The Nuremberg Rally (officially Reichsparteitag (help·info), meaning Reich national party convention) was the annual rally of the NSDAP (Nazi Party) in Germany, held from 1923 to 1938. Especially after Hitler's rise to power in 1933, they were large Nazi propaganda events. The Reichsparteitage were held annually at the Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg from 1933 to 1938 and are thus usually referred to in English as the Nuremberg Rallies.
History and purpose
The first rallies by the NSDAP took place in 1923 in Munich and 1926 in Weimar. From 1927 on, they ran exclusively in Nuremberg. Nuremberg was selected for pragmatic reasons: It was situated in the center of the German Reich and the local Luitpoldhain was well suited as a venue. In addition, the NSDAP was able to rely on the well organized local strand of the party in Franconia, then led by Gauleiter Julius Streicher. The Nuremberg police were sympathetic to the event. Later, the location was justified by putting it into the tradition of the Reichstag in the Holy Roman Empire. After 1933, the rallies were held near the time of the Autumn equinox under the label of "Reichsparteitage des deutschen Volkes" ("National Congress of the Party of the German People"), which was meant to symbolize the solidarity between the German people and the Nazi Party. This point was further emphasized by the yearly growing number of participants, which finally reached over half a million from all sections of the party, the army and the state.
The Nuremberg Rallies
Each rally was given a programmatic title, which related to recent national events:
- 1923 – The First Party Congress was held in Munich on January 27, 1923.
- 1923 – The "German day rally" was held in Nuremberg on September 1, 1923.
- 1926 – The 2nd Party Congress ("Refounding Congress") was held in Weimar on July 4, 1926.
- 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.
- 1929 – The 4th Party Congress, known as the "Day of Composure", was held on August 2, 1929. The propaganda film Der Nürnberger Parteitag der NSDAP was made at this rally.
- 1933 – The 5th Party Congress was called the "Rally of Victory" (Reichsparteitag des Sieges). The term "victory" relates to the Nazi seizure of power and the victory over the Weimar Republic. The Leni Riefenstahl film Der Sieg des Glaubens was made at this rally.
- 1934 – The 6th Party Congress initially did not have a theme. Later it was labeled the "Rally of Unity and Strength" (Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke), "Rally of Power" (Reichsparteitag der Macht), or "Rally of Will" (Reichsparteitag des Willens). The Leni Riefenstahl film Triumph des Willens was made at this rally.
- 1935 – The 7th Party Congress was called the "Rally of Freedom" (Reichsparteitag der Freiheit). "Freedom" referred to the reintroduced compulsory military service and thus the German "liberation" from the Treaty of Versailles. The Leni Riefenstahl film Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht was made at this rally, and the Nuremberg Laws were introduced.
- 1936 – The 8th Party Congress was known as the "Rally of Honour" (Reichsparteitag der Ehre). The remilitarization of the demilitarized Rhineland in March 1936 constituted the restoration of German honour in the eyes of many Germans. The film Festliches Nürnberg incorporated footage shot at this rally, as well as the rally of 1937.
- 1937 – The 9th Party Congress was called the "Rally of Labour" (Reichsparteitag der Arbeit). It celebrated the reduction of unemployment in Germany since the Nazi rise to power. This rally was particularly notable due to Albert Speer's Cathedral of light: 152 searchlights that cast vertical beams into the sky around the Zeppelin Field to symbolise the walls of a building and the attendance of Prince Chichibu, a brother of the Emperor of Japan, who had a personal meeting with Adolf Hitler to boost relations between Japan and Germany. Festliches Nürnberg incorporated footage made at this rally.
- 1938 – The 10th Party Congress was named the "Rally of Greater Germany" (Reichsparteitag Großdeutschland). This was due to the annexation of Austria to Germany that had taken place earlier in the year.
- 1939 – The 11th Party Congress was given the name "Rally of Peace" (Reichsparteitag des Friedens). It was meant to reiterate the German desire for peace, both to the German population and to other countries. It was cancelled on short notice, as one day before the planned date on September 1, Germany began its offensive against Poland (which ignited World War II).
The primary aspect of the Nuremberg Rallies was to strengthen the personality cult of Adolf Hitler, portraying Hitler as Germany's saviour, chosen by providence. The gathered masses listened to the Führer's speeches, swore loyalty and marched before him. Representing the Volksgemeinschaft as a whole, the rallies served to demonstrate the might of the German people. The visitors of the rallies by their own free will were subordinate to the discipline and order in which they should be reborn as a new people.
Official films for the rallies began in 1927, with the establishment of the NSDAP film office. However the most famous films were the ones made by Leni Riefenstahl for the rallies between 1933 and 1935. Relating to the theme of the rally, she called her first movie "Victory of Faith" (Der Sieg des Glaubens). However this movie was taken out of circulation after the Röhm-Putsch. The rally of 1934 became the setting for the award-winning documentary film Triumph of the Will (Triumph des Willens). However, several generals in the Wehrmacht protested over the minimal army presence in the film. Hitler apparently proposed modifying the film to placate the generals, but Riefenstahl refused his suggestion. She did agree to return to the 1935 rally and make a film exclusively about the Wehrmacht, which became Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht.
The rallies for 1936 and 1937 were covered in Festliches Nürnberg, which was shorter than the others, only 21 minutes.
There were two sets of official or semi-official books covering the rallies. The "red books" were officially published by the NSDAP and contained the proceedings of the "congress" as well as full texts of every speech given in chronological order.
The "blue books" were not published by the party press, but rather initially by Julius Streicher, the Gauleiter of Nuremberg, later by Hanns Kerrl. These were larger scale books that included the text of speeches and proceedings, as well as larger photographs.
In addition to these, collections of Heinrich Hoffman's photographs were published to commemorate each Party congress, as well as pamphets of Hitler's speeches. Both series of books are much sought after collectors items.
- Nazi propaganda
- Ruins of the Reich
- A summary of the Nuremberg books from the World Future Fund
- The Schedules for the Parteitags of 1934-1938
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