Germany, Day 15: Words Are All I Have

Today I was very conflicted.

Today we went to the Documentation Centre on the former Nazi rally grounds in Nuremberg.  A lot of the unfinished rally grounds and buildings still stand, including a giant congress complex (where the Documentation Centre is located) and then Zeppelin field where the Nuremberg Rallies were held (google a photo, you’ll know the one I’m talking about).  I hemmed and hawed about bringing my camera with me because I was unsure as to whether was going to/felt comfortable enough to take pictures of this infamous structure.  I ended up bringing my camera just in case, but didn’t end up taking any photos, so I will just describe what’s going on there.

We had taken the tram to the Centre, and it’s hard to miss.  A giant colosseum made of brick and mortar dominates the lake side.  Architects who made the museum decided they wanted to build it inside of the abandoned and damaged centre, but added some jagged metal design pieces, in effect to throw a spear into Speer (the architect who was complicit in using slave labour to build the structure).  The Documentation Centre calls its exhibit “Fascination and Terror” and aims to show how it was that Hitler came to power and how something like the Third Reich can be prevented in the future.  We grabbed our handheld audio guides and headed into the labyrinthian behemoth.

The exhibit is excellent, exhaustive and clinical, starting at the National Socialist party’s beginnings, their rise to power, their horrifying reign and their demise.  The exhibit also documents the rally ground and complex itself and how it was built and the role it and Nuremberg played in that time.

Exiting the exhibit on the metal ramp down to the lobby, a break in the brick work shows a few lengths of railway.  Strewn in and around the railway ties were metal chips that each bore a name, a birthdate, a death date, and which extermination camp they were murdered in.  Heavy, heavy, heavy.

We left the Documentation Centre and headed towards the Zeppelin field.  Halfway between the Centre and the field was a brewhouse and we noticed how hungry and thirsty we were, so we had a beer, tried some of Nuremberg’s own sausages and were back on our way.  The rally grounds at the Zeppelin field have fallen into disrepair – plants are taking the structure back, people have left their garbage and broken bottles on the steps.  You can climb all the way to the pulpit where Hitler would give his speeches, but I felt weird about it and chose not to.  We sat for a moment, looked over the field and roadway and decided it was time to go.

We got back on the tram and headed to Nuremberg’s old town.  I was especially excited about this because Nuremberg’s old town is where the stationery giant Staedtler’s flagship store is.  We wandered along the cobblestones and watched the bustling market vendors and busy sidewalk cafes, definitely the busiest old town we’ve been to so far.

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We found the Staedtler store and I immediately started getting sweaty palms.  Pens, pencils, mechanical pencils, erasers, fountain pens, highlighters, pencil crayons, felts, fancy limited edition ballpoints – all so glorious.  Ma and I picked up some goodies and we were on our way.

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Ma wanted to find a certain church that was at one point a synagogue (there is a Star of David in the floor).  Luckily, giant churches are not hard to miss.

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I had mentioned in a previous blog post something about wanting to wander into a giant church and have the organist bust out some Bach and today that came true!  This young man was playing away, fully immersed in fugue, feet moving madly across the pedals.

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We grabbed some dinner at one of the restaurants in the square and watched the sun go down, reflecting on a profound day.  After some ice cream we headed back to the hotel to pack, on our way to Dresden tomorrow.

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