A Blessing in Disguise: War and Town Planning in Europe 1940-1945

Richard J. Evans writes:

In 1941, the architect Hans Stosberg drew up ambitious plans for a new model town, with monumental public buildings grouped around a main square, and leafy boulevards branching off a central avenue which led to the factory complex that would provide the bulk of the work for a population of 80,000. There were to be twelve schools, six kindergartens, twenty sports fields, swimming pools, offices, banks, shops and a number of satellite settlements, every one of them constructed around a main square and equipped with similar public buildings and modern amenities. The whole conglomeration was to form an ‘urban landscape’ divided into cell-shaped districts, each forming its own sub-community within the overall structure of the town. Houses, or ‘people’s dwellings’, were to be supplied with central heating, garages, gas cookers, laundries and vegetable gardens. The old idea of a city as a concentration of densely populated buildings packed into a townscape of narrow streets and winding alleyways was to be superseded by the modern concept of a spread-out complex of roads and buildings that merged seamlessly into the natural environment. Funds poured in from the government, and businesses vied for a favoured place in the new urban landscape. To celebrate the start of construction, Stosberg had special greetings cards made for New Year 1942, which he sent out to friends, colleagues and acquaintances. The words below the picture proudly announced: ‘Birth of the new German town of Auschwitz’.

(LRB 5 December 2013)