Blogging our way through Eastern Europe
Today started out quite early with a 6:30am wake up and a quick 5 hour bus ride to Nuremberg. LC and I caught up on some Zs, only waking up after a quick pit stop at McDonalds wherein I ordered an iced coffee and ended up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cup of coffee.... you could say I’m excited for some dunkies back in the bean.
We arrived at the hotel around 12:30 and had to make a quick turnaround to grab lunch at a nearby train station. We hustled back to the bus to head to the courthouse where the Nuremberg trials were held aiming to bring the Nazis and those responsible for the Holocaust to justice. We were able to sit in the actual courtroom and learn about the set up of the trial, where the prosecutors, judges, defense, and eyewitnesses were sitting. After the audio in there we were able to walk through the actual museum and learn about all different aspects of the trial. Some interesting information I learned was that the defense tried to use the argument that the allied forces committed some similar crimes against humanity during the war but this argument was not accepted by the court. The world finally found out, by testimony of witnesses and victims, the true scale of the Holocaust and how horrible it actually was. Film footage helped speed up this process of informing and educating the world on the genocide, documenting for all of time what happened during World War II.
We then headed to the Documentation center where we focused on a display about Leni Riefenstahl, a filmmaker who created a Nazi propaganda piece called ‘Triumph of the Will’. This controversial piece shows Germany under national socialism and glorifies everything about the Third Reich. We watched parts of the film in class and many students pointed out the sensationalized Nazi youth camps as well as the fact that almost everyone captured in a close up on video was blonde haired and blue eyed.
After leaving this museum we visited the Nazi rally grounds, a previously concrete stadium turned into a spot to, strangely, hang out, also including a few soccer fields in the central part. Apparently a restoration of the rally grounds could be in the works; however, it has massive costs and begs the question: why restore it?
We headed back to the hotel, handed in our Bugatti’s and Whispers, and headed out to our last group dinner. I once again made a poor food choice and got spaghetti instead of something cool like ox tails but at least I have learned my lesson. Our talent show turned vine-off ended the night perfectly, Sofia closing off with her poetry, giving us all a reminder of why we came on this journey.
As our last full day comes to an end, I can only think of what we have done so far. The first night at the Hofbrau Wursthaus as a big group seems like a million years ago. I cannot believe this trip will be over in less than 24 hours.
Today was the last full day of the Eastern Europe trip and as I briefly reflect (while sitting here in the Motel One in Germany) I can reflect upon my reactions and begin to understand why I acted the way I did. As my alarm rang at 6:30am, 6:45am, and 6:50am, my roommate and I got ready for our departure to Nuremberg at 8:00 am. On the bus, immediately I reclined my chair and slept on and off during the 4 hour ride and even had a quick morning snack break consisting of McDonald french fries.
We visited the Court which held the Nuremberg trials and eventually went to the documentation center which pretty much summed up the rise and fall of the Nazi Regime. Personally I find the Nuremberg trials to be fascinating and the verdict was a big achievement in the international criminal justice system but the museum was rather boring and congested. I had no idea that they had redone the Court’s layout for this trail and the architect who had remodeled it was an American.
My favorite part of today was seeing the Zeppelin field. What a wild site man. The scenery is beautiful. It consisted of a huge pond and duck boats, baby carriages and gleaming parents, kids on bikes and skates, and an immense soccer field/ track field area. Now this field was once Hitler’s area for his obnoxious speeches. As seen in Triumph of the Will, Hitler used this stadium to emphasize his rising Nazi power. Now fast forward to today: I would not have envisioned this nice scenery to be mixed with decaying cement steps and platform. 65 million euros is being used to restore this place. In my opinion, I would have let it rot.
Throughout this whole trip I have seen how these places have confronted their history and personally I still see a skewed and ignorant views of what truly happened in 1939-1945. Whether it is a tour guide firmly believing that AfroGermans never existed during the era, visibly seeing racial discrimination of an AfroGerman, or stupid teens doing the Hitler salute on the Zeppelin platform, you ask yourself: how effective this has all been for this country? Hey I refuse to let a handful of people do ignorant horrible things in 2018 and let it define the country as a whole but I have definitely begun to question how we, as Americans can confront our history. As a collective group, we have come together in order to educate one another and I appreciate that we can create a safe environment in Europe, which different opinions can be expressed. Now we just have to bring that back to the classroom.
Today was bittersweet. It was our last full day in Eastern Europe. We left Prague early in the morning and started our journey to Nuremberg. The bus ride was around 4 hours and most of us fell asleep on the ride there. Seeing the Nuremberg trail courtroom was really cool! It symbolized international criminal justice and the end of the impunity for war crimes. Being in the actual courtroom was fascinating. It was also really interesting to me how during this time Nuremberg was the city of the Nazi party and the racial laws yet the trails were still held here. The documentation center was eerie to me because in the beginning of the museum it showed how many idolized Hitler, the pictures of people crying to be in his presence will always be crazy to me. The rally pictures also showed us how everything had to be in Hitler’s liking or else it did not work, everything had to revolve around him and follow tradition.
Seeing this and walking on the Nazi party rally grounds blew my mind because we were able to stand in the same place Hitler did as we saw in Triumph of the Will. Though I couldn’t bring myself to stand where Hitler stood, but I saw the height and perspective he must have gotten from the people surrounding him. As Ms. Freeman said the people must have looked like ants from his viewpoint. It was also really weird how many people rode their bikes or brought their children around here. I felt as though the history of the Nazi party rally grounds has been normalized, accepted in people’s everyday lives, but I feel as though it shouldn’t be. It also made me think of how at home we live in places where the Native Americans were slaughtered and killed. We don’t have the places named and pointed out, we don’t really even think about that. I don’t think seeing places where people were killed should ever be something that is normalized in our society.
The more I study the Holocaust the more baffled I seem to get. Going to the euthanasia center and concentration camps and gas chambers makes you wonder why over and over again. Seeing the hair the Nazis took from these people and the room full of tons and tons of shoes, some the size of my fingers, and seeing pictures of real people who once lived their lives breaks my heart. I’ll never forget walking into the gas chamber at Majdanek and reading the poem Treblinka by Michael Hamburger. It shows you how truly disgusting these events were. We stood in the place where tons of people were killed. The amount of hatred the Nazi party carried is something I’ll never be able to comprehend because it’s such a repulsive thing. These people lacked humanity, they lacked everything that in my opinion makes us human.
This trip has been absolutely mind blowing, it forced you to think. I never laughed and cried so much in 13 days before. I’ll never forget all the amazing people I had the pleasure of meeting and the feelings of empathy/this idea of humanity we must all carry.
Thank you Ms. Freeman, Mr. Gavin, Mr. Howard, Ms. Foley, Julie, and the 48 wonderful students for making this trip something I’ll never forget!
Guten tag! We’re finally back in Germany, after a few hours of napping on our bus. We didn’t waste the day though. Right after a quick lunch, we went to the famous Nuremberg Courthouse, where we were able to explore an exhibition dedicated to the Nuremberg Trials, which was super cool. The Nuremberg Trials initiated the revision of laws regarding humanity and war, making this place inspirational to be in. The idea that all was fair in war was abolished due to these trials, forcing the major world powers to sit down and agree on what constituted as crimes against humanity. So much good has come from these trials. Sitting in the courtroom where some of the most notorious war criminals were brought to justice was moving, for me.
Next on our list, we went to Nuremberg’s old documentation center. Inside was a museum focusing on Nuremberg’s affect and importance in Nazi Germany. Nuremberg was the place of many pivotal events. The Nazis chose Nuremberg as the location for some of their major Nazi conventions, called the Nuremberg rallies, which were used as propaganda events. Hitler also ordered the convening of the Reichstag in Nuremberg to pass the infamous Nuremberg laws. This museum further taught us of the significance of this city which we were in, making it pretty eerie to be touring.
Before we could go to our final dinner, we took a walk to the Zeppelinfeld. This is a massive stadium built for the Nazis to hold conventions. To know how packed full of supporters this stadium was in Nazi Germany was sobering and standing where Hitler stood to speak to these supporters was eerie. It is impossible not to notice how aged this stadium has become. We were told that it would cost millions of euros to refurbish the Zeppelinfeld, which the government hopes to raise and do in the next decade. This posed the question: should the Zeppelinfeld be refurbished and kept, torn down, or left to decay? For me, I could go any way. I understand the level of importance in keeping this around for the purpose of remembering history, but the Zeppelinfeld was built architecturally the way it was so that it would last for generations- this was the Nazi’s intention. In a way, by keeping this stadium around and in tact, aren’t we keeping the Nazi dream alive? I also noticed when walking along the stadium that swastikas were drawn and carved into the steps. Does this place not serve as a way of facing history, but as a place for the wrong types of people? With all of this in mind during our discussion over the question, I think that the Zeppelinfeld should be left to decay and crumble on its own.
Our last night was spent at a delicious group dinner that was topped off with a talent show. This group of hilarious, cool people were better than I could ever have imagined and I could not imagine thirteen days travelling with anyone else. So, with all of that said, goodbye Eastern Europe, you will be missed!
On the bus ride over, we watched the movie the White Rose, about the Scholl siblings who protested WW2. The origins of their outrage (especially Sophie Scholl) are questionable since their main issue is that Germans are dying in a war they are destined to lose, and Sophie’s fiancée just so happens to be a soldier. She joined the Bund Deutscher Madel which was a pro-Hitler group of German girls.The Scholl family is affluent and purely German, and the treatment of the Jewish population didn’t really seem to influence their protests. Throughout the film, she was pictured as defiant in the face of impending death and is admired today in Germany for doing so.
Going into the Nuremberg trials courtroom, I didn’t know much about it other than that’s where suspected Nazis were tried. The courtroom itself is now reconfigured, yet the green marble over one of the main doors remains the same. It’s two figures, one representing Roman law, and the other representing Anglo-Saxon law. It didn’t occur to me that at the time, the US and Germany didn’t have the same legal system. Watching the white rose gave us a taste of how it worked- suspects would be questioned in front of an audience and that was kind of it. In the US, there’s cross-examinations of witnesses, a jury, etc. That’s why the Nazis being tried objected to the whole preceding- why should they follow the court system of another country? This brought up a really big question: still today, how can nations of the world hold other nations accountable for things like genocide? It’s scary to think that the leaders in places like Myanmar have the potential to not face consequences for persecuting an entire population like the Rohingya.
The Nuremberg Documentation Center section on Triumph of The Will by Leni Riefenstahl forced viewers to see the propaganda in current politics today. One thing Leni did in her propaganda film about Hitler was have many shots of his adoring fans, and was selective in choosing women and children in the front, with the intention to manipulate viewers into thinking that Hitler the true people’s man. This is seen today’s political rallies- Trump seems to always have young college girls behind him holding up a “women for Trump” sign, and Clinton’s rallies always have a very diverse group of people right behind her. The Apprentice is a program meant to show viewers that Trump, a “billionaire mogul” is so connected to his people that he will handpick someone to be his right hand. Hitler had similar ideas in terms of showing how in touch he was with his people by continuously holding rallies and giving speeches about the unification of Germany.
At Courtroom 600, where the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals were held beginning in 1946.