2 - Commemorative ceremonies  pp. 41-71

Commemorative ceremonies

By Paul Connerton

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Between the seizure of power in January 1933 and the outbreak of war in September 1939, the subjects of the Third Reich were constantly reminded of the National Socialist Party and its ideology by a series of commemorative ceremonies. The number, the sequence and the performative structure of these festivals rapidly assumed a canonical form and they retained that form until the demise of the Third Reich. The impact of this newlyinvented canonic sequence pervaded all spheres of life, the festivals of the Reich being related to the feasts of the Christian calendar in much the same way as the latter had been related to the seasonal celebrations of the pagan era. The calendrical liturgy of the National Socialist Party was regulated and total.

The liturgical year began on 30 January with the anniversary of Hitler's seizure of power in 1933. On that day each year Hitler's speech to the Reichstag, transmitted by radio, presented ‘the Nation’ with an account of what he had done with the power entrusted to him; the torchlight procession of 30 January 1933 was annually repeated; and the day ended with a ceremony, broadcast by radio from every street corner, at which eighteen-year-olds who had demonstrated qualities of leadership in the Hitler Youth were sworn in as full members of the Party. Every year on 24 February a ceremony exclusively for the ‘old guard’ commemorated the foundation of the Party, the ‘annunciation’ of the ‘immutable’ programme of twenty-five points in the Hofbräuhaus in 1920.