56 buildings and their functions are marked in purple on a map.

Map of the NSDAP Party quarter in Munich’s Maxvorstadt district | © NS-Dokumentationszentrum München

The Party Quarter of the NSDAP

Today tourists flock to see the artworks in the museum district known as the Kunstareal; yet this area of the city was once the location of the Nazi Party’s power center. From 1933 onwards the streets around Königsplatz were gradually transformed into the Party quarter of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). Almost 6,000 employees worked in the many different offices and Nazi organizations that occupied more than sixty buildings. Some of these were rented or purchased, while others were newly built or simply expropriated from their former owners. From Munich the Reich Leadership of the NSDAP steered the Party’s many organizations all over Germany.

From a backroom to a palatial residence

A swastika hangs on the wall behind tables and chairs. An inscription beside it commemorates the founding of the NSDAP.

Inside the Sterneckerbräu inn, 1930s | © Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The Nazi Party was born in a backroom of the Sterneckerbräu inn at Tal 54 in spring 1919. This was where the Party had its first offices and where its early supporters gathered. At that time, it was still called the German Workers’ Party (DAP). Adolf Hitler joined in September 1919 and as a skilled orator soon rose to the top of the Party. Later the inn became a kind of Nazi shrine and a Party museum was established there.

In a meeting at the Hofbräuhaus beer hall in February 1920, Adolf Hitler announced that the Party would change its name to National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) and he outlined its first manifesto. When he became Party chairman in July 1921, he stated that “Munich is the headquarters of the movement and always will be.” With a rapidly growing membership, the Party moved its main offices to the Gasthaus Cornelius inn at Corneliusstraße 12. By the end of 1922, the Party leadership in Munich was able to count 100 local branches throughout Germany, the majority of them in Bavaria.  

After the failed putsch of November 1923, the NSDAP was initially banned. It was newly founded in February 1925 under the same name, but pursuing a line that was allegedly legal. The Party headquarters remained in Munich. Between 1925 and 1930 they were located in a rear building in Schellingstraße, very close to the studio of Hitler’s personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann.

Facade of a corner building with several windows and a swastika above the entrance.

Courtyard of Schellingstraße 50, 1926 | © Bayerische Staatsbibliothek / Bildarchiv

A large number of men are sitting at three long tables with files in front of them. Swastika flags hang on the wall.

Party meeting at the Reich offices of the NSDAP at Schellingstraße 50, Aug. 30–Sept. 2, 1928 | © Bayerische Staatsbibliothek / Bildarchiv

Munich as the “Capital of the Movement”

View from the street of the facade of a three-storey building with many windows. A sign with a swastika hangs from the roof.

The “Brown House” at Brienner Straße 45, 1935 | © Bundesarchiv, photo 102-17059 / Georg Pahl

In early 1931, the Party headquarters moved once again—this time to Palais Barlow in Brienner Straße. The neoclassical property had been purchased a year previously and after being extensively refurbished by the architect Paul Ludwig Troost became known as the “Brown House.” The move to this elegant district of the city symbolized the Party’s new self-confidence and its untrammeled power ambitions. By then, the NSDAP already had 100,000 members. It was no longer a splinter party and had scored its first electoral successes. In both Munich and in the Reich it was able to count on the support of an influential bourgeoisie.

The “Brown House” was the first step in the development of the Party’s new power center, which became established in the area around Königsplatz from 1933 onwards. Since coming to power, the Party leadership headed by Hitler had begun orienting itself more toward Berlin, later toward Obersalzberg; some Party organs moved to the German capital at this point. Nevertheless, Munich remained its organizational and bureaucratic center.

 

In addition, the city where the Party had been founded acquired a mythical status. In 1935 Adolf Hitler officially conferred the title of “Capital of the Movement” on Munich. This title had been proposed by the city government under Mayor Karl Fiehler, who sought to use it as a tourist attraction, to apply for funding, and for urban planning projects.

After coming to power the Party apparatus became much larger and therefore needed more space. Apart from the core Party with its sub-divisions and offices, there were regional, district, and local branches, all the way down to Party cells and Party blocks. There were also organizations like the Hitler Youth (HJ) and the National Socialist Women’s League as well as party-affiliated associations such as the National Socialist Students’ League and the German Labor Front (DAF). This close-knit network of Party organizations was intended to spread Nazi ideology to all levels of society, to exert control, and to bring people into line.

Party buildings on Königsplatz

In 1933 Paul Ludwig Troost was commissioned to construct two monumental new buildings in the direct vicinity of the “Brown House”: the “Führerbau” and the “NSDAP Administrative Building” as well as two halls of remembrance for those who had died on November 9, 1923. To make room for these new buildings, several buildings on Arcisstraße were expropriated and demolished, including the Villa Pringsheim.

A square paved with granite slabs. On the right is a long building, in the middle a hall of columns, and on the right a building with a swastika flag. People are walking across the square.

The “Führerbau,” the “Brown House,” and the “Temples of Honor” on Königsplatz, 1937 | Source: Karl Fiehler (Hg.), München baut auf, 1937

The square in the center of the photo is surrounded by a number of buildings and streets.

Aerial photo of Königsplatz and the surrounding area, c. 1937 | © Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte

Troost was actually a specialist in ship interiors, but he was also adept at translating Hitler’s ideas of propaganda and spectacle into architecture. The Nazis’ aggressive ideology and their power ambitions were expressed in a blunt, angular, reduced form of neoclassicism. The buildings were completed in 1937 and served as models for almost all subsequent Nazi showcase buildings.  

Several men in a room standing next to and behind each other and looking at the camera.

Group photo at the Munich conference (1st row l. to r.: Arth​ur Neville Chamberlain, Edouard Daladier, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Count Galeazzo Ciano), 1938 | © Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The “Führerbau” was only used on a few occasions, but it was of great international significance, for it was here in Hitler’s study that the heads of government of Great Britain, France, and Italy signed the Munich Agreement on September 29 and 30, 1938. The agreement forced Czechoslovakia to cede the “Sudetenland” to the German Reich.

A long corridor with tables arranged one behind the other at which a number of men are sorting files. Cabinets stand to their left and right.

Employees working on the card index of Party members in the NSDAP Administrative Building, March 1937 | © Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München / Bildarchiv

The office of Reich Party Treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz was in the Administration Building opposite. Schwarz was responsible for the entire Party administration and for the Party’s proprietary affairs as well as its membership office. This was where the central card index of the Nazi Party was kept with files on 8.5 million NSDAP members.  

60 buildings – 6,000 employees

As well as the “Brown House” and the two other monumental buildings, more than sixty other buildings in the surrounding area were used by Party offices or Nazi organizations. In the entire quarter as many as 6,000 people were employed full-time by the Nazi Party. They included the Supreme SA leadership, which moved into Barerstraße 7–11 in 1933. The head of the Storm Battalion (SA) Ernst Röhm had already had an office in the “Brown House” since 1931. In the early 1930s the SA had played a major role in “gaining control over the street.” When the SA was deprived of its power in 1934 in the wake of the “Night of the Long Knives,” its general staff moved to Berlin.  

The Wittelsbacher Palais on Brienner Straße, about 200 meters from the “Brown House,” had once been the residence of Ludwig I. The “Bavarian Political Police” under the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich moved into the building in July 1933. Heydrich was also head of the Security Service (SD) of the SS. The Political Department had previously been made independent of the Munich Police Department, which had been under the “Reich Leader of the SS” Heinrich Himmler since March 1933. Within a short space of time the Political Police was transformed into the Secret State Police (Geheime Staatspolizei, better known as the Gestapo), which was outside the control of the state and the judiciary. Heydrich had a Gestapo prison built in the northern section of the site where thousands of political opponents were incarcerated, beaten up, and tortured, including Hans and Sophie Scholl in February 1943.

 

Front facade of a four-storey building with Gothic-style windows. A tree-lined walkway leads to the entrance. A low fence runs along the street in front of it.

The Wittelsbacher Palais in Brienner Straße, 1930s | © Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The NSDAP’s Supreme Court was housed at Karolinenplatz 4. Its tasks included examining applications for membership, settling internal Party disputes, and sanctioning behavior deemed harmful to the Party. Hans Frank, Hitler’s lawyer and later General Governor of Poland, served as a judge here for a time. After the violent pogroms of November 1938, the Party court hearings made sure that the crimes and their perpetrators were covered up. Regular courts were not involved.

The end of the war and the postwar use of the buildings

Some of the Party buildings were badly damaged by bombing raids in the final year of the war. The Wittelsbacher Palais burned out in 1944, while the “Brown House” was completely destroyed in January 1945. Afraid of the Americans, the employees working in the still intact buildings left their offices in the final days of the war. During the night before the liberation of Munich on April 30, 1945, many Munich citizens looted the unguarded Party buildings. The cellar of the “Führerbau” contained not only stores of food and wine but also 1,500 valuable works of art, a large of which the Nazis had extorted or stolen, many of them from Jewish collectors. Most of the works, which included paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, were intended for a museum in Linz and were being temporarily stored in Munich. At least 650 artworks were looted during the night of April 30, 1945, in the largest art theft Munich has ever experienced. 400 of these works are still lost today.

View from the street of the front facade of a three-storey building. The sign above the pillared entrance reads “Amerika Haus München.” Above it hangs a US flag.

The America House in the former “Führerbau,” 1948 | © Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

The US military government dissolved the NSDAP and its affiliated associations. But the remaining buildings in the former Party quarter were quickly used for other purposes. Any obvious references to Nazi ideology were removed, but otherwise, in view of the shortage of space in the postwar era, a generally pragmatic approach was taken. The stolen art was initially collected in the former “Administrative Building,” which became known as the Central Art Collecting Point. The Central Institute for Art History moved into the premises in 1946. America House was established in the former “Führerbau” in 1948. Since 1957 it has housed Munich’s University of Music and the Performing Arts.

April 1945: The final days of the war in the “Capital of the Movement”

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Video

The Allies invaded Munich on April 30, 1945, thus ending World War II in the city where National Socialism had its origins— the self-proclaimed “Capital of the Movement.” What happened in the final days of World War II? Our director Mirjam Zadoff will take you on a little journey back in time around Königsplatz.