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The Nuremberg Party Rallies: 1923-1939

By: Hamilton T Burden (432.1/36096)
Publisher: Pall Mall Press
From the John Laffin Library

Throughout history, nations have held rallies and triumphal processions to celebrate victories or display their power. But few exhibitions could have been more awesome-or more macabre than those held by the German National Socialist Workers Party from 1923 to 1938. These Party Days, as they were called, have been largely neglected by historians, and this is the first thorough study of them to be published in English.

The history of the Party Days is a history of the growth of Nazi power. When the first rally was held, in 1923, the NSDAP was a local political party with little support outside Bavaria-although its fanatical views were aired sufficiently so that many Germans criticised the Bavarian Government for permitting the party to meet at all. In 1927, an observer was able to write of the third rally that “the townsfolk did not take it seriously.” Only six years later, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and the Party Days became a national institution. The German leaders used the party rallies to strengthen their hold on the people, to encourage in them a desire for war, and to indoctrinate them against “foreign ideologies.” Before an ever increasing number of foreign observers, the Germans displayed their growing military might, their impressive regimentation, and the diatribes against “Jews, Bolsheviks, and democrats.” The final rally, held in 1938, attracted more than 900,000 delegates from Germany and recently annexed Austria, together with hundreds of reporters from the world over and many foreign dignitaries-including, for the first time, an American ambassador. Visitors to the rally left through an arch bearing the legend “Goodbye Until 1939.” But the 1939 rally-to have been called the “Party Day of Peace”- was never held.

The Nuremberg rallies can be seen as a miniature model of what the government wanted the nation to be: a rigidly organised block of fanatically loyal adherents who would blindly follow their leaders. Through his painstaking research-and with the aid of a number of rare photographs-Mr. Burden re-creates the events and mood of the rallies. He describes the careful preparations, the semi-religious ceremonies – derived from pagan cults, Christian ritual, and Wagnerian drama-the torchlight parades, the military reviews, the pageantry and symbols. He records the cant of Hitler, Gobbels, Goering, and others, year after year repeating the same themes with growing venom. He also reports the views of the rest of the world, alternately impressed, puzzled, and repelled by what it saw. Above all, he reveals the extraordinary use of propaganda to control the dreams, fears, and frustrations of the people, and thus effectively consolidate Nazi power.

Adolfe Berle writes in his Foreword: “As Burden’s tale unfolds, it is clear that Hitler and his associates … combined as diabolical a collection of negatives as could well be imagined. Anti-Semitism, German racism, grievances of defeat, the economic injustices of the Versailles Treaty, the miseries of the German workers – all were used to create a rising tide of hatred … that left Versailles Europe in ruins.”

This book is a case history of one aspect of the hate-mobilization process, a description of the reality of life under the Third Reich, and a frightening example of the use of modern propaganda techniques to control the minds of the masses.

April 2009


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