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Thing­stätte Heidelberg

The Thing­stätte – A Piece of the Past

The Thing­stätte is a unique and his­to­ri­cally signi­fi­cant open-air thea­ter in Heidel­berg. The thea­ter was built in the 1930s, during the Nazi era, and was inten­ded to be a place where the NSDAP could hold poli­ti­cal ral­lies and other events in favor of Natio­nal Socia­lism. Des­pite its con­tro­ver­sial past asso­cia­ted with Nazi pro­pa­ganda efforts during World War II, the Thing­stätte remains an important and fasci­na­ting part of German history and is now a popu­lar tou­rist destination.

Mean­while, the Thing­stätte is known as a place of cele­bra­tion rather than for its pro­pa­ganda events. Until 2017, it attrac­ted bet­ween 10,000 and 20,000 visi­tors annu­ally to cele­brate Wal­pur­gis Night.

History and back­ground of the Thingstätte

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The Thing­stätte was estab­lis­hed in 1935 as part of the NSDAP’s efforts to create a net­work of open-air stages throughout Ger­many. These stages, known as Thing­stät­ten, were to be used for poli­ti­cal ral­lies, cul­tu­ral events and other forms of pro­pa­ganda. Under the Minis­ter of Pro­pa­ganda, Joseph Goe­b­bels, they were to sup­port the new “Thing move­ment” (“Thing”: word from the Ger­ma­nic lan­guage mea­ning thing) and help the regime create the new German man as defi­ned by Natio­nal Socia­lism. The Heidel­berg Thing­stätte was one of the first of its kind and was built by Her­mann Alker on the Hei­li­gen­berg above the city.

The Hei­li­gen­berg Thing­stätte was pri­ma­rily used for poli­ti­cal ral­lies and other Nazi-rela­ted events. Howe­ver, it was also avail­able for cul­tu­ral events such as plays and con­certs. At that time, attempts were made to turn Heidel­berg into the new Salz­burg of sou­thwest Ger­many with the help of pro­pa­ganda events. Under the name “Reichs­fest­spiele”, Heidel­berg was sup­po­sed to flou­rish under the Natio­nal Socialists.

Today, the Thing­stätte in Heidel­berg is still used for cul­tu­ral events, but in a very dif­fe­rent way than during the Third Reich. The thea­ter is used for plays, con­certs and other cul­tu­ral events and is a popu­lar venue for open-air per­for­man­ces. These events are inten­ded to streng­t­hen cul­tu­ral diver­sity and the sense of com­mu­nity among the people of Heidelberg.

Mea­ning of the Thingstätte

The Thing­stätte is of great impor­t­ance for Heidel­berg and all of Ger­many for several rea­sons. First, it is an important example of the methods of Natio­nal Socia­list pro­pa­ganda. The open-air stage was inten­ded to be a power­ful symbol for the Natio­nal Socia­list party and its ideo­logy. It was to serve as an instru­ment for sprea­ding the Natio­nal Socia­list mes­sage to the public.

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Second, the Thing­stätte is an important piece of German history. The thea­ter com­me­mo­ra­tes the atro­ci­ties com­mit­ted by the Nazis during the Third Reich and is a power­ful symbol of the atro­ci­ties com­mit­ted during the Holo­caust. To this day, the Thing­stätte remains an important point of remem­brance of these deeds.

Third, the Thing­stätte is an important cul­tu­ral site. It is a unique open-air thea­ter and a popu­lar desti­na­tion for tou­rists and history buffs. The Thing­stätte is open to the public and tours are avail­able to give visi­tors a deeper under­stan­ding of its history and signi­fi­cance. As the Heidel­berg Thing­stätte is the only Thing­stätte in the Heidel­berg region, it is even more interesting.

Con­struc­tion of the Thingstätte

Robert Wagner and the mayor at the time, Carl Nein­haus, were respon­si­ble for laying the foun­da­tion stone of the buil­ding on May 30, 1934. They wanted to build a site for the people and create a kind of cult place for the new genera­tion of Natio­nal Socia­lists. The Thing­stätte was to be the coun­ter­part to the ceme­tery of honor on the other side of the Neckar. Accord­in­gly, the two buil­dings were to com­ple­ment each other.

The con­struc­tion of the Thing­stätte was com­ple­ted by the archi­tect Her­mann Alker, who was a member of the NSDAP, and on June 22, 1935, it came to the ope­ning. The Thing­stätte Heidel­berg was opened by the Minis­ter of Pro­pa­ganda Joseph Goe­b­bels per­so­nally. He called it a “true church of the empire” and “stone-formed natio­nal socialism”.

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The open-air stage was built ent­i­rely of natu­ral mate­ri­als such as stone, wood and earth and was inten­ded to blend seam­lessly into the sur­roun­ding land­s­cape. The audi­ence rows had a capa­city of up to 15,000 seats. The Thing­stätte fea­tures a large stage, several ter­raced sea­ting areas, and a large stone altar.

One of the most striking fea­tures of the Heidel­berg Thing­stätte is its unique archi­tec­ture. As men­tio­ned ear­lier, the thea­ter was desi­gned to blend seam­lessly into the sur­roun­ding land­s­cape, and its natu­ral mate­ri­als give it a timeless appearance. As a result, many visi­tors often assume that it is a Roman struc­ture. The use of natu­ral mate­ri­als was also meant to sym­bo­lize the Nazis’ belief in the impor­t­ance of nature and natu­ral order. The theater’s large stage and ter­raced sea­ting areas were meant to create a sense of tog­e­ther­ness among the audi­ence, and the large stone altar was meant to sym­bo­lize the Nazi Party’s belief in the impor­t­ance of sacri­fice and duty.

The Thing­stätte today

After the end of the Second World War and thus the fall of Natio­nal Socia­lism, the site was allo­wed to fall into serious dis­re­pair. Partly the remains were used by the US com­mu­nity to hold Easter cele­bra­ti­ons there. In addi­tion, the Thing­stätte was also used for con­certs by famous artists such as Udo Jür­gens. Also small pri­vate events take place again and again at the Thing­stätte. The place is thus used by the people as it was inten­ded for once, but without the Natio­nal Socia­list background.

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Until 2017, the Thing­stätte was every night on the first of May a popu­lar desti­na­tion for many revelers. Grab some drinks and friends, and then climb the Hei­li­gen­berg and cele­brate the so-called Wal­pur­gis­nacht in an exu­berant way. The Hei­li­gen­berg cele­bra­tion site usually had more than 10,000 visi­tors on the night of the first of May. For many, the cele­bra­tion in the dark on the first of May was firmly linked to the Thingstätte.

Unfor­tu­n­a­tely, howe­ver, there were also always unplea­sant events, which is why the cele­bra­tion site at Hei­li­gen­berg has been closed every year since 2018 over the night of the first of May. Inju­red stu­dents, dan­ge­rous situa­tions and a forest fire in 2017 led to the fact that the Thing­stätte remains closed until fur­ther notice every year on Wal­pur­gis Night. Even though it was met with disap­pro­val by many stu­dents and other par­ty­go­ers, the city of Heidel­berg felt com­pel­led to take drastic mea­su­res after the incidents.

How to get there?

The Thing­stätte is only acces­si­ble by car or on foot. By car, the jour­ney takes about 30 minu­tes from the city center, as you have to make a small detour via Zie­gel­hau­sen. On foot, the hike takes about 40-60 minu­tes depen­ding on your pace. Howe­ver, on Wal­pur­gis Night, it can only be reached on foot, as the par­king is closed.

The advan­tage of visi­t­ing on foot is that you walk along a beau­ti­ful trail in the woods and can visit some other sights along the way. You can walk a short stretch of the famous Philosopher’s Path, taking in views of the other side of the Neckar River and mar­ve­ling at the König­stuhl and the majes­tic Heidel­berg Castle. In addi­tion, you can visit the nearby Micha­els­klos­ter or the Heidenloch.

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So it is recom­men­ded to do the hike if you want to get more of Heidelberg’s nature and keep fit.

Sum­mary

The Thing­stätte Heidel­berg is one of the spe­cial, his­to­ri­cal places in the city of Heidel­berg. Des­pite its con­tro­ver­sial past, the Thing­stätte remains an important and fasci­na­ting part of German history and is now a popu­lar tou­rist desti­na­tion. Des­pite decay, the site on the moun­tain was often used for a wide variety of events and, until a few years ago, was visi­ted by thousands every year on Wal­pur­gis Night.

The entire site of the open-air stage is beau­ti­ful and extre­mely natu­ral. Not for not­hing is the Thing­stätte, the most famous land­mark of the Hei­li­gen­berg. It is, for example, the per­fect idea for a hike with picnic or a photo shoot.

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When visi­t­ing the Hei­li­gen­berg, of course, the Thing­stätte can not be missed. As already men­tio­ned, you can com­bine the visit of the Thing­stätte super with other attrac­tions such as St Michael’s Monas­tery or the Heidenloch.

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If you should get hungry on your hike is also no pro­blem at all. Next to the Thing­stätte is a restau­rant called Wald­schenke. This place is just the right idea for a clas­sic German lunch, espe­cially if you have clim­bed the entire Hei­li­gen­berg on foot.