Unholy alliance: Berlin's Nazi church

Nazi iconography: Martin Luther Memorial Church in Berlin

Image credits: blonde-bestie

From the outside, it looks like many other early twentieth century Berlin churches.

Enter, however, and you'll be impressed by the high, barrelled ceiling and terracotta arch spanning the altar; by the polished wood and ornate organ.

Martin Luther Memorial Church in Mariendorf, Berlin

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But other, far more unexpected details start to emerge. The carved-oak baptismal font, featuring a Nazi SA officer, cap in hand. Or the wooden pulpit depicting Christ flanked by a member of the Hitler Youth and a uniformed Wehrmacht soldier.

Image credits: ev-kirchengemeinde-mariendorf

Font featuring Sturmtrooper, Martin Luther Memorial Church in Mariendorf, Berlin

Image credits: blonde-bestie

The Martin Luther Memorial Church in Mariendorf was completed in 1935, and as such, was conceived not only as a monument to the glory of God and Protestantism, but as an expression of the power and ideology of Hitler's Germany.

Of course, given the hindsight of history, there's something truly shocking about the presence of such symbolism in a church, and its existence also raises burning questions regarding the often-assumed hostility between Christianity and Nazism.

But in fact, over 900 churches were either built or remodelled during Hitler's rule. And in this particular case, the faithful of Mariendorf had been awaiting a new place of worship for many decades; the project was eventually taken on by Curt Steinberg, an ardent Nazi supporter as well as one of Brandenburg's foremost church architects.

For Steinberg, the opportunity to intermingle Nazi, military and Christian symbolism was too good to miss - after all, where better to express the glory of National Socialism than in a place built specifically for worship?

Image credits: blonde-bestie

Iron Cross chandelier in the Martin Luther Memorial Church in Mariendorf, Berlin

Image credits: Image credits: ev-kirchengemeinde-mariendorf

Further examples of this unholy alliance abound. The entrance lobby is illuminated by a chandelier in the form of an Iron Cross, and the 800 terracotta plaques adorning the "triumphal arch" include busts of helmeted soldiers and martial eagles.

The sumptuously decorated organ was transported here after making its debut at a 1935 Nazi Party conference in Nuremberg, while even the golden figure of Christ above the altar is unusual: a muscular, taut hero who stares defiantly ahead and shows no signs of suffering.

Unsurprisingly, on the day of the church's inauguration shortly before Christmas 1935, Nazi anthems were sung alongside Christian hymns and carols.

Terracotta plaques with former swastikas removed, Berlin

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Yet certain things are missing. The eagles once brandished swastikas in their talons, and a terracotta portrait of the Führer himself gazed at parishioners from the entrance hall.

These, of course, were removed post-war, yet the Martin Luther Memorial Church is still remarkably intact, providing us with a unique - and uniquely unsettling - historical location.

Martin Luther Memorial Church (Martin-Luther-Gedächtniskirche): Riegerzeile 1a, 12105 Berlin Berlin.

The listed Martin Luther Memorial Church Martin-Luther-Gedächtniskirche is currently closed for renovation. Debate continues as to what, exactly, should be done with such a sensitive site. Suggestions include designating it as a place of remembrance.

See also:
The road to Germania
A monument to resistance

Albert Speer's Germania
Berlin's inner-city village

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