As part of his mission to indoctrinate the entire German population during the Nazi regime, Joseph Goebbels started the “Thing” movement in 1933 to build huge outdoor settings where thousands of people could gather in specially constructed outdoor amphitheaters called Thingplatz or Thingstatte.
At the Thingstatte, which often incorporated bodies of water, ruins, hills of historical importance, rocks, and trees, people would get together for propaganda presentations.
More than 1,000 Thingstatte were planned by Goebbels, but only about 45 of them were finished as the movement never gained popularity with the people of Germany. The first was built in 1934 and the last in 1936.
The Thingstatte in Heidelberg was started in 1934 and finished the following year. Situated on the Heiligenberg (Holy Mountain), the amphitheater covers 25 meters of sloping land and overlooks the city. Designed by the architect H. Alker, who worked for the Reich Labor Service, the Heidelberg Thingstatte features two hexagonal towers constructed to hold flags, lighting, and sound. On the opening day, 20,000 people turned out to hear Goebbels himself. After the Thingstatte fell out of favor, this site was turned into a public park and remains one to this day.
The mountain (and area around Heidelberg generally) has drawn humans for millennia, hence why the Nazis were so interested. In the last centuries B.C., there was a huge fortified Celtic settlement on the mountain. As the Romans conquered the area, they built several small temples on the summit of the mountain over preexisting Celtic ruins. The remains of the Roman temples were, in turn, integrated into a monastery, the ruins of which are located above the Thingstatte and worth visiting while you’re up there. Another worthwhile curiosity you’ll pass on your way up to the Thingstatte is the Heidenloch, or Heathen Hole, which consists of a rock-cut chute that measures between 10 by 15 feet and 180 feet deep. While it is certain that this chute dates at least to the Roman period, its exact purpose remains a mystery.
Know Before You Go
Take Bus 33 to the Park, but only on the weekends. Weekdays it drops off at the bottom of the hill and you have to walk 1.7 miles to the Park.