Researchers explore ‘dark tourism’ of Nazi architecture

15 April 2015

Researchers explore ‘dark tourism’ of Nazi architecture

Former rocket factory in Peenemünde

Experts at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are exploring the future opportunities for tourism in Germany to National Socialist architecture, some of which desperately requires conservation.

While investment is needed to properly preserve and  restore ruined sites and historical buildings –for safety reasons as well as for cultural heritage  – the architecture of the 1930s and 40s is subject to international debate over whether to preserve monuments which symbolise a very dark period for Germany.

Professor John Lennon, GCU’s Assistant Vice-Principal Business Development and Director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development, is presenting at a conference debating the opportunities and limitations for tourism marketing around the National Socialist architecture.

The conference will be a discussion and stakeholder forum of urban planners, preservationists, historians, museum professionals and other experts identifying the common issues of dealing with structural and topographical relics of the Nazi era.

Professor Lennon will present a paper about ‘Dark tourism at former National Socialist grounds’. Dark tourism is a phrase coined by Professor Lennon to describe tourism and travel to sites historically associated with tragedy.

The conference takes place on May 18-19 at the Peenemünde Historical Technical Museum, which has its own dark history. It was one of the most modern technological facilities in the world in the years between 1936 and 1945. Slave labourers, concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war provided the work that enabled the construction of the test sites and the later serial production of rockets.

The conference will be opened by Mathias Brodkorb, Minister of Education, Science and Culture, and Minister of Economy, Construction and Tourism Harry Glawe, followed by presentations about NS heritage as public history and topics of destination management.

Professor Lennon says: “Essentially the architecture is part of the country’s historical fabric, representative and testament to a period of a nation’s history. In terms of interpretation of the past, Germany is widely regarded as a leader in dealing with its darker history and it is evident in German museums and heritage sites of the period that a fastidious approach to documentation and evidence dominates. Built heritage and architecture simply have to be treated in the same way.

“Interest in the history of the period is well documented and the buildings are part of the historical legacy constituting visitor attractions in many parts of Europe.”


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