The Local-National Nexus in Nazi Germany: Tourism and Historic Preservation in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria

Friday, January 6, 2012: 9:50 AM
Parlor D (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Joshua Hagen, Marshall University
The Nazi regime went to great efforts to portray itself as a monolithic force forging the German people into a purposeful national movement. Indeed, the regime sponsored myriad speeches, rallies, parades, and various other public displays to propagate this image for both domestic and international audiences. In a certain sense, these efforts were largely successful since much of the general public today regards the Nazi regime as the epitome of a dictatorial or totalitarian political system. Iconic images from the Nuremberg Rallies and other party events reinforce this image of a highly autocratic regime. Yet scholars have amply demonstrated that beneath this monolithic veneer, the regime’s upper echelons were plagued by infighting and rivalries, while local and regional actors had significant room to pursue their own agendas, at least so long as they did not directly and openly contradict  Reich-level priorities. More recent research has augmented this view of the regime by exploring the regime’s efforts concerning art, film, and other cultural forms. Here implementation of Nazi cultural policy at the local level has been shown to be highly contingent in its implementation and impact, often reflecting uneven attention from the national government, varying levels of initiative among local actors, and pre-existing political and social patterns. This presentation highlights this contingency by discussing the relationship between national party priorities and the practices of tourism and historic preservation in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria. Already an established tourist icon, Rothenburg was a favorite destination for the regime tourism agency Kraft durch Freude. This helped fuel local initiatives to ‘cleanse’ the town, aesthetically, politically, and racially, as befitting its propagandized status as an idealized microcosm of the ‘old German town.’