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Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 13:40 UK
Preserving the Rochdale Reichstag
Rochdale Town Hall
Would Hitler have moved Rochdale Town Hall to Germany?

Rochdale Council has revealed plans to revamp the town centre, but had the Nazis prevailed in World War Two, it would already look very different.

The new plans centre on Rochdale Town Hall, a building which could have become a Reichstag in a Nazi Germany.

Adolf Hitler is said to have been a huge admirer of the hall's Victorian Gothic architecture.

It's even been suggested that the Führer planned to take it, brick by brick, back to Germany.

But why did Hitler covet Rochdale Town Hall and how did he even know it to admire it?

It could be that he simply saw an intelligence photo of the town during the planning for a British invasion or heard of its architecture from German spies, as the building was well-known in Britain for its grandeur.

William Joyce, also known as Lord Haw-Haw
Lord Haw-Haw broadcast Nazi propaganda in English from Germany

The Rochdale Town Hall building manager, Mike Woodman, thinks that there could have been another culprit, an infamous former resident of a nearby town.

"The question is how did he know about Rochdale Town Hall? The likely reason is that he was told by William Joyce, who was known as Lord Haw-Haw, the famous propaganda merchant.

"He was from Oldham so would have known Rochdale."

Adolf in Liverpool?

But there is a chance that he could have actually seen it with his own eyes in the winter of 1912-13.

There is a story that young Adolf lived in Liverpool during that period, staying with his half brother Alois and his wife Bridget.

There has been much debate about the veracity of this story, which stems from his sister-in-law's memoirs, as no second source has ever been found to back up Bridget's claims.

One thing is certain; if Adolf did stay in Merseyside, it wouldn't have been difficult for him to visit Rochdale, and as he was an aspiring landscape artist at the time, he would have been looking for interesting and beautiful subjects to paint.

A love or a landmark?

Whatever the reason for Hitler knowing about Rochdale Town Hall, it's suggested that he so admired it that he ordered that the Nazi air force, the Luftwaffe, to avoid damaging it in raids.

The truth is that the nearest Rochdale came to being bombed was at Dunlop Mill at Sudden.
Mike Woodman, Rochdale Town Hall

But is the Victorian Gothic architecture really the reason for Rochdale Town Hall being spared the German bombs?

Certainly, there could have been orders not to destroy it, but not because of a need to preserve its architecture.

Indeed, the Baedeker raids of 1942, which specifically targeted historic towns like Bath and York as a response to the Allied bombing of Lübeck, showed the Nazis had little time for nostalgic notions of historic beauty.

Instead, as with Senate House in London and Grimsby's Dock Tower, it could have been avoided simply to leave it as a massive landmark to use as a navigational tool for the Luftwaffe.

Mr Woodman agrees that this is a more likely reason for the building's survival, but he does give a little credence to a more specific version of the original 'brick-by-brick' story.

Adolf Hitler
Could the young Hitler have seen Rochdale Town Hall himself?

"Realistically, I find it a little exaggerated to say that he would have taken it brick-by-brick by to Germany.

"There is another story that he was just going to take the stained glass to Germany to use in a building over there, which seems a lot more feasible."

No bombs for Rochdale

The truth is that little documented evidence is available for how Hitler knew about Rochdale Town Hall or why it wasn't damaged, but as Mike explains, the town was definitely avoided by German bombers.

"The truth is that the nearest Rochdale came to being bombed was at Dunlop Mill at Sudden.

"Even that was something of a mistake, as it was a bomber returning from its mission that hadn't dropped its full load, so emptied itself over Rochdale."

Whatever the reason, Rochdale Town Hall survived the Second World War undamaged, meaning its architectural magnificence can now be a central point for the proposed revamp of the town centre.

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