The rain and cold made it a bit difficult to appreciate this city, parts of which have been rebuilt to pre-war conditions from the ruins of devastating carpet bombing that had destroyed 95% of the city by January, 1945. We visited the old castle in the rain and warmed our bones over an excellent lunch, but it was hard to avoid the fact that something truly horrible had happened here.
Though a bit reluctant, I visited the The Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände, or Documentation Center, which is designed like a spear through one of hitler’s grand (unfinished) ideas – a “congress hall“, designed by Albert Speer, and intended to dwarf the Colosseum for the 1,000-year reign of the Nazis. It houses a permanent exhibition called “Fascination and Terror” which attempts to explain, among other things, how and why Hitler rose to power. The story is frightening. As impossible as it may seem, it can happen again.
When visiting the still in-use Courtroom 600, in the Justizpalast, or Palace of Justice, site of the Nuremberg Trials, our German guide downplayed the notion that this city was chosen for symbolic reasons stating that it had more to do with the court’s proximity to one of the last intact prisons in Germany. Still, holding these trials on the site of the Nuremberg Nazi rallies was a nice touch.
The Nuremberg trial was the first trial to use real-time translators. Movies made during the liberation of the camps were projected onto a large screen in the courtroom – another first. The trails also gave us the term genocide and the idea the some crimes were too horrible even in war and the notion of crimes against humanity. Standing in this place was a powerful experience.