All I knew about Nuremberg was that Nazi war criminals were tried and convicted there after World War 2. I didn’t know until we stood surrounded by it that Hitler had constructed a colosseum with 50,000 seats, which he intended to be the biggest and most enduring monument in the world–to himself. Nuremberg had been one of his primary military bases and Nazi rallies were staged here. Literally staged because he required certain gestures and responses from his audience, sometimes having the army hold their arms out for hours.
It’s too expensive to tear down so it is just decaying in fit tribute to a monomaniac.
Our guide Patrick, a young student with a heavy German accent, gave us lots of information but he was hard to understand. His command of English was not nearly as good as that of Ursula in Bamberg. All his “v’s”for “victory” and everything else–he said a lot of them–came out as w’s, like a character from Dickens. Not that I minded but it was distracting. (Later I liked his referring to a section of the local castle as the place where the Prince Bishop “parked” his horses.)
He said by ninth grade every student in Germany must be taken on a tour of a concentration camp. I was glad to hear it. I hate the idea of exposing children to a knowledge of such evil but they must know about it to prevent it happening again. He gave us the names of two good movies about the trials: Judgment at Nuremberg and Nuremberg with Alec Baldwin. Since we didn’t go on the optional tour, I hope to rent these.
In Miltenberg (Day 5), we had had a reminder about the Nazi shadow that covered most of Europe 75 years ago. Our guide there told us there were 99 Jewish citizens in the town before the war. Of those, 88 chose to flee. The 11 who stayed ended up in the ovens at Auschwitz.
We kept climbing and found a bench in a park overlooking cemetery and city and sat thinking about what it would have been like to live here in Nazi-threatened Europe.
I remembered our guide’s account of one man’s response to a neo-Nazi rally scheduled for the town square one afternoon in 2006. Carefully orchestrated and highly publicized, the Nazis marched through the streets toward the square while 16,000 townspeople watched helplessly, bound by the German Republic’s right of free speech.
The Catholic church flanked the square which the brown shirts were now filling, setting up their sound system. Just before the program was about to begin, the Catholic priest rushed up to the bell tower and started hauling on the ropes. The clanging of the bells drowned out the Nazi ranting. Over and over and over he rang the bells, for a full hour, until the mob gave up in disgust and left to file a charge against him.
They fined the priest 5,000 Euros and the grateful townspeople paid it for him. He is Miltenberg’s hero–but I don’t think anyone knows his name.