The Reichserntedankfeste, © Museum Hameln

The Reichserntedankfeste

(Reichs Harvest Festival)

The Reichserntedankfeste, © Museum Hameln

Postcard motifs for Reich harvest festivals

N.N., 1933

Aerial photograph of the convention site

N.N., after 1934

The space design is plain. At the foot of the hill (below) stands the rostrum, and opposite is the platform for guests of honour.  They are connected by a central avenue called the “Führer’s walkway”. The oval festival site, surrounded by flags, in which the visiting masses took up their places, was constantly levelled and widened from 1933, so that the field was eventually 600 metres long and 300 metres wide. 

Convention site at Bückeberg viewed from the northwest 

Hamelin city map for the Reich harvest festival, 1936

In the summer of 1933, the decision was taken to plan a National Socialist mass meeting for the farmers. “Why the Bückeberg? […] Here! the hometown of Hermann of the Cherusci! Here! the hometown of Horst Wessel! – crossing again and again, intersection: Bückeberg near Hamelin.” This was how the propaganda explained it. Actually, however, there were practical reasons: Hamelin was conveniently situated and the site itself largely belonged to the Prussian state.

Hamelin City Archive

Design of a stadium, © Museum Hameln

Design of a stadium at the Bückeberg

Hamelin, 1938

The site at Bückeberg was only used for one day per year. To change this, an “arena” was designed in 1938 which was intended to host sporting events. Hitler refused the plan, however: No large-scale constructions at the Bückeberg, so that the Reich harvest festival continued as a festival in “free nature”. 

Hamelin-Pyrmont District Archive

The photographs, © Museum Hameln

Hitler in Hamelin, © Museum Hameln

The filled event site from the upper rostrum

Hans Pusen, presumably 1933

The individual merges into the whole, they should feel part of the “national community”.

Hanover History Museum 

View from the rostrum

N.N., undated 

Officially – and thus likely exaggerated – the number of visitors was stated to be 500,000 in 1933 and 1.2 million in 1937.

Visitor columns on the way to the Bückeberg

Hans Pusen (2x), 1933 | N.N., undated

The approach of the visitors was strictly regimented: on fixed paths at fixed times. Additional pontoon bridges led across the river from the group accommodation lying to the west of the Weser. 

Hanover History Museum | Hamelin Museum

Arrival of senior Party and Government members 

N.N., 1934

The representatives of the National Socialist regime arrived in more comfort. In 1934,  Heinrich Himmler (SS Reichsführer in black SS uniform) and Werner von Blomberg (Reich Defence Minister, in Reich Defence uniform) arrived by ship at the state ceremony, among others. 

Hamelin City Archive

The visitors arrive at the festival ground

Hans Pusen, presumably 1933 | N.N., presumably 1933

The impression of a “national consecration site” was intended to be conveyed to the visitors by the garland of Swastika flags. The visitors were not allowed to move freely, however! From 1934, each column was assigned its own area on the festival grounds.

Hanover History Museum | Hamelin Museum

Waiting audience at the festival site

Hans Pusen (2x), presumably 1933 | Ernst Hampel, presumably 1933

The visitors had to wait for hours on the festival grounds until Hitler arrived. There was little entertainment to stave off boredom, or if so, it did not reach the whole throng of people.

Hannover History Museum | Hannover City Archive 

Adolf Hitler in Hamelin and on the road to Bückeberg 

Heinrich Blesius, 1933 | N.N. (2x), 1933 or 1935, undated

Hitler arrives triumphantly in an open car. The whole route is lined with people. The dictator comes close to the people. Pictures with children in particular, who offer him crop bouquets, were used for propaganda purposes!

Hamelin City Archive | Hamelin Museum

Wearers of traditional costume on the central avenue

N.N., undated

The traditional costume wearers take up position on the central avenue. They form the cordon for Hitler’s route through the masses, a backdrop for pictures of the dictator as champion of the farmers.  

Hitler on the central avenue

Hans Pusen, 1933 | N.N., undated

The arrival of the dictator seems like salvation for the visitors. Indescribable rejoicing breaks loose when Hitler walks up and later back down the slightly raised central avenue.  The march through the masses lasted for three quarters of an hour … for a few hundred metres! 

Hanover History Museum | Hamelin Museum

A countrywoman presents the harvest crown on the upper rostrum

Hans Pusen, 1933

Hanover History Museum 

Hitler on the upper rostrum, waiting audience

N.N., 1933 | Hans Pusen, undated

Then Hitler takes his place with his entourage to observe military exercises on the plane lying towards Hamelin (from left Reich Defence Minister von  Blomberg, Hitler, Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture Darré, Reich Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda Goebbels).

Hamelin Museum, Hanover History Museum

Military show

N.N., 1933 | Hans Pusen, 1935

Clearly nobody doubted the logic of the programme: The celebrated farmers needed the protection of strong armed forces; they made an essential contribution to all areas of life. The show extolled the regime: In 1933 cavalry units formed a Swastika on the plane, and in 1935 aircraft flew in Swastika formation.

Ostwald, harvest festival 1st October 1933, 1934 | Hanover History Museum 

Expanded troop exercises

N.N., 1935 | N.N., undated

From 1935, the military shows became increasingly comprehensive. A village was constructed on the plane, which was then invaded. The visiting masses saw here – without knowing it – a future war for which they were being prepared, and which they were intended to accept. 

Hamelin City Archive

The spectators and their view of the rostrum 

Ernst Hampel, undated | Hans Pusen, undated

The mass event was the main experience for the spectators, since both the military exercises and also the rostrum could hardly be seen. Many are using field glasses and mirrors in the form of periscopes.

Hanover City Archive | Hanover History Museum

Adolf Hitler on the speaker’s podium

Hans Pusen, after 1933

The highpoint of the dramatics was Hitler’s speech. He captivated the farmers by calling them the “first and deepest representation of the people”. Agricultural policy was not the main emphasis of his statements, however. Much more important was to spread enthusiasm among the rural population through pageant and splendour, and to bind it to the general line of the regime. 

Hanover History Museum 

Adolf Hitler’s speech at night

N.N., 1933

Hitler succeeded in spellbinding the audience at night much more easily. The audience themselves stand in a dark, swaying mass, while he stands in the light at the rostrum like a saviour. Organisational problems only permitted this spectacle in 1933, however: After the festival, countless visitors got lost in the area of the Bückeberg, since they could not find their way back at night.

Firework finale 

N.N., 1933

Since the festival ended during the afternoon in following years, closing fireworks were only possible in 1933. Goebbels wrote in his diary: “The floodlights and high fires light up the darkness […]. The throng sings. Now all thank God! Stirring moment.” The hymn was only sung in 1933, and later the Horst Wessel song ended the celebrations.