Nuremberg Nazi Party Rallies by Hugo Jaeger

In the 1930s and 1940s, the city of Nuremberg became eponymous with the Nazi regime. Once a city of toys, it was transformed into the scene of massive rallies, torchlight parades, Hitler Youth jamborees, and reviews of the Wehrmacht. A series of antisemitic laws enacted in 1935 were named after the city (Nürnberger Gesetze) and after Nuremberg fell to the U.S. Third Army on April 20, 1945 (Hitler’s birthday), its symbolic nature made it the scene of the subsequent Nazi war crime trials.

Nazis chose it for practical reasons. While not exactly in the dead center of Germany, the city was well-connected and equidistant from other population centers (Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Dresden) and boasted a vast venue for rallies. The local branch was also virulently fascist, led by thuggish Julius Streicher. The city’s connection with the Imperial Diets of the Holy Roman Empire, dating back to 13th century, also lent the Nazis the historical lustre they wanted.

Hugo Jaeger was official photographer to the OKW (German High Command) and despite discouragement from his superiors, he became one of the pioneers of colour photography. He used Agfacolor, which was invented in 1936, the same year he began photographing Hitler. We have covered his other work with Hitler and the war here:

Jaeger also made many photos of the rallies in Nuremberg. His black-and-white photos were flown daily to Berlin, but he kept colour films to himself. At the end of the war, he was in Munich, and was fearful that American soldiers would confiscate or destroy his pictures of Nazis and Hitler. Packing them in a bag, he hid them in a cellar coal pile along with his last bottle of brandy. The Americans came, poked in the pile, found the bag and the bottle and opened both. The first thing they came upon in the bag was a little ivory gambling top—a put-and-take top. The soldiers paused, spun the top. then settled down happily to the brandy and a game of put-and-take, ignoring the pictures.

Afterwards, Jaeger packed his slides into dozens of preserving jars, carried them to the edge of town and systematically buried them over the area of a square mile or so. As he went, he made a map: “From the railroad switch, 263 ties west, then 15 meters north….” Several times in the next few years he dug up the jars, dried them out, repacked and reburied them. They were all in fine condition when he dug them up for good in 1955 and stored them in a bank vault. He sold them to LIFE magazine in 1965.

The parade grounds still exist today. Close to these stairs was now a Burger King, and you can still see the Nazi Eagle emblem still silhouetted on the wall right next to its drive-thru.

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0 thoughts on “Nuremberg Nazi Party Rallies by Hugo Jaeger

  1. What an amazing story! I have been to Nuremberg and all over the lower part of Germany. Haunted by the thoughts of Hitler and what evil he projected on the history of our human race. Chilling memories remembered! Thanks for sharing great pictures and stories!

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