Seeing Hitlers Germany: Tourism in the Third Reich

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Here was a strategic rationale for the leisure travel weapon: the cult of denial. As Europe burned, the Volk blissfully picked flowers, posed for pictures, stuffed themselves immovable with the local cuisine, and got sloppy drunk on their beverage of choice. The Nazis were exterminating millions but everything was normal.

What may be the best known aspect of the Nazi propaganda effort, Strength through Joy Kraft durch Freude , is described in chapter 5. All World War II documentaries seem to find space for gratuitous pictures of beaming frauleins and lederhosen blithely traipsing through the edelweiss in alpine fields. The Nazis worked hard to convince Germans to travel, that they had a right and a duty to do so. And the obliging public did until it became positively surreal.

Historic sites associated with Hitler - Telegraph

Ironically, as the war continued, the soldiers occupying conquered lands seemed to get the most out of the Wehrmacht-sponsored KdF program that promoted rest and respite for soldiers in the German countryside. The Wehrmacht seemed to take over the regular tourist industry and establish the German soldier as tourist. At this point the mechanics of the tourism administration led to political infighting.

Hitler's Triumph (1933)

The entire industry was a major money-maker and travel agents--less than whole-hearted true believers--served pecuniary rather than political goals. Their conflict continued well into the war years, and as things began to go badly, this conflict got rather bizarre. Chapter 6 provides a glimpse into the very brief period wherein international tourists to were a significant part of the industry's income and an important focus of the Nazi propaganda effort.

Until the war began, Germans were encouraged to travel outside of Germany as well, and the chapter provides a description of this effort and its political ramifications. Later, as the empire expanded, the domestic destination began to increase once more to include occupied lands and chapter 7 picks up where chapter 6 leaves off. It all came down to a primary political weapon that may even have backfired. The tourism bug was not to be denied as the war began to drain resources and manpower.

This chapter more than others, conveys the objective of the Nazi leisure travel arsenal since it describes what actually happened when the Nazis truly needed the support of the German populace. They propagandized so well that tourists crowded trains while wounded soldiers returning from the front had to stand on the trip home and endure rude civilians on holiday with no regard for their suffering--something that angered even the Gestapo.


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But as Goebbels said, "the entire Reich and Party Leadership were on vacation" p. The Nazis had done their job well. Consumerism rather than patriotism was a hallmark of Germany under Hitler and the right to travel, even with refugees streaming over the border, was not going to stop the leisure class from taking a nice holiday.

Holidaying in Nazi Germany: Booklet promotes tourism just before WWII

The commercial tourism sector begrudged every iota of help given non-paying guests while their country fell apart around them. Perhaps the surprise of the book comes at its closing--that the German tourism industry, created by the Nazis to promote its Gleichschaltung , never died; though it might have become desolate, the spirit survived.

Even as Germany lay in ruins, as soldiers streamed home without their weapons and the sickle and hammer symbol was raised over the eastern half, the Germans had become so enamored of traveling, they could be found among the rubble of the fallen empire sitting in cafes and sipping mysterious steaming brown liquid writing postcards home. By the entire industry had virtually rebuilt itself. By , their clients were logging more nights away from home than at any time during the Third Reich.

Most interestingly, the new industry was rebuilt by the old guard who had come to power with Hitler, and they were rewriting the history from to postwar Germany with no mention of Hitler, the NSDAP, or the whole nightmare. No mention of Nazi ideology and no racial purges the Jews were pushed out in , and that competition was eliminated much to the joy of the folks who were writing the new histories.

The postwar theme of touring in Germany was the same as it had been under Hitler--presenting the laundered version of Germany to the world outside. There was nothing about how the industry bought into the unification ideology to line its pockets and turn a blind eye to the horror.


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No mention about how tourism literature from to embraced and exalted the Third Reich and erased the Weimar Republic, highlighted Nazi relics and intensely marketed the Nazi mythos, made the violence decorative and transformed all of it into a commodity for sale p. And there is as yet no acknowledgement of any of this in the industry to this day. Semmens's book is well researched 17 pages of bibliography and 45 pages of endnotes , using multiple primary sources. The only major drawback is the index, which is wholly inadequate. Still, the author provides names of people we know and what they did and how they went about their business.

The book is very readable while still using German liberally, so a German dictionary is a good idea if you are not a fluent German speaker. Advanced Search. Article Navigation. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Oxford Academic. Google Scholar.

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