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:
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.
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:
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:
To give you a better idea of its size, here is what it looks like inside – that is a motorcoach full sized bus below:
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:
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.
Here is the signature fireplace:
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:
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:
Inside were these tunnels and rooms:
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:
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:
The now all too familiar “Work will set you free” sign”
The fence and guard towers:
The area where victims were gathered each day:
The main lane with the barracks outlines and bunks inside:
The gas chamber:
The old crematorium:
When that wasn’t enough, the new crematorium:
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:
And this synagogue:
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:
The court room today:
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.
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.