Published: February 11th 2008February 9th 2008
Last time we were in Nürnberg we loved the city but were unable to spend time at WWII sights...so we went back today!! We went to the Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Center) and the famous Courtroom 600 from the Nuremberg Trials. We were also inspired to go to the Nürnberg Tiergarten (zoo) after our history lesson!
We arrived at the Kongresshalle and were amazed by the size of the building. Hitler had wanted to outdo Rome's Colosseum - and what he created was massive!! The structure itself was never completed (along with some of the others he planned for his rally grounds). One of the pictures shows the archetects' intent: a roof with no support beams over the interior court, which could hold up to 50,000 people. It is the largest remaining monumental National Socialist building in Germany. It became a historical sight in 1973 and now houses the Documentation Center in the north wing.
The Documentation Center is home to a permanent exhibition called "Fascination and Terror." It shows the causes and consequences of the National Socialists (led by Hitler). The major focus of the exhibition are the events in Nuremberg associated with the Party Rally Grounds. The
Photo op before we head inside :)
exhibition was amazing and for an entrance fee of 5€, they included a hand-held audio tour! Each picture, video, and display had a corresponding number and after entering the number on the handset, you could hear everything in English described to you. It was perfect because everything was labeled in German only. We were able to hear everything translated, as well as the story and additional information that went along with it.
The pictures were large and showed the massive amounts of people present at the rallies. The videos were documentary-style accounts of Hitler's rise to power, as well as the events leading up to and including allied occupation of Germany. There were pictures taken by Hitler's personal photographer, an original copy of his book: Mein Kampf, and posters and propaganda circulated throughout Germany.
At the end of the self-guided tour, you are able to walk out on a platform to view the interior of the Kongresshalle. We posted a video to show the inside and you can see it was never completed.
The Nazi Party Rally Grounds include: Kongresshalle, Luitpoldarena (designed for mass parades - now used as a park), Zeppelinfeld (where most
of the big Nazi parades, rallies, and events took place), Märzfeld (planned as a military exercise grounds), and also the Deutsches Stadion (never got past the first excavation and the hole filled with groundwater - was meant to have a seating capacity of 400,000!) Zeppelin Field is a very familiar sight for those who have seen Nazi rally footage. It is a huge field facing a tremendous altar, Hitler stood in the middle and the entire complex was crowned by a gilded copper swastika. The field could hold 100,000 people and the seating 60,000. It was finished in 1937 and used for parades and rallies by Hitler. In 1945, the American army blew up the swastica atop the tribune and began holding its
parades there. It was turned back over to the Germans by 1946.
The planning of these rally grounds continued up until 1945, even though the construction stopped in 1937. Many buildings are not completed and some (like the stadium) were barely out of planning stages when construction stopped.
The rally grounds were built to impress and intimidate; they were built to hold Hitler on a pedestal to symbolize his importance above
Large photo inside of Hitler at the Rally Grounds
everyone else. They were also created to hold thousands of people to create a sense of insignificance among the masses.
The Nuremberg Courthouse and Courtroom 600 were interesting. Courtroom 600 is still used today for murder and rape trials in the city. After WWII, an advisor for Roosevelt suggested a trial for those in power who had commited crimes. Interestingly enough, Stalin was opposed to this idea, suggesting instead that they take 50,000 German staff officers and shoot them execution style. Needless to say, that was not chosen as a good solution!! The French had their own opinion, but it was not really considered because they had surrendered too early. In the end, a series of trials using prosecutors and judges from each of the 4 Allied forces was chosen. The defendants were tried on any of the 4 following charges:
- 1. Crimes against peace
- 2. War crimes
- 3. Waging wars of aggression
- 4. Crimes against humanity
The courtroom was modified by the US Army before the Nuremberg Trials to accomodate more people. It is actually a relatively small room and the army removed the back wall and added a balcony. The
arrangement of the room was different to accomodate the 21 defendants, interpreters, judges, and counsel for both sides. There was also a small amount of press and diplomats who were able to secure seating in the back. Nowadays the courtroom looks nothing like it did during the trials. The Germans were embarrassed by their history and chose to remove anything that was present during the trials. No one even knows where the furniture went. The wall was replaced and the room gutted after the trials were over. The only original piece in the room is the large black carving over the door on the side of the room.
We had a German/English bilingual tour, which included a guide and a video subtitled in English. We sat in the courtroom while the guide described the changes in the room and the trials. Then we watched a 15 minute video about the trials. He said that originally the trial in Nuremberg was supposed to be the first, but that the Allied forces had intended to have more (with others in Berlin). However after 3 of the men on trial were acquitted, Stalin was mad and refused to take part in
any other trials. So the Americans continued their trials in Nuremberg while the French, English, and Russians each tried their own prisoners separately.
By now it was about 3pm and we decided to go to the zoo!! Andrea had read that it is one of the nicest zoos in Europe. TomTom lead the way and we spent the next 2 1/2 hours in the zoo. You can see from the pictures they have some really neat animals! We were there so late in the day though, that we weren't able to see all of the animals in their natural habitat. Some had been brought inside to eat and we could see them in their small pens, but others were inside and we were not able to see them.
The zoo was beautiful and each of the exhibits were really nicely done. We were glad we had time to go, but at we'll have to go back when we can see everything and we won't have to rush to see everything before closing.
Again TomTom brought us into the center of town and we parked and wandered through the pedestrian shopping area. Nuremberg is such
a great town!! We walked around for about an hour and then stopped to have dinner. We each got a Starbucks on the way out (haven't seen Starbucks since Munich! It's nice to actually be able to get coffee to go!!) and headed home to poor Inmate who had been alone all day.
We had a great time in Nürnberg and we can't wait to go back and explore more. It's such a wonderful city unlike any we have ever seen before.
Now we're gearing up for our trip to Florence, Italy!! Check back next week to see our pictures and our stories!! Andiamo!
There are more photos below