The monstrous city in Amazon alternative history thriller “The Man in the High Castle” might look like a pure fantasy of scriptwriters and CGI guys (and gals). But it was built (in a virtual space, of course) according to the very real plans developed by “Hitler’s architect” Albert Speer to general specifications dictated by the former.
Had Adolf Hitler won the Second Great War (which was a very possibility in the fall of 1941), these plans could very possibly have become a reality. Probably the most emotionally powerful reality in the history of architecture – uplifting and crushing, liberating and oppressive, divine and demonic, heavenly and hellish. As black-and-white as the whole Third Reich – an absolutely unique civilization.
Unlike his arch-enemy – the “Red Tamerlane” Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler never wanted to conquer the whole world, destroy it and then transform it into something else (a radically different civilization).
Neither did he want to impose his ideology – national-socialism – on all nations and countries (Stalin wanted to make everybody a devoted Bolshevik). However, he did want to make national-socialism a dominant ideology worldwide. Not only intellectually (ideologically), but also spiritually and emotionally.
Consequently, he was fighting an invisible and intangible ideological, emotional and spiritual war (even a religious war of sorts as national-socialism was a quasi-religion – especially in the version practiced by Himmler and his SS). The war for the hearts, minds and souls of inhabitants at least the major nations.
The war with his ideological, emotional and spiritual opponents – Bolshevism, liberalism fascism (which is not the same as national-socialism), Christianity and all other religions.
Obviously that war that needed overwhelmingly powerful spiritual and emotional weapons. And architecture has been very effectively used as such a weapon (an overwhelmingly powerful weapon indeed) for millennia.
True, Adolf Hitler ordered Speer to develop plans for a radical rebuilding, restructuring and reengineering of Berlin out of the need for self-actualization (he was, indeed, a highly gifted architect).
However, this was not the only driving force behind his plans to transform the German capital into Welthaupstadt Germania – the “main city of the world”. Not legally or administratively – he only wanted sufficient Lebensraum for Germans, which did not require the conquest of the whole world. But emotionally, ideologically and spiritually.
He wanted to make it explicitly German (hence the new name) and far more physically grandiose and imposing – and spiritually and emotionally powerful – than Paris, London, D.C., Moscow or Rome. Or any other capital city, for that matter.
In mid-1942, Adolf Hitler described his vision for the new city in the following words:
As world capital Berlin will only be comparable with Ancient Egypt, Babylon, and Rome! What is London, what is Paris compared to that!
For Adolf Hitler Welthaupstadt Germania was to become first a key weapon in his ideological, spiritual and emotional global war – and then a symbol of and a monument to the victory in this war.
Adolf Hitler was not the first leader to embark on building an essentially new – and far more spiritually and emotionally powerful capital city. Almost 250 years earlier, in 1703, the Russian tsar (subsequently emperor) Peter the Great (generally viewed as one of the creators of the modern Russian state) officially founded Saint Petersburg and just eight years later made it a new capital of the Russian state (in 1918 Moscow again became the capital of Russia).
True, there were practical (functional) consideration for building a city on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, 635 km to the northwest of Moscow.
Peter the Great wanted to radically increase trade between Russia and Europe and thus needed a better seaport than the country’s main one at the time, Arkhangelsk. Which was on the White Sea in the far north and closed to shipping during the winter (the Gulf of Finland was not).
It was also far better protected from foreign land invasion at the time (which was proven true and correct in 1812, when Napoleon I attacked Russia). However, it was far more vulnerable to the naval attack which gave Britain a powerful leverage over Russia.
Still, there were other – political – considerations. First, Peter the Great, who was committed to westernizing Russia, wanted to send a clear message to everyone inside and outside the country: Russia is Europe.
And, as he was committed to the Russian messianic idea (albeit not as passionately as Ivan IV the Terrible with his “Third Rome” concept), he wanted his city (it was St. Petersburg, after all) to one day not only rival, but dwarf all European capitals – London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Rome, Madrid, etc.
Hence, he gave an order to build a radically new – and 100% European city. Which was done – mostly by French, Italian and even Swiss architects. It never dwarfed London, Paris, Vienna or Rome, of course, but decades later – under Empress Catherine the Great – began to seriously compete with them.
Ironically, there is substantial evidence that in 1941, Adolf Hitler intended to raze St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) to the ground after its (seemingly inevitable) capture by the German troops.