Philip Purser

  • Hitler’s State Archltecture: The Impact of Classical Antiquity by Alex Scoble
    Pennsylvania State, 152 pp, £28.50, October 1990, ISBN 0 271 00691 9
  • Totalitarian Art by Igor Golomstock, translated by Robert Chandler
    Collins Harvill, 416 pp, £30.00, September 1990, ISBN 0 00 272806 0

As a young soldier in Germany at the end of the war I was dropped head first into two manifestations of the Third Reich which half a century later continue to exert a peculiar fascination. After two months in what became the Russian occupied zone, the field company to which I belonged was moved back to the Harz Mountains area. We were told we would henceforth be located in somewhere called Lebenstedt. Lebenstedt turned out to be like nothing any of us had seen before: instead of the familiar shattered towns, and the villages of old crooked houses with Gothic texts carved into their timbers and farmhouses fronted by open manure pits, it stretched away unscarred, uniform and seemingly endless. The roads were laid out in a rectilinear grid and lined on each side by long apartment blocks with steep roofs and rows of double windows. There were trim paths, strips of grass. All was orderly, well-built but featureless, and there was altogether too much of it. When we started holding dances, officially for young females from the displaced persons camps in the area, but very soon frequented by Germans, the abschnitt, or sector of the town in which a local charmer lived, was her most important statistic. Abschnitt 5 meant a long, long walk to see her home, plus the same distance back to billets.

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