By Dr. Todt Inspector-General of the German Road and Highway System
In order to form an adequate idea of what has actually been achieved by the National Socialist Government in their vast road construction programme, it is necessary to make a brief historical survey of the period following the War and bring some light to bear on the general conditions prevailing then, and whence National Socialism sprang into existence. For the construction of the Reich motor roads must also be judged within the framework of certain other important undertakings, and the whole idea is due to the personal initiative of Herr Hitler.
The general decline which set in as a consequence of the lost war was not confined to political spheres, but had a really catastrophic effect upon all sections of German life. Certain faults and weaknesses associated with the German people as a result of their history were accentuated to an immeasurable extent when the collapse came. The main contributory factor in this connection was the lack of unity between the various provinces and parties. After the termination of the Thirty Years’ War which brought dire disaster to Germany, the development of the German nation was at least 200 years behind that of other countries. Whereas in England and in France a strong central power could develop, which brought these nations all the advantages of firm resolution and thought, Germany could never entirely succeed in making up for the lack of a clear-sighted and broad-minded national policy, despite all her competency, industry and straightforwardness. Nevertheless, the German people have always felt a deep longing for unity and strength, and this desire existed even in difficult times. Finally, it needed a Bismarck to forge the broken links closer together, and he succeeded in adjusting the special dynastic interests of the individual States.
But the influence of the smaller middle-class communities could not be eliminated in a State which, up to 1918, comprised a number of petty States in which the denominational cleavage had never ceased to exert its disastrous influence since the Thirty Years’ War. It is true that before the last War, Germany was closely connected with events of international economic importance, thanks to the industry of her population, her technical progress, and her scientific ambitions. But the inner power and clarity of vision displayed by the political leaders were not in conformity with the outward splendour of the second Reich. Moreover, the sharp distinction which existed between urgent social problems, economic liberalism, and the power of traditional conceptions was too great not to threaten, sooner or later, the outward structure of the Reich.
The Marxist treason of 1918 brought about the collapse of the State edifice. The Army, which was the most vivid expression of German national power and unity, was dismembered. Elements of alien origin were rampant in the political sphere. The imitation of a democratic form of Government, which did not harmonise at all with the sentiments and conceptions of the German people as to what a real democracy is, put the finishing touch to the intellectual confusion, which culminated in the splitting-up of the people into 40 parties. Particularism blossomed forth once more and became so powerful that it undermined the last pillars which held the Reich together.
The German transportation system also presents a true picture of the nation’s political history. Its development and condition prove that the entire life of a people is dependent on whether they are able to act in a clever and reasonable manner in important matters where their destiny is at stake.
The formation of the German Customs Union in 1833-4 was not only a preliminary step towards the political unity of the Reich which followed under Bismarck, but also prepared the way for the wonderful development of the Railway System in Germany. The actual extension of the German railways went hand-in hand with the establishment of the German Empire at Versailles in 1871, which brought in its train a powerful economic revival.
The German Postal System also owes its development to the Bismarck Government. The same applies to the German Mercantile Fleet. The old German Hansa, mighty and magnificent though it may have been at times in its history, had finally to succumb to its competitors, for the limbs could not live without unity in the entire body represented by the German nation.
Is it therefore a matter for wonder that the German transportation system was heavily hit after the War?
The pressure from without through the Versailles Treaty, and the disintegration and paralysing of all forces within, were bound to have an influence on transportation. The mercantile fleet had to be surrendered, and the railways were forced to assume heavy war charges. In the period following the World War the century of the motor-car started, but in Germany, where this marvellous invention originated, it was hardly noticeable that a new era in mechanical transportation had commenced. Whereas other countries were able to benefit more and more from the technical and economic progress of motorisation, Germany, which had always been ahead in traffic arrangements, remained far behind.
The State Administration was also unable, because of the number of individual States, to launch out on an extensive programme for improving traffic conditions.
While in other countries they had started to adapt the old high-road system to the requirements of the most modern vehicle, the motor-car, things in Germany remained much as they were before. Germany was ten years behind the United States in adopting the modern technique of road construction. But there was no sign whatever of the systematic extension of the prevailing system or of a really modern road. Motorists could proceed for perhaps 20 kilometres on a well-constructed road in some district or other, and when they wanted to reach a place at some distance they found themselves suddenly on routes which seemed to remind them of war territory, or which at best were suited for a mail-coach from the good old times. The bureaucratically-minded governments of the individual States offered no new ideas and proved quite incapable of pushing matters forward in order to be in line with the requirements of the age and the technical progress made. There were 700 Road Construction Offices which worked side by side in this way, though in many cases it must be said that they worked against each other. How could a modern road system, which could only meet half the unceasing progress of the motor-car, emerge under such conditions?
At that time it was hardly noticed in Germany how from year to year we got further and further behind in comparison with the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, or other countries. The distress and the daily struggle for existence were so great and the permanent state of uneasiness so pressing that one had become almost accustomed to a continual drifting state of mind. Whereas in the United States, Great Britain and France the motor-car factories were working at top pressure and had thus gained a considerable technical and economic advance, unemployment in Germany increased terribly.
The possession of a motor-car was looked upon as a great luxury for rich people, and Bolshevik class hatred took care that an increase in motorisation and in the possession of motor-cars should not be looked upon as a natural advance on the road of progress, but as an occasion for proletarian envy and the spread of hatred. Such points of view had even managed to affect legislation and the administration of justice, so that it could be said that there was a hostile feeling towards the introduction of motor-cars in general.
There was only one man who thought otherwise in these gloomy times. He was the man who by day and night motored hundreds of thousands of kilometres along the German highways. In his indefatigable struggle for Germany’s freedom and honour, he appeared in all parts of the country in order to gather his followers together. That man was Adolf Hitler! Even in the midst of the most difficult political conflicts, he found time to deal with all kinds of problems. Amongst these, that concerning transportation was not the least important. Adolf Hitler was a friend of the motor-car and thoroughly appreciated its various uses and advantages. No other man was in a position to gain such practical experience concerning the motor-car and the road. The distances which he covered by motor-car during the ten years when he was engaged in his political struggle correspond at least to a voyage ten times round the globe! With such knowledge of the matter, the idea occurred to him long ago to launch out on the great schemes, the realisation of which we have before us to-day in the vast road construction and motorisation plan.
With the introduction of railways, the importance of the road decreased from decade to decade. The value of the high-roads became less and less, not only as a medium for transportation but also from the military point of view. At the end of the last century, however, when the motor-car came into its own, its progress was greatly handicapped, as there were no roads which were even half equipped to meet the new demands. This applied to the whole world, for nobody had foreseen the incredible development of the motor-car. Road construction was limited to very modest attempts, the main object of which seemed to be to keep the roads more or less free from dust.
The Great War did for motor traffic what it did for aircraft, and an unprecedented revival set in. For the first time, the motorisation of transports and supplies was a decisive factor. Indeed, the employment of masses of motorised columns in the World War was the first step in practical motorisation. It is only natural, therefore, that the experiences gained in the War were used for the technical and economic development of a modern motor-car industry. The United States, France, Great Britain, and Italy led the way. Only Germany, for the reasons already given, remained far behind. The development in road construction suffered the same fate, and only a few of the more progressive States and municipalities managed to put their roads into good condition, whereas the others left their roads in a state of sad neglect. The whole business was characterised by one fundamental error: the lack of legal provisions authorising the Reich to intervene in the question of road construction. Party strife and the jealousy animating the various competent authorities made it impossible for the Reich to pass such a law. Some private companies and associations attempted in vain to propagate the necessity of modern road construction. The success of their efforts was confined to narrow limits, and they achieved practically nothing. Technical progress in road construction, as in the motor-car industry, was severely handicapped. For the time being, German road construction had to be restricted to piece-work. In the race between the technical development of motor vehicles and modern road making, the latter was far behind.
This was the state of affairs when the Third Reich Was founded in 1933. Immediate intervention on the part of the State was indispensable if the German transportation system was to be saved from permanent damage.
The Leader himself at once took the personal initiative to put the whole system on a fundamentally new basis. At the opening of the 1933 International Automobile Exhibition in Berlin only 11 days after taking over the reins of Government, he announced a reform in the taxes on motor vehicles. The second measure, and one covering a far greater range, was the Motor Road Law issued on June 27th, 1933, which the Chancellor, in spite of much opposition, announced in a memorable speech delivered on May 1st, 1933. This law provided for the formation of an undertaking known as the Reich Motor Roads, conferring on it the power to construct and put into operation an efficient system of motor roads. Simultaneously it was announced that an Inspector-General was to be put in charge of the German Road System. A few days later, the Leader appointed the author of this article to that position.
The subsequent development proceeded at a pace such as has never been witnessed in Germany before. All the people were extricated from their state of annihilation and lethargy into which they seemed to have fallen since they lost the War. The National Socialist revival was showing its effect and all forces were welded together towards the common aim.
In the first place, effective legislation was introduced in order to pave the way for practical work and to eliminate all bureaucratic obstacles. Starting almost at the bottom of the ladder, work was commenced with courage and fierce energy. From June to September 1933, feverish preparations were made for the work in hand. A motor-road system was drafted, with a total length of about 7,000 kilometres, spreading over the entire country and connecting all economic, cultural and political centres.
As early as September 23rd, 1933, the Leader in person inaugurated the constructional work, and made the first cut with the spade at Frankfort-on-Main amid the enthusiasm of the workmen.
The planning and the legislation, but above all the rapid and decisive way in which the construction work was started, caused great surprise in road construction circles at home and abroad. The German people themselves were no less astonished. The majority of the experts had imagined that first of all the existing system of the old highways would have to be extended to comply with the increasing requirements. The Leader, however, chose the opposite method, and ordered the construction of a completely new road system. His reason for doing so was that he foresaw the great traffic, as well as the economic and political possibilities which such an undertaking would open up for Germany, and indeed for the whole of Europe. The Leader knew that the construction of a motor-road system was the most important preliminary for comprehensive motorisation. The object he had in view was that Germany, which was so many years behind other countries in this respect, should pursue a course which would make up for arrears and should be pushed forward by all possible means so as to prepare for any future development.
After four years of work on the part of her great National Chancellor, Germany is indeed the first country in the world where road construction is in advance of the technical development of motor-vehicle construction. This gives an impulse to the motor-vehicle industry and traffic development which will outlive the present generation. It was an event of historical significance that at the International Motor Show in Berlin in 1937, the Reich motor roads completely dominated the whole exhibition, and that the whole motor-car industry had to adapt itself to the achievements which the modern motor roads demand from the cars. Who would have thought it possible a few years ago that Germany should possess roads to-day which practically place no limits on the capacity of the automobile? The relationship between road and car has changed fundamentally. To-day the motorist in Germany has no cause to complain about the bad condition of the roads; on the contrary, he is now asking the motor-car industry when it will be possible to build the car that will be able to make full use of all the advantages and possibilities which these magnificent roads offer. The great idea represented by the Reich motor roads was everywhere apparent at the International Motor-Car and Motor-Cycle Exhibitions of 1937 and 1938. It is already the guiding principle which controls the constructional development of the motor-car industry, and applies to vehicles of practically all kinds. This factor will become more manifest from year to year, as the great Reich Motor Road System will be extended from year to year and the entire Reich Road System will be adapted to the ever-increasing motor traffic.
The appointment of an Inspector-General for the German Road System put a rapid end to the previous un systematic work of the Road Construction Authorities in the various States and provinces. In a decree issued on November 30th, 1933, it was announced that the Inspector-General would be directly under the Reich Chancellor. By this act on the part of the Government, the roads have again come under the sovereignty of the Reich, which had not been the case since the time of the powerful mediaeval Emperors. The construction of the Reich motor roads will only be fully appreciated when the road construction in the new Germany is seen as part of the whole comprehensive programme dealing with motorisation, road construction and the supplies of motor fuel. German motorisation was preceded by a provision by which newly-manufactured passenger cars were exempted from the motor-vehicle tax, whilst older vehicles were afforded tax facilities and replacement parts were free of tax also. The success of this measure was enormous. The number of licences granted to motor vehicles rose from 104,000 in 1932 to 475,000. The production of motor-cars increased from 51,000 in 1932 to 293,000, whereas the number of persons engaged in the motor industry went up from 33,000 in 1932 to more than 100,000 in 1937. In the supply and accessory industries, the number of people employed went up in at least equal proportion. About the middle of 1932, there were nearly 400,000 passenger motor-cars on the roads in Germany : now there are about 1,000,000 of them, so that there has been an increase of 150 per cent. In 1932 there was one motor-car to every 100 inhabitants, whereas in 1936 every 54th inhabitant had his own car. The following table shows the number of new passenger car licences each year:
This means that the number of licences granted is now five times as large as it was before Herr Hitler came to power. The number of motor-vehicles of all kinds has long since exceeded the 2,000,000 mark. The production and sale of motor-trucks also show an impressive upward trend, the number having risen from about 7,000 in 1932 to roughly 40,000 in the year 1936. The same applies to motor-cycles, where the number admitted to the roads has risen from 56,000 to 140,000.
Apart from the administrative and tax measures carried out directly under the supervision of the Reich Government, it was mainly the execution of the vast Road Construction Programme which gave a fresh impulse to motorisation. Our road construction is the best guarantor for our motorisation. In German motor-racing, the same powerful initiative which is behind all progressive movements, resulted in a whole series of astonishing international successes, such as had never before been experienced in the history of German racing. On the motor-tracks themselves a number of new world records were set up.
The construction of Reich motor roads is an economic measure, the effect of which is rarely properly appreciated. This vast undertaking can only be compared with the construction of the railway system commenced a century ago, which introduced a new era in traffic and international trade. It took about 70 years to develop the railway system until it was completed in its main sections, whereas it is reckoned that it will require about 10 years for the construction of the new Reich motor roads and putting the entire German road system on a modern footing.
In view of the vast amount of unemployment which prevailed in Germany before National Socialism came into power, it goes without saying that the tackling of this problem was a main consideration in the construction of Reich motor roads. Through their construction, 130,000 men are directly kept at work on the building sites. This is when the work is in full operation, which has been the case since 1935. A further 130,000 men find additional work and their daily bread in the supplying and consuming industries, that is to say in stone quarries, cement works, ironmongery working shops, bridge-building plants, building-machine factories, etc. The increased consumption of foodstuffs and purchase of clothes by this host of workmen who are again able to earn their own living is a factor which carries considerable weight. The prosperity of the building industry largely depends on the season of the year, but in spite of this the number of workers employed on the Reich motor roads was only cut down for a period of a few weeks, when frost and ice rendered constructional work difficult. But even during that short period, 50,000 workmen were kept constantly employed. The building of the Reich motor roads made it possible for the first time in Germany to carry out constructional work on a large scale through the winter months.
In addition to the construction of the 7,000 kilometres of new motor roads, a comprehensive road-construction programme will be put into effect for modernising the former long-distance roads of the various States and provinces, i.e., the present Reich roads. About 40,000 kilometres of such roads have been taken over by the Reich, and are either in course of reconstruction or extension. About 150,000 additional men are directly or indirectly engaged on this work, so that a grand total of more than 400,000 men who were previously out of work are now living again under normal conditions. Within the framework of other important measures undertaken by the National Socialist Government in its fight against unemployment, the construction of new roads was the first and foremost, and remains so up to the present day. Unskilled workers, amongst whom the greatest distress was to be found, formed the majority of those who re-entered the ranks of the employed thanks to the road-building scheme. About 15,000 of these are trained every year to become road building experts. Modern road construction requires such workmen in increasing numbers, as the technical aspect of road-building has continually improved. The consequence is that there are practically no unemployed trained workers and building assistants, such as are required for the construction of the Reich motor roads. Thus it happens, for instance, that workers have to be fetched from the Saar territory for work to be done in Wurttemberg, and from Saxony to carry out building undertakings in Franconia. This, of course, means that the number of working camps on the Reich motor roads, amounting at present to 140, has to be considerably increased.
Through the measures adopted for the revival of the automobile industry new workers have been engaged on an extensive scale. As against an approximate number of 60,000 employed in this capacity in 1932, there are now about 200,000 men directly or indirectly engaged in the construction of motor-vehicles in Germany.
The motor roads, as a means of providing work, have an essential advantage as compared with the emergency measures adopted by previous Governments for providing employment in as far as they do not represent work which is given to tide people in distress over a certain period, but offer the possibility of regular and continuous work for a long period.
Hence, the economic effect of the undertaking is very considerable. A few figures will serve to illustrate this point. Up to the present (1937) trade has benefited to the tune of about 1,500,000,000 reichsmarks through the construction of the new motor roads. It may be assumed that approximately 400,000,000 reichsmarks will be spent annually on construction work. About 3,600 kilometres, or half the length of the main system planned, are already in course of construction. The first 1,000 kilometres were opened to traffic in the autumn of 1936 At the end of September 1937, 1,553 kilometres were already in operation, and by the end of this year a total of about 2,000 kilometres will be open to traffic as complete motor roads. The following are the roads in question:
As well as a few smaller sections. With the completion of the Leipzig-Bayreuth-Nuremberg section, more than one-third of the entire length of the future Reich motor road from Berlin to Munich has been opened to traffic. Another very important piece of work performed this year is the continuation of the Reich motor road from Berlin to Stettin across the River Oder, thus effecting a connection with the great Baltic main road.
In this context the Berlin circular road which, when completed, will play a most prominent part in the traffic system, is especially worthy of mention. A large section of this highway was opened to traffic this year. That means a direct connection in the East, via Erkner, between the Stettin section and the Reich motor road from Berlin to Frankfort-on-Oder, and the development of the Southern and South-Western portion of the Berlin circular motor road will also be actively pushed ahead. At the present time, the section from Hanover to the Western industrial territory, which is of great importance to the capital, is in course of construction, and when this is completed the construction of the Reich motor road from Cologne in a southern direction as far as Frankfort-on-Main will be proceeded with. Further to be mentioned are the Hamburg-Hanover¬Kassel, and above all the Dresden-Breslau roads as sections on which constructional work has been started.
The machinery equipment is more important than any used up to the present for such an undertaking, and the following are in constant operation:
50,000 tipping waggons
3,000 building engines
1,000 modern building machines
3,000 kilometres of building tracks.
The amount of soil which has to be moved in performing the work constitutes a record for all time, and even now it exceeds by far that which was necessary for the construction of the Panama Canal. The country has received important orders for bridge and steel constructions, and through the construction of motor roads, natural stone for the purpose of bridge building has once more come into its own. We are again building many stone bridges, for experience has shown that they last longer and are of more pleasing appearance. The Regensburg stone bridge is 1,000 years old and still carries the heaviest traffic.
The roads are laid in such a way as to offer the most perfect security from the constructional and technical standpoints. There is no crossing, no traversing of rails, no driving through towns or villages, and the departure and arrival stopping-places are arranged in such a way that the cars gradually enter into the moving traffic. The most important point of all, however, is that the Reich motor roads consist of two separate tracks, so that the traffic can only move in one direction. It is therefore impossible for two vehicles to meet. The only possibility of contact is when one car overtakes another in the same direction. This can only lead to an accident in the case of very careless driving, for the total width of the Reich motor roads is 24 metres. They consist of two tracks, each of which is 7.50 metres in width, a middle-strip 5 metres wide with trees and grass, and side footpaths each of which is 2 metres in width. Thanks to the care bestowed on the construction of the driving-tracks and the special attention paid to the sub-soil of the road surface, the Reich motor roads have proved themselves trustworthy in times of frost and when they are slippery. Already in the winter of 1936-7 a regular service was introduced for strewing the roads, which of course will be further developed in the coming years. This will finally mean that every “road master” on the Reich motor roads will have a sufficient number of motorised vehicles at his disposal to enable him to keep the sections under his charge in order and free from snow and ice. Apart from this, the system of signals introduced last winter as a warning against slippery ice proved of excellent worth. The experience thus acquired will be used for the further development and perfection of the winter service. Later on, this winter or signalling service will operate in such a way that every pumping station on the Reich motor roads and every road master of the Reich motor roads will be able to tell every driver the exact condition of the section along which he wishes to proceed. This will be of special use to heavy long-distance motor-lorry traction.
The importance of the Reich motor roads judged from the point of view of traffic policy can best be gauged by considering the fact that out of 50,000 German towns and villages, only 18,000 have direct railway connection. Despite the fact that the German railway system is of great density, we have great possibilities for cars and roads to use the space available and for house-to-house traffic, which can only be effectively done by motor-car.
In the whole development of the system, the sapping of energy and strength through an exaggerated competitive struggle between railway and motor traffic will be avoided in Germany. The development will be slow and gradual, and will be based on sound organic principles. It was, therefore, for very good reasons that the Reich Motor Road Corporation was founded as an affiliation of the German National Railways. Moreover, since the Leader liberated the latter from the last fetters of the Versailles Treaty, they are again in full operation in the service of the Reich and can fulfil their great political and economic tasks without fear of being checked in their initiative, as is often the case with private railway companies.
In order to arrive at a proper adjustment of the German transportation policy, a special law governing long-distance goods traffic was issued, whereby the overland motor-lorry services are combined in a special Reich organisation. The independence of each undertaking is fully protected by the Association. German traffic policy strives in principle towards the systematic distribution of traffic between the railway, shipping, motor transport and aircraft, and this in such a manner that each of these traffic organisations shall discharge the duties which are best adapted to its special sphere and technical development. In other words, instead of senseless competition against each other, an equitable division will be effected, so that each will render of its best. This policy, which by no means excludes healthy competition, will best serve the interests of political economy. Within the sphere of these fundamental principles, a wide field will be open in future for motor transportation in Germany. For instance, all the possibilities of closer traffic relationship between the various Works have by no means been exhausted. In this connection, the erection of new and large industrial production workshops under the Four-Year Plan is an important factor. The home production of motor fuel from coal, the erection of important staple fibre factories, the opening-up of important ore and mineral deposits, and the development of the country’s own food supplies are all measures of far-reaching consequence which would be unthinkable without a corresponding road construction policy.
Traffic statistics available up to the present point to the fact that the entire long-distance traffic on the roads is going over to the Reich motor roads. Their advantages do not only consist in a saving of time, but also less wear and tear and a lower consumption of motor fuel. This is of great economic importance, and apt to be overlooked.
In the huge undertaking represented by the Reich motor roads, many steps have been taken towards a solution of the social problem. These measures were symbolic and were adopted by the entire building trade for its motto. They are, moreover, entirely in conformity with the conceptions of a National Socialist State.
The motor road workmen are paid according to tariff, and also receive bonuses formerly unknown. For those who, on account of the long distance of the building sites from their dwellings, could not be properly accommodated, lodging-camps were erected. In addition to clean sleeping-barracks, these camps have special canteens, with kitchens. The storage rooms are fitted with the most up-to-date refrigerator apparatus. Hot baths with shower-rooms, steam-heating, etc., are provided everywhere. To ensure smooth co-operation and cleanliness in these camps, there are special leaders with a staff of their own. On an average, each camp accommodates 200 men. The National Socialist Culture and Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy) organisations see to it that the workmen get plenty of change and entertainment. There are a stage of strolling players with good artists and an excellent programme, touring cinemas, sports requisites, libraries, newspapers and games for every camp. The price of meals is kept at the lowest level, and the workman gets everything he wants at cost price. Those who are injured by accident are sent to the best and most up-to-date hospital in Germany, at Hohenlychen.
The State and the building contractors work hand in hand, and it is a point of honour with them to make the lives of the Reich motor road workers better and more beautiful. Married workers get a free railway pass in order to go home for week-ends, and the wife of the worker has the assurance that part of her husband’s wages will be placed to her account or directly remitted to her. This is a much better arrangement than the previous ones, when it frequently happened, especially in the building-trade, that the man spent his entire weekly wages on drink, leaving his wife without a penny. In any event, constant efforts are being made to render the life of a building labourer, which is a hard one, easier and more comfortable. Unemployment is no longer a factor as far as the motor road organisation is concerned. Indeed, it can be said that unemployment in Germany to all intents and purposes has been eliminated. “Where can we be sure of finding the necessary workmen for building the motor roads?” That is the question now asked.
In the drafting of the scheme, the motor road authorities attached the greatest importance to the fact that the roads should be absolutely adapted to the German landscape. It is to their everlasting credit that they are pioneers in the Third Reich in as far as they have built not only useful motor-car roads, but above all beautiful ones. Their endeavour, in the construction of this gigantic road system, to perform something of real value, has made us recognise that beautiful roads are not more expensive than unattractive ones, and that a perfectly and beautifully built road is at the same time really the best and most serviceable. The lay-out of the roads, which absolutely fits in with the surrounding landscape, is the best, and a beautiful highway attracts traffic like a magnet.
It is a fundamental error to imagine that the roads present the appearance of endless dreary racing-tracks. In all parts of our German homeland where work is being done on the roads, efforts are being made to avoid the errors committed in the last century, when the construction of railways was planned without paying due consideration to other factors. From the very outset the aim has been to build this huge network of roads not only with the mathematical instruments of the real builder, but also with artistic feeling and a love of Nature and her soothing influence.
The deeper and spiritual movement of the National Socialist revolution, which signifies a psychic and cultural renovation of the German citizen, is plainly detectable in this undertaking. The white ribbons of the motor roads are carefully embedded in the landscape, and their lay-out is harmoniously adapted to them. Wherever large viaducts or similar structures are necessary, the same zeal has been shown to combine what is technically serviceable with the special features of the German landscape. These efforts to make out of Nature and technique one perfect unit characterise the work of the Reich motor roads as one of great importance and one which covers the greatest range. Technique and art, nature and life are to take on a new form as a result of this creative spirit. This is a task the immensity of which can only be appreciated by those who understand what the harmony of these things means to our people, and indeed to the whole world.
We can state with pride that the adaptability of the Reich motor roads to the German landscape has already been achieved on a large scale, and is tending more and more in this direction. The roads rank not only among the most modern, but also among the most beautiful ones in the world.
The new roads lend a new character to the German landscape. The open stretched lines which pass through the landscape force the eye to follow their direction and the starting-place and destination are more clearly marked. German men and women will see these roads and the vastness of the scene will help them to think on broader lines than was heretofore possible. This is a matter of extreme importance, and the roads built by Herr Hitler represent the most vivid expression of the unshakable unity of the Reich.
The great importance of the Reich motor roads has long since been recognised in foreign countries. The great achievements and efforts made by the Third Reich in the sphere of road construction were fully appreciated at the VIIth International Road Congress (1934) held in Munich and Berlin, and at the IInd International Congress for Bridges and Overground Structures (1936) held in Berlin. An official resolution of the Road Congress stated that the construction and planning of the German motor roads is exemplary and the press of all large countries has nothing but praise for the work accomplished. Numerous foreign visitors have come to Germany for the express purpose of inspecting the motor roads, and the number of foreign cars in Germany is continually on the increase.
Road construction in Europe means closer and more rapid communications. The building of modern roads for the purpose of rapid transport is being discussed in nearly all countries, and in some cases Germany is taken as an example. Even in countries where such is not the case, as for instance in France, they are adopting the German word autobahn (motor-track) for similar projects. New road-construction plans are considered in Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Austria and Poland. Germany has made an agreement with Italy to establish motor road connection between Berlin and Rome. We may safely say that the German initiative in road construction has caused quite a lively sensation everywhere.
In September 1937, a special British delegation (“German Roads Delegation”) paid a visit to this country to study our new motor highway system. We are sincerely glad to see that our efforts met with the approval of our visitors; and the farewell speech delivered by Lord Wolmer in the Gürzenich building, Cologne, will always be remembered by us with much pleasure. The German suggestion, he said, that Germany’s road system should be studied by British experts had been received with great interest. He referred to the delegation headed by him as the most representative unofficial body of Englishmen that has ever visited Germany. It consisted of 225 members of Parliament and representatives of the British road-making and motor-car industries. Although British traffic problems are different from the German ones, the members of the delegation have been able, Lord Wolmer said, to collect many valuable impressions and suggestions. These have meanwhile been summarised in a comprehensive report. We are proud of the complimentary remarks it contains on the safety of the traffic on our motor high-roads and are highly gratified to see that the adoption of the German system by Great Britain is recommended. (“We recommend that the principle of the motor-way system be adopted in Great Britain”.) The advantages of our system are considered so great that it is described as desirable to make an immediate start with its introduction. (” … an immediate beginning should be made with those lengths of the national plan which are urgently required to relieve the pressure of traffic on the existing roads, and to reduce the risk of accidents.”) Since then it has been possible further to strengthen the relations so happily inaugurated between German and British road experts. Future visits have already been arranged, including one by Professor elements, who occupies the chair for road-making in the University of London, and who intends to visit us with his students in the summer of 1938. Before concluding this article, I wish to express my cordial thanks for the welcome which was accorded to the delegation of road experts headed by me when we visited Great Britain in November 1937. The German road system is certain to derive great benefit from the opportunities we had of studying London’s traffic problems and from the talks I had with British experts, notably with Dr. Burgin, the Minister of Transport.
Germany will be very happy if the construction of her motor roads is viewed in the light of what it really represents, that is to say as an achievement in the domain of European civilization. If all Europe could become engaged in such peaceful work, there would be enough to do for 20 or 50 years. Literally and figuratively speaking, it would bring the nations closer together, and that would be the greatest achievement which technical progress could claim in the twentieth century.