peter Cornelius’s ‘Der Barbier von Bagdad’.
This short stay ended unhappily, with Mahler’s dismissal after an outburst during rehearsals.
However, through the efforts of an old Viennese friend, Guido Adler, Mahler’s name went forward as a potential director of the Royal Hungarian Opera in Budapest.
He was interviewed, made a good impression, and was offered the post from October 1888.

Apprentice Composer

In the early years of Mahler’s conducting career, composing was a spare time activity.
Between his Laibach and Olmütz appointments he worked on settings of verses by Richard Leander and Tirso de Molina, later collected as Volume I of ‘Lieder und Gesänge’ (“Songs and Airs”).
Mahler’s first orchestral song cycle, ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’, composed at Kassel, was based on his own verses, although the first poem, “Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht” (“When my love becomes a bride”) closely follows the text of a ‘Wunderhorn’ poem.
The airs for the second and fourth songs of the cycle were incorporated into the First Symphony, which Mahler finished in 1888, at the height of his relationship with Marion von Weber.
The intensity of Mahler’s feelings are reflected in the music, which originally was written as a five-movement symphonic poem with a descriptive programme.
One of these movements, the “Blumine”, later discarded, was based on a passage from his earlier work ‘Der Trompeter von Säckingen’.
After completing the symphonic poem, Mahler composed a 20-minute funeral march, or ‘Totenfeier’ (Celebrations of Death), which later became the first movement of his Second Symphony.
There has been frequent speculation about lost or destroyed works from Mahler’s early years.
The Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg believed that the First Symphony was too mature to be a first symphonic work (almost certainly correct), and must have had predecessors.
In 1938, Mengelberg revealed the existence of the so-called “Dresden archive”, a series of manuscripts in the possession of the widowed Marion von Weber.
The archive was almost certainly destroyed in the bombing of Dresden in 1945; and there is the strong possibility that some important manuscripts, either early symphonies or parts of early symphonies, were to be found in Dresden.

Royal Opera Budapest

On arriving in Budapest in October 1888, Mahler encountered a cultural conflict between conservative Hungarian nationalists who favoured a policy of Magyarisation, and progressives who wanted to maintain and develop the country’s Austro-German cultural traditions.
In the opera house a dominant conservative caucus, led by the music director Sándor Erkel, had maintained a limited repertory of historical and folklore opera.
By the time that Mahler began his duties, the progressive camp had gained ascendancy following the appointment of the liberal-minded Ferenc von Beniczky as intendant.
Aware of the delicate situation, Mahler moved cautiously; he delayed his first appearance on the conductor’s stand until January 1889, when he conducted Hungarian language (?) performances of ‘Das Rheingold’ and ‘Die Walküre’, however, his early successes faded when plans to stage the remainder of the ‘Ring Cycle’ and other German operas were frustrated by a renascent conservative faction which favoured a more traditional “Hungarian” programme.
In search of non-German operas to extend the repertory, Mahler visited Italy where among the works he discovered was Pietro Mascagni’s recent sensation ‘Cavalleria rusticana’.
In February 1889, Bernhard Mahler died; this was followed later in the year by the deaths both of Mahler’s sister Leopoldine and his mother.
Mahler himself suffered poor health, with attacks of haemorrhoids and migraine and a recurrent septic throat.
Shortly after these family and health setbacks the première of the First Symphony, in Budapest on 21 November 1889, was a disappointment.
The critic August Beer’s lengthy newspaper review indicates that enthusiasm after the early movements degenerated into “audible opposition” after the Finale.
Mahler was particularly distressed by the negative comments from his Vienna Conservatory contemporary, Viktor von Herzfeld, who had remarked that Mahler, like many conductors before him, had proved not to be a composer.
In 1891, Hungary’s move to the political right was reflected in the opera house when Beniczky was replaced as intendant by Géza Zichy, a conservative aristocrat determined to assume artistic control over Mahler’s head.
Mahler began negotiating with the director of the Hamburg Stadttheater; in May 1891, having agreed to a contract there, he resigned his Budapest post.
His final Budapest triumph was a performance of ‘Don Giovanni’ which won him praise from Brahms, who was present.
(Brahms’ and Mahler’s attitudes to each other’s music were generally negative, but in one of his last concerts with the New York Philharmonic shortly before his death Mahler conducted a performance of Brahms’ Third Symphony that his concertmaster Theodore Spiering said he would never forget.)
During his Budapest years Mahler’s compositional output had been limited to the ‘Wunderhorn’ song settings that became Volumes II and III of ‘Lieder und Gesänge’, and amendments to the First Symphony.

Hamburg Stadttheater

Mahler’s Hamburg post was as chief conductor, subordinate to the director, Bernhard Pohl (known as Pollini) who retained overall artistic control.
Pollini was prepared to give Mahler considerable leeway if the conductor could provide commercial as well as artistic success.
This Mahler did in his first season, when he conducted Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ for the first time and gave acclaimed performances of the same composer’s ‘Tannhäuser’ and ‘Siegfried’.
Another triumph was the German premiere of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’, in the presence of the composer, who called Mahler’s conducting “astounding“.
Mahler’s demanding rehearsal schedules led to predictable resentment from the singers and orchestra with whom the conductor “inspired hatred and respect in almost equal measure.
He found support, however, from Hans von Bülow, who was in Hamburg as director of the city’s subscription concerts.
Bülow, who had spurned Mahler’s approaches in Kassel, had come to admire the younger man’s conducting style, and on Bülow’s death in 1894 Mahler took over the direction of the concerts.
In the summer of 1892 Mahler took the Hamburg singers to London to participate in a six-week season of German opera – his only visit to Britain.
His conducting of ‘Tristan’ enthralled the young composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, who “staggered home in a daze and could not sleep for two nights“, however, Mahler refused further such invitations as he was anxious to reserve his summers for composing.
In 1893 he acquired a retreat at Steinbach, on the banks of Lake Attersee in Upper Austria, and established a pattern that persisted for the rest of his life; summers would henceforth be dedicated to composition, at Steinbach or its successor retreats.
Now firmly under the influence of the ‘Wunderhorn’ folk-poem collection, Mahler produced a stream of song settings at Steinbach, and composed his Second and Third Symphonies there.[43]

‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’: Alte deutsche Lieder (The Boy’s Magic Horn: Old German Songs) is a collection of German folk poems and songs edited by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, and published in Heidelberg, in the Grand Duchy of Baden.
The book was published in three editions: the first in 1805 followed by two more volumes in 1808.
The collection was an important source of idealized folklore in the Romantic nationalism of the 19th century. ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ became widely popular across the German-speaking world; Goethe, one of the most influential writers of the time, declared that ‘Des Knaben Wunderhorn’ “has its place in every household”.
Arnim and Brentano, like other early 19th-century song collectors, such as the Englishman Thomas Percy, freely modified the poems in their collection.
The editors, both poets themselves, invented some of their own poems.
Some poems were modified to fit poetic meter, to conform to then-modern German spelling, or otherwise to conform more closely to an idealized, Romantic “folk style” (naturpoesie).

Performances of Mahler works were still comparatively rare.
On 27 October 1893, at Hamburg’s Ludwig Konzerthaus, Mahler conducted a revised version of his First Symphony; still in its original five-movement form, it was presented as a ‘Tondichtung’ (tone poem) under the descriptive name “Der Titan”.
This concert also introduced several recent ‘Wunderhorn’ settings.
Mahler achieved his first relative success as a composer when the Second Symphony was well-received on its première in Berlin, under his own baton, on 13 December 1895.
Mahler’s future conducting assistant Bruno Walter, who was present, said that “one may date Mahler’s rise to fame as a composer from that day.”
That same year Mahler’s private life was disrupted by the suicide of his younger brother Otto.

Otto Mahler (18 June 1873 – 6 February 1895) was a Bohemian-Austrian musician and composer who committed suicide at the age of twenty-one.
The twelfth child of Bernard and Marie Mahler, Otto was born in Jihlava and resembled his elder brother Gustav Mahler in displaying a special talent for music at an early age.
Otto was a talented student. He appears to have been less diligent than his brother had been, however. After a few successful terms studying harmony and counterpoint with Anton Bruckner and piano with Ernst Ludwig, his marks declined, and the annual report for his first year shows that for some reason he took no final examination in composition. From that point on his academic performance was increasingly poor, and in April 1892, Otto Mahler left the Conservatory without a diploma.
With the help of his brother, Otto was able to find minor musical posts in provincial towns. He seldom stayed long in any place, however. In the autumn of 1893, he took on a position as choirmaster and second conductor of the Leipzig Opera. After moving to a position in Bremen, he returned to Vienna.

It was in Vienna on 6 February 1895, that Otto shot himself with a revolver while in the house of his and Mahler’s friend Nina Hoffmann-Matscheko. According to Gustav’s widow Alma, Otto’s suicide-note stated that life no longer pleased him, so he ‘handed back his ticket’.

At the Stadttheater Mahler introduced numerous new operas: Verdi’s ‘Falstaff’, Humperdinck’s ‘Hänsel und Gretel’, and works by Smetana, however, he was forced to resign his post with the subscription concerts after poor financial returns and an ill-received interpretation of his re-scored Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Mahler had made it clear that his ultimate goal was an appointment in Vienna, and from 1895 onward was manoeuvring, with the help of influential friends, to secure the directorship of the Vienna Hofoper.
He overcame the bar that existed against the appointment of a Jew to this post by converting to Roman Catholicism in February 1897.
Despite this event, however, Mahler has been described as a lifelong agnostic, or at best a Pantheist or Deist
Two months later the ‘Aryan’ Mahler was appointed to the Hofoper, provisionally as a staff conductor with the title of Kapellmeister.

Hofoper Director

As he waited for the Austrian Kaiser’s confirmation of his directorship, Mahler shared duties as a resident conductor with Joseph Hellmesberger Jr (son of the former conservatory director) and Hans Richter, an internationally renowned interpreter of Wagner, and the conductor of the original ‘Ring Cycle’ at Bayreuth in 1876.
Director Wilhelm Jahn had not consulted Richter about Mahler’s appointment; Mahler, sensitive to the situation, wrote Richter a complimentary letter expressing unswerving admiration for the older conductor. Subsequently the two were rarely in agreement, but kept their divisions private.
Vienna, the imperial Habsburg capital, had recently elected an anti-Semitic conservative mayor, Karl Lueger, who had once proclaimed: “I myself decide who is a Jew and who isn’t.
In such a volatile political atmosphere Mahler needed an early demonstration of his German cultural credentials.
He made his initial mark in May 1897 with much-praised performances of Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’ and Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (The Magic Flute).
Shortly after the ‘Zauberflöte’ triumph, Mahler was forced to take sick leave for several weeks, during which he was nursed by his sister Justine and his long-time companion, the viola player Natalie Bauer-Lechner.
Mahler returned to Vienna in early August to prepare for Vienna’s first uncut version of the Ring cycle.
This performance took place on 24–27 August, attracting critical praise and public enthusiasm. Mahler’s friend Hugo Wolf told Bauer-Lechner that “for the first time I have heard the Ring as I have always dreamed of hearing it while reading the score.”
On 8 October Mahler was formally appointed to succeed Jahn as the Hofoper’s director.
His first production in his new office was Smetana’s Czech nationalist opera ‘Dalibor’, with a reconstituted finale that left the hero Dalibor alive.
This production caused anger among the more extreme Viennese German nationalists, who accused Mahler of “fraternising with the anti-dynastic, inferior Czech nation“.
During Mahler’s tenure a total of 33 new operas were introduced to the Hofoper; a further 55 were new or totally revamped productions, however, a proposal to stage Richard Strauss’s controversial opera ‘Salome’ in 1905 was (not surprisingly) rejected by the Viennese censors.

Alfred Roller
Alfred Roller – ‘Tristan und Isolde’

Early in 1902 Mahler met Alfred Roller, an artist and designer associated with the Wiener Secession movement.
A year later, Mahler appointed him chief stage designer to the Hofoper, where Roller’s début was a magnificent new production of ‘Tristan und Isolde’.
The collaboration between Mahler and Roller created more than 20 celebrated productions of, among other operas, Beethoven’s ‘Fidelio’, Gluck’s ‘Iphigénie en Aulide’ and Mozart’s ‘Le nozze di Figaro’.
In the Figaro production, Mahler offended some purists by adding and composing a short recitative scene to Act III.
In spite of numerous theatrical triumphs, Mahler’s Vienna years were rarely smooth; his battles with singers and the house administration continued on and off for the whole of his tenure.
While Mahler’s methods improved standards, his histrionic and dictatorial conducting style was resented by orchestra members and singers alike.
In December 1903 Mahler faced a revolt by stage-hands, whose demands for better conditions he rejected in the belief that extremists were manipulating his staff.
By that time he was at odds with the opera house’s administration over the amount of time he was spending on his own music, and was preparing to leave.
Early in 1907 he began discussions with Heinrich Conried, director of the New York Metropolitan Opera, and in June signed a contract, on very favourable terms, for four seasons’ conducting in New York.
At the end of the summer he submitted his resignation to the Hofoper, and on 15 October 1907 conducted ‘Fidelio’, his 648th and final performance there.
During his ten years in Vienna Mahler had brought new life to the opera house and cleared its debts, but had won few friends  – it was said that he treated his musicians in the way a lion tamer treated his animals.
His departing message to the company, which he pinned to a notice board, was later torn down and scattered over the floor.
After conducting the Hofoper orchestra in a farewell concert performance of his Second Symphony on 24 November, Mahler left Vienna for New York in early December.

Marriage and Family

During his second season in Vienna, Mahler acquired a spacious modern apartment on the Auenbruggerstrasse, and built a summer villa on land he had acquired next to his new composing studio at Maiernigg.
In November 1901, he met Alma Schindler, the stepdaughter of painter Carl Moll, at a social gathering that included the theatre director Max Burckhard.
Alma was not initially keen to meet Mahler, on account of “the scandals about him and every young woman who aspired to sing in opera“.
The two engaged in a lively disagreement about a ballet by Alexander von Zemlinsky (Alma was one of Zemlinsky’s pupils), but agreed to meet at the Hofoper the following day.
This meeting led to a rapid courtship; Mahler and Alma were married at a private ceremony on 9 March 1902.
Alma was by then pregnant with her first child, a daughter Maria Anna, who was born on 3 November 1902. A second daughter, Anna, was born in 1904.
Friends of the couple were surprised by the marriage and dubious of its wisdom.
Mahler’s family considered Alma to be flirtatious, unreliable, and too fond of seeing young men fall for her charms.
Mahler was by nature moody and authoritarian – Natalie Bauer-Lechner, his earlier partner, said that living with him was “like being on a boat that is ceaselessly rocked to and fro by the waves“.
Alma soon became resentful that, on Mahler’s insistence that there could only be one composer in the family, she had given up her music studies.
She wrote in her diary: “How hard it is to be so mercilessly deprived of … things closest to one’s heart“.
Mahler’s requirement that their married life be organised around his creative activities imposed strains, and precipitated rebellion on Alma’s part; the marriage was nevertheless marked at times by expressions of considerable passion, particularly from Mahler.
In the summer of 1907 Mahler, exhausted from the effects of the campaign against him in Vienna, took his family to Maiernigg.
Soon after their arrival both daughters fell ill with scarlet fever and diphtheria.
Anna recovered, but after a fortnight’s struggle Maria died on 12 July.
Immediately following this devastating loss, Mahler learned that his heart was defective, a diagnosis subsequently confirmed by a Vienna specialist, who ordered a curtailment of all forms of vigorous exercise.
The extent to which Mahler’s condition disabled him is unclear; Alma wrote of it as a virtual death sentence, though Mahler himself, in a letter written to her on 30 August 1907, said that he would be able to live a normal life, apart from avoiding over-fatigue.
The illness was, however, a further depressing factor; at the end of the summer the villa at Maiernigg was closed, and never revisited.

Last Years – 1908 -11

Mahler made his New York debut at the Metropolitan Opera on 1 January 1908, when he conducted Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ in the cut version still standard in New York, though long since superseded in Vienna.
In a busy first season Mahler’s performances were widely praised, especially his ‘Fidelio’ on 20 March 1908, in which he insisted on using replicas being made of Roller’s Vienna sets.
On his return to Austria for the summer of 1908, Mahler established himself in the third and last of his composing studios, in the pine forests close to Toblach in Tyrol.
Here, using a text by Hans Bethge based on ancient Chinese poems, he composed ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ (“The Song of the Earth”).
Despite the symphonic nature of the work, Mahler refused to number it, hoping thereby to escape the “curse of the Ninth Symphony” that he believed had affected fellow-composers Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner.
On 19 September 1908 the première of the Seventh Symphony, in Prague, was deemed by Alma Mahler a critical rather than a popular success.

Arturo Toscanini

For its 1908–09 season the Metropolitan management brought in the Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini to share duties with Mahler, who made only 19 appearances in the entire season.
One of these was a much-praised performance of Smetana’s ‘The Bartered Bride’ on 19 February 1909.
In the early part of the season Mahler conducted three concerts with the New York Symphony Orchestra.
This renewed experience of orchestral conducting inspired him to resign his position with the opera house and accept the conductor-ship of the re-formed New York Philharmonic.
He continued to make occasional guest appearances at the Met, his last performance being Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Queen of Spades’ on 5 March 1910.
Back in Europe for the summer of 1909, Mahler worked on his Ninth Symphony and made a conducting tour of the Netherlands.
The 1909–10 New York Philharmonic season was long and taxing; Mahler rehearsed and conducted 46 concerts, but his programmes were often too demanding for popular tastes.
His own First Symphony, given its American début on 16 December 1909, was one of the pieces that failed with critics and public, and the season ended with heavy financial losses.
The highlight of Mahler’s 1910 summer was the first performance of the stupendous Eighth Symphony ‘Sinfonie der Tausendat’ in Munich on 12 September, the last of his works to be premièred in his lifetime.

Walter Gropius
Sigmund Freud

The occasion was a triumph – “easily Mahler’s biggest lifetime success“, – but was overshadowed by the composer’s discovery, before the event, that Alma had begun an affair with the young architect Walter Gropius.
Greatly distressed, Mahler sought advice from Sigmund Freud, and appeared to gain some comfort from his meeting with the psychoanalyst. Alma agreed to remain with Mahler, although the relationship with Gropius continued surreptitiously.
In a gesture of love, Mahler foolishly dedicated his Eighth Symphony to her.

Illness and Death

In spite of the emotional distractions, during the summer of 1910 Mahler worked on his Tenth Symphony, completing the Adagio and drafting four more movements.
He and Alma returned to New York in November 1910, where Mahler threw himself into a busy Philharmonic season of concerts and tours.
Around Christmas 1910 he began suffering from a sore throat, which persisted.
On 21 February 1911, with a temperature of 40 °C (104 °F), Mahler insisted on fulfilling an engagement at Carnegie Hall, with a program of mainly new Italian music, including the world premiere of Busoni’s ‘Berceuse élégiaque’.
This was Mahler’s last concert.
After weeks confined to bed he was diagnosed with bacterial endocarditis, a disease to which sufferers from defective heart valves were particularly prone, and for which the survival rate in pre-antibiotic days was almost zero.
Mahler did not give up hope; he talked of resuming the concert season, and took a keen interest when one of Alma’s compositions was sung at a public recital by the soprano Frances Alda, on 3 March.
On 8 April the Mahler family and a permanent nurse left New York on board SS Amerika bound for Europe.
They reached Paris ten days later, where Mahler entered a clinic at Neuilly, but there was no improvement; on 11 May he was taken by train to the Lŏw sanatorium in Vienna, where he died on 18 May.
On 22 May 1911 Mahler was buried in the Grinzing cemetery, as he had requested.
Alma, on doctors’ orders, was absent, but among the mourners at a relatively pomp-free funeral were Arnold Schoenberg (whose wreath described Mahler as “the holy Gustav Mahler” ?), Bruno Walter, Alfred Roller, the Secessionist painter Gustav Klimt, and representatives from many of the great European opera houses.
Alma Mahler survived her husband by more than 50 years, dying in 1964.
Unsurprisingly, she married Walter Gropius in 1915, and then divorced him five years later, and married the writer Franz Werfel in 1929.
The composer’s daughter Anna Mahler became a well-known sculptor; she died in 1988.

The Music

Deryck Cooke

Deryck Cooke divided Mahler’s composing life into three distinct phases: a long “first period”, extending from ‘Das klagende Lied’ in 1880 to the end of the ‘Wunderhorn’ phase in 1901; a “middle period” of more concentrated composition ending with Mahler’s departure for New York in 1907; and a brief “late period” of elegiac works before his death in 1911.
The main works of the first period are the first four symphonies, the ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’ song cycle, and various song collections in which the ‘Wunderhorn’ songs predominate.
In this period songs and symphonies are closely related, and the symphonic works are programmatic.
Mahler initially gave the first three symphonies full descriptive programmes.
The middle period comprises a triptych of purely instrumental symphonies (the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh), the ‘Rückert’ songs and the ‘Kindertotenlieder’ (Songs for Dead Children), two final ‘Wunderhorn’ settings and, in some reckonings, Mahler’s last great affirmative statement, the choral Eighth Symphony.
Cooke, more correctly, believes that the Eighth stands on its own, between the middle and final periods.
Mahler had by now abandoned all explicit programmes and descriptive titles; he wanted to write so-called “absolute” music that spoke for itself.
Cooke refers to “a new granite-like hardness of orchestration” in the middle-period symphonies, while the songs have lost most of their folk character, and cease to fertilise the symphonies as explicitly as before.
The works of the brief final period – ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ (Song of the Earth), the Ninth and (incomplete) Tenth Symphonies – are expressions of personal experience, as Mahler faced death.
Each of the pieces ends quietly, signifying that aspiration has now given way to resignation.
Cooke considers these works to be a farewell to life.
None of these final works was performed in Mahler’s lifetime.


The union of song and symphonic form in Mahler’s music is, in Cooke’s view, organic; “his songs flower naturally into symphonic movements, being already symphonic in cast.
To Sibelius, Mahler expressed the belief that “The symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.
True to this belief, Mahler drew material from many sources into his songs and symphonic works: bird calls and cow-bells to evoke nature and the countryside, bugle fanfares, street melodies and country dances to summon the lost world of his childhood.
Life’s struggles are represented in contrasting moods: the yearning for fulfilment by soaring melodies and chromatic harmony, suffering and despair by discord, distortion and grotesquerie.
The range of musical moods, Cooke maintains, comes from Mahler’s “amazing orchestration” which, in the writer’s view, “speaks for itself“.
In addition there are specific features which are basic to Mahler’s style: extremes of volume, the use of off-stage ensembles, unconventional arrangement of orchestral forces, and frequent recourse to popular music and dance forms such as the ländler and the waltz.
The supposed ‘Jewish’ elements in Mahler’s works are attempts by Jewish commentators and their supporters to corral Mahler into the Jewish cultural ghetto.
In fact the so-called ‘Jewish’ elements are simply examples of popular Central European music of the time, included usually to indicate reminiscences of the composers youthful experiences.
A technical device much used by Mahler is that of “progressive tonality“, which Deryck Cooke describes as “the procedure of resolving a symphonic conflict in a different key from that in which it was stated”, and which is often used “to symbolise the gradual ascendancy of a certain value by progress from one key to another over the whole course of a symphony“.
Mahler first employed the device in an early song, ‘Erinnerung’ (“Memory”), and thereafter used it freely in his symphonies.
For example, the predominant key of the First Symphony is D major; at the beginning of the Finale, the “conflict” movement, the key switches to F minor, and only after a lengthy battle gets back to D, near the end.
The Second Symphony begins in C minor and ends in E flat.
The movements of the Fifth Symphony progress successively from C-sharp minor to A minor, then D major, F major and finally to D major.
The Sixth Symphony, unusually for Mahler, begins and ends in the same key, A minor, signifying that in this case the conflict is unresolved.

Freud – Wien Träumende – Vienna Dreaming

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014


Sigmund Freud

Psychology’s most famous figure is also one of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century.

Sigmund Freud’s work and theories helped shape our views of childhood, personality, memory, sexuality and therapy.

Other major thinkers have contributed work that grew out of Freud’s legacy, while others developed new theories out of opposition to his ideas.

Sigmund Freud – (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) was an Austrian neurologist who became known as the founding father of psychoanalysis.

Freud qualified as a doctor of medicine at the University of Vienna in 1881, and then carried out research into cerebral palsy, aphasia and microscopic neuroanatomy at the Vienna General Hospital.

He was appointed a university lecturer in neuropathology in 1885 and became a professor in 1902.

In creating psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association (in which patients report their thoughts without reservation and in whichever order they spontaneously occur) and discovered transference (the process in which patients displace onto their analysts feelings derived from their childhood attachments), establishing its central role in the analytic process

Freud’s redefinition of sexuality to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the ‘Oedipus Complex’ as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory.

His analysis of his own and his patients’ dreams as wish-fulfilments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the mechanisms of repression as well as for elaboration of his theory of the unconscious as an agency disruptive of conscious states of mind.

Freud postulated the existence of libido, an energy with which mental processes and structures are invested, and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive (Thanatos), the source of repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt.

In his later work Freud drew on psychoanalytic theory to develop a wide-ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture.
Freud’s work has suffused contemporary thought and popular culture to the extent that in 1939 W. H. Auden wrote, in a poem dedicated to him: “to us he is no more a person / now but a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives”.

Early Life and Education

Freud was born to Jewish Galician parents in the town of Freiberg in Mähren, in the Austrian Empire, the first of their eight children.

His father, Jacob Freud (1815–1896), a wool merchant, had two sons, Emanuel (1833–1914) and Philipp (1836–1911), from his first marriage. Jacob’s family were Hasidic Jews, and though Jacob himself had moved away from the tradition, he came to be known for his Torah study.
He and Freud’s mother, Amalia (née Nathansohn), 20 years her husband’s junior and his third wife, were married by Rabbi Isaac Noah Mannheimer on 29 July 1855.
They were struggling financially and living in a rented room, in a locksmith’s house at Schlossergasse 117 when their son Sigmund was born.
He was born with a caul, which his mother saw as a positive omen for the boy’s future.
In 1859 the Freud family left Freiberg.
Freud’s half brothers emigrated to Manchester, England, parting him from the “inseparable” playmate of his early childhood, Emanuel’s son, John. Jacob Freud took his wife and two children (Freud’s sister, Anna, was born in 1858; a brother, Julius, had died in infancy) firstly to Leipzig and then in 1860 to Vienna where four sisters (Rosa, Marie, Adolfine and Paula) and a brother (Alexander) were born.
In 1865, the nine-year-old Freud entered the Leopoldstädter Kommunal-Realgymnasium, a prominent high school.
He proved an outstanding pupil and graduated from the Matura in 1873 with honors.
He loved literature and was proficient in German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
Freud read William Shakespeare in English throughout his life, and it has been suggested that his understanding of human psychology was partly derived from Shakespeare’s plays.
Freud entered the University of Vienna at age 17.
He had planned to study law, but joined the medical faculty at the university, where his studies included philosophy under Franz Brentano, physiology under Ernst Brücke, and zoology under Darwinist professor Carl Claus.
In 1876 Freud spent four weeks at Claus’s zoological research station in Trieste, dissecting hundreds of eels in an inconclusive search for their male reproductive organs.
He graduated with an MD in 1881.

Early Career and Marriage

Freud was born to Jewish Galician parents in the town of Freiberg in Mähren, in the Austrian Empire, the first of their eight children.
His father, Jacob Freud (1815–1896), a wool merchant, had two sons, Emanuel (1833–1914) and Philipp (1836–1911), from his first marriage.
Jacob’s family were Hasidic Jews, and though Jacob himself had moved away from the tradition, he came to be known for his Torah study.
He and Freud’s mother, Amalia (née Nathansohn), 20 years her husband’s junior and his third wife, were married by Rabbi Isaac Noah Mannheimer on 29 July 1855.
They were struggling financially and living in a rented room, in a locksmith’s house at Schlossergasse 117 when their son Sigmund was born.
He was born with a caul, which his mother saw as a positive omen for the boy’s future. In 1859 the Freud family left Freiberg.
Freud’s half brothers emigrated to Manchester, England, parting him from the “inseparable” playmate of his early childhood, Emanuel’s son, John.
Jacob Freud took his wife and two children (Freud’s sister, Anna, was born in 1858; a brother, Julius, had died in infancy) firstly to Leipzig and then in 1860 to Vienna where four sisters (Rosa, Marie, Adolfine and Paula) and a brother (Alexander) were born.
In 1865, the nine-year-old Freud entered the Leopoldstädter Kommunal-Realgymnasium, a prominent high school.
He proved an outstanding pupil and graduated from the Matura in 1873 with honors.
He loved literature and was proficient in German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Hebrew, Latin and Greek.
Freud read William Shakespeare in English throughout his life, and it has been suggested that his understanding of human psychology was partly derived from Shakespeare’s plays.
Freud entered the University of Vienna at age 17.
He had planned to study law, but joined the medical faculty at the university, where his studies included philosophy under Franz Brentano, physiology under Ernst Brücke, and zoology under Darwinist professor Carl Claus.
In 1876 Freud spent four weeks at Claus’s zoological research station in Trieste, dissecting hundreds of eels in an inconclusive search for their male reproductive organs.
He graduated with an MD in 1881.

Charles Darwin
Ex Libris – Sigmund Freud

Freud had greatly admired his philosophy tutor, Brentano, who was known for his theories of perception and introspection, as well as Theodor Lipps who was one of the main contemporary theorists of the concepts of the unconscious and empathy.

Brentano discussed the possible existence of the unconscious mind in his 1874 book Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint.
Although Brentano denied the existence of the unconscious, his discussion of it probably helped introduce Freud to the concept.

Eduard von Hartmann

Freud owned and made use of Charles Darwin’s major evolutionary writings, and was also influenced by Eduard von Hartmann’s ‘The Philosophy of the Unconscious’.

He read Friedrich Nietzsche as a student, and analogies between his work and that of Nietzsche were pointed out almost as soon as he developed a following.
In 1900, the year of Nietzsche’s death, Freud bought his collected works; he told his friend, Fliess, that he hoped to find in Nietzsche’s works “the words for much that remains mute in me.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.
Nietzsche’s key ideas include the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy, perspectivism, the Will to Power, the “death of God”, the Übermensch and eternal recurrence. One of the key tenets of his philosophy is the concept of “life-affirmation,” which embraces the realities of the world we live now in over the idea of a world beyond. It further champions the creative powers of the individual to strive beyond social, cultural, and moral contexts. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary, and his influence remains substantial, particularly in the continental philosophical schools of existentialism, postmodernism, and post-structuralism. His ideas of individual overcoming and transcendence beyond structure and context have had a profound impact on late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century thinkers, who have used these concepts as points of departure in the development of their philosophies.

His interest in philosophy declined after he had decided on a career in neurology and psychiatry.

Sigmund Freud – A Life in Photos
Development of Psychoanalysis

In October 1885, Freud went to Paris on a fellowship to study with Jean-Martin Charcot, a renowned neurologist who was conducting scientific research into hypnosis.
He was later to recall the experience of this stay as catalytic in turning him toward the practice of medical psychopathology and away from a less financially promising career in neurology research.

Une leçon clinique à la Salpêtrière

Charcot specialized in the study of hysteria and susceptibility to hypnosis, which he frequently demonstrated with patients on stage in front of an audience.

Once he had set up in private practice in 1886, Freud began using hypnosis in his clinical work. 
He adopted the approach of his friend and collaborator, Josef Breuer, in a use of hypnosis which was different from the French methods he had studied in that it did not use suggestion. 

Josef Breuer (January 15, 1842 – June 20, 1925) was a distinguished Austrian physician who made key discoveries in neurophysiology, and whose work in the 1880s with a patient known as Anna O. developed the talking cure (cathartic method) and laid the foundation to psychoanalysis as developed by his protégé Sigmund Freud.
Breuer is perhaps best known for his work in the 1880s with Anna O. (the pseudonym of Bertha Pappenheim), a woman suffering from “paralysis of her limbs, and anaesthesias, as well as disturbances of vision and speech.” Breuer observed that her symptoms reduced or disappeared after she described them to him. Anna O. humorously called this procedure chimney sweeping. She also coined the more serious appellation for this form of therapy, talking cure. Breuer later referred to it as the “cathartic method”.
Breuer was then a mentor to the young Sigmund Freud, and had helped set him up in medical practice. Ernest Jones recalled, “Freud was greatly interested in hearing of the case of Anna O, which made a deep impression on him”; and in his 1909 Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Freud generously pointed out, “I was a student and working for my final examinations at the time when  Breuer, first (in 1880-2) made use of this procedure. Never before had anyone removed a hysterical symptom by such a method.”

The treatment of one particular patient of Breuer’s proved to be transformative for Freud’s clinical practice.
Described as ‘Anna O‘, she was invited to talk about her symptoms while under hypnosis (she would coin the phrase “talking cure” for her treatment).
In the course of talking in this way, these symptoms became reduced in severity as she retrieved memories of traumatic incidents associated with their onset.
This led Freud to eventually establish in the course of his clinical practice that a more consistent and effective pattern of symptom relief could be achieved, without recourse to hypnosis, by encouraging patients to talk freely about whatever ideas or memories occurred to them.

In addition to this procedure, which he called “free association“, Freud found that patient’s dreams could be fruitfully analysed to reveal the complex structuring of unconscious material, and to demonstrate the psychic action of repression which underlay symptom formation.
By 1896, Freud had abandoned hypnosis, and was using the term “psychoanalysis” to refer to his new clinical method and the theories on which it was based.

Freud’s development of these new theories took place during a period in which he experienced heart irregularities, disturbing dreams and periods of depression, a “neurasthenia” which he linked to the death of his father in 1896, and which prompted a “self-analysis” of his own dreams and memories of childhood.
His explorations of his feelings of hostility to his father and rivalrous jealousy over his mother’s affections led him to a fundamental revision of his theory of the origin of the neuroses.
On the basis of his early clinical work, Freud had postulated that unconscious memories of sexual molestation in early childhood were a necessary precondition for the psychoneuroses (hysteria and obsessional neurosis), a formulation now known as ‘Freud’s seduction theory‘.
In the light of his self-analysis, Freud abandoned the theory that every neurosis can be traced back to the effects of infantile sexual abuse, now arguing that infantile sexual scenarios still had a causative function, but it did not matter whether they were real or imagined, and that in either case they became pathogenic only when acting as repressed memories.

Oedipus Complex ?

This transition from the ‘theory of infantile sexual trauma‘ as a general explanation of how all neuroses originate to one that presupposes an autonomous infantile sexuality provided the basis for Freud’s subsequent formulation of the theory of the ‘Oedipus Complex’.

Freud described the evolution of his clinical method and set out his theory of the ‘psychogenetic origins of hysteria‘, demonstrated in a number of case histories, in ‘Studies on Hysteria’ published in 1895 (co-authored with Josef Breuer).
In 1889 Freud published ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ in which, following a critical review of existing theory, Freud gives detailed interpretations of his own and his patients dreams in terms of wish-fulfilments made subject to the repression and censorship of the “dream work”. 
He then sets out the theoretical model of mental structure (the unconscious, pre-conscious and conscious) on which this account is based.
An abridged version, ‘On Dreams’, was published in 1901.
In works which would win him a more general readership, Freud applied his theories outside the clinical setting in ‘The Psychopathology of Everyday Life’ (1901), and ‘Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious’ (1905).
In ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality’, published in 1905, Freud elaborates his theory of infantile sexuality, describing its “polymorphous perverse” forms, and the functioning of the “drives”, to which it gives rise, in the formation of sexual identity.
The same year he published ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria (Dora)’ which became one of his more famous and controversial case studies.
Early Followers

Freud spent most of his life in Vienna.
From 1891 until 1938, he and his family lived in an apartment at Berggasse 19 near the Innere Stadt or historical quarter of Vienna.

Universität Wien

As a docent of the University of Vienna, Freud, since the mid-1880s, had been delivering lectures on his theories to small audiences every Saturday evening at the lecture hall of the university’s psychiatric clinic.

He gave lectures in the university every year from 1886 to 1919.
His work generated a considerable degree of interest from a small group of Viennese physicians.
From the autumn of 1902 and shortly after his promotion to the honorific title of Außerordentlicher Professor, a small group of followers formed around him, meeting at his apartment every Wednesday afternoon, to discuss issues relating to psychology and neuropathology.
This group was called the Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft, and it marked the beginnings of the worldwide psychoanalytic movement.
This discussion group was founded around Freud at the suggestion of the physician Wilhelm Stekel.
Wilhelm Stekel 

Wilhelm Stekel (March 18, 1868 – June 25, 1940) was an Austrian physician and psychologist, who became one of Sigmund Freud’s earliest followers, and was once described as “Freud’s most distinguished pupil. ‘Stekel may be accorded the honour, together with Freud, of having founded the first psycho-analytic society‘. He later had a falling-out with Freud. His works are translated and published in many languages.

Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing 

Stekel had studied medicine at the University of Vienna under Richard von Krafft-Ebing.

Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (14 August 1840 – 22 December 1902) was an Austro–German psychiatrist and author of the foundational work ‘Psychopathia Sexualis’.
Krafft-Ebing, born in Mannheim, Germany, studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg, where he specialized in psychiatry. He later practised in psychiatric asylums. After leaving his work in asylums, he pursued a career in psychiatry, forensics, and hypnosis.

His conversion to psychoanalysis is variously attributed to his successful treatment by Freud for a sexual problem, or as a result of his reading ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, to which he subsequently gave a positive review in the Viennese daily newspaper’ Neues Wiener Tagblatt’.
The other three original members whom Freud invited to attend, Alfred Adler, Max Kahane, and Rudolf Reitler, were also physicians.
Both Kahane and Reitler were childhood friends of Freud.
Kahane had attended the same secondary school and both he and Reitler went to university with Freud.
They had kept abreast of Freud’s developing ideas through their attendance at his Saturday evening lectures.
In 1901, Kahane, who first introduced Stekel to Freud’s work, had opened an out-patient psychotherapy institute of which he was the director in Bauernmarkt, in Vienna.
In the same year, his medical textbook,’ Outline of Internal Medicine for Students and Practicing Physicians’ was published.
In it, he provided an outline of Freud’s psychoanalytic method.
Kahane broke with Freud in 1907 for unknown reasons, and in 1923 committed suicide.
Reitler was the director of an establishment providing thermal cures in Dorotheergasse which had been founded in 1901.
He died prematurely in 1917.
Adler, regarded as the most formidable intellect among the early Freudian circle who, in 1898, had written a health manual for the tailoring trade.
He was particularly interested in the potential social impact of psychiatry.
Max Graf, a Viennese musicologist and father of “Little Hans”, who had first encountered Freud in 1900, and joined the Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft soon after its initial inception, described the ritual and atmosphere of the early meetings of the society:
The gatherings followed a definite ritual.
First one of the members would present a paper.
Then, black coffee and cakes were served; cigar and cigarettes were on the table and were consumed in great quantities.
After a social quarter of an hour, the discussion would begin.
The last and decisive word was always spoken by Freud himself.
There was the atmosphere of the foundation of a religion in that room.
Freud himself was its new prophet, who made the heretofore prevailing methods of psychological investigation appear superficial.
By 1906, the group had grown to sixteen members, including Otto Rank, who was employed as the group’s paid secretary.
Also in that year Freud began correspondence with Jung who was then an assistant to Eugen Bleuler at the Burghölzli Mental Hospital in Zürich.
In March 1907 Jung and Ludwig Binswanger, also a Swiss psychiatrist, travelled to Vienna to visit Freud and attend the discussion group.
Thereafter they established a small psychoanalytic group in Zürich.
In 1908, reflecting its growing institutional status, the Psychologische Mittwochs-Gesellschaft was renamed the Wiener Psychoanalytischen Vereinigung.
In 1911, the first women members were admitted to the Society.
Tatiana Rosenthal and Sabina Spielrein were both Russian psychiatrists, and graduates of the Zürich University medical school.
Prior to the completion of her studies, Spielrein had been a patient of Jung at the Burghölzli and the clinical and personal details of their relationship became the subject of an extensive correspondence between Freud and Jung.
Both women would go on to make important contributions to the work of Russian Psychoanalytic Society which was founded in 1910.
Freud’s early followers met together formally for the first time at the Hotel Bristol, Salzburg on 27 April 1908.
This meeting, which was retrospectively deemed to be the first Internationalen Psychoanalytischen Kongress, was convened at the suggestion of Ernest Jones, then a London based neurologist, who had discovered Freud’s writings and begun applying psychoanalytic methods in his clinical work.
Jones had met Jung at a conference the previous year and they met up again in Zürich to organize the Kongress.
There were, as Jones records, “forty-two present, half of whom were or became practicing analysts”.
In addition to Jones and the Viennese and Zürich contingents accompanying Freud and Jung, also present and notable for their subsequent importance in the psychoanalytic movement were Abraham and Max Eitingon from Berlin, Sándor Ferenczi from Budapest and the New York based Abraham Brill.
Important decisions were taken at the Kongress with a view to advancing the impact of Freud’s work.
A journal, the ‘Jahrbuch fur psychoanlytische und psychopathologishe Forschungen’, was launched in 1909 under the editorship of Jung.
This was followed in 1910 by the monthly ‘Zentralblatt fur Psychoanalyse’ edited by Adler and Stekel, in 1911 by ‘Imago’, a journal devoted to the application of psychoanalysis to the field of cultural and literary studies edited by Rank and in 1913 by the ‘Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse’, also edited by Rank.
Plans for an Internationale Vereinigung der Psychoanalytikers were put in place, and these were implemented at the Nürnberg Congress of 1910, where Jung was elected, with Freud’s support, as its first president.
Freud turned to Brill and Jones to further his ambition to spread the psychoanalytic cause in the English-speaking world.
Both were invited to Vienna following the Salzburg Congress and a division of labour was agreed with Brill given the translation rights for Freud’s works, and Jones, who was to take up a post at Toronto University later in the year, tasked with establishing a platform for Freudian ideas in North American academic and medical life.
Jones’s advocacy prepared the way for Freud’s visit to the United States, accompanied by Jung and Ferenczi, in September 1909 at the invitation of Stanley Hall, president of Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, where he gave five lectures on psychoanalysis.
When the ocean liner George Washington arrived in New York, Freud is rumoured to have remarked to Jung, “They don’t realize that we are bringing them the plague.”
The event, at which Freud was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, marked the first public recognition of Freud’s work and attracted widespread media interest.
Freud’s audience included the distinguished neurologist and psychiatrist James Jackson Putnam, Professor of Diseases of the Nervous System at Harvard, who invited Freud to his country retreat, where they held extensive discussions over a period of four days.
Putnam’s subsequent public endorsement of Freud’s work represented a significant breakthrough for the psychoanalytic cause in the United States.
When Putnam and Jones organised the founding of the American Psychoanalytic Association in May 1911 they were elected president and secretary respectively.
Brill founded the New York Psychoanalytic Society the same year.
His translations of Freud’s work began to appear from 1909.
Early Work
Freud entered private practice in neurology for financial reasons, receiving his M.D. degree in 1881 at the age of 25.
Amongst his principal concerns in the 1880s was the anatomy of the brain, specifically the medulla oblongata.
He intervened in the important debates about aphasia with his monograph of 1891, ‘Zur Auffassung der Aphasien’, in which he coined the term agnosia, and counselled against a too locationist view of the explanation of neurological deficits.
Like his contemporary Eugen Bleuler, he emphasized brain function rather than brain structure.
Freud was also an early researcher in the field of cerebral palsy, which was then known as “cerebral paralysis”.
He published several medical papers on the topic, and showed that the disease existed long before other researchers of the period began to notice and study it.
He also suggested that William Little, the man who first identified cerebral palsy, was wrong about lack of oxygen during birth being a cause.
Instead, he suggested that complications in birth were only a symptom.
Freud hoped that his research would provide a solid scientific basis for his therapeutic technique.
The goal of Freudian therapy, or psychoanalysis, was to bring repressed thoughts and feelings into consciousness in order to free the patient from suffering repetitive distorted emotions.
Classically, the bringing of unconscious thoughts and feelings to consciousness is brought about by encouraging a patient to talk about dreams and engage in free association, in which patients report their thoughts without reservation and make no attempt to concentrate while doing so.
Another important element of psychoanalysis is transference, the process by which patients displace onto their analysts feelings and ideas which derive from previous figures in their lives. 
Transference was first seen as a regrettable phenomenon that interfered with the recovery of repressed memories, and disturbed patients’ objectivity, but by 1912, Freud had come to see it as an essential part of the therapeutic process.
The origin of Freud’s early work with psychoanalysis can be linked to Josef Breuer.
Freud credited Breuer with opening the way to the discovery of the psychoanalytical method by his treatment of the case of Anna O.
In November 1880, Breuer was called in to treat a highly intelligent 21-year-old woman (Bertha Pappenheim) for a persistent cough that he diagnosed as hysterical.
He found that while nursing her dying father, she had developed a number of transitory symptoms, including visual disorders and paralysis and contractures of limbs, which he also diagnosed as hysterical.
Breuer began to see his patient almost every day as the symptoms increased and became more persistent, and observed that she entered states of absence.
He found that when, with his encouragement, she told fantasy stories in her evening states of absence her condition improved, and most of her symptoms had disappeared by April 1881. 
However, following the death of her father in that month her condition deteriorated again. 
Breuer recorded that some of the symptoms eventually remitted spontaneously, and that full recovery was achieved by inducing her to recall events that had precipitated the occurrence of a specific symptom.
In the years immediately following Breuer’s treatment, Anna O. spent three short periods in sanatoria with the diagnosis “hysteria” with “somatic symptoms”, and some authors have challenged Breuer’s published account of a cure.

Freud’s Major Theories

According to Freud, the mind can be divided into three different levels:
The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of.
This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally.
A part of this includes our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness.
Freud called this the preconscious.

In Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the conscious mind consists of everything inside of our awareness. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about in a rational way.
The conscious mind includes such things as the sensations, perceptions, memories, feeling and fantasies inside of our current awareness. Closely allied with the conscious mind is the preconscious, which includes the things that we are not thinking of at the moment but which we can easily draw into conscious awareness.
Things that the conscious mind wants to keep hidden from awareness are repressed into the unconscious mind. While we are unaware of these feelings, thoughts, urges and emotions, Freud believed that the unconscious mind could still have an influence on our behavior.Freud often used the metaphor of an iceberg to describe the two major aspects of human personality. The tip of the iceberg that extends above the water represents the conscious mind. As you can see in the image at the right, the conscious mind is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Beneath the water is the much larger bulk of the iceberg, which represents the unconscious.
While the conscious and preconscious are important, Freud believed that they were far less vital than the unconscious. The things that are hidden from awareness, he believed, exerted the greatest influence over our personalities and behaviors
The preconscious mind is the part of the mind that represents ordinary memory.
While we are not consciously aware of this information at any given time, we can retrieve it and pull it into consciousness when needed.

In Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the preconscious mind is a part of the mind that corresponds to ordinary memory. These memories are not conscious, but we can retrieve them to conscious awareness at any time.
While these memories are not part of your immediate awareness, they can be quickly brought into awareness through conscious effort. For example, if you were asked what television show you watched last night or what you had for breakfast this morning, you would be pulling that information out of your preconscious.

A helpful way to think of the preconscious is that it acts as a sort of gatekeeper between the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. It allows only certain pieces of information to pass through and enter conscious awareness.

The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. 

According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behaviour and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.
Freud likened these three levels of mind to an iceberg.
The top of the iceberg that you can see above the water represents the conscious mind.
The part of the iceberg that is submerged below the water but is still visible is the preconscious. 
The bulk of the iceberg lies unseen beneath the waterline and represents the unconscious.
Each person also possesses a certain amount of psychological energy that forms the three basic structures of personality: the id, the ego, and the superego. These three structures have different roles and operate at different levels of the mind. In the next article in this series, learn more about the functions of each of these structures.
According to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, personality is composed of three elements.
These three elements of personality – known as the id, the ego and the superego – work together to create complex human behaviours.

The Id

Das Es – the id – is the only component of personality that is present from birth.
This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious, and includes of the instinctive and primitive behaviours.
According to Freud, the id is the source of all psychic energy, making it the primary component of personality.
The id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs.

The pleasure principle is the instinctual seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain in order to satisfy biological and psychological needs. Specifically, the pleasure principle is the driving force guiding the id.

If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state anxiety or tension.
The id is very important early in life, because it ensures that an infant’s needs are met.
However, immediately satisfying these needs is not always realistic or even possible.
If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing things we want out of other people’s hands to satisfy our own cravings.
This sort of behaviour would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable.
According to Freud, the id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through the primary process, which involves forming a mental image of the desired object as a way of satisfying the need.
According to Freud the id is unconscious by definition:
It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learned from our study of the Dreamwork, and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of that is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations…. It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.
In the id:
contrary impulses exist side by side, without cancelling each other out…. There is nothing in the id that could be compared with negation … nothing in the id which corresponds to the idea of time.
Developmentally, the id precedes the ego; i.e. the psychic apparatus begins, at birth, as an undifferentiated id, part of which then develops into a structured ego.
Thus, the id:
contains everything that is inherited, that is present at birth, is laid down in the constitution — above all, therefore, the instincts, which originate from the somatic organization, and which find a first psychical expression here (in the id) in forms unknown to us.”
The id:
knows no judgements of value: no good and evil, no morality…. Instinctual cathexes seeking discharge – that, in our view, is all there is in the id.”
It is regarded as: “the great reservoir of libido“, the instinctive drive to create – the life instincts that are crucial to pleasurable survival.
Alongside the life instincts came the ‘death instinct‘ – Thanatos – which Freud articulated relatively late in his career in “the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state.”
For Freud, “the death instinct would thus seem to express itself – though probably only in part – as an instinct of destruction directed against the external world and other organisms”through aggression.
Freud considered that “the id, the whole person … originally includes all the instinctual impulses … the destructive instinct as well.” as ‘Eros’, or the ‘life instinct‘.

The Ego

The ego (Das Ich), is the component of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality.
According to Freud, the ego develops from the id, and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world.
The ego functions in both the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind.
The ego operates based on the ‘reality principle’, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways.

The reality principle is the ability of the mind to assess the reality of the external world, and to act upon it accordingly, as opposed to acting on the pleasure principle.
Rebellion against the constraints of the reality principle, in favour of a belief in infantile omnipotence, appears as a feature of all neurotic behaviour.
Psychosis can be seen as the result of the suspension of the reality principle, while sleep and dreaming offer a ‘normal’ everyday example of its decommissioning.
The reality principle increases its scope in the wake of puberty, expanding the range and maturity of the choices the individual makes.
A further change in the reality principle from adolescence to adulthood can be a critical transition in its consolidation; but the impact of certain traumatic experiences may prove to be detrimental from within the unconscious. In the new reality principle, the individual must find themselves to be represented as a strong presence within their own mind and making reasoned decisions, instead of being merely perceived. It is the culmination of the way in which an adolescent learns to experience oneself in the context of their external reality.

The reality principle weighs the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses.
In many cases, the id’s impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed gratification – the ego will eventually allow the behaviour, but only in the appropriate time and place.
The ego also discharges tension created by unmet impulses through the secondary process, in which the ego tries to find an object in the real world that matches the mental image created by the id’s primary process.
The ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world…. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions … in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces.
Still worse, “it serves three severe masters … the external world, the super-ego and the id.
Its task is to find a balance between primitive drives and reality while satisfying the id and super-ego.
Its main concern is with the individual’s safety and allows some of the id’s desires to be expressed, but only when consequences of these actions are marginal.
Thus the ego, driven by the id, confined by the super-ego, repulsed by reality, struggles … [in] bringing about harmony among the forces and influences working in and upon it,” and readily “breaks out in anxiety — realistic anxiety regarding the external world, moral anxiety regarding the super-ego, and neurotic anxiety regarding the strength of the passions in the id.
It has to do its best to suit all three, thus is constantly feeling hemmed by the danger of causing discontent on two other sides.
It is said, however, that the ego seems to be more loyal to the id, preferring to gloss over the finer details of reality to minimize conflicts while pretending to have a regard for reality.
But the super-ego is constantly watching every one of the ego’s moves and punishes it with feelings of guilt, anxiety, and inferiority.
To overcome this the ego employs defence mechanisms.
The defence mechanisms are not done so directly or consciously.
They lessen the tension by covering up our impulses that are threatening.
Ego defence mechanisms are often used by the ego when id behaviour conflicts with reality and either society’s morals, norms, and taboos or the individual’s expectations as a result of the internalization of these morals, norms, and their taboos.
Denial, displacement, internationalisation, fantasy, compensation, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression, and sublimation were the ‘defence mechanisms’ Freud identified, however, his daughter Anna Freud clarified and identified the concepts of undoing, suppression, dissociation, idealization, identification, introjection, inversion, somatisation, splitting, and substitution.

The Superego

The last component of personality to develop is the superego (Das Über-Ich).
The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our internalized moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both parents and society – our sense of right and wrong.
The superego provides guidelines for making judgments.
According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five.
There are two parts of the superego:
The ego ideal includes the rules and standards for good behaviours.
These behaviours include those which are approved of by parental and other authority figures. Obeying these rules leads to feelings of pride, value and accomplishment.
The conscience includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society.
These behaviours are often forbidden, and lead to bad consequences, punishments or feelings of guilt and remorse.
The superego acts to perfect and civilize our behaviour.
It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id, and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles.
The superego is present in the conscious, preconscious and unconscious.
Freud’s theory implies that the super-ego is a symbolic internalisation of the father figure, and cultural regulations.
The super-ego tends to stand in opposition to the desires of the id because of their conflicting objectives, and its aggressiveness towards the ego.
The super-ego acts as the conscience, maintaining our sense of morality and proscription from taboos.
The super-ego and the ego are the product of two key factors: the state of helplessness of the child and the Oedipus complex.
Its formation takes place during the dissolution of the ‘Oedipus Complex’, and is formed by an identification with and internalisation of the father figure after the little boy cannot successfully hold the mother as a love-object out of fear of castration.
The super-ego retains the character of the father, while the more powerful the Oedipus complex was and the more rapidly it succumbed to repression (under the influence of authority, religious teaching, schooling and reading), the stricter will be the domination of the super-ego over the ego later on – in the form of conscience or perhaps of an unconscious sense of guilt.”
In Sigmund Freud’s work ‘Civilization and Its Discontents’ (1930), he also discusses the concept of a “cultural super-ego“.
Freud suggested that the demands of the super-ego “coincide with the precepts of the prevailing cultural super-ego. At this point the two processes, that of the cultural development of the group and that of the cultural development of the individual, are, as it were, always interlocked.
Ethics are a central element in the demands of the cultural super-ego, but Freud (as analytic moralist) protested against what he called “the unpsychological proceedings of the cultural super-ego … the ethical demands of the cultural super-ego. It does not trouble itself enough about the facts of the mental constitution of human beings.

The terms “id”, “ego”, and “super-ego” are not Freud’s own. They are latinisations by his translator James Strachey. Freud himself wrote of “das Es,” “das Ich,” and “das Über-Ich” – respectively, “the It”, “the I”, and the “Over-I” –  thus to the German reader, Freud’s original terms are more or less self-explanatory. Freud borrowed the term “das Es” from Georg Groddeck, a German physician to whose unconventional ideas Freud was much attracted (Groddeck’s translators render the term in English as “the It”). The word ego is taken directly from Latin, where it is the nominative of the first person singular personal pronoun and is translated as “I myself” to express emphasis.

Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are unconscious psychic processes that provide the ego with relief from the state of psychic conflict between the intruding id, the threatening superego and the powerful influences emanating from the external reality.
Due to these forces in the mind opposing and battling against each other, anxiety signals an internal danger.
These mechanisms come into play to enable the ego to reach compromise solutions to problems that it is unable to solve, by letting some component of the unwelcome mental contents emerge into consciousness in a disguised form.
How efficiently these mechanisms are to strengthen the ego, and to what extent they further different forms of compromise formations that may turn out to be psychoneurotic symptoms, depends on how successfully the ego reaches a higher or lesser degree of integration of these conflicting forces in the mind.
The more the ego is blocked in its development for being entangled in its earlier conflicts (fixations), clinging to archaic modes of functioning, the greater is the possibility of succumbing to these forces.
Anna Freud, in ‘The Ego and The Mechanisms of Defence’ (1946), formulates the hypothesis that what the ego fears most is the return to a previous stage of fusion with the id, in case repression fails or instincts are too intense.
In order to ensure the maintenance of the level of organization achieved, the ego has to protect itself from the invasion of instinctual demands (drives) of the id, and from the return of the repressed contents.
In fact, in the chapter “The Ego’s Dependent Relations”, in ‘The Id and the Ego’ (1923), Freud says: “psychoanalysis is the instrument to enable the ego to achieve a progressive conquest of the id“.
Psychoanalysis aims at transforming greater amounts of what once belonged to the id into acceptable possessions of the ego, along with its main purpose of turning unconscious contents into conscious ones.
Thus, the mind can find solutions that were previously unattainable to the immature ego.
The Major Defense Mechanisms:

1. Repression – the withdrawal from consciousness of an unwanted idea, affect, or desire by pushing it into the unconscious part of the mind.
2. Reaction formation – the fixation in consciousness of an idea, affect, or desire that is opposite to a feared unconscious impulse.
3. Projection – unwanted feelings are attributed to another person.
4. Regression – a return to forms of gratification belonging to earlier phases, due to conflicts arising at more developed stages.
5. Rationalization – the substitution of the true, but threatening cause of behavior for a safe and reasonable explanation.
6. Denial – the conscious refusal to perceive disturbing facts. It deprives the individual of the necessary awareness to cope with external challenges and the employment of adequate strategies for survival as well.
7. Displacement- the redirection of an urge onto a substitute outlet.
8. Undoing – is achieved through an act, which goal is the cancellation of a prior unpleasant experience.
9. Introjection – intimately related to identification, aims at solving some emotional difficulty of the individual by means of taking into his personality characteristics of someone else.
10. Sublimation – part of the energy invested in sexual impulses is shifted to the pursuit of socially valuable achievements, such as artistic or scientific endeavors.

Seduction Theory

In the early 1890s, Freud used a form of treatment based on the one that Breuer had described to him, modified by what he called his “pressure technique” and his newly developed analytic technique of interpretation and reconstruction.
According to Freud’s later accounts of this period, as a result of his use of this procedure most of his patients in the mid-1890s reported early childhood sexual abuse.
He believed these stories, which he used as the basis for his ‘seduction theory‘, but then he came to believe that they were fantasies.
He explained these at first as having the function of “fending off” memories of infantile masturbation, but in later years he wrote that they represented Oedipal fantasies, stemming from innate drives that are sexual and destructive in nature.
Another version of events focuses on Freud’s proposing that unconscious memories of infantile sexual abuse were at the root of the psychoneuroses in letters to Fliess in October 1895, before he reported that he had actually discovered such abuse among his patients.
In the first half of 1896, Freud published three papers, which led to his ‘seduction theory‘, stating that he had uncovered, in all of his current patients, deeply repressed memories of sexual abuse in early childhood.
In these papers, Freud recorded that his patients were not consciously aware of these memories, and must therefore be present as unconscious memories if they were to result in hysterical symptoms or obsessional neurosis.
The patients were subjected to considerable pressure to “reproduce” infantile sexual abuse “scenes” that Freud was convinced had been repressed into the unconscious.
Patients were generally unconvinced that their experiences of Freud’s clinical procedure indicated actual sexual abuse.
He reported that even after a supposed “reproduction” of sexual scenes the patients assured him emphatically of their disbelief.
As well as his pressure technique, Freud’s clinical procedures involved analytic inference and the symbolic interpretation of symptoms to trace back to memories of infantile sexual abuse.
His claim of one hundred percent confirmation of his theory only served to reinforce previously expressed reservations from his colleagues about the validity of findings obtained through his suggestive techniques.
Freud subsequently showed inconsistency as to whether his seduction theory was still compatible with his later findings.

The Unconscious

The concept of the unconscious was central to Freud’s account of the mind.
Freud believed that while poets and thinkers had long known of the existence of the unconscious, he had ensured that it received scientific recognition in the field of psychology, however, the concept made an informal appearance in Freud’s writings.
The unconscious was first introduced in connection with the phenomenon of repression, to explain what happens to ideas that are repressed.
Freud stated explicitly that the concept of the unconscious was based on the theory of repression.
He postulated a cycle in which ideas are repressed, but remain in the mind, removed from consciousness yet operative, then reappear in consciousness under certain circumstances. 
The postulate was based upon the investigation of cases of traumatic hysteria, which revealed cases where the behaviour of patients could not be explained without reference to ideas or thoughts of which they had no awareness.
This fact, combined with the observation that such behaviour could be artificially induced by hypnosis, in which ideas were inserted into people’s minds, suggested that ideas were operative in the original cases, even though their subjects knew nothing of them.
Freud, like Josef Breuer, found the hypothesis that hysterical manifestations were generated by ideas to be not only warranted, but given in observation.
Disagreement between them arose, however, when they attempted to give causal explanations of their data: Breuer favored a hypothesis of hypnoid states, while Freud postulated the mechanism of defense (see above).
Freud originally allowed that repression might be a conscious process, but by the time he wrote his second paper on the “Neuro-Psychoses of Defence” (1896), he apparently believed that repression, which he referred to as “the psychical mechanism of (unconscious) defense“, occurred on an unconscious level.
Freud further developed his theories about the unconscious in ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1899) and in ‘Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious’ (1905), where he dealt with condensation and displacement as inherent characteristics of unconscious mental activity. 
Freud presented his first systematic statement of his hypotheses about unconscious mental processes in 1912, in response to an invitation from the London Society of Psychical Research to contribute to its Proceedings.
In 1915, Freud expanded that statement into a more ambitious metapsychological paper, entitled “The Unconscious”.
In both these papers, when Freud tried to distinguish between his conception of the unconscious and those that pre-dated psychoanalysis, he found it in his postulation of ideas that are simultaneously latent and operative.

‘Die Traumdeutung’

The Nightmare
Johann Heinrich Füssli

The ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ introduces Freud’s theory of the unconscious (see above) with respect to dream interpretation, and also first discusses what would later become the theory of the ‘Oedipus Complex’ – (see below).
Freud revised the book at least eight times and, in the third edition, added an extensive section which treated dream symbolism very literally, following the influence of Wilhelm Stekel.
Freud said of this work, “Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.”
The initial print run of the book was very low – it took many years to sell out the first 600 copies. However, the work gained popularity as Freud did, and seven more editions were printed in his lifetime.
The text was translated from German into English by A. A. Brill, an American Freudian psychoanalyst, and later in an authorized translation by James Strachey, who was British. 
Because the book is very long and complex, Freud wrote an abridged version called ‘On Dreams’, which was published in 1901 as part of Lowenfeld and Kurella’s ‘Grenzfragen des Nerven und Seelenlebens’.
It was re-published in 1911 in slightly larger form as a book.
Freud spent the summer of 1895 at manor Belle Vue, near Grinzing in Austria, where he began the inception of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’.
In a 1900 letter to Wilhelm Fliess, he wrote in commemoration of the place:
Do you suppose that some day a marble tablet will be placed on the house, inscribed with these words: ‘In this house on July 24th, 1895, the secret of dreams was revealed to Dr. Sigm. Freud’ ? At the moment I see little prospect of it.” – Freud in a letter to Wilhelm Fliess, June 12th, 1900

Overview of ‘Die Traumdeutung’

The Bee Sting
Salvador Dali

Dreams, in Freud’s view, are all forms of “wish fulfillment” – attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict of some sort, whether something recent or something from the recesses of the past (later in ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’, Freud would discuss dreams which do not appear to be wish-fulfilment).
Because the information in the unconscious is in an unruly and often disturbing form, a “censor” in the preconscious will not allow it to pass unaltered into the conscious.
During dreams, the preconscious is more lax in this duty than in waking hours, but is still attentive: as such, the unconscious must distort and warp the meaning of its information to make it through the censorship.
As such, images in dreams are often not what they appear to be, according to Freud, and need deeper interpretation if they are to inform on the structures of the unconscious.
Freud used to mention the dreams as “The Royal Road to the Unconscious“.
He proposed the ‘phenomenon of condensation‘; (see below) the idea that one simple symbol or image presented in a person’s dream may have multiple meanings.
For this very reason, Freud tried to focus on details during psychoanalysis and asked his patients about things they could even think trivial (i.e. while a patient was describing an experience in their dream, Freud could ask him/her: “was there any sign upon the walls ? What was it ?”).
As Freud was focusing upon the biologic drives of the individual (a fact that alienated him from several colleagues of his like Breuer, Jung and Adler), he stated that when we observe a hollow object in our dreams, like a box or a cave, this is a symbol of a womb, while an elongated object is a symbol for penis – or more correctly the phallus.
Due to these statements, Freud attracted much criticism from those who believed him a “sexist” or “misanthrope“, as he was alleged to have overemphasised the role of instinct, as though he believed people were “wild beasts“.


The first edition begins:
In the following pages, I shall demonstrate that there exists a psychological technique by which dreams may be interpreted and that upon the application of this method every dream will show itself to be a senseful psychological structure which may be introduced into an assignable place in the psychic activity of the waking state. I shall furthermore endeavor to explain the processes which give rise to the strangeness and obscurity of the dream, and to discover through them the psychic forces, which operate whether in combination or opposition, to produce the dream. This accomplished by investigation will terminate as it will reach the point where the problem of the dream meets broader problems, the solution of which must be attempted through other material.”
Freud begins his book in the first chapter titled “The Scientific Literature on the Problems of the Dream” by reviewing different scientific views on dream interpretation, which he finds interesting but not adequate.
He then makes his argument by describing a number of dreams which he claims illustrate his theory.
Freud describes three main types of dreams: 1. Direct prophecies received in the dream (chrematismos, oraculum); 2. The foretelling of a future event (orama, visio) 3. The symbolic dream, which requires interpretation (Interpretation of Dreams 5).
Much of Freud’s sources for analysis are in literature.
Many of his most important dreams are his own – his method is inaugurated with an analysis of his dream “Irma’s injection” – but many also come from patient case studies.

Theory of Dreams

In the psychodynamic perspective, the transferring of unconscious thoughts into consciousness is called ‘dreamwork‘.
In dreams, there are two different types of content, the manifest and latent content.
The latent content is the underlying, unconscious feelings and thoughts.
The manifest content is made up of a combination of the latent thoughts, and it is what is actually being seen in the dream.
According to Carl Jung’s principle of compensation, the reason that there is latent content in dreams is because the unconscious is making up for the limitations of the conscious mind.
Since the conscious mind cannot be aware of all things at once, the latent content allows for these hidden away thoughts to be unlocked.
Psychoanalysts use the knowledge of the process of dreamwork to analyse dreams.
In other words, the clinician will study the manifest content to understand what the latent content is trying to say.


To be able to understand dreamwork fully, a person needs to understand how the mind transfers the latent thoughts to manifest.
The first step is called condensation, and it is the combining of different unconscious thought into one.
The combining of the unconscious thoughts makes it easier for the mind to express them in the dream.
The step of condensation has two sub-steps, day residues and censorship.
Day residues are left over daily issues that bring up some unconscious thought.
The mind then displays this thought through a similar situation from the day.
Before the unconscious thoughts can be displayed they are censored.
Since many unconscious thoughts do not follow the moral code of society, the mind changes them to be more respectful.
This is done so that it does not cause the dreamer anxiety and therefore wake them up.
It is also due to censorship that multiple unconscious thoughts are combined, since it is hard to just have one slip through.
After condensation, another step in the formation of dreams is displacement.
This is where the dream directs feelings or desires onto an unrelated subject.
This is similar to the practice of transference, which is a common technique used in psychoanalysis.
Another step in the formation of dreams is symbolism.
Objects or situations in dreams, actually represent something else, commonly an unconscious thought or desire.
The fourth, and final step in formation is secondary revision.
In this step, all the thoughts are put together and are made coherent.
Also another point of this step is to make the dream relate to the dreamer.
These four steps put together make up dreamwork.

Der Ödipus-Komplex

The term ‘Oedipus Complex’ denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrates upon a child’s desire to sexually possess the parent of the opposite sex (e.g. males attracted to their mothers, whereas females are attracted to their fathers).

Oedipus and the Sphinx
Gustave Moreau
Frederic Leighton

Freud believed that the Oedipus complex is a desire for the parent in both males and females; 
Freud deprecated the term “Electra complex”, which was introduced by Carl Gustav Jung in regard to the Oedipus complex manifested in young girls.
The Oedipus complex occurs in the third – phallic stage (ages 3–6) – of the five psycho-sexual development stages: (i) the oral, (ii) the anal, (iii) the phallic, (iv) the latent, and (v) the genital – in which the source of libidinal pleasure is in a different erogenous zone of the infant’s body.
In classical psychoanalytic theory, child’s identification with the same-sex parent is the successful resolution of the Oedipus complex, a key psychological experience that is necessary for the development of a mature sexual role and identity.
Freud further proposed that boys and girls experience the complexes differently: boys in a form of castration anxiety, girls in a form of penis envy; and that unsuccessful resolution of the complexes might lead to neurosis and/or paedophilia.
Men and women who are fixated in the Oedipal stage of their psychosexual development might be considered “mother-fixated” and “father-fixated”.
In adult life this can lead to a choice of a sexual partner who resembles one’s parent.

Background to Der Ödipus-Komplex

Oedipus refers to a 5th-century BC Greek mythlogic character Oedipus, who unwittingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother, Jocasta.
A play based on the myth, ‘Oedipus Rex’, was written by Sophocles, ca. 429 BC.
Modern productions of Sophocles’ play were staged in Paris and Vienna in the 19th century and were phenomenally successful in the 1880s and 1890s. which Freud attended.
In his book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ – (see above), he proposed that an Oedipal desire is a universal, psychological phenomenon innate (phylogenetic) to human beings, and the cause of much unconscious guilt.
He based this on his analysis of his feelings attending the play, his anecdotal observations of neurotic or normal children, and on the fact that the ‘Oedipus Rex’ play was effective on both ancient and modern audiences (he also claimed the play Hamlet was effective for the same reason).
Freud described the man Oedipus:
‘His destiny moves us only because it might have been ours – because the Oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams convince us that this is so.’

The Theory of Der Ödipus-Komplex

Oedipus and the Sphinx

In psychoanalytic theory, the Oedipus complex occurs during the phallic stage of psycho-sexual development (age 3–6 years), when also occurs the formation of the libido and the ego; yet it might manifest itself at an earlier age.
In the phallic stage, a boy’s decisive psycho-sexual experience is the Oedipus complex – his son-father competition for possession of mother.
It is in this third stage of psycho-sexual development that the child’s genitalia are his or her primary erogenous zone; thus, when children become aware of their bodies, the bodies of other children, and the bodies of their parents, they gratify physical curiosity by undressing and exploring themselves, each other, and their genitals, so learning the anatomic differences between “male” and “female”, and the gender differences between “boy” and “girl”.

Psychosexual Infantilism

Despite mother being the parent who primarily gratifies the child’s desires, the child begins forming a discrete sexual identity – “boy”, “girl” – that alters the dynamics of the parent and child relationship; the parents become objects of infantile libidinal energy.
The boy directs his libido (sexual desire) upon his mother, and directs jealousy and emotional rivalry against his father – because it is he who sleeps with his mother.

Moreover, to facilitate union with mother, the boy’s id wants to kill father (as did Oedipus), but the pragmatic ego, based upon the reality principle, knows that the father is the stronger of the two males competing to possess the one female.
Nonetheless, the boy remains ambivalent about his father’s place in the family, which is manifested as fear of castration by the physically greater father; the fear is an irrational, subconscious manifestation of the infantile id.

Psycho-logic Defence

In both sexes, defence mechanisms provide transitory resolutions of the conflict between the drives of the id and the drives of the ego.
The first defence mechanism is repression, the blocking of memories, emotional impulses, and ideas from the conscious mind; yet its action does not resolve the id–ego conflict.
The second defence mechanism is identification, by which the child incorporates, to his or her (super)ego, the personality characteristics of the same-sex parent; in so adapting, the boy diminishes his castration anxiety, because his likeness to father protects him from father’s wrath in their maternal rivalry; by so adapting, the girl facilitates identifying with mother, who understands that, in being females, neither of them possesses a penis, and thus are not antagonists.


Unresolved son–father competition for the psycho-sexual possession mother might result in a phallic stage fixation, conducive to a boy becoming an aggressive, over-ambitious, vain man. Therefore, the satisfactory parental handling and resolution of the Oedipus complex are most important in developing the male infantile super-ego, because, by identifying with a parent, the boy internalizes Morality, thereby, he chooses to comply with societal rules, rather than reflexively complying in fear of punishment.

to be continued

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

Nürnberg – Architecture and Spectacle

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg – Architecture and Spectacle

No city in the Third Reich was as important symbolically as Nürnberg – the official site of the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag.

The rallies, held in Nürnberg on two occasions during the 1920s and on an annual basis throughout much of the 1930s, were a series of gigantic, theatrically staged celebrations of unity and power.
Triumph des Willens
Leni Riefenstahl
Extensively covered in the media, and vividly captured in Leni Riefenstahl’s classic film, ‘Triumph des Willens’, the rallies captured the attention of the world, leaving both Germans and non-Germans alike suspended in a state of fascination and admiration.

Triumph des Willens
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

1934 – The 6th Party Congress was held in Nuremberg, September 5-10, 1934. Initially it did not have a theme. Later it was labelled the “Rally of Unity and Strength” (Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke), “Rally of Power” (Reichsparteitag der Macht), or “Rally of Will” (Reichsparteitag des Willens).
‘Triumph des Willens’ is a 1935 film made by Leni Riefenstahl. It chronicles the 1934 Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was attended by more than 700,000 supporters. The film contains excerpts from speeches given by various Nazi leaders at the Congress. Hitler commissioned the film and served as an unofficial executive producer; his name appears in the opening titles. The overriding theme of the film is the return of Germany as a great power, with Hitler as the leader who will bring glory to the nation.

Even today the city of Nürnberg continues to live on in the memory of Germans ‘as the symbolic place of National Socialist rule.‘”
Geographers exploring the linkages between spectacle, identity and place have often approached landscapes as texts to be read.
More recently, scholars have emphasized the ways in which these landscapes serve as a type of stage for human action.
Whereas the metaphor of the text implies a rather passive role for landscape, the idea of landscape as a stage, and an emphasis on the role of performance, recognize a greater degree of dynamism and interaction between people and place. 
This notion of landscape as theatre could be further extended, not solely as the backdrop in which the action takes place but as actively constituting the action.
The stage acts more than as the context for the performance; it is the performance itself.

The Nürnberg Party Rallies were political spectacles designed to generate public support for the National Socialist regime through the performance of an annual ritual, characterized by a high degree of mass pageantry.
To be effective, spectacles of this kind are often situated in landscapes endowed with a history capable of evoking a particularly powerful sense of national pride and belonging.
Nürnberg served well this requirement.

Nürnberg Kaiserstallung
Stadtwappen von Nürnberg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The city had a long, romantic history and contained many historic features of architectural and cultural importance.

Nürnberg was thus in many ways already a national symbol.
What remained was to convert it into a participatory landscape, in which spectacle and architecture might combine to legitimate and glorify the regime, enhance the personal charisma of Adolf Hitler and imbue among the masses a strong sense of National Socialist community and purpose.
The theatrical aspects of the rallies depended greatly on their venue.
In this sense, the rally agenda coincided with another preoccupation of the National Socialists and their leader: the idea that German cities typically lacked the kind of symbolic spaces and architecture necessary to galvanize a strong sense of community and purpose.
Mein Kampf

In ‘Mein Kampf‘, Hitler lamented that the inevitable result of this deficiency was ‘a desolation whose practical effect is the total indifference of the big-city dweller to the destiny of his city‘.
The Third Reich, therefore, chose to embark on an ambitious building programme that would refashion German cities with new monumental spaces and structures intended to focus Germans on the glory of their country as well as on the goals and values of National Socialism.
Architecture, in particular, was seen as a powerful expression of national greatness.

This article explores the interactions of spectacle, architecture and place embodied in the Nürnberg Party Rallies.
We focus first on the official rally grounds located just outside the city.
Here we examine the ways in which a carefully calculated use of space and architecture effectively created a world of ritual ceremony and rhetoric capable of generating an almost phantasmal sense of mass fascination and awe among participants and observers.
Our analysis, however, also leads us into the city centre, since the rallies were anything but confined to the rally grounds on the city’s edge.

Old Nürnberg

As the ‘City of the Party Rallies‘, Nürnberg’s historic centre was a fundamental but often-overlooked part of the celebrations.

In particular, the National Socialist building programme sought to restore, improve and preserve the city’s central environs simultaneously to remind the nation of the city’s historic greatness and to enhance the city’s suitability as a stirring venue for rally activities and ceremonies.
In the end we hope to emphasize the connectedness between what might be called the ‘old’ Nürnberg of the Middle Ages and the ‘new‘ Nuremberg of the 1930s.
The authorities, both party and civic, apparently saw no inconsistency in the goals of restoring, cleansing and preserving a historic city-scape in the town centre while simultaneously constructing a thoroughly modern and forward-looking rally site outside the city.
The seeming incongruity of the two endeavours was reconciled by a desire to build a sense of German pride that connected the new and glorious vision of a National Socialist future with a romantically inspiring symbol of Germany’s national past.
We also wish to emphasize the interdependence between these carefully contrived landscapes and the emotional response of the multitudes that witnessed or performed the spectacles staged upon or within them.
In other words, what makes the Nürnberg rallies perhaps unique is their unprecedented capacity to fuse spectacle, architecture and space into a single participatory experience.

The Rally Grounds

Nürnberg was not the first city to host the Party Rallies.
The first rally took place in Munich, the birthplace of the party, in 1923.
Because Hitler was banned from public speaking in Bavaria following his failed putsch, the second rally in 1926 took place in Weimar.

Nürnberg Reichsparteitag – 1927

After the Bavarian ban was lifted in 1927, Nürnberg came under consideration as a site for the third and possibly future rallies, but the choice was hardly a foregone conclusion.
For one thing, Nürnberg had never been a stronghold of National Socialist political support.
The city was actually considered a ‘red’ stronghold of the Social Democrats.
Moreover, the municipal government initially seemed lukewarm to the idea of turning over the city’s public buildings and grounds to the National Socialist celebrations.
On the other hand, the city was an attractive site because of its symbolic association with German history, art and culture stemming from its days as an imperial city during the Middle Ages; because of its relatively accessible location in central Germany; and because it possessed public facilities and grounds capable of providing adequate meeting space.

Wappen des Heiligen
Römischen Reiches
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about 170 kilometres (110 mi) north of Munich. It is the second-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich), and is the largest in Franconia.
Nürnberg was probably founded around the turn of the 11th century, according to the first documentary mention of the city in 1050, as the location of an Imperial castle between the East Franks and the Bavarian March of the Nordgau.

Wappen des Königreichs Bayern
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Nürnberg is often referred to as having been the ‘unofficial capital’ of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly because Imperial Diet (Reichstag) and courts met at Festung Nürnberg  The Diets of Nürnberg were an important part of the administrative structure of the empire.
The cultural flowering of Nuremberg, in the 15th and 16th centuries, made it the centre of the German Renaissance.
At the Imperial diet in 1803, the independence of Nuremberg was affirmed, but on the signing of the Confederation of the Rhine on 12 July 1806, it was agreed to hand the city over to Bavaria from 8 September
In 1817, the city was incorporated into the district of Rezatkreis (named for the Franconian Rezat river.

In the end, Nürnberg was chosen for the Reichsparteitag.
Successful rallies were held there in 1927 and 1929; and in 1933 Hitler declared at the opening of the city’s third rally that Nürnberg would henceforth be the permanent locale.

1927 – The 3rd Party Congress (“Day of Awakening”) was held on August 20, 1927. The propaganda film ‘Eine Symphonie des Kampfwillens’ was made at this rally.

The rallies were then held in Nürnberg each September until suspended by the outbreak of war in 1939.

Reichsparteitag – 1933

The early rallies of 1927 and 1929 were marked by improvisation, not only in the planning of scheduled events but also in the use of the city’s spaces and public facilities.
Beginning with the 1933 rally, however, a far more elaborate staging of events and venues evolved.

Reichsparteitag – 1933

The rallies soon developed into carefully orchestrated and predictable affairs that lasted eight full days, attended by as many as a quarter of a million people.

Reichsparteitag – 1933

The ritual began on the first day with the Führer’s dramatic arrival in Nürnberg  followed by a day of march-pasts and cultural events.
Succeeding days were devoted exclusively to the Labour Service, the ideal of community, political leadership, the Hitler Youth and the Storm Troopers.
The final day belonged entirely to the military.
As the events became more elaborated and standardized, so too did the determination to stage the largest and most important of them in a monumental complex of newly constructed arenas, stadia and meeting halls befitting a Reich that was destined to last a thousand years. 
The ‘Rally Grounds’ complex that eventually took shape was located just south-east of the city. 
This area had already been set aside in the late nineteenth century as a pleasure and recreation ground.

Dutzendteich Lake

The foci of the area’s pre-rally development were the Dutzendteich Lake, with its lakeside cafe, and the nearby Luitpold Grove.
The latter was a landscaped pleasure park originally developed as the venue for the 1906 Bavarian Jubilee Exhibition.
In 1928 a memorial to the dead of the First World War was constructed on the north-east side of the park.
The National Socialists, who used the park during the 1927 and 1929 rallies, viewed this open space and particularly its war memorial, which recalled the martyrdom of Germany’s First World War soldiers and the humiliation of the Versailles Peace, as a particularly emotive setting for rally events.

Reichsparteitagsgelände – Nürnberg

The extensive recreational area to the south-east of the city also contained a zoo, a number of sporting fields, a public swimming pool and a municipal stadium with a capacity of 50000. Incorporating all of these existing sites and facilities and more, the official Rally Grounds covered an immense area of 16.5 square kilometres.
A special public corporation (Zweckverband Reichsparteitag Nurnberg) created in 1935 partnered the city of Nürnberg  the state of Bavaria, the Reich and the NSDAP to oversee the development of the grounds.
With the intense backing of Hitler, the project enjoyed priority status for financial and material resources from the beginning.
Between rallies, the grounds became a place of feverish construction, earning the sobriquet ‘the world’s largest building site’.

Luitpold Grove and First World War necropolis

In all there were six major components to the complex, some of which were never completed. 
The first of these was the Luitpold Grove and its First World War necropolis, which became the complex’s most hallowed ceremonial ground.
This facility was completely reworked for the rallies.
The former landscaped pleasure park was levelled, flanked by massive stone grandstands and transformed into the Luitpold Arena.

Luitpold Arena

The resulting formalized space served as the stage for one of the most moving moments of the rally schedule.

On the seventh day of the proceedings, the massed ranks of more than 150 000 SA and SS Storm Troopers filled the floor of the arena.

Hitler and his entourage then passed solemnly between the ranks along a granite path leading straight to the steps of the war memorial, where the Fürhrer would pay his respects to the nation’s and the party’s martyred dead.

Connected to the Luitpold Arena was the Luitpold Hall, a meeting hall with a capacity of 16000 redesigned and enlarged from a structure built for the 1906 Bavarian Jubilee Exhibition.
A second, and equally pivotal, ceremonial space was the Zeppelin Field.
Built between 1934 and 1936, this squareish, stadium-like facility was a radical transformation of what had once been an amateur sports field named after Count Zeppelin, the German airship pioneer, who used it briefly for experimental flights in 1909.


The new facility’s most impressive feature was the Tribune.
This grandiose stone structure, which ran the full length of one side of the field, was the work of the young architect Albert Speer, whom Hitler also commissioned to oversee a master plan for the Rally Grounds complex.


Speer’s Tribune took the form of a long grandstand-like structure, flanked at each end with massive ‘book-end’ pylons, and dignified by a colonnaded screen behind the seating, topped by a giant swastika set in an oak leaf wreath.

A small, squareish podium, or Führer’s rostrum, jutting out from a raised platform at the centre of the structure, allowed Hitler to review the Labour Service battalions and youth groups, and military demonstrations staged by the armed forces.
Two other massive outdoor facilities were planned and begun, although neither was ever completed due to the outbreak of war.


One was the March Field (Marzfeld), the construction of which was prompted in part by the realization that the Zeppelin Field was probably too small to hold the enlarged rallies of the future.
This new arena, which was begun in 1938 on what had been a parade and exercise area for the army, was intended to hold half a million.

Deutsch Stadium

The other was the Deutsch Stadium which was to be a truly colossal affair, with a seating capacity of 405 000 – far more than any other sports stadium in the world.
Indeed, Hitler believed that the completed stadium would become the permanent site for the Olympic Games, which by his decree would henceforth be known as the Germanic World Festival.

Deutsch Stadium

The immense horseshoe-shaped stadium was to be built entirely of stone (enough to severely strain the granite-cutting capacity of the Reich for many years) and magnificently fronted at its open end by a propylaeum and columned courtyard
The structure was also to be adorned on high with gigantic spread-winged eagles, Grecian urns, and 25-metre high equestrian statues.
The cornerstone was laid in 1937, but little of the stadium was ever completed.
The other mega structure of the Rally Grounds was the Congress Hall.


Designed by Ludwig and Franz Ruff in 1934, it was an immense auditorium designed to hold 50,000 Party Congress delegates on its main floor, with room for another 2,400 on its main stage.
This building was situated picturesquely along the north shore of the Dutzendteich Lake. 
Construction was begun in 1935.
Most of the building’s outer shell was completed, but the interior was never finished.
A host of other structures and facilities rounded out the Rally Grounds ensemble.
These included a multi-winged barracks for the SS, built between 1937 and 1939 on the western edge of the grounds; the old municipal stadium, which continued to be used for parades and Hitler Youth events; a number of permanent camps on the southern and eastern peripheries that housed participants belonging to various organized groups, such as the SA, the SS, the Labour Service, the Hitler Youth, the Strength through Joy and the Young Women’s organizations.
The largest of these camps, known as the Langwasser, was spacious enough to accommodate more than 200 000 people.
In addition, two railway stations served the grounds, one near the camps and the other just to the east of the Zeppelin Field.
A power station and water tower provided the camps with basic services.

The rallies were political spectacle extraordinaire.
They drew heavily on a tradition of national festivities and public celebrations in Germany dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, but were consciously designed to employ every conceivable tool that could transport crowds into a state in which they subconsciously surrendered themselves en-masse to the high drama and mystical euphoria of the moment. 
The result was indeed thought of as a Gesamtkunstwerk or ‘total work of art’.

Richard Wagner

A Gesamtkunstwerk (translated as total work of art, ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form or total artwork) is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so. The term is a German word which has come to be accepted as a term in aesthetics.

The term was first used by the German writer and philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff in an essay in 1827. The German opera composer Richard Wagner used the term in two 1849 essays. It is unclear whether Wagner knew of Trahndorff’s essay. The word has become particularly associated with Wagner’s aesthetic ideals.

Hitler Jugend Trommler

To accomplish this the proceedings relied heavily on the stirring and anticipatory effects of martial music, trumpeted fanfares and thundering drums; on the visually exhilarating effects of massed blocks of uniformed marching men and women, phalanxes of flags and standards, and the surreal effects cast by thousands of flickering torches; and on the ecstatic effects of spell-bindingly oratory and mass proclamations of loyalty.
One of the most spectacular examples of the highly choreographed proceedings took place in the Zeppelin Field.
On the evening of the fifth day, the so-called ‘day of the political leaders’, the review field, which held as many as 100 000, and the surrounding stands, which held as many as 150 000 more, were filled to capacity.

Lichtdom – Cathedral of Light

As darkness fell anticipation ran high among the closely packed, torch-lit crowd.
At a precise moment, spotlights illuminated Hitler’s entrance to the field.
As the Führer then strode across the field to mount the podium in front of the Tribune, 150 powerful searchlights around the perimeter of the field suddenly shot their long beams into the sky to envelope the proceedings in a ghostly ‘Cathedral of Light’.
As Hitler prepared to harangue the crowd from his podium, excitement culminated amongst the assembled multitude with the exhilarating sight of tens of thousands of swastika flags and gleaming silver standards rushing forward in waves through the crowds, rousing the faithful into a sort of ‘sacred’ fervour.’
The evening ended with the mass singing of the national anthem.
This meticulously orchestrated emotional scene, artfully caught on film by Leni Riefenstahl and shown around the world, best exemplified the spellbinding and almost sacral atmosphere that characterized the rallies.
To be ultimately successful, however, all of this required a perfect venue just the right use of space and architecture.
Careful attention to the use of space and spatial layout therefore loomed large in the design of all rally facilities.
Hitler himself had strong views on the utility of space for the manipulation of a crowd’s attention and mood.

Rectangular spaces were deemed most effective, especially when they could be precisely defined on all sides by surrounding stands and stages, and seemingly isolated from the rest of the world by encircling displays of flags, banners and statuary, or – as in the case of the night rallies in the Zeppelin Field – by walls of light set against the dark sky.
Clear lines of sight and direction were also important, as demonstrated by the layout of the ‘granite path’ that bisected the Luitpold Arena as it led to the steps of the War Memorial, or in the focal position of the Fuhrer’s rostrum at the centre of the Zeppelin Field Tribune and at the end of a main axis emanating from the entrance in the middle of the stands directly across the way.
Size was also important.
Rally facilities needed very large capacities so that the crowds in the stands along with the standing or marching participants massed on the field or auditorium floor could create an impression of immense human strength and solidarity.

Thus, impressive as the mass ceremonies in the Luitpold Arena and Zeppelin Field may have been, an immediate need was felt for even larger facilities, such as the March Field and German Stadium.
The spatial layout of the entire grounds was also the subject of meticulous planning.
A master plan, replete with a scale model mock-up, was in place by 1935.
A central axis or ‘Great Road’ ran for two kilometres in a north-westerly direction from the centre of Hitler’s reviewing stand on the March Field to a great square just outside the Congress Hall. 

Reichsparteitagsgelände – Nürnberg

Designed to be 80 metres wide and paved with 60 000 gigantic square slabs of granite, the Great Road created a grand processional way capable of conveying great columns of parading troops and rally goers.
Once completed in 1939, the Great Road strictly aligned with the newer facilities – the March Field, the German Stadium, the Congress Hall and the various residence camps.
The older facilities, whose location and orientation could not be changed, related somewhat awkwardly, but not at angles that placed them at great variance to the thrust of the axis.
In a rather obvious attempt to link the Rally Grounds to the ‘historic’ greatness of the host city, the Great Road aligned directly with Nuremberg’s old imperial festung (fortress), which dominated the old city’s distant skyline.

Equally important was the use of architecture.
Hitler considered himself an aficionado of architectural history and technique; he considered himself a master builder, and dreamed of leaving a lasting physical imprint on German cities and landscapes.

He understood the power of monumental building and spent countless hours fussing over architectural plans of various projects, among which the Rally Grounds held special importance. 
The designs of rally buildings and arenas had to satisfy multiple goals.
Their primary purpose was to under-gird the ritual spectacle of the various rally events; but these edifices were also meant to impress and instruct in the sense that the heroic ideals and scale of the National Socialist movement should be evident in their form and style.
They were also built to endure as an eternal testament to the power and grandeur of the Third Reich.
In Nazi Germany, the need to impress and instruct was an imperative that usually translated architecturally into gigantism.
Speer classified the buildings for the Rally Grounds as ‘assembly architecture’, the purpose of which was to awe and inspire masses of people.
Structures were therefore designed to overwhelm the senses by their sheer size.
The plan for the German Stadium, for example, was so immense that spectators in the upper stands would have been hard pressed to observe the action on the field below without the aid of field glasses.
The entrance pylons, portals and galleries of all of the facilities were typically far larger than life-the better to diminish those who passed through them.
Thus, the vast lobbies that were to run beneath the seats of the German Stadium were designed to tower, cathedral-like, over the spaces they enclosed, while immense columns, pylons, statuary, emblems and symbols adorned the exteriors of stadia and buildings alike.
The monumental dimensions of the Rally Grounds structures were a simple but effective means of impressing on the masses the extraordinary largeness and all-embracing character of National Socialist life.
The projects personally commissioned and supervised by Hitler, which include Speer’s designs for the Party Rally Grounds reflect Hitler’s taste for neo-classical forms.

Schinkel – Altes Museum

Neoclassical architecture is an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing features of Late Baroque. In its purest form it is a style principally derived from the architecture of Classical Greece and Rome and the architecture of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio.

Neue Wache – Schinkel

In form, Neoclassical architecture emphasizes the wall rather than chiaroscuro and maintains separate identities to each of its parts.
Neoclassical architecture tends to emphasize its planar qualities, rather than sculptural volumes. Projections and recessions and their effects of light and shade are more flat; sculptural bas-reliefs are flatter and tend to be enframed in friezes, tablets or panels. Its clearly articulated individual features are isolated rather than interpenetrating, autonomous and complete in themselves.

Pergamon Altar 

Speer’s design for the Zeppelin Field Tribune bears clear similarities to the Pergamon Altar of Hellenistic Greece, just as the German Stadium resembles the stadium of Herodes Atticus in Athens.

Reconstruction of the Colosseum – Rome

There are also rather obvious similarities between the Colosseum in Rome and the Congress Hall, the design of which underwent changes inspired by Hitler’s 1938 visit to Rome.
Hitler and his architects were clearly attracted to the idea of using the architectural forms of a heroic classical past, particularly those of ancient Greece, as a means of legitimizing and grounding their vision of the present and future.
In fact, however, the work done by Speer on the Rally Grounds went beyond the standard neo-classical mould, for his buildings also incorporated a certain modern abstract formalism derived from the Art Deco style of the 1920s.
Many of the buildings thus were noteworthy for their employment of cubic mass, emphasis on right angles, great flat surfaces and solid angular decoration.

The end result was a sort of abstract or modernized neo-classicism that managed to seem heroic, solid and forward-looking all at the same time – an theme that was highly compatible with the political style of  National Socialism, which so often strived to bring together carefully selected attributes of the old and the new.
The final imperative was the command to endure.
In his memoirs, Albert Speer reports that ‘Hitler liked to say that the purpose of his building was to transmit his time and its spirit to posterity‘, adding: ‘Ultimately, all that remained to remind men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture.’
Speer produced two recommendations that Hitler strongly endorsed.

Congress Hall

First, monumental buildings should feature time-honoured and natural materials that express a ‘bridge of tradition‘ to future generations, rather than modern and anonymous materials. 
Second, monumental structures should be built to last so that, after thousands of years, a set of aesthetically acceptable ruins might remain, like those of the Greeks and Romans, as a testament to future generations.

Congress Hall

Consequently, the buildings of the Rally Grounds utilized ideologically acceptable and permanent materials like granite and marble whenever possible, and this also allowed at least some construction to continue during the war years, as iron, steel and concrete became increasingly reserved for weapons production.
The spectacle of the rallies thus unfolded, in part, within an ensemble of buildings and stadia designed both spatially and architecturally to enhance the involvement of rally participants and observers, to heighten the propaganda value of the rallies, and to leave a permanent record in stone that would impress and instruct long after its builders were gone.
The grounds were intended to become a sacred place – a site of cult-like celebration of strength and unity under National Socialism.
In the words of regime spokesperson Otto Dietrich, speaking at the 1935 rally, ‘This sacred site of the Party Rally Grounds with its unique concepts of architecture and use of space will be the highest symbol of National Socialist life and National Socialist culture, in it the unique style of German National Socialism will find its strongest expression.

The City


In 1937 Germany’s flagship art and architectural journal lavishly featured the new rally buildings as ‘a monument of pride‘.
Given the high visibility afforded to the rallies by the regime’s propaganda apparatus and the monumental nature of its architecture, it is not surprising that scholars have remained largely fixated on the Rally Grounds.
Yet this narrow focus overlooks another component of the National Socialist building programme that developed within Nürnberg’s medieval walls, in parallel with the new rally structures.
Nürnberg was chosen as the location for the annual rallies partially because of its historical symbolism.
The city’s historic centre accordingly became an additional focal point for rally activities.
In many ways, Nürnberg’s historic centre served as an extension of the official rally grounds. 
And like the existing facilities at the Luitpold Arena or the Zeppelin Field, Nürnberg’s historic squares, buildings and fortifications also required systematic reworking to reinforce the regime’s political objectives.
As planning and construction proceeded on the Rally Grounds, local party officials with the support of the national leadership aggressively launched a broad campaign to restore, preserve and improve Nürnberg’s historic centre.
The preservation campaign within Nürnberg’s medieval walls was intended both to create a ‘monument of pride‘ that would remind the nation of its past greatness and, like the new Rally Grounds, to signal the onset of a new and glorious age.
Although scholars have produced countless volumes analysing the urban planning policies and architectural styles favoured by the Third Reich, historical preservation has only recently emerged as a subject of interest.
Reflecting this relative inattention paid to historical preservation, those who have explored the structures and symbolism of the rallies have tended to minimize the role of projects undertaken in Nürnberg’s historic centre in creating an appropriate atmosphere for the rallies.
Yet Nuremberg’s historic centre was not a mere footnote to the massive spectacles on the Rally Grounds, but rather a constituent element in efforts to project and legitimize the National Socialist regime’s authority and legitimacy.
NSDAP officials embarked on a purposeful program to adapt Nürnberg s centre to a specific vision of history that would buttress the NSDAP’s political authority, and its self-image as chief steward and pinnacle of German cultural and historical greatness.

Mayor Willy Liebel

These efforts, led by Mayor Willy Liebel, were implemented by a small cadre of professional architects, preservationists and urban planners sympathetic to the regime’s apparent commitment to preserving and restoring Germany’s historical monuments.
According to municipal preservationist Julius Lincke: The reawakening of the German spirit has also reawakened the sense of German history everywhere.
The remaining monuments to the existence and achievements of the German Volk, that had often sunken down to mere sites for a few summer tourists, have again become relics of the German Volk, for whose preservation everything must be done.
In general, historical preservation in Nürnberg focused on three main themes.
The first involved the restoration of historical structures, while the second focused on removing the ‘building sins‘ of previous generations in an attempt to ‘cleanse‘, ‘purify‘ or otherwise aesthetically improve Nürnberg’s historical image.
Building sins‘ in this context usually referred to commercial buildings featuring modernist designs built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Thirdly, preservation projects served to symbolize the NSDAP’s desired close connections with specific aspects of German medieval history.
Although wide-ranging, these three themes helped re-frame the past and present so that the NSDAP, under Hitler’s leadership, appeared as an inevitable historical culmination that would reconcile the German nation’s cultural greatness with modernity, and save the nation from racial and cultural degeneration.

Adolf Hitler – Albert Speer
and Willy Liebel

Indeed, Mayor Liebel declared that ‘the National Socialist city administration considers it as one of its most important tasks, to preserve the countless beauties of the old town and to free it from the defacements that it was partially exposed to in recent decades‘.
In order to demonstrate the party’s commitment to this cause, Liebel ordered work to begin immediately on the ‘restoration of architectural and artistic monuments threatened by decay, the purification of disturbing advertising and architectural disfigurements from the image of the old town, and the renovation of the old town‘.
Given the dual importance of Nürnberg’s main market square, as both the city’s historical centre and site of several parades and activities during the annual rallies, local leaders decided to focus their initial efforts here.

They began by renaming the square, originally called the ‘Hauptmarkt’, to ‘Adolf-Hitler-Platz’, but it was soon evident that they would not be satisfied with mere semantic changes.

Adolf-Hitler-Platz – Nürnberg
Adolf-Hitler-Platz – Nürnberg

During late 1933 and early 1934, more substantive measures were undertaken to have a redesigned and improved ‘Adolf-Hitler-Platz’ complete for the 1934 rallies.
The centrepiece of the effort was the renovation of the Telegraph Building.
Heinrich Hohn, a staff member of the German National Museum in Nürnberg  singled out this neo-gothic building, built in the 1870s, as an ‘unbearable foreign body‘ that disturbed the square’s medieval charm.
Although cost considerations prevented its complete demolition, the Telegraph Building received a dramatic facelift.
The building’s new simplified façade and pitched roof aimed to complement neighbouring structures and create a more orderly aesthetic, while new murals added to the façade provided an unmistakable message.
In addition to targeting modern architecture, officials worked to realign windows and doors to harmonize the façades of buildings surrounding the square to conform to National Socialist visual and ideological preferences.

Nürnberg Kaiserburg

While the municipal administration concentrated on re-framing Nürnberg’s main square, the Bavarian president, Ludwig Siebert, and the Zweckverband financed the restoration of Nürnberg’s Kaiserburg (imperial castle – or Festung) under the justification that it ‘served the representative purposes of the state‘.
The festung, set at the north-western corner of the city’s medieval fortifications, represented a potent symbol of medieval Germany’s political and cultural greatness.

Nürnberg – Kaiserburg

Although much of its historic exterior remained intact, the interior had undergone significant modifications during the nineteenth century.
Like the redesigned ‘Adolf-Hitler-platz’, restoration work inside the festung aimed for a ‘thorough cleansing‘ of nineteenth century additions.
The restorations strived for a rather simple, modest and orderly appearance intended to revive the festung’s ‘pure and unadulterated state‘.
The overall effect was to return the festung to its ‘original monumental character and its powerful dignity‘.

Hitler Youth leaders Hostel

Later projects converted portions of the festung complex into an immense youth hostel with facilities for Hitler Youth leaders.
The local administration hoped that the newly renovated hostel would immerse youths in the experience of the party rallies, optimistically proclaiming that ‘thousands of German boys and girls will pass through the hostel and take something of the spirit of greatness that prevails in it into their future life‘.
Nürnberg also conducted a ‘cleansing‘ of its medieval fortifications.
Local officials ordered vegetation stripped from the ramparts, refuse cleared, dilapidated sections of wall repaired and new footpaths laid out along the moats and trenches to create unobstructed views of Nürnberg’s military heritage.
The extensive restoration work on the festung and fortifications simultaneously demonstrated the regime’s dedication to preserving historical monuments, accentuated the martial aspects of Nürnberg’s historical architecture, and integrated these medieval relics into an orderly and disciplined urban landscape.

Holy Spirit Hospital – Nürnberg
Rathaus – Nürnberg

Most other municipal historic buildings also underwent some degree of restoration during the Third Reich, including the Rathaus (town hall), the Holy Spirit Hospital and many of the town’s churches. Although the NSDAP had limited legal authority over the rights of property owners, local officials were able to pressure many home-owners into making aesthetic changes.
Historic preservation efforts focused on giving homes and businesses an ‘Old German‘ look by exposing half-timbering, as well as removing obtrusive signs of commerce and modern architectural forms like flat roofs.
Referring to the latter structure, a local administrative report celebrated how ‘one of the ugliest homes in the old town has today become one of the most beautiful’.
By 1941, the administration claimed that municipal funds were partially responsible for the restoration of approximately 400 buildings.

Nürnberg Synagogue
Nürnberg Synagogue

Although local officials used strong rhetoric when describing all preservation projects, their criticisms of Nürnberg’s Synagogue were especially virulent.
Like other structures targeted for removal, the synagogue was built in a late nineteenth century historicist style, making it doubly objectionable to National Socialist ideologues.
Walter Brugmann, a local architectural consultant, had already identified this ‘Moorish-style‘ synagogue as a ‘building sin‘ in 1934.
The building’s perceived ‘foreign‘ architectural style was compounded by its seemingly disproportionate size.

Walter Brugmann

Brugmann suggested a new porch as a partial remedy, but officials chose a more radical solution.
The National Socialist building programme in Nürnberg’s historic centre clearly intended to do more than just preserve historical architecture.
It intersected in practice, rhetoric and goals with several basic tenets of National Socialist ideology.
First, the programme allowed the regime to demonstrate its support for preserving Germany’s historical treasures, a goal with significant support among middle- and upper-class Germans. 

Wappen des Heiligen
Römischen Reiches
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Preserving historical structures, especially those that dated to the Middle Ages, also connected the Third Reich with the perceived golden age of the Heiligen Römischen Reiches (Holy Roman Empire).
To suggest this narrative, officials and preservationists attacked, in both rhetoric and practice, the material reminders of the period separating this golden past from the glorious present and future.
By erasing the physical traces of this perceived downfall from the urban landscape a closer symbolic connection between medieval and National Socialist Germany was created.
The monumental nature of Nürnberg’s urban fabric could thus represent the ideals of a traditional and cohesive community that coincided with National Socialist calls for order, obedience and sacrifice.
Nürnberg is the best preserved large city of the German Middle Ages,’ art historian Friedrich Kriegbaum proclaimed,
Like hardly any other city, it is a grandiose self-portrayal of urban communal will in built form.’
Finally, the use of biological metaphors in urban planning and preservation discourse reflected the regime’s concern with race.
The programme to ‘cleanse‘ Nuremberg’s urban landscape of undue ‘foreign‘ and commercial influences buttressed efforts to construct a racially pure nation.
Germany’s urban areas, like the nation itself, were viewed as threatened by foreign contaminants that had to be purged before Germany could reach its full potential.
Looking back at the first years of the campaign, Brugmann noted with satisfaction that the ‘city wall and ditches, the castle, the churches, the patrician and burgher homes were preserved in a perfectly professional manner and the alleys of old Nuremberg were decisively cleansed of excessive “commercialism”.’
While such themes were common in preservation and urban planning throughout the Third Reich, Nürnberg’s role as the site of the annual rallies added a special impetus and visibility to these efforts.
As Brugmann took pains to emphasize,
‘Nürnberg, fully conscious of this high distinction and honour, endeavours to give this new purpose an adequate frame by preserving and restoring the matchless beauty of its ancient scenery, by erecting new buildings, widening its streets, and by making other improvements.’

The ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ Nürnberg

Stadtwappen von Nürnberg
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
‘Old’ and ‘New’ Nürnberg

We have so far reviewed the general course of the National Socialist building programme both within Nürnberg’s medieval walls and on the rally grounds located a short distance outside.
The latter foresaw the construction of mammoth, modernized neo-classical structures, while the other focused on reworking relatively small details thought to contrast with Nuremberg’s medieval heritage.
Although seemingly irreconcilable in style, form and scale, these two projects were seen as complementary.
Viewing them in isolation provides only a partial and somewhat misleading view of Nürnberg’s practical and symbolic role in National Socilaist Germany.

Fleischbruecke – Old Nürnberg

These were not separate projects, but intimately intertwined as necessary elements of the regime’s programme to create and project images of historical greatness, current political legitimacy and promises of future grandeur.
Friedrich Bock, a local library director, succinctly laid out this historical trajectory in his 1938 book ‘Nürnberg  from the city of the Imperial Diets to the city of the Party Rallies’.
Bock constructed a narrative that painted medieval Nürnberg in glowing terms.
This golden age was, however, followed by a period of neglect and cultural decline, especially during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The National Socilaist seizure of power in 1933 marked a rebirth.
The Third Reich has again brought great honour to the city,‘ Bock explained; ‘it has again become, like during the height of the Middle Ages, one of the capitals of the Reich and, as in the proud imperial times, its name will be named together with the leaders of the Reich.’
For Bock, the Rally Grounds and improvements to the city centre symbolized Nürnberg’s renewal and rejuvenation.
In this way it is possible‘, Bock reasoned, ‘to organically connect the old city of the Imperial Diets with the new city of the Party Rallies through the centuries.’

Indeed, after the annexation of Austria in 1938, Hitler ordered the crown jewels and regalia of the old Holy Roman Empire returned from Vienna to Nürnberg for permanent display. 
Nürnberg thus signified a resurrection of past national greatness under the leadership of the NSDAP.

Adolf Hitler views the Reichskleinodien in Nürnberg

The Imperial Regalia are the only completely preserved regalia from the Middle Ages. During the late Middle Ages, the word Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien) had many variations in the Latin language. The regalia were either named in Latin: insignia imperialia, regalia insignia, insignia imperalis capellae quae regalia dicuntur and other similar words.
Nürnberger Kleinodien (roughly translated Nürnberg jewels), named after the town of Nürnberg where the regalia were kept from 1424 to 1796. This part comprised the Imperial Crown, parts of the coronation vestments, the Imperial Orb (a globus cruciger), the Imperial Sceptre, the Imperial Sword, the Ceremonial Sword, the Imperial Cross, the Holy Lance (‘Spear of Dstiny’), and other reliquiaries.
Today they are kept at the Schatzkammer Treasury in the Hofburg palace in Vienna, Austria.


Carl Sabo’s book developed these same connections between the city’s past and present:
For centuries Nürnberg as city of the gleaming Imperial Diets of the German emperors and kings stood in the centre of German history. With the designation as the city of the party rallies by the Fuihrer, Nuremberg is today placed anew in the centre of German happenings. The gates of the city will be stone witnesses to these new glory days for the future.’
Introducing the book, Mayor Liebel hoped visitors, whether during the rallies or some other time of year, would feel this same impression. ‘What of a visit to Nürnberg makes the deepest expression‘, Liebel explained, ‘is the inner connection between the venerated past and the living and proud present.’
Party officials made a special effort to reinforce this message for young Germans.
Gottlieb Schwemmer, a government building official, authored an easy-reading political history for young Germans.
After a cursory overview of Nürnberg’s early history, Schwemmer described the nineteenth century as a period of cultural decline triggered by capitalism.
The city’s recent resurgence under National Socilaist leadership was gradually correcting these past mistakes.
The city, that remained true to the symbols of the old empire as no other’, Schwemmer argued, ‘is also above all others determined to have the greatest monuments in its enchanted setting, on which the reflection of the coming epoch already rests.’
Through the combination of its old medieval centre and the new rally complex, Nürnberg would become an eternal symbol of German, and more specifically National Socialist, achievements. 
Another book, by Werner Dittschlag, made a similar point for German girls.
Dittschlag began by comparing the tale of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with Nürnberg 
Like a fairy-tale princess, Nürnberg had originally been a beautiful, vibrant city but was forced to endure an anguished slumber during the nineteenth century.
Once Hitler woke Nuremberg, ‘the old spirit of heroic deeds and loyalty returned within its walls…. Nuremberg is once again a “centre point of the Reich”, the Third Reich.
The book details the role of women and girls in the rallies, and concludes by describing the massive structures planned for future rallies.
Beyond the pomp of rally activities, these new structures and Nürnberg’s medieval centre were destined to form an impressive new whole.
As Dittschlag explained: ‘Every German girl and every German boy will burn with desire to see the old and the new Nuremberg.
Connections between these two Nürnbergs were necessary to legitimate National Socialism as the natural heir to Germany’s proud history.
A girls’ magazine produced by the party visually encapsulated this message for its readers.
The cover features an eagle, long a symbol of Germany, surveying past and current symbols of German greatness.
A drawing of the Zeppelin Field fills the foreground, while the silhouette of Nuremberg’s castle and fortifications provides a shadowy backdrop.
Schwemmer had been keen to point out to his readers that the entire rally complex ‘served as a counterbalance to the distant imperial castle which welcomes one into Nürnberg’s landscape image‘.

Nürnberg – Reichsparteitag 1937

But efforts to forge connections between the rallies andNürnberg’s medieval past often went beyond mere verbal assertions.
As we have seen, the Great Road, the broad central axis of the rally grounds, was purposely aligned with Nürnberg’s imperial festung, several kilometres to the north.
The cover of a special issue of ‘Die neue Linie’, featuring the 1938 party rallies, offers a simplified representation of this relationship.
Indeed, connecting the rally grounds with the symbols of medieval Nürnberg was central to the iconography of the rallies.

Nürnberg – Reichsparteitag 1937 – Poster

The official poster from the 1937 rallies, for example, juxtaposed Nürnberg festung with searchlights from the rally grounds.
The performative nature of the rallies also worked to highlight the conceptual message inherent in the National Socilaist building programme in Nürnberg.
In many ways, the most dramatic performances of the rallies featured enormous parades of the various party organizations.
It is no coincidence that many of these parade routes actually connected Nürnberg’s imperial festung, Adolf-Hitler-Platz and the new Rally Grounds.
These repeated spectacles of mass parades symbolically and literally constructed linkages between the medieval Holy Roman Empire and Hitler’s Third Reich.
This trajectory was further enshrined in Leni Riefenstahl’s ground-breaking film of the 1934 rallies, ‘Triumph of the Will’.

The film’s opening sequences couple footage of Hitler’s triumphal entry into old Nürnberg with lingering shots of Nürnberg’s historic buildings.

Another long scene toward the end of ‘Triumph’ complements coverage of Hitler reviewing a parade from the Adolf-Hitler-Platz with lavish views of old Nürnberg streetscapes.
The National Socilaist building programme reworked Nürnberg’s historical centre to represent, convey and historicize the National Socilaist movement and its ideology.
Together with the massive new structures planned for the rallies,Nürnberg’s historical centre helped portray the Third Reich as the culmination of past historical greatness and the redeemer of a truly German national culture.
There were certainly other places where the National Socilaist leaders planned to redesign cities around mammoth new structures, most famously their plans completely to redesign Berlin into the capital, Germania.
There were also numerous programmes to preserve historical buildings, especially in smaller towns like Rothenburg.
Nürnberg, in comparison, was the only place where the regime aggressively pursued both objectives.
It seemed only fitting that, as one popular guidebook declared of Nürnberg  ‘the old stronghold of the German imperial idea of the Middle Ages is today the stronghold of the new Reich‘. 
While numerous rulers, governments and political movements have constructed grandiose monuments and staged lavish ceremonies, few such efforts can rival the impact of the Nürnberg Party Rallies.
The rallies awed millions of contemporary Germans, as well as countless foreign observers. 
Indeed, Riefenstahl’s ‘Triumph of the Will’ won awards in Germany, Italy and even the Grand Prize at the Paris International Film Festival in 1937.
And even 60 years after the collapse of Hitler’s Reich, these images of unity and power continue to fascinate.
Yet, given the repeated use of politicized monuments and spectacles by numerous regimes throughout history, the reasons why the Nuremberg rallies in particular should have such a lasting legacy remain somewhat obscure.
Many contemporary observers and later scholars credited the sheer size of the rallies.
While the rallies were certainly massive, we believe that a greater awareness of the calculated use of place, space and architecture can lead to a more nuanced understanding of the intense emotional response generated by the rallies and the reasons the rallies achieved nearly iconographic status for later generations.
As a 1938 issue of ‘Die neue Linie’ explained: ‘From the first Imperial Diets, that took place in the thirteenth century, to the Party Rallies, the destiny of the city resolutely followed this mission like a pre-planned parade route.’ This calculated utilization of architecture, spectacle and place helped link the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Nürnberg to project and legitimize a vision of past, present and future.

Festliches Nürnberg

Festliches Nürnberg

‘Festliches Nürnberg’ (Festive Nuremberg) is a short 1937 film chronicling the Nürnberg Reichsparteitag in Germany in 1936 and 1937.
The film was directed by Hans Weidemann.
The film runs in colour for 21 minutes (although the downloadable version at the Internet archive is monochrome only, and has no English translation of the commentary), containing footage of the 8th and 9th Nürnberg Rallies.
Particularly notable scenes of both the rally and the film are images of Albert Speer’s lighting techniques during the 9th Nuremberg rally on 10 September 1937, in which he positioned 134 searchlights circling the Zeppelin field on which the rally was taking place.

‘Lichtdom’ (Cathedral of Light)

The beams of these spotlights, forming the ‘Lichtdom’ (Cathedral of Light), merged into the general glow at an estimated height of 20,000 feet.
The film is relatively short at only about 21 minutes compared with the longer ‘Triumph des Willens’ and ‘Der Sieg des Glaubens’ made by Leni Riefenstahl in 1933 and 1934 respectively (see above). It adopts the same style with many scenes of marching SS men and Wehrmacht soldiers, as well as navy personnel and flying aircraft overhead.
With some prescience, scenes of soldiers parading in tanks and other vehicles (with guns firing) assume great prominence.
The film concludes with sequences of folk dances and gymnastic displays, followed by a torchlight parade and a brief speech from Hitler.
Since the formation of the NSDAP in 1923, annual rallies had taken place at Nürnberg  mainly orchestrated by the ‘minister for public enlightenment’ Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels.
The NSDAP also called upon architect Albert Speer to create a number of spectacles to inspire the German population.
The 8th and 9th of these rallies were known as the ‘Reichsparteitag der Ehre’ (Rally of Honor) and the ‘Reichsparteitag der Arbeit’ (Rally of Labor) respectively for 1937 and 1938. 

The film followed the much longer Riefenstahl films of 1933 and 1934, and the reason for the smaller movie is not known, indeed, many of the film sequences follow Riefenstahl quite closely, such as the introduction using aerial shots of the city of Nuremberg.
The score uses Richard Wagner’s ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ for musical accompaniment. 

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013