Leibstandarte SS "Adolf Hitler" swimming pool opened to the public

Discussion in 'The Third Reich' started by Roger Clark, Jan 23, 2015.

  1. Roger Clark

    Roger Clark Junior Member

    Looking at all those photos and newsreels at the end of WW2 you might be forgiven for thinking every Nazi building was destroyed in Berlin. But no! A large number survived. And many are now protected by preservation orders and are being refurbished and put to modern use.

    The latest to emerge from the shadows is the former swimming pool of the Leibstandarte SS "Adolf Hitler". When built in the 1930s this was the largest indoor pool in Europe. Here's a picture of it taken in 1939. You can see the SS men swimming. One is leaping off the diving tower. Look how tiny they appear compared to the size of the building:-


    This pool has just been refurbished and opened to the public for the first time. Anyone can now go and swim there. During renovation the diving tower was removed and the pool made shallower to save water. The glass ceiling was also replaced and acoustic tiles installed to cut down echo. But it's substantially the same building. There's been no great flurry of publicity. As far as I can see most of the press have ignored the event. But photos have been quietly appearing on the internet and I thought members would like to see some of them. Here's what the SS swimming pool looks like now:-.

    POOL-BERLIN-BIG-7b1975433d1caddc6d74d2aedb8e15ee_1 - Copy (2).jpg

    As this was built for Hitler’s personal bodyguard he must have approved the design. And what do we find? The building is constructed of red brick - like Hampton Court:-


    Here's another photo of that red-brick exterior. This is high quality workmanship - no expense spared:-


    The building has a striking modern interior with mosaic floors and marble-clad walls. It’s light and airy - and dare one say elegant:-


    What on earth is going on here? If one believes the critics Nazi architecture was supposed to be heavy and gauche. Nikolaus Pevsner refused to discuss Nazi buildings in his book “An Outline of European Architecture”. He boycotted the subject. But this SS swimming pool - the ultimate swimming pool in the Third Reich - is difficult to ignore:-


    And here is the view from the balcony. Note the polished marble:-


    Attached to a wall outside is a brief history of the building including photos showing what it was like when the SS were here. You can see how tall was the diving tower. Not for the faint-hearted!


    I said the swimming pool had emerged from the shadows. In fact it never disappeared. You can find it in the Lichterfelde-West locality in Berlin. Lichterfelde was chosen as the seat of the Prussian Main Military academy (Hauptkadettenanstalt) in 1882, and the district became home to many famous German noble families linked to the Prussian Army.

    Between 1920 and 1933, the former military academy in Lichterfelde was used by the Berlin Police. Then from 1933 to 1945, the military academy became the home of the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler. During the Night of the Long Knives many people were shot in the grounds.

    The barracks escaped the worst of the bombing during WW2. From 1945 to 1994 the Hauptkadettenanstalt was used as "Andrews Barracks" by the United States Army Berlin Brigade. Today it belongs to the German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv). Despite WW2 Lichterfelde-West is still largely intact and is one of the prime residential areas of Berlin. The windows of the swimming pool are about 50 feet high. And the building looks particularly striking at night. Note the tiny swimmer in one of the windows. This is a large building:-


    How much did the refurbishment cost? Between 12 and 13 million Euros. Compare that with £269 million to build the swimming pool for the London Olympics. You can see why Berliners would prefer to refurbish a high quality building even it it has - to put it mildly! - a controversial past.

    POOL-BERLIN-Fincke1 (2).jpg

  2. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Great post Roger and nice to see the building being used by the public and as an amenity. On the subject of Nazi Architecture and Nikolas Pevsner, I would say this, like it, dont like it, be appalled by it, whatever. But ignoring is not the best way to deal with it.
  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. Roger Clark

    Roger Clark Junior Member

    Hi Gerard ... The Nazis did such appalling things there's a danger that we condemn everything. I remember one architect accused Prince Charles of being a Nazi because he admired classical architecture! For decades it was impossible to design a building in Germany with columns because the Nazis used columns!

    This is madness. In 1993 the Director of German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt, Vittoria Magnago Lampugnani, provoked a storm of protest when he said fear of the past meant anyone who built solid sensible buildings with traditional materials like stone and wood was labeled a Nazi. Architects in Germany, he said, had banished all convention and tradition. He wanted to reclaim architectural traditions from the Nazis.

    He had a point. We must reclaim things that are good.

    Where do we stop? Are we to condemn the Pyramids because they were built by slave labour? Or the Colosseum in Rome - a vast killing ground- where thousands were murdered to the delight of the crowds?

    I asked a Russian friend whether he thought many of the Communist monuments should be pulled down in his country? No he said. They were part of their history. The same argument can be applied to Germany. What the Germans are doing is de-Nazifying the buildings and putting them to modern use.
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I do like that, but then I'm a sucker for totalitarian architecture.
  6. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I'm also of that opinion Roger, good or bad it happened and should be acknowledged. And I also share that liking Adam, Big is better and loads of Doric Columns please!!!
  7. Roger Clark

    Roger Clark Junior Member

    The SS Guards - the stone guards - still exist!

    Please see next comment box. I tried unsuccessfully to delete this one! There I explain what these pictures show
  8. Roger Clark

    Roger Clark Junior Member

    The SS Guards - the stone guards - still exist!

    More info ... The swimming pool lies inside the barracks - just to the right of the main gateway. You can see this large building in this aerial photo which I found on the internet. To the right of the building is a secluded garden surrounded by trees. During the summer the SS used to lie on the grass and sunbathe:-


    Two large stone statues of SS men stood guard on either side the barrack gates. You can see how big they were when you compare them with the two Hitler Youths with bicycles in the centre of this picture:-


    The statues dwarf a squad of SS troops marching through the gate:-


    And here's a close-up of one of the statues:-

    SS-0_4e210_36c0f385_XL - Copy.jpg

    Now here's the point of this comment. The stone guards still exist. When the Americans took over the barracks after WW2 they encased the statues in concrete. They never destroyed them. In this next photo you can see how they enlarged the size of the gateposts when they hid the stone figures:-


    The Americans may have hidden the statures, but they failed to remove all the decoration on the pillars. Go round the back and you can see drawn swords carved into the stonework:-


    As the whole site is being refurbished why not reveal the statues? They may not be Michelangelo, or Bernini, but they're powerful works of art and important historic monuments - very much of their time. People might object to their flanking the gate, but surely they could be moved inside, or put in a museum. There's a problem with at least one of them. He's lost his head and part of a sword according a photo and a report published in Stars and Stripes in Feb 1947:-

    SS-BIG-image (1).jpg

    I'm sure, however, this statue could be repaired especially as computers can produce three-dimensional moulds from photos from which modern replicas can be made.
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Anything in the ATB Book on Berlin?

    I want to go swimming there with Jacob in his Union Flag shorts :lol:

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