RIHA Journal 0253 | 20 December 2020
The Architecture of the Third Reich in Cracow – a Dissonant Heritage?1
Abstract On 12 October 1939, Hitler signed a decree creating the Generalgouvernement (General Government), which comprised the Polish lands occupied by Germany but not subsumed directly into the Reich. Cracow became the capital of the General Government. This decided the fate of the city, for which the Nazi authorities had essentially predestined the role not only of capital of this Nebenland, but also that of a model German city in the East. How, then, should we evaluate the contribution of the Third Reich to the shaping of Cracow's cultural landscape during the 1,961 days of the city's enforced status as capital? There is no unequivocal answer to this question, and the building stock left by the Germans in Cracow is extremely heterogeneous. We do have a certain number of intriguing examples of the dissonant heritage left by the German Third Reich in Cracow today. These represent above all a broad spectrum of conflicts of memory, and also the problem of non-memory.
The General Government and its capital Cracow as a "model German city" in the East Architect Richard Rattinger Hubert Ritter and his "Generalbebaungsplan von Krakau" Hans Frank as "the great builder of Cracow" The new residential quarter "Nur für Deutsche" The architectural heritage of the Third Reich in Cracow – a dissonant heritage? "Krakauer Burg" The Holocaust and places of memory
 The collapse of the Polish state in September 1939 opened up a new chapter in the history of Cracow. On 6 September, the city was occupied by the Wehrmacht (Fig. 1).2 Thenceforth its remarkable fate under German occupation between the years 1939–1945 was to be decided by decisions taken in Berlin. On 15 September, Adolf Hitler appointed Hans Frank (1900–1946) – a minister without a portfolio in the government of the Reich, and head of the Munich-based Academy for German Law (Akademie für deutsches Recht) – chief of the civilian administration in the Polish territories occupied by the Wehrmacht.3 On 12 October, Hitler signed a decree creating the Generalgouvernement (General Government), which comprised the Polish lands occupied by Germany but not subsumed directly into the Reich.4 Pursuant to this decree, which came into force on 26 October 1939, Frank was promoted to the rank of general governor and became directly subordinate to the Reich chancellor.5 Frank at once interpreted this to mean that he held the supreme authority in the nascent General Government, and that he himself was answerable only to Hitler.6 At the same time, within 'his state' he imposed his own Führerprinzip from the outset.7 It was this creed of Frank's – as Hitler's representative and as a sovereign in the German Nebenland on the Vistula – that also determined the general governor's specific plans for Cracow. On 26 October 1939, Frank signed the "Pierwsze rozporządzenie o odbudowie Administracji okupowanych polskich obszarów" ("First ordinance regarding the reconstruction of the Administration of the occupied Polish regions") in Warsaw. The second paragraph of this document, which was published in German and Polish, stipulated unequivocally that: "The seat of the General Governor is the city of Cracow."8
 The choice of Cracow as the capital of this quasi-statelet created by the Third Reich was not only the result of Hans Frank's personal ambitions. It fitted perfectly with Hitler's strategy of eradicating Polishness. Jan Dąbrowski, history professor at the Jagiellonian University (1890–1965), in his immediate post factum analysis of the genesis of Cracow's unexpected 'promotion', wrote:
What was needed was a city of metropolitan character that could offer the vanquishers all the benefits of a large city but whose size did not render it a position hard to control. Warsaw, which was located at a considerable distance from the border of the Reich, Warsaw as a city of almost one and a half million, which in 1939 had offered evidence of its belligerent mood, deterred the Germans due to both distance and size. The fear was that it would take a rather long time for a sufficient number of Germans to be brought to Warsaw and settled there to play any significant role in the city, let alone to take control of it and transform it into a German city. Cracow, five times smaller and only an hour and a half's journey from the former border, was expected to be much easier to swallow; it would be possible to attract more Germans here far sooner, and a similar number which would be lost as a small minority in Warsaw would be well able to gain the upper hand in this city.9
This decided the fate of the city, for which the Nazi authorities had essentially predestined the role not only of capital of this Nebenland but also that of a model German city in the East. In order to achieve this goal a special programme for the 'depolonisation' of Cracow was compiled, involving not only the use of bloody terror, but also the annihilation of Polish cultural and academic elites and institutions.10
 On 4 November, Hans Frank was received by Hitler in Berlin. At that meeting it was agreed that the seat of the general governor was to be the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill.11 Three days later, Frank staged a triumphal ingress into Cracow.12 The taking of power by the German general governor at Wawel was enacted with the kind of pomp that was to be a foretaste of the great ambitions harboured by the new 'king of Poland'. These ambitions were to be carried over into the urban planning visions and plans for spectacular construction projects, which Frank personally oversaw, and which were intended to boost the rapid transformation of Cracow into the "Nuremberg of the East".13 Emulating Hitler, Frank saw himself as the great builder of Cracow.14
 The visions and plans of the general governor were implemented only to a certain degree, which was a result of both events on the fronts of the Second World War and the evolution of German conceptions for the General Government. The latter were restricted by the economic potential of the Nebenland and by the political position of Frank himself within the party structures in the Third Reich.15
 At first, the German authorities defined the General Government as an occupied country. On 2 December 1939, at a conference of the heads of the divisions of the General Government, Frank said that "it is not yet clear what the ultimate structure of the General Government will be. Neither is it a foregone conclusion that the General Government will exist at all." On this issue, he stressed, "it is the will of Hitler that is the reliable indicator, and he wants this region to be the first colonial territory of the German nation".16
 The fall of France prompted a change in conception for the occupied territories in the East.17 On 8 July 1940, Frank spoke with Hitler in Berlin again about the future of the General Government.18 It was at this point that a significant change in the name of the General Government occurred: the phrase "für die besetzten polnischen Gebiete" was dropped.19 The conception for the treatment of the General Government evolved from an occupied territory to a region "elevated to the status of a component element of the Reich".20 This also entailed consequences in the form of the launch of work on drawing up a new urban vision for Cracow, as a "model German city" in the East, and the seat of the government and central government agencies of the Nebenland (Fig. 2).
Shortly thereafter, in the summer of 1940, Cracow found itself on the list of Gauhauptstädte – cities of the Reich which were to be 'restyled' in a more monumental vein to reflect their function – alongside the recently occupied Strasbourg and Luxembourg City.21
 In the case of Cracow, the goal must have been not only to transplant the Nazi model of reinventing cities in the spirit of the Third Reich, but also to use the very urban architecture as a tool for Eindeutschung, to reinforce the depolonisation policy that was to be employed in the city (Fig. 3).22 The urban planning visions which Frank began to weave for Cracow in 1940 were directly related to his cultural ambitions and his active cultural policy for the capital of the General Government as a new German metropolis.23
 In his report on his Berlin meeting with Hitler, on 12 July 1940 in Cracow, Frank said:
The fact that the Führer expressed an interest in the Castle, and in the construction of new public buildings and clubs in Distrikt capitals, is to me clear evidence that the Führer wishes the vigorous construction of the global German state to be accompanied by a broad range of moves in this field. The Führer was very interested in our plans in the area of culture. I had to submit a report on my plans regarding theatre. The Führer said that he considers the Castle to be a splendid equivalent to the cathedral in Strasbourg, and that an impressive line of German cultural awareness and symbols of German might run all the way to Cracow, from Strasbourg through Nuremberg and Prague.24
 This euphoria and illusion of large-scale urban creation that was to begin in Cracow in the summer of 1940, was connected with the pinnacle of Hitler's success and the victories of the Third Reich on the fronts of the Second World War; it also came at the high point of Frank's own career. This latter aspect is stressed by Werner Präg and Wolfgang Jacobmeyer, who wrote overtly in the preface to the publication Das Diensttagebuch des deutschen Generalgouverneurs in Polen 1939–1945:
Despite the overlapping of the administration, the period from spring 1940 to the end of 1941 is likely to have been the high point for the governor-general's position of power. Not only had Frank consolidated his personal position, but he was also able to enforce the autonomy of his administration against the demands of external management.25
 On 15 July 1940, Hans Frank convened a meeting devoted to urban planning issues and architecture in the capital of the General Government. The record in the Diensttagebuch reports that its agenda included:
Discussion on construction issues in Cracow; the expansion and restoration of administrative buildings, streets and hotels; evacuation of the Jewish quarter with 60,000–70,000 Jews; creating residential quarters for families of German civil servants; urban planning.26 (Fig. 4)
Participants in the meeting were the governor of Distrikt Krakau Otto Wächter, the Stadthauptmann (administrative head of the city) Carl Schmid, and Frank's secret senior advisor Richard Rattinger.27 A second meeting devoted to the expansion of Cracow was convened by Frank for 23 July. Significantly, this meeting was also attended by Rattinger.28 In the years 1940–1942, he played a key role as Frank's chief advisor and the coordinator of his architectural visions in Cracow (Fig. 5).
 Most likely, the architect Richard Rattinger was – like many of Frank's other Cracow colleagues – a close acquaintance of the general governor from his Munich days. Indeed, Rattinger had been a well-known and active figure in Munich. Born in 1875, he had graduated from the Technical University of Munich as an engineer in 1903. His first professional position had been that of government architect at a Bavarian construction office, and between 1911 and 1920 he had held managerial posts in the Bavarian Landesverein für Heimatschutz.29 He had not been chosen arbitrarily for this office. Rattinger's own architectural work, which drew on tradition and local contexts, was close to the vernacularist philosophy in the spirit of the Heimatschutz movement founded in Germany in 1904 by Ernst Rudorff (1840–1916) and Paul Schultze-Naumburg (1869–1949). Heimatstil, as a reformed model of architecture seeking its inspirations in local and regional construction traditions, corresponded well with völkisch ideas. The völkisch ideology had developed as a reaction to modernity. Rapid and turbulent urbanisation processes, precipitated by industrialisation, were perceived by those with völkisch sympathies as a threat to the security and status of local communities.30 This rejection of modernity led to an idealisation of nostalgia for a rural lifestyle and of a "rootedness in nature and the Volk".31 Two of the fundamental principles of the völkisch ideology were the prime significance of the Volk (people in the ethnic, and by extension thus also racial sense), and a hatred of Jews. Völkisch anti-modernism also incorporated antisemitism.32 The völkisch movement, which was extremely popular in Munich in the first quarter of the 20th century, had a strong influence on the views of both Hitler and Himmler, including areas such as living space and racial purity.33 Frank also came under the considerable influence of völkisch circles during his time at Munich University in the early 1920s.34
 Rattinger's active public service and his sympathy with the völkisch ideology rendered him a suitable candidate for the prestigious office of chancellor of the Technical University of Munich, to which he was appointed in 1920, holding the position until his retirement in 1937.35 In the years 1927–1929, Frank attempted to launch an academic career at the same university, as an assistant at the Legal Seminary.36 It is thus hardly likely to have been a coincidence that in April 1940, Rattinger, who had returned to the civil service at Frank's behest, took up the post of "Sonderbeauftragter und Chefreferent für alle Hochbaufragen im Generalgouvernement" in Cracow.37 He discharged this office with great dedication until his death in July 1942,38 i.e. throughout Frank's most intense period of urban planning and architectural activity.39 At the meeting on 23 July 1940, Frank revealed his architectural vision for Cracow to Rattinger. In the general governor's view, one of the most urgent investment projects was the construction of a luxury hotel for German dignitaries, to be of a standard featuring attributes of modernity typical for "cities of global significance"!40
 Das Diensttagebuch des deutschen Generalgouverneurs records several 'construction meetings' between Frank and Rattinger.41 The last of these, which took place on 11 April 1942, was attended not only by Rattinger but also by Theodor Bauder, the head of the central construction division (Hauptabteilung Bauwesen) in the General Government.42 There can thus be no doubt that Rattinger was deliberately handpicked by Frank and brought over from Munich (considered the "cradle of the movement") to be an 'ideologist' responsible for the political correctness and artistic standard of the urban planning concepts and architectural designs created in Cracow at the 'court of the general governor', in accordance with the Third Reich style and with the line of Nazi 'national-political science'.43 It is also important to stress that most of these visions never got beyond the planning stage; just as certain other 'depolonising operations' in Cracow, such as the "task of removing the Piłsudski and Kościuszko memorial mounds as soon as possible", which Frank entrusted to the then acting district head (and later Stadthauptmann) Rudolf Pavlu in April 1941.44 The idea to destroy the Kościuszko and Piłsudski memorial mounds, the endpoints of the outward vista from the city's Błonia Common, was connected with plans being formulated by a body called the "Baudirektion des Generalgouverneurs", which commenced its work in Cracow in 1940; it was responsible for planning and executing all the construction projects undertaken directly by Hans Frank. The head of this body was Oberbaurat Otto Hofer, who in October 1940 started work on a conception for the "Deutsches Viertel", a compact complex of buildings for the government and district administration and other central GG offices which was to be built on the Błonia Common (Fig. 6).45
 At the same time, Hubert Ritter, a former city planning officer in Leipzig, who had been sent to Cracow, was designing an alternative concept.46 In July 1940, Ritter was charged by the Reichsministerium in Berlin with the task of drawing up a "Generalbebaungsplan von Krakau". In May 1941, his plan was finalised (Fig. 7).
The most spectacular and unique element of it was the idea of a representative German government quarter in the city district of Dębniki, where an area of some 250 hectares in size was to become the site of this "showcase of the 'New Germany' in the East" (Fig. 8).
 In his conception, Ritter envisioned the German government quarter as holding both administrative and representative functions, and as the place of employment for some ten thousand civil servants and other officials. The functional programme for the "Regierungsviertel" included the seats of government, the district administration, the NSDAP party authorities, the Wehrmacht, the post office, and the railway board, as well as other General Government offices, along with a canteen and casino, recreational areas, and sports facilities. The need for a prestigious location was the main reason for the choice of Dębniki as the site. The area was nested in the bend of the Vistula beneath Wawel Hill, and it also offered suitable urban qualities to satisfy Ritter's quest for the optimum relation to and connection with the historic centre of Cracow. In the centre of the new quarter, on its main square, a monumental "Festhalle" was to be erected as the venue for large Nazi gatherings and ceremonies – the main 'municipal temple' (Fig. 9). The functional programme for the "Regierungsviertel" was subordinated to a kind of sacralisation in the planning of the space, which was to have been dominated by extensive "gathering places and march squares".47 In their spectacularity, these plans for a German government quarter in Dębniki put Cracow on an equal footing with many other German metropolises in the Third Reich. Neither is it a coincidence that Ritter's vision for the area is starting to be featured increasingly frequently in German literature on the architecture of the Third Reich, alongside the most prominent works of fascist urban design.48
 The high class of Ritter's architectural work was unquestionably an exception in the context of other German architects who passed through the capital of the General Government in the first half of the 1940s. The Eindeutschung of Cracow, as proposed by Ritter, was connected with an earlier 'project' of Hitler's, known as the Neugestaltung deutscher Städte, which was undoubtedly the basis for Frank's early visions.49 In this sense, Ritter's vision for Dębniki anticipated the Generalplan Ost and the völkisch visions of Heinrich Himmler – Frank's great rival.50 The case of the Ritter Plan is at the same time an intriguing example of an attempt to superimpose the dogmas of the Nazi ideology and the poisoned fruits of its urban planning diktats onto the fabric of a city which for centuries had lived according to an entirely different philosophy and narrative.51
 The embroilment of the Third Reich in the war in the East, and the subsequent military defeats of the Wehrmacht from the turn of 1942 and 1943 (since the debacle at Stalingrad) forced the deferment of the implementation of these grandiose urban visions, and in practice resulted in their abandonment.52 On 18 February 1943, Hitler announced "total war".53 Even prior to that point, however, Frank's ambitious plans for Cracow had been frustrated by the unregulated status of the General Government. Beata Mąsior-Majka, in her analysis of the five phases of the Reich's stance on the General Government up to 1941, as proposed by Gerhard Eisenblätter,54 rightly emphasises that the definition of the status of the GG in respect of the Reich, so long awaited by Frank, did not produce solutions that satisfied him. The General Government retained its status as a quasi-colonial "Nebenland" of the German Reich. Hitler deliberately stalled on the task of defining the status of the relations between the two entities, above all in order not to have to commit in future to any particular nationhood policy.55 Moreover, it is vital to point out the poor economic grounds for undertaking huge investment projects in wartime. One such project was the construction of the Regierungsviertel in Dębniki as foreseen by Ritter's plans.56 This type of gigantomania also provoked scepticism and even irony among Cracovians themselves. Edward Kubalski (a lawyer, local politician and social activist, 1872–1958) wrote in his diary, on 3 April 1941:
I had the opportunity to view the Germ. plans for the new representative quarter in Dębniki vis à vis Wawel (drawn up by Ger. Eng. Richter [sic!], employed in municipal construction). On the design documentation the whole of the left side of Kościuszki Street disappears, with only the Premonstratensian convent left. All of present-day Dębniki disappears. In their place [occur] huge squares and green spaces, blocks of buildings including a central one 500 m in length. Planned in the Berlin Party style. Further back, by Krzemionki, [they planned] a Railway Station. Taken together [it seems to be] one comical, inviable humbug. And these Gentlemen are paid money for that. [spelling of the capitals as in the original].57
 In spite of an ordinance prohibiting all construction work in the territories of the Reich from March 1942 owing to the war, Hans Frank did not abandon his investment plans for Cracow. As late as February 1944, the head of the GG government's central finance department, Hermann Senkowsky, issued Frank with an official warning that the extensive construction work he was pursuing constituted a threat to the GG budget.58 The construction of a new Chancellery on Wawel Hill, in which Frank was personally engaged until 1944, was the general governor's pride and joy.59 Christoph Klessmann proposes the thesis that such far-reaching engagement and effort in attempting to bestow prestige on the new Chancellery, on Frank's part, were a projection and attempt to compensate for his political marginalisation as general governor.60 It is characteristic that even in February 1944 Frank was still attempting to justify the continuation and even intensification of work at Wawel, by arguing that it was a "'Machtausdruck des Großdeutschen Reiches' – mit Zustimmung Hitlers".61 This is also evidence that Frank's actions in Cracow were not entirely subordinated to Nazi ideology. Subsequently, it begs the question of the architectural heritage left behind by the Third Reich in the space of this heartland of Poland and of its value for us today.
 The Nazi German investment outlay in Cracow was analysed several years ago by Krzysztof Broński.62 In his study, he demonstrated that the volume of German construction activity in Cracow – above all in the public services sector, in the fields of education, culture, and the health service – was significantly smaller than that which had been planned by the municipal board before the war.63 The occupation-era building administration office also gradually introduced rigorous prohibitions on civil construction. While at first the restrictions on civil investments in Cracow were not severe, following the attack on the Soviet Union permits were strictly rationed, and in the summer of 1943 construction activity in the civilian sector was essentially frozen.64 The construction market also changed markedly. Almost at once it became dominated by German companies and the Baudienst im Generalgouvernement (Construction Service in the General Government: a forced labour organization).65 Compared to pre-war construction output levels, contracting potential in conditions of war and occupation was very limited, and the construction stock it produced minimal.66
 One energetic investor did emerge, however: the German railways. As early as November 1939, a General Directorate of Eastern Railways (Generaldirektion der Ostbahn) was established, with its seat in Cracow. It was directly subordinate to the Reich Transport Ministry in Berlin and administered the railway network throughout the General Government in close cooperation with the Reich Railways.67 One effect of the Ostbahn directorate's programme of investment in the capital of the GG was the major modernisation of the Cracow rail hub, which proceeded in two phases. The plans, codenamed "Otto" and "Ostbau", were implemented in direct connection with the preparations for and subsequently launch of the war in the East.68 The most significant effect of these operations was the construction of the "Mała Kolej Obwodowa" (Small Bypass Line) between the years 1942–1943, which was over 9 km long and linked the stations of Kraków Łobzów and Kraków Płaszów, and the freight connecting line linking Płaszów to the main Warsaw line. This large-scale, rapidly completed investment rendered Cracow's Main Station entirely free of transit traffic.69 Other effects of the "Otto" and "Ostbau" plans included not only the important modernisation of the technical infrastructure of the entire hub, but also the extension of the large freight complex extending from Płaszów to Prokocim, along with the construction of a residential estate for employees of the hub.70
 Over the period 1940–1943, the Germans also made major extensions and modernisations to the Rakowice-Czyżyny airfield, which from June 1941 was one of the main Luftwaffe bases serving the Eastern Front. This work included the construction of a state-of-the-art two kilometers long concrete runway, and new taxiways.71 The city's road network was also of strategic significance.72 Its modernisation and expansion served a threefold purpose during the war, meeting military, sanitary, as well as aesthetic and propaganda needs. For these reasons, in addition to improving and paving or cobbling streets and squares in the city centre (including the remodelling of the station forecourt), the Germans also left two major transit routes in Cracow: 1943 saw the opening of the westbound Reichstraße (now Królewska Street), as the axis for the new German residential quarter, while a year later construction of a major road connecting the middle ring road (Aleje Trzech Wieszczów) with Wielicka Street was completed (the stretch which is now Aleja Krasińskiego and Konopnicka and Kamieńskiego Streets).73
 There can be no doubt that both Cracow's status as the capital of the General Government and the Third Reich's war in the East were significant factors contributing to the expansion and modernisation of the city's transport infrastructure in the years 1940–1944.
 The ambition and grandiosity of Frank's plans resulted in almost fourfold growth in the metropolitan area, to over 165 km². On 1 June 1941, another initiative of Frank's brought about the annexation of 28 villages and two rural communes to his 'global capital', thereby increasing the population of Cracow by 72,000 to 320,000.74 This was the biggest extension of the city's boundaries in its history up to that point, and, significantly, a decision of the occupying German authorities that was upheld after the war. As such, then, it remains one more operation that must be counted as being an asset left behind by the Third Reich to the former capital of Poland.75
 In the initial phase of the occupation, the Germans completed or continued the construction of a number of monumental buildings in Cracow, which were at the frame stage in 1939. These included the Municipal Market Hall (Miejska Hala Targowa) at Daszyńskiego Avenue (Fig. 11),76 the State Agrarian Bank (Państwowy Bank Rolny) at Dunajewskiego Street (including the reduction of the original 'skyscraper' concept by a number of storeys),77 and the National Museum (Muzeum Narodowe, adapted on Frank's orders for use as a casino).78
 Some public facilities whose construction had begun before 1939 were redesigned several times over the course of the war to serve new public functions. One typical case in this respect is that of the Balneological Institute at 33 Focha Avenue, the construction of which began in 1938. From 1940, the first plans and then alterations were made with the intention of housing a municipal hotel in the institute building. Ultimately, in 1942, the decision was made to give the building over for office space, as the administrative building of the Werke des Generalgouvernements AG and Ost-Energie AG Krakau. Successive versions of the plans were made by Józef Gałęzowski, the author of the original pre-war design for the Institute building.79 Gałęzowski – until 1939 a professor of architecture at the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts, and twice rector of that institution – was a graduate of the Technical University of Dresden. During the Nazi occupation he was active in the underground Committee for the Reconstruction of Wawel Castle,80 while at the same time drawing up architectural plans to German commissions (including design documentation for Ritter).81
 The German occupiers engaged outstanding Polish architects such as Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz, Gałęzowski, and Zbigniew Kupiec for work on major design projects in Cracow for a range of reasons. One of these was the evident lack of outstanding German architects prepared to work on Frank's visions.82 How, then, are we to evaluate the contribution of the Thousand-Year Reich to the shaping of Cracow's cultural landscape over the course of the 1,961 days of the city's enforced status as capital? Was this a time of brutal terror for the city, and did its venerable walls fall victim to an unprecedented attempt at disinheritance? There is no obvious unequivocal answer to this question, and the building stock left behind by the Germans in Cracow is extremely heterogeneous. One telling fact is that the vast majority of the architectural output of the Third Reich has "blended in with the cityscape" and does not provoke strong emotions. This is true above all for residential architecture. In October 1940, Stadthauptmann Schmid estimated that 65 such buildings, comprising a total of 300 apartments, had been built in Cracow (Fig. 12).83 There were plans for a further 180 buildings with 1,000 apartments.84 The war in the East rapidly forced those plans to change, however. Ultimately, in the period 1941–1944, residential buildings totalling 296,000 m³ – available solely to the city's German population – were erected in the city.85