The Building

Image gallery building
Image gallery building

Since 1948 the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte has been located in a historic building on Königsplatz, the former “Administrative Building of the National Socialist Party.”

With the 1930 purchase of what would become the “Brown House,” the National Socialist Party took the first step in developing the party district at Königsplatz. Starting in 1933, more than 50 buildings along Brienner Straße, Arcisstraße, Gabelsbergerstraße, Barer Straße and Karlstraße, as well as the adjoining streets, came into the ownership of the Nazi Party (see map on inside back cover). While some of these buildings (for example, the Pringsheim House) were demolished to create space for new construction, most of them were retained and put to new uses as offices of various party bureaucracies.

The reconfiguration of Königsplatz with adjacent new construction was the National Socialist Party’s first major building project. The plans by the architect Paul Ludwig Troost (1878-1934), designed in 1933-34, were realised beginning in 1934 by the “Troost Studio.”  The “Führer Building” (“Führerbau”, 1937, today University of Music and Performing Arts Munich), the “Administrative Building of the National Socialist Party” (“Verwaltungsbau der NSDAP”, 1937) and the two “Temples of Honour” (“Ehrentempel”, 1935) located along today’s Arcis and Katharina-von-Bora-Straße, together with the redesign of Königsplatz, comprised a monumental forum of bureaucratic rule and party cult created for the purpose of manifesting the party’s (and, derivatively, the state’s) claim to power.

The massive urban intervention radically changed the appearance of the classically-designed square. From the time of its origins, Königsplatz was a meeting place, which since WWI had been favoured by right-wing political groups. The National Socialists extended this tradition of use, shaping it according to their interests. Already, on May 10, 1933, they made the square a stage for a book burning event. Under their rule, the square became a focal point for ceremonial marches and the yearly celebration of their pseudo-religious commemorative cult. The square was inaugurated on November 9, 1935, when the sarcophagi of the “blood witnesses” of Hitler’s failed Beer Hall Putsch were transferred to the Temples of Honour. Celebrated annually thereafter, the ritual incorporated the celebrated “Roll Call,” which concluded with a loud acclamation (“Present!”) by the crowd to demonstrate their intention to emulate the “martyrs of the movement” and fight to the death for National Socialism.

Whereas the Administrative Building served the party administration until the end of war, the representational functions of the Führer Building shifted during the Thirties to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin as well as to Hitler’s residence in Obersalzberg. The only major political event for which the Führer Building played an important role as an architectural backdrop was the signing of the Munich Agreement at the end of September 1938, which permitted Germany’s  annexation of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.

National-Socialist propaganda characterized the party building architecture in Munich (“capital of the movement”) as an exemplary ideal. Similarly, Dachau, the concentration camp erected in 1933 north-east of Munich, would become a model for the later development of the National Socialist extermination camp system.

At war’s end, the US military initially used these barely damaged large-scale buildings as a “Central Collecting Point” to gather art works that had been looted by the Nazis. Eventually, both buildings were released for use by cultural institutions.

The pillars of the Temples of Honour were demolished in 1947 and, about a decade later (1956/57), their foundations became platforms for plants.

The overgrown bases of the Temples of Honour, the former Führer Building and the Administrative Building are individually registered as listed monuments.  In 1988 the pavement of the Königsplatz was removed and the square was restored with lawns and walkways.

The name of the street where the building with house number 10 stands has been changed several times: Arcisstraße, Meiserstraße, Katharina-von-Bora Straße. The Arcisstraße originally began at the Old Botanical Garden, and the section of the street between the garden and the intersection with Brienner Straße had its name changed to Meiserstraße in 1957. Since spring 2010 this portion of the street has been named Katharina-von-Bora Straße.

In 2015 the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism opened in direct proximity to the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte at the site of the “Brown House” on the Brienner Straße.


Public tours on the history of the National Socialist Party Centre

Further Reading:

Ulrike Grammbitter und Iris Lauterbach: Das Parteizentrum der NSDAP in München, hg. vom Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Berlin München 2009 (zweite, aktualisierte Auflage 2015); The NSDAP Centre in Munich, Berlin München 2015