Danube Odyssey, Part 11
Nuremburg and Nazi
Index to Photos / Page Updated Jan. 19, 2008 -
(More than 200 additional photos taken on the Nolans' two-week cruise through
parts of Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia are posted in several Lewis
Nolan albums at www.ritzpix.com, a website that requires sign-in)
By LEWIS NOLAN
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Nov. 24, 2007, Saturday - In Nuremberg
We were up at 7 a.m. to have plenty of time for breakfast
before the 9:30 a.m. departure of tour buses to Nuremburg, spelled by the
Germans as Nurmberg with dots over the "u." Our
"yellow group" tour was led by a native woman named Margaret and the
boat's Ananda Hilgeman.
It started out with a stop at the imposing "Nazi Party
Rally Grounds," a huge outdoor complex of marching fields and viewing
complex that seated thousands of cheering Germans. It was designed by Albert
Speer, Hitler's favorite architect, and came to be known as the Zeppelin Field.
From there we would drive to what is called the "Nazi
an unfinished stadium that was meant to seat 400,000 (nearly 4 times the
present capacity of the Coliseum in L.A.)
and now looks like a big slice of brick cake.
Nuremberg has a population of
nearly 500,000, making it the second largest city in Bavaria
and one of Germany's
larger cities. Its claim to fame today is its honey, its toys and its spice
cakes. It's claim to fame of yesteryear is its enmeshment with the Nazi
movement, from the rally grounds that celebrated the criminal party's
ascendancy to the complex where the war trials and hangings of war criminals
took place at the conclusion of World War II.
was the site of the annual conventions of the National Socialist German Workers
Party (better known as Nazi) from 1933 to 1938. It was at a 1935 meeting that
the notorious Nuremberg Laws were put into effect, depriving German Jews of
many civil rights. In 1945 and 1946, the War Crimes Tribunal tried Nazi leaders
before the world press and put many of them to death and long prison sentences.
A blow-up of a photograph in the Documentation Center
that still jolts today shows gleeful women cheering with several laughing men
bedecked in Nazi uniforms at one of the party rallies at Zeppelin Field.
Our tour group marveled at the size of the rally grounds,
which provided now-deteriorated, concrete seating for 60,000. A gigantic,
copper-gilded swastika that was once atop the stadium seating was dynamited
when Allied forces took Nuremberg.
I've seen film footage of the explosion several times on television history
shows. The rostrum at the center of the stadium seating, modeled after an
altar, was designed by architect Speer to showcase Adolph Hitler as Germany's
larger-than-life savior. The infamy of the massed "seig heils" from
massed people in the audience who were duped on such a grand scale echoes down
the decades today. A blood-chilling poster of exuberant, uniformed Nazis plus
several celebrating, gleeful women is on display in the Documentation Center.
Hitler said in 1937 that "never throughout all of German history have
greater and nobler buildings been
planned, begin and completed in our own time. . .This is why
these buildings are not intended for the year 1940, or for the year 2000, but
rather, they should reach out, like the cathedrals of our past, into the
centuries of the future."
Beginning in 1940, the Flossenburg concentration camp (where
at least 30,000 of more than 100,000 prisoners died) and its satellites in
Northern Bavaria, Bohemia and Saxony supplied
granite for the Nazi stadium and Congress Hall buildings erected at Nuremberg. Prisoners were
exploited, tortured and in many cases worked to death. They were undernourished
and inadequately clothed. A brochure distributed at the Documentation Center
says the Flossenburg camp designed as a sick bay "consisted of three
isolated barracks which housed seriously ill prisoners. Intentional neglect,
constant malnutrition, bad hygienic conditions and rampant diseases turned the
sick-bay into a place of death. Here Soviet prisoners of war and Polish
prisoners were deliberately segregated and murdered by lethal injection.
Prisoners were tortured and placed in solitary confinement, in darkened cells,
where they were given no food. Among prominent prisoners from Germany and
abroad - representing the military, the church and politics were prominent
citizens who objected to National Socialism." Among them were Pastor
Dietrick Bonhoeffer, a Protestant theologian, William Canaris, a German
admiral, and Hans Oster, a major general, who were all executed at Flossenberg.
Inmates at Flossenburg included Jews, gypsies, POWs,
homosexuals and political opponents of National Socialism. Sadly, Flossenburg
has not received the worldwide shock and approbation of Auschwitz, Dachau and Belden death
The infamy of the massed "seig heils" at the Nazi
monuments from duped masses echoes down the decades today. One gets a taste of
yesteryear's horrors when viewing the infamous propaganda film in 1934 by Leni
Riefenstahl, "Triumph of the Will." It depicts the mesmerizing hold
Hitler had on the cheering thousands. Up to 250,000 people were present at a
time for Nazi rallies in Nuremberg's
Zeppelin Field. Today, anybody so misguided as to clown around the speakers'
platform by pretending to give the stiff-armed, Nazi salute is subject to
arrest, a symbol of the modern thinking by post-World War II Germans, which has
outlawed all public sympathy and support for Hitler and the Nazis.
A brochure I purchased at the Documentation Center
said the Nazi Party rallies served primarily as an opportunity for the regime
and the Fuhrer "to present themselves to the people to demonstrate the
presence of a Volksgeneinshaft and to promote a spirit of war. Endless parades
and roll calls, demonstrations of military prowess, sports events, Party
conferences of the National Socialist organizations,
propaganda exhibitions, fireworks as well as concerts and operas - all of these
events and activities so roused the emotions of the participants and spectators
that there was virtually no escape for the individual."
Oddly, I had to wonder where the German citizens were on
this day of our tour. There were plenty of tour buses full of tourists like our
group. But it didn't seem like there were many visiting German Rotarians,
school classes or other upstanding citizen groups touring the museum complex. I
asked a museum employee about the absence and was politely told there is
little, if any, mention in the school textbooks today about the German death
camps of World War II. Consequently, a great many Germans look elsewhere for
examples of the "dark history" of countries other than Germany in
times of war.
All segments of the Nazi's National Socialist Party included
the SA, the SS, Reichlabor Service, Hitler Youth, League of German Girls and
the Army Wehrmacht were represented by enthusiastic adherents at the massive
rallies staged at Nuremberg. For me - and I believe many others - it was
stomach-turning to see the adulation, even worship, extended to Hitler and his
henchmen by the crowds pictured in the photos and film clips on display at the
museum. Even worse are disgusting photos and objects taken from the Nazi death
After leaving the Documentation
Center with leaden
hearts, Betty and I recharged our emotional batteries by having a pricey but
nice lunch of sandwiches at a downtown restaurant. We then toured the nearby Nuremberg Toy
Museum, a charming collection of
antique and modern toys hand-crafted in Germany. Rekindled were some of my
long-buried memories of the neat toys my parents gave me when I was a lad. I
still mourn the mistake my mother made when she gave away to a neighborhood boy
my really neat set of Lionel trains when I went off to college.
While at Nuremberg,
Betty shopped for souvenir thimbles for her collection and also for several
Christmas gifts for family and friends while I sat on a bus bench and watched
the German natives and tourists rush around the holiday-decorated stores and streets.
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