The responsible senior conservator of the Bavarian State Office for the Preservation of Monuments has been asked to comment on the monument with the number D-5-64-000-2367. According to the files, the site inspection took place on September 29, 2021. It can be assumed that the specialist from the State Office had plenty of time that day, after all she had to examine a large monument and an extremely relevant one: the largest surviving propaganda building from the National Socialist era, the torso of the NS Congress Hall in Nuremberg. Your response to the question of whether an opera house can be built there was impressive, that much can be said. However, this statement is not found in the city’s documents, which are made publicly available before city council decisions are made.
According to the files, the letter from the head conservator was received by the city on October 14, 2021 – almost exactly two months before 70 city councilors passed a fundamental resolution by a large majority, according to which operas will be played at the Kongresshalle for around ten years in 2025 target. In essence, the opinion of the authority for monument issues comprises two essential points. Both can be considered elementary for the debate about an opera interim.
The specialist authority supports the arguments of the historians
On the one hand, there is the question of whether a cube can be built into the courtyard of the horseshoe-shaped torso as a venue. The chief conservator is extremely skeptical. “The inner courtyard is a defining part of the monument,” writes the doctor of monument preservation. “It is precisely through its size and emptiness that it clearly illustrates the megalomania of National Socialist ideology and its failure in the form of the unfinished torso.” And further: “Any ‘furnishing’ of this room, which is so meaningful in itself, diminishes this message considerably.”
This is remarkable in that the specialist authority is almost identically confirming the arguments put forward in the debate by the historians from the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds and the “History for All” association – but which came under heavy fire in Nuremberg. The representatives of the association, who organize historical tours of the former Nazi grounds, have – like the historians from the documentation center – not only been attacked as diehards of the culture of remembrance. The association is even accused of self-interest, as if it were being robbed of its most prominent exhibit – the disturbingly desolate Nazi inner courtyard – and therefore fear for the “attractiveness” of its tours. In truth, the responsible state office judged that “court furniture” apparently just as critically. Especially since the courtyard is an exhibit in the documentation center’s Nazi exhibition – “if not the most important,” says the head curator.
The scene culture is also looking for performance opportunities
On top of that. The preservation of monuments, it says in the paper, could put “their professional concerns” on hold. However, this is subject to the condition that “actual dismantling is guaranteed after the interim period”. That means: demolition. Or to put it more elegantly: demolition of what the files say is a “temporary supplementary building”. It is currently valued at around 50 million euros.
For years there have been complaints in Nuremberg about the lack of a competitive concert hall. And the scene culture is also looking for performance opportunities. One could assume that such a weighty paper was debated on the broadest possible basis. After all, it is apparently based on the fact that the specialist authority assumes that there will be no subsequent use for the hall on the ex-NS site. So no conversion to a concert hall. And no scene culture.
De facto, however, the content of the paper was evidently not even known to all decision-makers when the vote was taken. A call to the FDP city councilor Ümit Sormaz, he raised his hand in agreement on December 15. No, he doesn’t know the paper, it’s “awesome,” he says when someone reads it to him. The left? Also does not know the wording of the paper. Councilor Kathrin Flach Gomez believes that the fact that these are not found in the publicly accessible files is “completely irresponsible”. In the eleven-page description of the facts there is the sentence: “An additional building as a permanent new building would currently be problematic from the point of view of monument preservation” – but it sounds much clearer in the paper from the state office. Alexandra Thiele, city councilor for the “good guys”, was a member of the opera house commission – the committee most closely involved with the matter. How long has she had the paper from the state office? It was only after the city council decision that a well-meaning colleague sent it to her. She finds that very irritating.
Nuremberg’s construction consultant Daniel Ulrich considers such reactions to be exaggerated. Insofar as a leading Nuremberg city councilor even states that he had had the paper for a long time, but “confidentially under the cloak of secrecy” – he, Ulrich, had to refer it to the area of the fable. The paper was sent to the leaders of the “big factions”, some city councilors of the smaller parties “didn’t ask for it”. But wouldn’t it have been necessary, for the most informed debate, to include the opinion in the publicly available documents? He is not responsible for that, emphasizes Ulrich, maybe you could see it that way. However, he assumes “no bad intentions”, probably one did not want to overload the cause with papers. The documents cover several hundred pages; the statement of the state office exactly four – would they have overloaded the reading public?
Nevertheless, it was always communicated very openly that the planned construction should be an “interim”, explains a city spokesman. That’s true, says Left City Councilor Titus Schüller. But the word “interim” can be understood differently. Some thought that this simply referred to the temporary move of the opera. The fact that this obviously means a definitive interim building without subsequent use, i.e. an investment of millions without sustainability, is easily overlooked.
But is it really the case, should it definitely be demolished again in about 13 years? Since Thursday, the cause has experienced a new volte – which only shows that it has finally become a political issue, now apparently also in the state office. In a press release, Green MP Sabine Weigand quoted the head of the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments, Mathias Pfeil, as saying: “I’m not ruling out a permanent building, but an intervention of this magnitude can only be decided on the basis of a discussion with society as a whole.” The monument protection cannot and does not want to make the decision “about a 50 to 100 million euro expensive construction project alone”. Incidentally, the city had only ever asked for a statement on an interim.
This is allegedly not a contradiction of the head of the authority to the statement of the chief conservator, the state office emphasizes – but should not make the debate in Nuremberg any less complicated in the future.