Avid tourist that I am, I could not pass up Nuremburg just because a head cold left me barely able to move. With my pockets stuffed with tissues, I took myself to the back of the bus trying not to touch anything that might pass the cold on to others. I wish someone earlier in the trip had been equally careful.
Zeppelinfeld – Zeppelin Field – was the site of the infamous Nazi Nuremberg Rallies from 1933 to 1938. Nuremberg was selected for the very pragmatic reason that it was a railroad center easily reached from all parts of Germany. The first party rally was held in Munich in 1923 and the last, the “Rally of Peace” in 1939, was canceled because it was to occur one day before Germany invaded Poland.
When Alie was a student at American University, she served on a student council that arranged for a showing of the famous film Triumph of the Will, a risky step that might not be permitted in today’s universities. We had not met, but I went to see the film and remember sitting a couple seats away from the American Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell. The film was propaganda for an unethical system, but it was one of the most powerful films ever made and still influences documentaries. We were both interested to learn, however, that Zeppelinfeld was not large enough to hold the crowds in the film, and they were shot on other parade grounds.
The unfinished Congress building was across a lake. Planned to hold future Nazi Party congresses, construction stopped at the beginning of the war. Zeppelinfeld is not much now. In the 1960s, the large arches that formed the backdrop for Hitler’s speeches were blown up as dangerous. One suspects they were regarded more politically dangerous than structurally dangerous. It is unfortunate because the architecture is a reminder to us of what totalitarian states are all about. It is massive architecture designed to make a person feel insignificant as an individual but still part of a powerful larger entity.
Therefore, it was fitting that our tour next took us to see Courtroom 600, site of the Nuremberg Trials. Again, the trials were held here in the Palace of Justice for practical reasons: it was next to a prison; and it was one of the few buildings not seriously damaged at the end of the war. Twenty-two leading Nazis were tried in the room (one in absentia). It was the first trial in which people were held accountable for war crimes, for crimes against humanity and for violations of international law. It is still an operating courtroom, so we were fortunate that no trail was going on, and we were able to sit in the room for an excellent talk by one of the guides.
We then visited the Nuremberg market, site of the famous Christmas Market. A nineteen meter- high gold fountain dating back to 1396 stands in one corner; but the current fountain is just one of many reconstructions over the centuries. At noon, a large clock in the Church of Our Lady tower shows the Electors parading before the Holy Roman Emperor.
After lunch, Michelle went to see the Documentation Center, a modern addition to the unfinished Congress building. There one can see records demonstrating the causes and consequences of the rise of the Nazis. Alie decided to read, and I took my contagious head cold to bed.