29th October 1941, evening
Stupid pedagogical system—
The monuments of Paris.
It’s all wrong that a man’s whole life should depend on a diploma that he either receives or doesn’t at the age of seventeen.
I was a victim of that system myself. I wanted to go to the School of Fine Arts. The first question of the examiner to whom I’d submitted my work, was: “Which school of arts and crafts do you come from?” He found it difficult to believe me when I replied that I hadn’t been to any, for he saw I had an indisputable talent for architecture. My disappointment was all the greater since my original idea had been to paint. It was confirmed that I had a gift for architecture, and I learnt at the same time that it was impossible for me to enter a specialised school, because I hadn’t a matriculation certificate.
I therefore resigned myself to continuing my efforts as a self-taught man, and I decided to go and settle in Germany.
So I arrived, full of enthusiasm, in Munich. I intended to study for another three years. My hope was to join Heilmann and Littmann as a designer. I’d enter for the first competition, and I told myself that then I’d show what I could do! That was why, when the short-listed plans for the new opera-house at Berlin were published, and I saw that my own project was less bad than those which had been printed, my heart beat high. I had specialised in that sort of architecture. What I still know about it now is only a pale reflection of what I used to know about it at that time.
Von Kluge asked a question: “My Fuehrer, what were your impressions when you visited Paris last year?”
I was very happy to think that there was at least one city in the Reich that was superior to Paris from the point of view of taste—I mean, Vienna. The old part of Paris gives a feeling of complete distinction. The great vistas are imposing. Over a period of years I sent my colleagues to Paris so as to accustom them to grandeur—against the time when we would undertake, on new bases, the re-making and development of Berlin.
At present Berlin doesn’t exist, but one day she’ll be more beautiful than Paris. With the exception of the Eiffel Tower, Paris has nothing of the sort that gives a city its private character, as the Coliseum does to Rome.
It was a relief to me that we weren’t obliged to destroy Paris. The greater the calm with which I contemplate the destruction of St. Petersburg and Moscow, the more I’d have suffered at the destruction of Paris. Every finished work is of value as an example. One takes the opportunity of learning, one sees the mistakes and seeks to do better. The Ring in Vienna would not exist without the Paris boulevards. It’s a copy of them.
On the whole Paris remains one of the jewels of Europe.