|Speer admiring a model of his planned city as seen in the film Downfall.|
Monday, 2 July 2012
G is for GERMANIA
GERMANIA – or to give the city its full title Welthaupstadt Germania (World Capital Germania) – was the name the Nazis planned to give
if they won the war. Berlin
Along with Hitler not appearing in the book (see ‘H is also for…’) another early decision I had to make was whether any scenes would be set in the capital of the new German Empire. It is, of course, the primary location of Robert Harris’s Fatherland, indeed I’ve often wondered why he didn’t call his book
Germania. In a rather sneaky exposition scene Harris
has his hero and son take a bus tour of the city so the reader can become
familiar with its sights: the Great Hall, Avenue of Victory, Arch of Triumph
und so weiter.
On a practical note, it’s unlikely
Germania as envisioned by Hitler and
his architect, Albert Speer, could ever have been built. The planned buildings
were so monumental that they required granite hard foundations; is built on
marshy ground. To test whether such huge edifices could ever be erected several
exploratory load bearing blocks were constructed. If they sank less than 6cm,
the ground of Berlin
would not have been capable of sustaining the structures Hitler imagined. They
were built in 1941 and although they exist to this day, within three years had
slipped 18cm! Berlin
Nevertheless there’s great appeal in the prospect of such a histrionic city with its Olympian architecture and convictions of grandeur. I was particularly struck by one, slightly apocryphal detail. Visiting dignitaries would arrive at Templehof airport, then drive directly through the city along the Avenue of Splendours to Hitler’s Palace and finally his study: an uninterrupted straight line of five kilometres from your plane to the desk of the Führer. Can you imagine such megalomania? In the earliest drafts of Book 2 Hochburg made this journey.
Unfortunately as I began developing the plot this scene became more and more unnecessary until finally I realised it had to be cut. Working on a novel, however, is a process of constant evolution, so even as Hochburg’s scene fell from the manuscript another scene in
Germania presented itself.
Something more gentle and unexpected. You’ll have to wait for the sequel to
find out what, but it may just involve ...
and ice cream! Burton
See the next entry for a virtual tour of Hitler’s planned city.