WWII – The Nazis

During the 11 day tour of WWI and WWII, we stopped at some important and significant locations to Hitler and the Nazis.  I think it is important to look into the history and development of the Nazis if we want to further understand how this much hate can manifest in a  major government.  If you have been following the news out of Greece and their political party known as Golden Dawn (whose symbol resembles the swastika), I don’t think we are that far away from this still happening.

One stop that marked Hitler’s rise was the site of his Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.  Hitler tried to rally some fellow drinkers from a beer hall in Munich to overthrow the Bavaria State Government.  It failed.  Here is the room he gathered supporters:

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This was a great place to be.  However, if you took a moment to think about what happened here, you had to pause.  I think this is a great example of resilience, though, to see people using this space for good things today.

We also stopped in Nuremberg and visited Zeppelin Field – the site of the large Nazi rallies of the late 1930′s you have seen in documentaries and films.  In the 1970′s, the German government passed a law forbidding the destruction of important Nazi buildings.  However, seeing Zeppelin Field it is clear that they are not doing much to preserve these sites.

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The podium you see down there is the one Hitler stood on.  You can see this area has become a parking lot and it is also the route of a road race so you can see the racetrack walls on the right.  The field in front of you, blocked by trees, is where Nazi’s rallied.  Here is a close up of the sides:Image

Here is the podium straight on:Image

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When I was up there on the podium, I turned around and imagined Hitler walking through the doors behind the podium to the place I was standing – it was a little creepy.  Image

I am impressed and disgusted by the amount of energy and money and resources and humanity spent on this hateful man and his message.  But this field was full of people who supported him.  In the museum nearby, there are videos of older German ladies who recall as young children all the excitement when Hitler came to town.  They told of going home and getting ladders so they could see him when his parade passed by.  And they told the camera this – years later mind you – with smiles on their faces and laughter in their voices.  I did not sense a bit of shame of their role (though they WERE children) in what Germany did during WWII and leading up to.  This was a something that stuck with me.

The Museum I talk about was in the largest building the Nazis were building in Nuremberg.  It was never finished, but the building remains:

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To give you a better idea of its size, here is what it looks like inside – that is a motorcoach full sized bus below:

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Again, you can kind of see the disrepair this building is in.  It does house a pretty good museum on the history of Nazism and its place in Nuremberg history, but most of the building is crumbling.

Another place we went to was what we call The Eagle’s Nest up in the German Alps overlooking Austria.  This house was a gift to Hitler by the Nazi Party on his 50th Birthday.  We took our bus to the bottom of the mountain is sits upon and then had to take another bus, driven by special drivers to near the top.  This is how we saw the house at this point:ImageImage

Notice the tunnel in the picture above – this was the way to the elevator:Image

 

From here, we took an elevator up to the house.  The same elevator Hitler took.  Again – creepy.  It felt though like most people here were doing the touristy thing – like we were – rather than once again comprehending the historical significance of this man and this movement.  I couldn’t wait to get off the elevator.  

At the house, it was beautiful.  It was much smaller than I had imagined.

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Here are some pics from inside.  They turned the living room area into a restaurant now:ImageImage

Here is the signature fireplace:

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Hitler must have stood right here on days like this (which was pretty cold up here in the mountains) warming his hands.  I had to get out of here  - so I went outside and enjoyed some spectacular views.  Notice the fresh snow on the surrounding mountaintops:

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But no matter how impressive the view was, the reason for this place never escaped my mind.  When we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, we went through some Nazi bunkers that were built here as well:

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Inside were these tunnels and rooms:

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In one room, they made into a memorial for Holocaust victims and names were being read 24/7.  Here is the room and the walls which were covered in graffiti I think encouraged by the museum people:

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And this leads us to the details of the Nazi atrocities.  If you have been reading my blog, I have been to 8 or 9 concentration camps already.  I went to another one on this tour – the first camp – known as Dachau.  Here is the train platform and the main building the Jews (and political prisoners, POWs, etc.) went through:Image

The now all too familiar “Work will set you free” sign”

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The fence and guard towers:

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The area where victims were gathered each day:

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The main lane with the barracks outlines and bunks inside:

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The gas chamber:

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The old crematorium:

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When that wasn’t enough, the new crematorium:

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You all know what happened here and the horrible thing the Nazis did.  If you want to know more, read my first 12 or so blogs.  

There are some symbols of remembrance here, like this sculpture:

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And this synagogue:

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But this is a horrible place.  My group, many of whom had never been to a camp, where visibly shaken and moved.  That is why it was good that we visited the Court House that housed the Nuremberg Trials after WWII and saw the punishment of those responsible for this.  

Here are the gates to the court house:

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This is a functioning court house today and the court room that housed the trial is still being used as well.  Here is a pic of what the outside looked like after WWII:Image

The court room today:

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Luckily we were there on a Saturday, so we could sit in here all we wanted.  They had little video monitors that you could use to watch parts of the trials.  It was great to sit there and watch, through logic and reason and rules and respect, these Nazis get convicted.  I could have watched this all day.  I could have watched this for a week.  I think I will have to watch the movies again when I get home, but this made me happy being here.

Finally, we visited a German cemetery:Image

Notice the markers in the ground – they represent two Nazis for two German soldiers were in every hole.  Standing there, I could not bring myself to forgive these people.  I almost felt like they did not deserve this burial and respect.  Just then, out of the fog, came our friends – reminding us of the message from the bridge that perhaps it was time to heal.

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WWII Museum

Somewhere in our travels – I think in Luxembourg – we came upon this WWII Museum that seemed to have a little bit of everything.  Apparently, this guy had a small collection of his own and then people started giving him stuff.  I can’t tell you what all this stuff is, so here is just a bunch of pics of some of things I saw there:

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After D-Day

After visiting the D-Day beaches, we went inland and explored what Allied forces faced after securing the beaches.  The first thing we came across were the hedgerows.  These were the earthen boundaries of sunken farm roads all throughout northern France.  I got to tell you that Northern France is a beautiful part of the world.  The rolling green hills, the meandering rivers, the little farm houses and barns all make for a picturesque setting.  However, they do not make an easy way to travel for a large army.  Apparently, our military leaders did not take the hedgerows into account.  This mistake cost thousands of lives.

BTW, here is a hedgerow that is still there today:ImageImageImage

And just to note, this is not a historical site or anything.  This is just a road between two farm fields, but I am sure was witness to something during WWII.  Eventually, our tanks put these poles on the front of their tanks so instead of going over the top of these hedgerows (making them vulnerable to attack to its underside), the tanks would dig into and destroy the hedgerow.

Further down the road, we came upon a section of the Western Wall or the Siegfried Line – the cement barricades designed by Germany to stop any French attack:ImageImage

As we approached the Hurtgen Forest, the ruins of Nazi planners became more and more apparent.  ImageHere is a call box used for Nazi communication in the middle of the woods:Image

 

Then the forest appeared.  I will tell about it in a minute, but these pics will help set the mood:

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The Hurtgen Forest is a nasty place.  As you can see, the forest is a dark, hilly, and dense place.  Our planners once again did not know this.  In fact, no planning commanders of this attack ever physical came here.  The result was horrific.  American tanks could not navigate the narrow and steep paths.  German soldiers just wanted for Americans to find an opening (which is hard in this forest) began demolishing them.  

The path we would walk (the Kall Trail) was so treacherous that most of our group stayed on the bus on this cold, rainy, and what would definitively be, a muddy day.  Here is what the forest looked like:ImageImage

Here is our group, sliding down the Kall Trail – notice how steep this trail is – the same trail that American tanks tried to maneuver between Oct. 1944 and February 1945:Image

 

At the bottom of the trail is a small bridge over a creek.  On the bridge is this emblem:Image

If you can’t read the inscription, here it is:

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It is at that very time when some other people were visiting the bridge.  These other people – they were German and very kind.  They talked to us, told us what they were doing, let their picture be taken and we even ate lunch at the same little cafe.  I mentioned these people because I think our meeting them and our interaction with them is a testament to these words – for you see, these other people, were German Soldiers:

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Our next stop was Bastogne, the center of American interest during the Battle of the Bulge.  As many of you know, the Battle of the Bulge was the last ditch effort on behalf of Hitler to win the war.  His military commanders knew this was madness, but they followed his orders nonetheless.  The idea was for the Nazis to wait for some bad weather (to keep American planes out of the sky) and then launch a huge, surprise attack.  On December 16, 1944, the attack started and caused Americans to fall back, thereby creating the Bulge in the lines.  The town of Bastogne was surrounded by Nazis and the Americans inside were caught.  When asked to surrender or face death, the American commander at Bastogne simply replied, “NUTS!”  Another story is that another military leader in Bastogne was heard to say, “They have us surrounded, the poor bastards!”  

Regardless, it was a few weeks before the Nazis were pushed back and the Americans in Bastogne were relieved.

Here is the center of Bastogne today:Image

I had lunch with Jim and Joe Calvert (more on them later) and Ken Block (owner of Matterhorn) at the NUTS Cafe here before heading out to the Memorial site:

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As you can see, it has five sides, representing the five roads that ran into Bastogne (which made the town so important).

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You can climb some stairs to the top and look out over the entire Bulge battlefield.  It was MUCH MUCH bigger than I thought.  It took us about an hour to drive across it.  Here is a view from the top:Image

The inside of the memorial tells the story of the Battle of the Bulge on 10 panels.  Then, each state that had soldiers here are represented along the top:

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And of course, plenty of flags:

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And a closer one:

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Further down the road, we ran into a cemetery that was used by American commanders as a headquarters.  They used a mausoleum with a basement.  Here are the stairs down and the coffin they used as a desk (I don’t think they broke the legs off):

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Further down the road, we came to the site of what has become the Malmedy Massacre.  Just outside the town of Malmedy, 84 Americans who were taken prisoner, were then shot in a snowy field.  They were unarmed with their hands up.  This became known as the Malmedy Massacre.  I do not deny that American soldiers did the same thing.  They did.  This is what the ugliness of war does.  The more death and destruction you witness, the less life’s value.  But I think the opposite is true too.  The more life and creation you witness, the higher life’s value.  

But here in Malmedy today, on a busy street corner, is this memorial:

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There is a wall with every victim’s name:

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Near the memorial was a picture left – I assume of another victim:

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The story was not over as we continued down the road to another American cemetery.  This one in Luxembourg:

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Just inside the gates was a memorial:

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I took some pics of some of the markers again.  There is one from Michigan, one that is Jewish (if you didn’t know, they had a marker with a Star of David on it, and one of an unknown soldier:

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What impressed me is that we also saw this guy scrubbing each grave – keeping them clean.  I don’t know why, but I never thought this was done.  But the care taken at all the cemeteries we visited is clear.  I should have thanked him, but he probably didn’t speak English (which blows my mind even more):

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Oh yeah, there is someone famous buried here too:

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General George Patton was killed in a car accident later in 1945 and wanted to be buried here, with his soldiers.

Our final stop on the after DDay military tour was a stop at Remagen Bridge.  This bridge has had movies made after it.  Eisenhower said it was worth its weight in gold.  And it is gone.  After capturing the bridge from the Nazis, the Americans protected it and reinforced it for weeks until the Nazis finally sent a V2 rocket into it.  The towers are the only thing that remains:

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Inside there is a museum.  It wasn’t that great.  But, halfway through, I realized that I was INSIDE REMAGEN BRIDGE!!!!  This is the power of authentic sites.  Just being here somehow connected me to this history on a much deeper level than watching those movies.  I was simply moved by being here, until….I walked up these steps to the top of the inside of Tower 2:

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And I found this exhibit:

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The walls were covered – all the way around the tower – with these plaques.  Here is a closeup of one:Image

That’s right.  These plaques represent all the wars that have taken place since Remagen Bridge was taken.  It was quite a blow.  By this point, we were feeling pretty good about all that Americans did in WWII.  We ended Facism and helped to put us on the path to Wilson’s dream of “Making the World Safe for Democracy.”  Then there’s this.  And many of these plaques did not have an end date – meaning the conflicts are still going on.  We have a long way to go.

D-Day

Probably the highlight of the trip was our stops in the area in and around Normandy France.  We took three days to explore this region and I could have spent another week here.  I will try to include some history in this blog and some pics that tell a story, but the story is probably too big to include in one blog.

As many of you know, D-Day took place on June 6, 1944.  The day before, Phase I of the attack took place by American and British bombers bombing Northern France.

Phase II was going to the dropping of American and British and Canadian soldiers by parachute and glider behind the beaches.  The best story of this phase came at a place called Pegasus Bridge:Image

This is the actual Pegasus Bridge that has been restored at a museum like 100 yards away from the place it was in WWII.  It is located on the eastern most flank of the D-Day attack, near the beaches taken by the British.  The bridge was vitally important.  So here is what happened.  The bridge was to be taken by British soldiers flown into the area by gliders:Image

Now, you know that gliders have no lights or engines.  So, these gliders were being tugged by other planes and then, 8 miles off the coast of France, these gliders detached from there tug plans.  They began to fly into their targets.  Again, no engines and no lights on their target.  The time is about 12:30 AM on June 6th.

The gliders came into the coast, went past the bridge, made a hard right turn, then landed.  In the picture below, you will see the bridge, and the stone marker marks the place the first glider landed:Image

150 FEET AWAY!!!!

Here is a pic of both the spot of the first and the second glider’s landing spots.  The statue is one of the pilot of the first British  glider:

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The British took the bridge in 10 minutes because of the surprise (no sound with gliders).  They took the Germans by complete surprise.  The battles that followed to hold on to it were fierce.  There is some shrapnel damage still left on the bridge:

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Mark was the British guy that runs this museum and he was fantastic.  He drew us all in and got us caught up in this story so much that I know I will never forget it.  We had a WWII Veteran in our group too – Jim Calvert (more on him later) – and Mark presented him with a coin commemorating his service and visit to Pegasus Bridge.  It was so cool.  Thanks Mark.

American paratroopers did not have as good of luck.  There was the many mis-drops all around.  There is the most famous story of the little town of St. Mere Eglise, where one American paratrooper got stuck on a church steeple.  He is still there today (or at least a replica of him):Image

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The church that he is stuck replaced its stained glass windows with these.  Look close at what is falling on the sides of the window:

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I am not sure what I think of this.  I like the idea of honoring soldiers, but I am not sure if a place that also believes in the Ten Commandments (Thou Shalt Not Kill) should be glorifying war either.  Confusing.

Now it was time to head to the beaches.  Sword, Gold, and Juno beaches were taken by the British and the Canadians much faster than planned.  So was Utah Beach which was taken by the Americans under the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr.  Here is what they saw as the came ashore (click on any of these pics for a larger version):

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Utah Beach was the furthermost West of the beaches, but when they landed, the Americans were not where they were supposed to be.  TR JR decided that was fine, as long as they were fighting.  The famous quote he was supposed to have said was “We Will Start Our War Here.”  They did, and took the beach in about 2 hours.  TR JR died in July of 1944 due to a heart attack.  He was the oldest soldier part of the DDay invasion at 57 years old.

Rudolph was our French Tour Guide through the museum at Utah Beach.  His emotion betrayed his voice when he talked of individual Americans who were killed on Utah.  It blew me away that a young French guy had this much gratitude – still – towards the Americans.  But this was the norm in the entire Normandy area.  There were American flags every where and it seemed like every one loved Americans.  They understood and understand the stakes and the risks involved.

Here is look at the beach from the shore:

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Down the shore a little to the east is a place called Point du Hoc.  This was a flat area, high on some cliffs, which housed Nazi guns that could hit both Utah and Omaha beaches.  The Americans decided it had to be taken and sent the Army Rangers to do the job.  I had heard of this story, but when I finally visited this place, I was amazed that this was even thought possible, let alone, actually accomplished.

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Here is as close as I could get to looking down the cliffs – imagine the Rangers coming up them:

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There is a memorial here too to the soldiers who accomplished this incredible feat.  It is shaped after one of the grappling hooks used by the Rangers to scale the cliffs:

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President Reagan gave a great speech about these men on the 40th Anniversary of DDay in 1984.  Watch it here if you want:

All around Point du Hoc are what was left of that day – and they let you explore it all – which, of course, I did:

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There are craters left from American bombs:

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Pill boxes left by the Nazis:

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And like I said, I explored them all:

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But then it was time to visit Omaha Beach.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong on Omaha Beach.  This is the beach that the movie “Saving Private Ryan” depicts in the first 20 minutes.  This was the roughest and toughest and bloodiest battle on DDay.  Here is what the soldiers saw coming into the beach (ignore the buildings):

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If you remember your history, the Americans used a new kind of landing craft called the Higgins boat.  We saw one at the museum at Utah Beach:

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Once on the beach, they got the hills and bluffs they had to climb.  Instead of going up the paths and face heavy enemy fire, they went up where there was brush and no clear way up – a place like this:

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They did finally make it, but after heavy losses.  Those lost are buried on a bluff overlooking Omaha beach.  There are many stories that could and should be told about this cemetery I am sure, but I think I will just let some pictures speak for themselves:

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Down on the beach, we found this pic in the sea wall:

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And it was then I began to think about all these people who did something incredible here.  In my class, I talk about the Spectrum of Human Behavior.  Every act we take can be put on this spectrum – from Evil to Bad to Good to Saintly.  Most of things we do in our lives hover around the middle – between good and bad.  We don’t usually have the opportunities to do saintly acts and hopefully don’t lack morals and ethics enough to evil things.

But in war, almost everything you do is either evil or saintly.   Either you are killing people or saving people.  There is not much in between.  Could we consider the efforts of these young men who were part of the DDay invasion as doing something saintly?  Could the bravery and courage they had in an effort to rid the world of the likes of the Nazis be saintly?  You can answer that on your own – but I know MY answer.

As our time on Omaha Beach came to an end, I took off my shoes and socks and went walking in the surf.  I grabbed a handful of sand and put in in a ziplock bag to take home with me.  And I tried to conceive the amount of effort and will power and saintliness that could move someone to do so much for so many that he had never met.  It is beyond my understanding and comprehension.

At the end of the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, Private Ryan asks his wife to tell him he has lived a good life.  He wants to know that what he has done with his LIFE was worth the DEATHS of those that saved him.  Shouldn’t we ask the same question?  Are the lives we LIVE today, worth the DEATH of those who protect for us?  This can sometimes leave us with an answer we don’t like.  But luckily, we have the time to do something about it.Image

WWI

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Above is what is left over from a trench in WWI.  I jumped in and walked up and down the trench.  The other people in my group I think think I was crazy, but I had to try to get as close to what had happened there and what it felt like to be in the trench.  Obviously, this was far from the actual experience.

Most of this tour focused on WWII, but since we were there, we did take some time to look at some WWI sites as well.  I am glad we did.  One place we stopped was at Verdun.  For those of you who do not know, Verdun was the largest battle of WWI (and some say of all time).  It lasted more than 8 months and killed about a quarter of a million people.  

The battle was Germany’s attempt to relieve some pressure off the Western Front that had fallen into stalemate with the start of trench warfare in 1914.  Germany picked Verdun (which has a special place in the heart of the French people), so that France would send as many soldiers as needed to protect it.  Once there, the Germans would kill as many French soldiers as possible and hopefully bleed the French out of the war.  This was called the strategy of attrition.

The problem was – both sides ended up getting killed in the slaughter – a battle of attrition for both sides.  This was just a sample of the insanity of WWI.

We stopped at a cemetery for those killed at Verdun, and what was standing there?  This:Image

This is what is called The Bone House.  In it, the remains of the fallen of Verdun have been collected.  Throughout the years, bones from soldiers who fought here have been collected and deposited in rooms in The Bone House.  You can look through some windows to see the remains:Image

Here are some pics of the cemetery here at Verdun too:Image

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It was a moving place – not really in the heroism of what happened here, but more about the stupidity that cost all these lives.  

We also visited the area known as Muesse-Argonne which is where the only major American battle of WWI took place.  There isn’t much left of the battlefield (nothing really), but there is a memorial to Americans on the site:

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You can go up some stairs inside the memorial – but we didn’t have time:Image

There are the ruins of a church behind the memorial, which is all that is really left of WWI era sites – just ruins:

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There is also a cemetery here for American killed:Image

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I did find a soldier from Michigan buried here as well:

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There are a lot of memorials to the American soldiers all around the countryside of France and Belgium.  You would not know they existed if you were just driving around.  Sometimes you have to simply go through a one lane path through a farmers field to find them.  It was refreshing to see the honor though that was still shown the fallen from all sides throughout this part of Europe.  There really wasn’t a good reason for WWI, but that doesn’t diminish the willingness of people to die for a cause.  Our President, Woodrow Wilson, said we were doing this “To Make the World Safe for Democracy.”  I think that is a pretty good goal.

Throughout my travels, I have met many great people.  I am struck by the fact that there are some people in the world who are not free.  I have never met anyone who should not be.  When people tell me that we shouldn’t force our way of life down the throats of others well…I am not sure if human freedom is our way of life.  I think it is rather the natural state of man.  For those of you who disagree, think about who should NOT be free.  And explain to them why.  

The last memorial I will show you is one paid for by the State of Pennsylvania.  Other states have memorials to WWI soldiers as well over here, but this is a great pic and a great testimonial to our fallen:Image

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My Tour of WWI and WWII

It has been about a week since I completed my tour of WWI and WWII sites through Europe and let me tell you – it was an amazing experience.  I have to publicly thank our tour guide – Franz – for making things work out and for letting us do some things that we weren’t going to go (more on that in future blogs).

I must also thank the group I was with.  It seemed like in a few short days, we became like a family and really enjoyed being around each other.  We took care of each other, learned together, and made sure we were all healthy and ready to go.  After having been on the road by myself (more or less) for like six weeks, it was great to have the same people to talk to, laugh with, and enjoying getting to know.  I wish I could list them all now for you, but to suffice your curiosity, here is a picture of them while we were visiting a hedgerow in northern France:Image

The guy in the middle is Ken – the owner of Mattherhorn travel.  This is the tour I was on and I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the war.  And major thanks to our bus driver – Stefan – for keeping us safe and driving our motorcoach into places that motorcoaches have no business being.

I have decided to tell you about my experiences not in the time sequence I experienced, but more in a way where I can lump together some things in more of a thematic way.  So I don’t know how many blogs it will take, but if you are interested, read on…

Paris – The Closing

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I did not think I would like Paris as much as I did.  But the lights, the art, the architecture, the history, the food, the drink all make this place come alive.  While I was floating down the Seine one day, I began to wonder how we could make Battle Creek a little bit more like Paris.  It was that intoxicating to be here that I was trying to find ways of not letting it go.

I am not so naive to think that we can make Battle Creek more like Paris.  I am not even sure after thinking about it that I would really want to.  BUT – I think the spirit that built Paris and that makes it what it is still today can be developed in any place on earth.  It just takes committed individuals willing to live in a manner that makes the dreams of Paris possible. 

Every where I go and every one I talk to ask me about what is my favorite place I have visited.  Of course there are like six favorite places, but Paris now has a special status up on the list as well.  

 

Paris – The History

You cannot escape how important this city is when you are here.  Everywhere you look, you find statues and plaques depicting what happened on that site.  I am going to show you some things that I was looking for and some things I was not that just popped up.  This might be a long one – so settle back.

First, one of the first statues I came across was this one:

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That’s right.  Thomas Jefferson.  I do not think there is any coincidence that both the American Revolution and the French Revolution have ties to this man.  His words of “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” continue to inspire people all over the world even to this day.  Jefferson was Ambassador to France as well and if you have read his stuff, he loved it here.  There is still the truth that we must confront about his owning of slaves, but more on slavery later.

There was also this guy all around the city as well:

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That’s right – Charles De Gualle.  The leader of the Free French during WWII and after founding the Fifth French Republic, was its first President until 1969.  The airport here is named after him and almost everywhere you go to in this town, you can somehow connect it to De Gaulle.

There were a lot of historical museums too, but most of them simply had like weapons and things.  Here is a sampling – horse armor:

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I don’t think this guy made it:

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Louis’ XIV’s armor:

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These guys would scare me:

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Then there was a museum about WWI and WWII.  This is a taxi the French Army used to get to the REAL battle of France at the start of WWI.  You see, they thought the German invasion through Belgium was a fake attack, so the French Army went the other way – straight into Germany.  When they realized that the real attack was further North, they used things like this taxi to move troops to the front.  It was called the Battle of the Marne and set up the stalemate and trench warfare that would last four years:

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Here are some of the new guns used in WWI:Image

And some protective equipment that did not work:Image

The German helmets always looked mean:Image

Gas warfare was first used in WWI – here is a gas suit that they tried to combat it with:Image

 

You probably know this, but WWI ended with the Treaty of Versailles, signed at the Versailles Palace in the Hall of Mirrors:Image

 

Here is me in one of the walls of mirrors:Image

 

As a side note, the Gardens here at Versailles were amazing:

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The crowds inside were not:

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I met a couple from Honk Kong here.  The husband was from Holland, the wife from Hong Kong and they had both sets of parents with them.  They helped me get on the right train to get out to Versailles and we had a good talk, but I didn’t envy them for trying to keep the parents together in these crowds.

While walking through the Gardens, I know that Jefferson walked these same steps.  That made me stop in my tracks.  The history comes alive for you almost every where you go in Paris and makes it much more real.  It becomes more than a book or a story – but it is more real, emotional, and impactful with every step.

One of the historical people that had a big impact on the history of France was Napoleon.  I am not sure if they should give him as much attention as they do (because he did do some horrible things – or at least let them happen).  I promise a little more on him a bit further down, but here is his tomb:ImageImage

Speaking of dead people, I did go out to the famous cemetery in France – Pere Lachaise – and found some famous people.  The most famous one we would know is this guy:ImageImage

One of my favorite singers of all time is here too – Edith Piaf:Image

Composers Chopin and Bizet:ImageImage

Writers Proust and Wilde:

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This is a beautiful place to walk around.  I bought a map of it for 2 Euro and then gave it to some girls just coming in as I was leaving.  That’s what you do in Paris.  Here’s what the place looked like:ImageImage

As you can see, it was a cloudy and gloomy day.  A perfect time to be here.

One other place dedicated to dead people was one I did not expect.  It was the Memorial to the Fallen Jews of WWII.  Here is the top of it and you are supposed to go down these stairs:Image

When you get to the bottom, you see this:Image

There is this sculpture down there:Image

Then off to the side is this hallway of sorts:Image

And each one of the pegs on the wall represent a certain number of Jews killed:

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This was quite a moving memorial that I liked very much.  For those of you who know Paris and don’t know about this one, it is on the southeast point of the same island of Notre Dame.  Catch it next time you are there.

I want to spend some time though on this man:Image

That’s right, General Alexandre Dumas.  His name is on the Arch de Triumph (BTW, here are some more shots of the Arch):ImageImage

Most of you know Alexander Dumas the writer (the General’s son).  His books include “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers.”  Much his stories are based on the real life of his father.  I read a book called “The Black Count” by Thomas Reiss during the trip and got to know the General very well.  This book won a Pulitzer and I highly highly recommend it.  

General Dumas was born to a nobleman in the Caribbean and one of the nobleman’s slaves.  Dumas was black in color but because of his character and ambition, fit into the French culture after being taken there by his Father to be educated.  Dumas quickly rose in rank and by age 31 was commanding the French Army of the Alps.  Before Colin Powell, this was the highest ranking black military leader in the Western World.  The stories of his strength (it was when sitting on horseback, he could ride into a barn, grab a beam, squeeze his legs around his horse, and lift it up off the ground) and his bravery (he once held off an entire Italien force single handedly at a bridge in northern Italy) were the source of many of his son’s stories and books.

General Dumas was a pure republican through and through (small R) and believed in Democracy and Freedom without fault.  His story is amazing and he was an amazing man – one of my heroes now.  Unfortunately there is not much left of his memory in Paris.  He did go with Napoleon to Egypt but was kind of left there.  It is said Napoleon was jealous of Dumas and wanted to hold him down.  Finally, after getting out of Egypt, Dumas was captured and held prisoner for months in Naples.  He was never the same after that.  He died in 1806.

I left the book “The Black Count” in a hotel in Rome I think.  Otherwise I would let you borrow it.  But if you looking for a good biography to read – this one will not let you down.  However, it would’ve been nice to see a few more statues of General Dumas around Paris.  Maybe next time I will find one. 

 

Paris – The Art

If you go back and look at my blog about Florence, it was there that I began to see the real impact art can have on people as I watched a little girl be mesmerized by a statue.  In Paris, everyone it seems, young and old, French and Non, are mesmerized by the beauty on display here.  And the best part of it is, you can’t really get away from it.  It is every where.

Although I have no pictures, the Musee d’Orsay was my favorite museum in the city.  It is located on the Left Bank in an old train station, but it includes a great collection of impressionist art.

The name we all know though is the Louvre:ImageImageImage

And it’s better at night:

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It is and probably always is very crowded inside.  But it is worth the waiting.  There is a lot of stuff in here, so here is just a sampling.

I liked the Egyptian section a lot.  Here is just a few examples of this part of the collection:ImageImage

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And it was cool to see Hammurabi’s Code here too.  This dates back to 1772 BC and is the outline of law set out by the Sixth Babylonian King:

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A painting that was drawing a crowd was “The Coronation of Napolean” by Davis:

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And of course Mona:

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This is the line to see her:par 1 louv line mona

Here’s Venus:

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And the good news at the end of the Battle of Waterloo:

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The Louvre is just an amazing place.  I just like looking at the ceilings too:

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I didn’t like everything I saw here, and the crowds were big, but I think I could spend another three days in here, going on my own pace and enjoying each little corner.  But an afternoon is all I had.

We did drive by the famous Moulin Rouge as well:

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Inside I am sure was some great music and dancing and whatever goes on in there.  There was a huge line outside so this art also entertains and empowers and frees people as well.  You feel that all over the city – in the buildings, in what’s inside the buildings, in the statues outside the buildings, in the bridges, etc.  There is some thought put into, so it seems, how things look and how that look will affect people.  Not bad Paris – not bad.

 

 

Paris – The Architecture

So there is a lot of beautiful art in Paris, we all know that.  But even if you never went into a gallery or looked at a single painting, your eyes would be tired by looking at all the incredible buildings, made from stone and steel and glass, around every corner.

Really close to my hotel was the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  Because it was so close, I had a chance to walk by it, or at least see it in the distance, every day I was in Paris.  I could think of worse things to look at.  Image

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Inside is just as spectacular:

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But then I climbed the stairs up to the top (thanks for the advice on this Mr. Dean Hersha) and saw some even more interesting things:

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And probably my favorite pictures from up here were of the gargoyles looking out over the city:

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I’ll show one picture of the Arch at night, but will talk about this in a future blog – but this is pretty cool:

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I know Notre Dame is great and it has the added benefit of being the location for the climax of the book by Hugo, but my favorite church was the St. Chappelle:Image

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I also visited the place where Marie Antoinette was held prisoner before she was killed.  It is called the Concierge:

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I even visited the Paris sewers, which some might say have a beauty about them, that is if you can stand the smell:

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And then there is the grand daddy of them all – The Tower:

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I did go to the top, but I walked the first third of it – up to the second level. From there you had to take an elevator to the top.  ImageImageImage

From up there you really appreciate that the impressive architecture spills out over the entire city, into the neighborhoods and all around.  I know that we have some pretty cool art deco architecture in Battle Creek and have read the good news that the Heritage Tower is finally being restored.  I can tell you that just being in a place whose look makes you wonder does affect your attitude.  So was the case in Paris.

 

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