Our next stop was the city of Nuremberg, both famous and infamous at the same time. Nuremberg had a glorious past and was once the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. It is still considered one of Germany’s most historic cities with written records that date back to the 11th century. As Germany moved into the 20th century, Nuremberg still enjoyed a wonderful collection of medieval buildings in its old town. However, this beautiful city would pay dearly for Hitler’s interest in its connection to the Holy Roman Empire. Nuremberg was very heavily bombed during WWII and almost 90 % of its historic city center was destroyed in a single raid by the British Air Force on January 2, 1945. Nuremberg was noted for the production of toys and gingerbread not war material but because Hitler had made it a Germanic symbol, the British deliberately set out to destroy mainly civilian targets in the medieval heart of the city.
Two ancient churches were heavily damaged as most of the buildings were turned into rubble. It did not help Nuremberg’s fate that the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were announced there nor that Leni Riefenstahl used it as the site for her iconic Nazi film, Triumph of the Will.
We were scheduled to arrive at our city dock around 8 AM, which unfortunately was not in walking distance of the city center. After breakfast, we would have the choice of two tours, both of which would take about 3 hours. The first was dedicated to WWII,, which included touring the decaying buildings of Hitler’s rally center and Zeppelin field, followed by a visit to the Nazi Documentation Center. This did sound interesting but the Ramblers decided to take option 2. This was a relatively brief drive-thru tour of the Nazi Parade Grounds followed by a Nuremberg city walking tour of the castle and the heart of medieval Nuremberg.
We later heard that the folks who took the Documentation Center tour enjoyed it very much and would have liked to stay longer but we also enjoyed our tour and felt the same about the medieval alstadt.
Boarding our bus with the rest of the Gentle Walkers, we headed into Nuremberg, a city of about 500,000 people, today, the 14th largest in Germany. If Hitler had been successful it might well be much larger now, since he considered Nuremberg the most authentically “German” city with its ties to the ancient Holy Roman Empire. Thus he had the grounds that we were soon to visit constructed on a giant scale for massive Nazi rallies.
Like many grandiose plans, they never entirely came to completion.
The Zeppelin Field and Rally Grounds have become a major tourist attraction, and although we approached them quite early on a week-day morning there were already a number of busses parked in several areas as well as another string of busses whose passengers were doing only the drive through tour. At least 250,000 people visit the grounds every year.
The decaying grandeur of Hitler’s red brick coliseum ruins were matched by the over-grown expanses of the rally grounds.
The Ramblers along with the rest of the Gentle Walkers were quiet as we viewed the expansive area from where Hitler briefly had Germany mesmerized. It is a somber setting and made one think about the twists of fate that caused the eventual destruction of the Thousand Year Reich.
It may be that in twenty years or so, the place will be well on its way to total decay. However, the Ramblers are not so sure this is a good thing.
We have added a link that provides a good argument for rebuilding the grounds so that people will not forget happened here not so long ago. Yes, it will be expensive, but again it will be money well spent.