Back - List of Pavilions

Germany - Expo Liege 1939

Germany at the Exhibition Expo Liege 1939
Architect(s) : Prof. Fahrenkamp

The PALAIS DE L'ALLEMAGNE was a good example of the current trend in official architecture of the Third Reich. The reaction to the so-called "rational and functional architecture" was clearly evident.

As a whole, the building looked great. The building was very large, and its mass was an unmistakable symbol of power in its composition. Its execution in rich materials made it a sumptuous palace. With very clean lines, of a modernised classical style, it had facades cut by high bays traced between elegant pilasters in Bohemian Travertine, bearing a thin cornice which perfectly finishes the building. Perhaps we would have preferred a closer connection between the architecture of the main hall and the exhibition building.

Inside, the hall of honour gave an impression of real grandeur. The long red curtains, contrasting with the immaculate white of the pilasters, provided a splendid decorative element. The large central basin in solid marble added to the monumental effect. The excellent display, the charm and research in the decoration and furnishing of the reception room successfully completed a high quality ensemble.

At the 1939 Liege International Exhibition, Germany had a large palace built in hard materials, with a truly imposing sobriety of line, and which occupied a choice position at the main entrance to Coronmeuse, to the left of the main esplanade. Including the open-air spaces next to the palace, the total exhibition area amounted to about 7,000 square metres.

This area does not include the offices for the various departments of the Commissariat, nor the vast premises (refectory, rest room, etc.), which were nicely fitted out for the use of the staff.

The water problem is very important for Germany. In order to define exactly the preponderant role of this element in the present and past life of this country, we can do no better than to reproduce the following extract from the Official Catalogue of the German Section:
From the very beginning of our history, we see the important role that water plays in the lives of our ancestors. The results of recent excavations

The results of recent excavations prove that the art of building boats was already well developed among the old Germanic tribes. The use of hot baths seemed so interesting to Tacitus that he mentions it in his "Germania". The Romans set up their camps on the Rhine with particular regard to the course of the rivers and their mouths. Many German cities (Koblenz, Frankfurt, etc.) take their name from the confluence of two rivers or important fords. Charlemagne had his imperial residence (Pfalz) built at the hot springs of Aachen. In the Middle Ages, the Hanseatic League gave a strong impulse to shipbuilding. When the history of the past speaks of great achievements, it always refers to the construction of harbours, canals, dykes and the draining of marshes.
We also recognise the strong influence of water on our cultural life in the countless folk songs and poems that celebrate the close relationship between man and water, a relationship that has been further deepened in modern times by the practice of water sports. Water has inspired not only popular song and music, but also architecture and the visual arts.
We are therefore simply continuing a historical tradition by taking a deep interest in questions relating to the relationship between man and water in Germany. The only difference with the old days is that we have more powerful means at our disposal. It is no longer individuals or groups of interested parties who are studying these questions, but the state itself which has recognised the need for a systematic application of modern discoveries in this area of the economy. There is still unused water power, huge amounts of water still flowing into the sea without having benefited agriculture and transport. However, the need to use them has been recognised, and we also know the ways in which this peaceful work can be carried out quickly, in the interests of the individual and the whole people.

These few lines bring out all the elements of the water problem as it is posed in Germany and express, moreover, the way it is posed there. The main focus is on the relationship between man and water, a social concern that will be the main characteristic of the entire participation. We will return to this point in the conclusions to this chapter.

The German Section was headed by Dr. E. W. Maiwald, General Commissioner of the Reich Government at the Exhibition, and two Deputy General Commissioners: Mr. Oberregierungsrat Knothe and Dr. Keim, Embassy Attaché. The Director of the Section was the architect E. Walther, and the
The technical departments were headed by Professor Fahren-kamp, Dipl.-Ing. Renner, Dipl.-Ing. Pixis, Reichsbaudirektor Voss and Reichsbauassessor Brinkmann.

The monumental entrance to the Palace of Germany led to a majestic hall of honour whose decoration was impressive. The visitor was then led to the main exhibition hall and began his visit by leaning to the right. At the back, he would walk around another room that ran perpendicular to the first one. The whole building was in fact laid out in a T shape and could be visited in a continuous circuit.

There were twenty-four booths, each of which dealt with a different subject, the object of which was carefully highlighted. The order in which they were presented did not correspond to any ideological classification. The aim was to keep the visitor interested to the end, and this was achieved. The abstract elements (maps, statistics, notices, etc.) were particularly well presented.

The subjects successively reviewed were the following:
1° Water management in general, and agricultural hydraulic works in particular, - fish farming
2° Water transport: works on waterways, their equipment, problems concerning navigation
3° Machine building: marine engines, pumps, compressors, turbines, measuring and control devices
4° Metallurgy: possibilities of metal yield, galvanisation processes, plating, etc;
5° Water supply: catchment, purification, distribution of water
6° Waste water: its evacuation, purification and use
7° Mineral waters: springs, water cities, balneotherapy institutes. A large relief map of Central Europe was also displayed here, showing the existing waterways or those under construction, the dams built in the valleys and the land reclaimed for agriculture as a result of the hydraulic works carried out since 1933;
8° The chemical industry: impregnation of wood, protection of metals, manufacture of insulators and fireproofs
9° The scientific section: a striking review of the scientific work undertaken in relation to water
10° Precision instruments, optics and electro-technology, in direct connection with the elements of the previous stand

11° The most recent models of boats and ships
12° The historical section of navigation: models of old ships, documents, seals, books, tables, etc;
13° The technical library containing remarkable documentation on all the subjects dealt with at the Exhibition and especially on the progress of cartography
14° The water cities, seaside and climatic resorts of the country (this stand completed n° 7 which we met on the outward journey) ,- 15° The hygiene installations in the country
15° Hygiene installations in cities, in the countryside and at sea, in homes, hospitals and factories
16. Professional education and social welfare: what has been done to train and protect the worker
17. Rescue at sea and on inland waterways: appropriate equipment
18. Water sports: installations, apparatus and accessories
19. Textile industry: special fabrics related to water
20. Shipbuilding: all elements involved in the construction and fitting out of the ship
21. Civil engineering: building and hydraulic works
22° Installations of the hydro-electric industry;
23° works carried out on the coast
24° Deep-sea fishing: equipment and installations.

Next to the palace, there was a vast open-air exhibition of public works equipment, including a powerful mechanical shovel mounted on tracks. In addition, in a small special pavilion, a model of a river region was presented, showing the various phenomena of water management.

In addition, a number of exhibitors in some of the buildings of the Belgian Section presented additional items, such as non-Belgian-made equipment used for demonstrations, and also items collected in the Historical Waterworks Section.

Finally, in order to give a complete overview of Germany's participation, it should be noted that this country took an important part in all the international events that took place at the Exhibition: congresses and conferences, art exhibitions, competitions and festivals, and sports events. We will come back to these various collaborations in the special chapters that follow. The following description concerns exclusively the German Section itself, i.e. everything in and around the official palace, as well as the objects scattered in the Belgian Section. All of this was included in the General Classification of the Exhibition, and it is the order of the classes that will be followed in this analysis.

The first section we have to examine was perhaps the most remarkable of the participation: it is the SCIENTIFIC SECTION (stand n° 9). Together with the PRECISION APPARATUS AND INSTRUMENTS AND OPTICS SECTION (stand no. 10), it occupied the entire right wing of the transverse hall. The whole complex was classified in classes 1, 2 and 3 of the General Classification.

In class 1, the four branches of biology, physics, chemistry and hygiene were covered. The results of the biological analysis of water and research into saprobia, the plant and animal organisms found in water, were presented in large illustrated tables and in jars. The progress of this research could be followed in nearby laboratories, using numerous modern devices. A sub-section was devoted to the methods of quantitative research of animal life at the bottom of the North Sea. The complete installation of a laboratory for the study of plankton on board a special ship and the results obtained were also shown.

In addition to numerous serial devices, the pure physics and chemistry sections presented two interesting models of a water molecule made of wood and glass, showing the position of the oxygen atom in relation to the two hydrogen atoms. In addition, the German Institute for Technical Physics exhibited a number of its own devices for determining the purity of water, the heat of vaporisation and the saturation pressure of water. This stand was complemented by reproductions of the international steam tables and Mollier's i-x diagram, which has found application in all thermodynamic calculations for steam engines.

In class 2, the following subjects were particularly developed: the physics of currents, naval, hydraulic and land construction, hydrography and hydrometry.

The physics of currents was represented by numerous working apparatuses, most of which were developed or even built at the country's universities. Shipbuilding, with experiments on mooring lines, propulsion effects of the propeller and its rotations, etc. Hydraulic constructions, with an abundant and varied documentation which was also of interest to classes 4 and following. Finally, land constructions were represented by a model of a dyke raised on marshy ground, by several devices for determining the settlement of marshy ground and putrescent silt, the speed of decomposition of consistent ground, etc.

The hydrography stand contained numerous valuable water level and flow measuring devices. In addition, synoptic maps showed the levelling work carried out on the rivers, as well as the distribution of atmospheric precipitation in the country.

In addition to many of the elements common to the previous classes, the oceanography stand was particularly relevant to class 3. Photographs showed the Wilhelmshaven tide machine. Tide gauges, current recording instruments, the Echolot atlas, a river gauging station with remote electrical recording equipment and maps completed this section.

The whole, which would be worthy of description in a large volume, thus comprised two main categories of exhibitors: scientific institutions, all of them public, which presented either laboratory work or special apparatus built by themselves, and private firms which exhibited scientific equipment including, for example, optical instruments. All the participation was first-rate. The International Awards Jury awarded 88% of the prizes in the first categories. The percentage for scientific institutions and private exhibitors was 97 and 77 respectively.

The order of the General Classification then leads us to describe the MINERAL WATERS SECTION, which had been given a certain breadth by the fact that a vast tasting counter of the country's waters was set up there. The main springs were represented there. In addition, there were numerous graphic elements on the walls, reminding us of the activity of the balneotherapy institutes, about which we will say a few words.

The healing power of springs and muddy ground has been known empirically since ancient times. In recent years, however, balneotherapy has left the realm of empiricism and modern science has provided it with a solid foundation as a result of extensive clinical experiments.

The problem was important for Germany. Some of its water cities were already known in Roman times, and we know the number and value of its mineral and thermal springs currently being exploited. Balneotherapeutic research is carried out by special institutes installed in more than twenty spas. The centralisation of the studies is ensured by a national institute whose seat is in Breslau. It is this one which gives the impulse to the whole scientific research undertaken on the subject, and this organisation has achieved rapid progress. As a result, the country's water cities and climatic resorts have grown considerably.

The participation in CLASSES 4 (RIVERS AND CANALS) and 5 (TIDE RIVERS AND SEAS) was also very important. It included 92 exhibitors, which is about 14% of the total number of German exhibitors. It occupied stands 1, 2 and 21, as well as the small annex pavilion mentioned above.

The exhibition showed general plans of completed canals or canals under construction, models of dams, reservoirs, locks, lifts of various types, special constructions of lock heads, sluices, gates, bridge constructions, etc. The work was carried out both in Germany and abroad, especially in Belgium. For example, one company exhibited a diorama of a section of the Albert Canal it had built in the Belgian Civil Engineering Palace.

More specifically, in class 5, in addition to the scientific apparatus in the field of oceanography already mentioned in class 3, there were documents and objects relating to tidal river correction works, dyking and dredging works, lighting and coastal marking.

In these two classes, although the participation of official services (all the waterways directorates, for example) was important, private exhibitors outnumbered them (53 against 39). The proportion of first class awards obtained at the Jury proves that the participation was first class.

Moreover, in the field of waterway development, a considerable effort had been made in Germany in recent years. It was therefore no surprise to find, at the Exhibition, abundant documentation highlighting the main characteristics of the works completed or in progress, with an indication of the particular technical problems solved or to be solved.

Among the major works mentioned were: the Neckar canalization, the Rhine-Mein-Danube canal, the Dortmund-Ems canal, the Mittellandkanal, the Elster-Saale canal, etc., and the many related engineering structures. Also worth mentioning are the dams in the Eder and Diemel valleys (Weser basin); the Kachlet dam on the Danube (above Passau); the Bleiloch dam on the upper Saale (Elbe basin), with a capacity of 215 million cubic metres, - the Glatz Neisse dam near Ottmachau (Oder basin), the Hindenburg lock with a 15-metre head on the Mittellandkanal, the Niederfinow lift with a 36-metre drop, etc.

CLASSES 6 (INLAND PORTS), 7 (SEA PORTS) AND 8 (FISHING PORTS) were not represented with the same importance.

However, there were interesting documents on the port of Duisburg, the construction of a North Sea pier, plans for a North Sea fishing port and a Baltic fishing port. Some firms exhibited appropriate equipment.

On the other hand, an extraordinary effort was made in CLASS 9 (URBAN AND RURAL WORKS). Germany had the most exhibitors in this class, 104 or 16% of the total. The stands were numbered 1, 5 and 15.

First of all, it should be remembered that Germany had lent some valuable elements to the Water Supply Retrospective, which was installed in the Belgian palaces and which we mentioned in the first part of this report.

With regard to the current aspect of class 9 activities, an in-depth study of the problems of water collection and distribution as a whole, and from an agricultural point of view in particular, was presented. This research was illustrated by a comprehensive collection of industrial products and works.

The general problems of drinking and industrial water supply were recalled by models of spring and groundwater catchment installations, distribution installations to users, water towers, etc. Large maps provided information on water management in industrial areas and on the measures taken in Berlin following the transformation of the city.

The issue of water in agriculture received particular attention. There were reports of flood protection works, reclamation of marshy areas (Oder marshes) and damming of rivers. The irrigation of dry land and the drainage of wet land were dealt with by suggestive examples. The important results obtained in recent years in this field were pointed out. Finally, the importance of the water issue in rural communities was emphasised with a view to improving living conditions in the countryside and thus stemming the exodus to the cities.

As for the disposal of wastewater, it was mainly considered from the point of view of its use, particularly in agriculture, as we shall see later.

The other issues of the urban and rural water problem, sanitary and hygiene installations, to which more and more interest is being attached, were also carefully developed. For example, one stand contained models of the various types of swimming pool installations studied respectively for the small village, the medium-sized community and the city. Further on, the problem of water use in the household was the subject of very suggestive demonstrations.

It should be said that these stands did not only contain abstract elements, but that many industrialists exhibited a host of characteristic objects, often in full scale. All types of water pipes and their accessories, all types of sanitary and domestic systems, measuring and control devices, piping, etc. were on display. Fire fighting equipment, which came under the second section of class 9, was also represented.

Overall, the German exhibitors in class 9 received 80 % of the high awards from the jury, which proves the quality of the exhibits.

The materials of CLASS 10 (WATER PURIFICATION) were presented at stands 5 and 6.

Carefully selected examples were used to show how to obtain hygienically impeccable water, how to improve unsafe water by filtering it, how to destroy pathogenic germs, how to remove superfluous elements (manganese, carbonic acid), how to reduce the calcium content or remove organic matter, how to remove certain properties that are harmful to industrial materials, etc.

There was a series of installations and devices for improving water, both for domestic use and for industrial use.

It was important to highlight the collective effort made by the many companies set up to ensure the supply of a sufficient quantity of pure water and to collect harmful industrial water. With regard to wastewater, a model was presented of the largest sewage utilization plant being completed in Hamburg, which will spread over 23,000 hectares. The water will be used for irrigation and fertilisation of farmland.

From a scientific and technical point of view, German participation in Class 10 was quite remarkable. In this class, the Jury awarded the German exhibitors the most superior prizes (95%).

With regard to CLASS 11 (MOTORS AND HYDRAULIC MACHINES), stand no. 3 included the various types of pumps whose high degree of efficiency and economic character were demonstrated in practice. The high precision of the most robust machines could be seen in the cross-sections of compressors and pumps. In addition, the installation of a Kaplan turbine and a model of the impeller blade of the world's most powerful action turbine (85,000 HP) were shown.

Few documents were related to CLASS 12 (HYDRAULIC AND HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER PLANTS). However, one important company presented a model of a hydro-electric generator.

On the other hand, CLASS 13 (WATER AND ELECTRICITY TECHNOLOGY) had about twenty exhibitors. They did not constitute a special section, but were distributed throughout the building, according to the speciality to which the electrical application under study referred.

As for CLASS 14 (COLD INDUSTRY MATERIALS AND PROCESSES), one could have expected a more copious participation from Germany. The model of an artificial ice rink is the only one to be mentioned/ the other objects were of less interest.


On the other hand, with regard to CLASS 16 (MATERIALS AND PROCEDURES FOR RESEARCH, EXECUTION AND PERFORMANCE OF WORKS REFERRED TO IN THE PREVIOUS CLASSES), a considerable effort had been made, especially with regard to building site equipment.
In the field of scientific conceptions, research and tests, some interesting elements of studies of materials or construction processes were presented.

In the field of materials, Stand No. 4 demonstrated the high efficiency of certain metals, especially special steels. There were also applications for the protection of metals: galvanisation processes, plating, etc. In the same vein, stand no. 8, devoted to the chemical industry, provided information on wood impregnation processes, the protection of metals against rust, frost and water, and the manufacture of insulating materials and fireproofs.

But, as we said, the effort was mainly focused on equipment for public works sites. A vast exhibition was held in the open air next to the official palace. A powerful mechanical shovel with a capacity of 3 cubic metres, mounted on tracks, dominated the display. In addition, there were dredgers, compressors, cranes, etc.

Finally, it should be noted that there were no German exhibitors in the 4th section of Class 16, the section reserved for contractors of all kinds.

Group C of the General Classification, entitled "Navigation" and comprising classes 17, 18 and 19, was brilliantly represented.

For classes 17 (INLAND NAVIGATION) and 18 (MARITIME NAVIGATION), a very fine exhibition of rescue services at sea and on inland waterways was organised, with all the appropriate equipment (stand no. 17).

All three classes, including the first two mentioned above and CLASS 19 (SHIPBUILDING), had a brilliant historical section (stands 11, 12 and 13): models of old ships and boats, seals, books, tables, various documents, informed the visitor about the history of navigation and shipbuilding. The technical library highlighted the results obtained in the field of cartography, especially in the production of nautical charts.

Stand No. 2, which we have already mentioned in connection with civil engineering work, presented the measures taken to ensure the safety of navigation on inland waterways and at sea, as well as legal issues concerning river and maritime navigation.

Finally, stand no. 20 was devoted exclusively to the field of shipbuilding. In addition to special boats, starters, rowing machines, rudder racks, searchlights and light buoys, there were measuring and control devices, eclipse lights, special wall, door, stair and window constructions, radio direction finding systems, transmitters and telephone systems. Also on display were various types of submarine cables, special knives for working armour plates, together with machine parts, tools, dredges made of corrosion-resistant steel, etc.


Stand 24 was entirely devoted to deep-sea fishing. It is well known that in recent years sea fishing in Germany has developed strongly: the fleet has been improved and expanded, and new fisheries have been developed. The stand showed plans for the establishment of fishing ports, a model of a modern steam trawler, the means of transporting either live fish or, by isolation, fresh fish from the coast to the most remote areas. In 1938, marine fisheries produced over 7 million metric quintals of fish, worth over Rm 100 million. Annual per capita consumption in the country was 12.4 kilos (compared to 5 kilos in 1913).

River fishing has also expanded greatly. Its yield is extremely high and is tending to increase further in lakes and ponds. Industrial fishing currently covers 1.25 million hectares. It ensures an annual production of up to 150 million kilos, representing a value of more than 100 million Rm.

The high level of fish farming was developed at stand 1. The main fish species were presented. There was also an installation designed to combat the biggest enemy of fish: the dromie (small hairy crab). Finally, machines to prevent silting and a fish ladder that allows migrating fish to jump over a height of 4 m. 30, gave an overview of the work done to protect and promote the multiplication of fish in river waters.

In CLASSES 22 and 23 (WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN TROPICAL COUNTRIES AND COLONIES), only one exhibitor presented the construction of a harbour in a tropical country.

On the other hand, in CLASS 24 (SOCIAL ECONOMICS), Germany made a remarkable effort. The theme was "Water as a source of health". The most original presentation formulas were used to highlight the facilities that have been or are being built in this field. We have already mentioned these elements in connection with stands 14 and 15. However, we have not yet had the opportunity to say that the section included a complete hydrotherapy installation for hospitals.

Similarly, CLASS 25 (SOCIAL WORKS - MISCELLANEOUS DOCUMENTATIONS) had a large number of exhibitors.

Stand 16 was devoted to vocational education and guidance and social welfare. Models, models, photos and graphics abounded to inform the visitor about all the measures taken to protect the health of the worker and to train him.

In addition, this class also contained documentation of all kinds on the subjects included in the Exhibition programme. The technical library (stand 13) was well stocked in this respect.

Finally, in the area of CLASS 26 (COMPANY ORGANISATION), two official exhibitors presented elements of interest to the model organisation of a company.

In CLASS 27b (FASHION), Germany showed some fashion products in relation to water (stand 19).

In CLASS 27d (SPORTS EQUIPMENT), stand no. 18 was actively propagating water sports - models of installations, regatta tracks, boats and their accessories were presented.

Finally, CLASS 27e (TOURISM) was also treated with some flair. Boat tourism, its hostels, tents, as well as youth hostels on the water, were on display at the water sports stand (no. 18).

It should be added that the tourist propaganda was in fact spread throughout the participation, particularly through the artistic care taken in the execution of the photomontages. In this respect, the elements depicting the water cities, seaside resorts and climatic centres were particularly well thought out.

At first glance, one might be tempted to think that the German Section consisted mainly of official organisations and that private exhibitors were only involved in a secondary capacity, to supplement or illustrate certain demonstrations. However, this was not the case. On the contrary, a quick look at the statistical tables at the end of the chapter shows that the number of private exhibitors was more than double that of official exhibitors.

The discretion with which the name of the producer was given under each object could give the impression, during a somewhat hasty visit, that the whole participation was one vast community conceived according to a well-defined plan and dedicated to the Science, Technique and Industry of the country.

Certainly, the whole was perfectly ordered, and the unity as well as the harmony in the presentation of the smallest objects proved sufficiently that the exhibitors had left to the leaders of the Section, all the care of presenting their products. The result was most pleasing. The sober decoration, the simplicity and neatness of the arrangement of the display cases and tables, contributed to creating an atmosphere of distinction and balance inside the Palais.

It goes without saying that the objects that industrialists were allowed to display were carefully selected. This principle is now common practice - especially for large countries - when participating in exhibitions abroad. It is perfectly justified.

The overall plan which governed the conception and realisation of the German Section of the Exhibition was based on the fundamental idea of the importance of the role of water in the life of the country, emphasising, wherever possible, the direct or indirect benefit which it brings to man, to his health and well-being.

It therefore seems natural that efforts should be concentrated on the following subjects
1. Science (classes 1, 2 and 3);
2. Civil engineering (especially classes 4, 5, 9 and 10);
3. Navigation (classes 17, 18 and 19)
4. Social works (classes 24 and 25).

The fact that scientific works have been honoured will seem quite natural given the favour and encouragement they have always enjoyed in the country.

As for the hydraulic engineering works, they were bound to receive attention because the question of water management in general is of great importance to Germany.

Navigation, an attractive subject for an exhibition, was naturally to tempt a great country of both internal and external trade.

Finally, the social works - or rather the various concerns of a social nature - were not only expressed by the objects belonging particularly to classes 24 and 25, but were highlighted by many other manifestations. Concerns for hygiene, health, sports, protection of the worker, were especially emphasised in almost all parts of the participation, even in the purely technical classes, such as shipbuilding and agricultural waterworks.

Germany could have shone in other classes as well. Some points of the programme were not dealt with in its participation. The most characteristic case is that of class 15, in which it could have developed technical themes of great interest. This would have allowed a useful comparison with other national sections, in particular the Belgian Section, in which class 15, to take the example given, was the subject of a very commendable effort on the part of our industrialists.

The following is a statistical table showing the detailed state of the awards given by the International Jury to German exhibitors. This document speaks for itself: the figures speak for themselves and prove the exceptional quality of the products exhibited.

Let us simply point out here that, for all classes, official exhibitors (O columns) received 84% of first category awards, and private exhibitors (P columns) 78%. When these two categories of exhibitors (T columns) are added together, the overall percentage of top awards is 80.

The Jury also awarded prizes to a number of exhibitors' staff. These awards, numbering 248, were distributed as follows: 27 Grand Prizes, 96 Diplomas of Honour, 112 Gold Medals, 12 Silver Medals and 1 Special Diploma.

© General Report - International Water Technology Exhibition - Liège 1939