The depraved architects of death

Wednesday, 25 July, 2012

Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War by the French architectural historian and architect Jean-Louis Cohen establishes “one big, awful, inescapable truth”, writes Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books. According to Filler: “the full potential of twentieth-century architecture, engineering, and design was realized not in the social-welfare and urban-improvement schemes beloved by the early proponents of the Modern Movement, but rather through technologies perfected during the two world wars to slaughter vast armies, destroy entire cities, decimate noncombatant populations, and industrialize genocide.”

Who were these evil proponents of horror? Filler notes that “one of the principal designers of the Auschwitz death factory, Fritz Ertl, was trained at the Bauhaus, the German design school we now associate with the most enlightened aspects of the new architecture. Ertl’s partner in crime at Auschwitz was the all-too-aptly named architect August Schlachter (slaughterer). Their thoroughly depraved SS boss, Hans Kammler, was an architect who had worked under the socially aware Berlin housing architect Paul Mebes during the Weimar period. Even though Hitler’s personal hatred for the supposedly un-Germanic International Style led his acolytes to reject its outward manifestations in favor of traditional Völkisch motifs (especially the pitched roof), they were all too willing to retain the internal functional improvements of Modernism and apply them wholeheartedly to the Nazi killing machine.”

Nazi design in Munich

Our photo shows one of the two office buildings the Nazis built at the east end of the Königsplatz in Munich, the so-called Verwaltungsbau (Administration Building). Designed by architect Paul Ludwig Troost in 1934, it housed the records of the seven million Nazi party members.

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