Politics and Culture in Wilhelmine Germany: The Case of Industrial Architecture

By Matthew Jefferies | Go to book overview

Epilogue

The indelible impression left on Wilhelmine society by the movements for architectural reform can perhaps best be illustrated by two examples drawn from the darkest days of World War One. The first concerns the reconstruction of East Prussian towns and villages destroyed in the first months of fighting, the second the expansion of Germany's armaments industries under the Hindenburg Programme of 1916-17. In both cases it is clear that the 'alternative' architectural styles and values of the 1900s, fought for with such vigour by Heimatschützer and Werkbündler throughout the previous decade, had become so well established by the war years that they no longer raised eyebrows in such bastions of conservatism as the Prussian civil service or the boardrooms of the Ruhr.

The Prussian Ministry of the Interior received many offers of help and advice on the reconstruction of war-damaged East Prussian communities in the winter of 1914-15, but it ultimately entrusted almost the entire rebuilding programme to teams of architects and planners nominated by the Werkbund and the Bund Heimatschutz, whose submissions to the authorities had stressed the need for the shattered communities to be rebuilt in a style which was both modern and functional, yet respectful of the region's architectural traditions.1. Thus Delmenhorst's Heinz Stoffregen was joined in East Prussia by many other architects featured in earlier chapters, whilst another prominent reformer, Carl Rehorst, was taken on by the German forces of occupation in Belgium as special advisor on matters of reconstruction there.

The second example dates from late August 1916, when Germany's Supreme Military Command took a far-reaching decision to expand the output of the nation's factories to unprecedented levels; weapons manufacture was to be doubled and an even greater increase was proposed for the output of munitions. The Hindenburg Programme was designed to push German industry to its very limits, to exploit the available raw materials and labour force to the full, and to drive the war effort toward a

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1.
For the reconstruction in East Prussia see Deutsche Bauzeitung, vol. 48 ( 1914), p.771 and p.800. Also Der Kunstwart, vol. 28, no. 4 ( 1914), p. 146. and vol. 28, no. 9 ( 1914), p.91.

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