In 1933, Adolf Hitler decreed that Nuremberg would be the “City of Nazi Party Rallies.” Today, Nuremberg, Germany is much different than it was in the 1930s and 1940s. Nuremberg today is a beautiful Bavarian city with immaculately clean streets, large avenues walled by quaint Bavarian style homes and buildings and a cosmopolitan feel that is welcoming and progressive. If I had to judge the many European cities I have traveled to and have stayed in, Nuremberg would definitely rank near the top. This is a truly great city to visit and I have had only great experiences in Nuremberg. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, Nuremberg had the unfortunate distinction of being perhaps the favorite city of the head of the Nazi Party, Reich Chancellor and Führer of Germany. The interesting thing about this is that all of these titles belonged to a single person. It was an unlikely series of events that gave a single man, Adolf Hitler, the ability to seize control of all three of the highest offices in Germany and essentially become the dictator we know of today with nearly absolute control over the happenings of the German government. In the United States it would be similar to a single person becoming President, overthrowing the Congress and assuming its power, then dissolving the Supreme Court and assuming that branch of governmental powers as well. Pretty scary to someone who grew up under a democratic system of government, but a dark reality in Germany during the years prior to and during World War II.
One of the most interesting educational areas in Nuremberg are The Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds facilities. There is an exhibition that can be viewed at any time of year called “Fascination and Terror” and it is absolutely wonderfully done. It carefully and clearly outlines the causes, contextual instances and the unfortunate outcomes that came from the horrific reign of the National Socialist Party in Germany. This exhibition is a must-see if you travel to Nuremberg and it outlines the entire history of Nuremberg as it is associated with the National Socialist Party through 19 well designed and maintained exhibition chambers. One small distinction that makes this museum-like facility so interesting is that it focuses on the link of these historically significant instances to Nuremberg. It takes things that had global affects and global influence and tie them directly into the happenings that were taking place within the city of Nuremberg. This small distinction greatly separates this exhibition from all others I’ve seen.
This facility details everything from the history of Nazi rallies, to the construction of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds (on which the exhibition hall sits), to the Nuremberg Trials where chief Nazi officers were tried and mostly convicted, which essentially ended the reign of terror of the Nazi Party.
The exhibit is given in many different languages and the self-guided tour is quite nice and inexpensive. When you enter the facility, you can purchase, for a small fee, a handheld programmed radio that allows you to punch in the number of any exhibit and hear a full and detailed explanation of that historical event or situation in a language you understand. The entire process took me about 90 minutes and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. One really great feature of this exhibit is that there is no indication of pointed messaging, it is simply an account of what actually took place, not an interpretation of it. This was a really great feature for me because I like to get the cold hard truth and form my own thoughts about it. This exhibit allows you to do that. It supplies you with a ton of factual information and lets you process it in any way you wish.
Toward the end of the exhibit is a very simple, but haunting exhibit. Behind a glassed wall, are railroad tracks made of wooden cross-ties and neon lights to better illuminate the area. Within the railroad tracks are literally hundreds of thousands of small gray cards, each containing the name, location and life information of a person who died in a Nazi concentration camp. When you stand there and look through the glass and see how far the lit track stretches and see how wide it is and see that there are cards literally covering every inch and stacked inches deep, I can tell you the feeling is overwhelming when you contemplate the tremendous and needless loss of so much life. That somber moment spent staring through the glass is one I’ll never forget. You cannot help but read some of the names. You see where they were from, where they were sent, how old they were and when they died. It is sobering and a valuable experience of respectful remembrance I wish everyone could have.
The city of Nuremberg and the people who live there understand quite well the history of their people and city as it is associated with the murderous and tyrannical governmental affairs of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. They do not make excuses for it, nor do they accept it as their legacy. In my days of wandering the many monuments and buildings I found the city and its people to have extreme respect for those who lost their lives needlessly and for those who sacrificed all they had to topple the evils that would become known to the world as World War II ended. One interesting fact I learned is that it is against the law in Germany to deny that the Holocaust happened. In practically every instance I could tell that the people of the city hold great contempt for those who came before them for blotting their lineage with such a dark spot. No one could ever right the wrongs nor erase this dark chapter in the history of this beautiful city. However, Nuremberg is a city worth visiting, it displays its heritage for all to see and offers reverential tribute to the many who lost their lives due in large part to the ideas and policies that were born here.
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