Thursday 30 June 2016

Book Review: Relics of the Reich from Pen and Sword Books

In a slight change of tack from my usual posts on this blog, I have decided to do a quick book review. I occasionally post book reviews over on my other blog Iron Mammoth's R&R, but I felt that this one deserved a place on my primary blog as it relates to both military history and architecture ( I run an architectural model making workshop, and well as being a wargamer and modeller).

Relics of the Reich by Colin Philpott from Pen and Sword Books

I am no World War Two scholar, so this book covers areas that I don't normally read too much on, however, I found the book to be both enlightening and fairly easy to read.

It approaches the subject with an even attitude, and a good deal of respect for the horrors that occurred within some of the subjects of the book. The main focus is on the buildings that survived both the end of the war and the period immediately after when quite a few Nazi buildings were destroyed, with very good reason.
Each chapter focuses on a selection of buildings (or structures) that share a common aspect, such as the triumphal buildings built to promote the Thousand Year Reich, or military structures or more disturbingly, buildings that were closely involved with the "Final Solution" and the concentration camps.

Obviously, the text gives some history to the new buildings or the conversion of existing buildings, their working life and how these buildings have been repurposed after the war. Some of this was very interesting as many aspects of the development of Germany between the wars and the rise of the Nazi party was unfamiliar to me. Looking at the rise of Nazism from the aspect of urban planning is certainly not one I had encountered before, but it is very inciteful and I learned a great deal from the book.

A lot of the book is focused on how Germany has come to terms with its past and how it has decided to commemorate the things that were done during the war. Some buildings, including the Reich Chancellery and the Fuhrer Bunker, have been completely destroyed and are simply commemorated with an information board erected on their site. Others, such as the Prora-Rugen holiday complex, on the Baltic coast, have seen various uses, including military barrack (while under soviet control), and are now actually being turned into hotel accommodation, some 70 years after they were built.

The book is illustrated throughout with black and white photos. Many of which, are photos taken during the building's prime. There a few photos of the damaged building immediately after the war, such as the one above, which show the Valentin Submarine bunker.

The Relics of the Reich is well written and easy to understand. The text holds your attention even through some of the more mundane planning details. The one real issue I had with the book was the author's repeated use of the word pragmatic/pragmatism. I appreciate that it sums up the attitude taken to a lot of the building that survived the war, but to reuse the term so many times does become a little tiresome.

A good book and I am pleased that I read it. It is probably not going to be at the top of many people's reading lists, and certainly wasn't at mine, however, for anyone interested in the rise of Nazism and also how modern Germany dealt with its history, I would highly recommend it.

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