November 14, 2007

history intersecting the present..

so i've been trying to put together all my europe pictures (uh... still) and finally got around to sorting through the rest of them the other night, even if they're not technically labelled and stuff yet. they're in SETS, THOUGH, which is PROGRESS, and you all can just hush up about that now, i'll get it done ONE DAY. maybe.

anyway! on my.. um.. 3rd? day there, i left rothenburg and headed to munich, by way of an afternoon in nuremburg. i knew the old town was pretty lovely and had a lot of history, but i was most interested in seeing the Nazi Documentation Center outside the city, which was originally where Hitler had planned to build an enormous nazi-centric complex, including massive rally grounds, a 50,000 person Congress Hall, another stadium for 400,000, a "Great Road" cutting through the grounds (which was large enough that the Allies landed a plane on it later)... all massive in scale and scarily megalomaniacal. the unfinished congress hall is now a museum that documents the rise of Hitler and Nazism in Germany, focusing on how it happened. or, more accurately, how it was ABLE to happen.

in any event, the museum was very well done, had enormous amounts of information, tons of original documents, and showed the awful and infamous "
Triumph of the Will," the documentary by Leni Riefenstahl that was used as a nazi propoganda film. the footage from that film was actually taken from the 1934 nazi party congress.... in nuremberg. which meant that when i went out to roam around the grounds, i was literally walking through scenes i'd just seen in the nazi propaganda film.

it was really, really powerful. and creepy. and sort of awful. hitler never finished the complex, but he did finish the rally grounds at zeppelin field, which is where he addressed throngs of hundreds of thousands of adoring nazis on more than one occasion, and where a large chunk of "Triumph of the Will" was shot. and it's still there.

since i'd JUST been in the museum, i had really vivid images of the old photos and old footage... pictures i had just seen of hitler himself standing on the podium right in front of me. just the grounds by themselves aren't all that imposing - they are fairly run down now, and overgrown with grass a bit:'s when you put them into context that it becomes a bit terrifying:

standing up on that podium overlooking the grounds was creepy. sitting up on the stone stands and seeing that other guy stand on the podium, though, was far, far creepier, because i could actually see hitler in my head when he did it.

it's odd to think all that was only 60-odd years ago. it seems so distant, so long ago, and so impossible... but then being in those buildings and at the rally grounds... the structures are practically new. they're solid, and recent. and very real. i've read a lot about nazi germany, seen the films, done the research... but man. it's nothing like being IN hitler's freaky little nazi complex, surrounded by solid, looming, physical evidence of his insanity.


  1. Sounds like a very learned trip to Nuremberg. It's for similar reasons I'd like to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC someday.

  2. Wow. If you got that vibe at Nuremburg, I really hope Dachau or some place similar isn't on your itinerary.

  3. I just saw your comment on my site and am new to your blog, and wow. When did you go to Europe and what for? Vacation? Study abroad?

    Also, do you really know people in New York who could help my boyfriend find a job? Like, really? Anyone? He's a mechanical engineer with an interest in design. If you have any contacts, I will be your friend forever. :) If you want.

  4. You hit the nail on the head - the circumstances, mobility and immobility, that allowed those structures -- and Structures -- to come to fruition.


    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I really liked this post. I'm a history fan so this is interesting. Those years were incredibly crucial in the fate of the world and to think it was only 60-70 years ago.


  6. I imagine that would be a little creepy to stand there...and sad.

  7. That was a really good post -- well written, and the pictures added to the overal creepiness of the mental picture I got. I also can't believe it was in such the recent past that it all happened.

  8. Excellent post. Not-so-excellent history. It's chilling, isn't it? I found the US Holocaust Museum to be chilling enough. I can't imagine someplace like there. Thanks for sharing. Oh and I have seen the intro to Triumph of the Will. It made me sick.

  9. That's how I felt at dachau. Thousands killed there and people let it happen. How far would you go to take a stand? They've cleaned it up nice though. All flowers and such. Even the creamatoriums don't look so bad. That is the saddest part.