Today the morning finds us with a glimpse of blue sky and hopefully a better day. The day starts with Sharon standing on her balcony, the window down and the Captain on shore. He walks over and hands her some wild poppies he has picked off the bank. This is indicative of the whole crew. They are all warm, friendly and with great senses of humour. They definitely have made us all feel special which has really added to the trip.
We have been on the Main-Danube canal overnight. It is 171 km long with the highest locks and was built in 1990 to accommodate the increase in River cruise boats. In 1990 the rivers had 20 cruises. This year they expect 1500! As the guide says pretty soon it will be the River Boat Walk from Amsterdam to Budapest, with every 10th boat a beer and BBQ stop.
We are in Nuremburg today home of the famous WWII trials. This means a change in the period of history we can expect to hear today. A group of us want to visit the Information Center which houses Nazi documents and tells the story of Hitler’s rise to power and the war. The ship’s plan is to bring us back for lunch and then shuttle us into the old town after.
We ask about taxis so that we don’t waste time back and forth. Plus Nuremburg is famous for its sausage … so we want lunch in town. Showing the great flexibility of the Captain and Cruise Director, next thing we know they have changed things so the buses will drop us in town.
Nuremburg is one of our larger stops, a city of 500,000 people that is regularly one of the top 25 cities in the world for quality of life. It is also the first city in the Europe to introduce the railway in 1835. Funnily the people were very afraid of this new transportation at first. They believed at the high speed, 30km/hr, that they would get pneumonia or that their head would explode. After an initial trial run with 2 kegs of beer, that survived intact, and with the kings embracing it, the railway thrived and Nuremburg became a major hub.
The railway hub and the heavy industry made it a huge WW II bombing target and 90% of the outskirts and much of the medieval old town were destroyed. After the war they worked to restore the old town in the same style. Fortunately much of the medieval wall and its towers remain. They also turned former SS barracks into refugee sites, focusing on ensuring a contrast from the evil to the benevolent.
We drive by the Justizpalast or the Palace of Justice. This is the site of the famous trials. The site was picked to be as far away from the Soviets as possible but also as it still had a working prison. The trials were the first to charge people with ‘crimes against humanity’. A charge wildly recognized from a UN perspective today.
The original first trial was that of Hitler’s closest confidantes. In the end 12 were given death, 7 life at Spandau prison and the others lesser sentences or acquitted. Including in this group were Goering, Hitler’s right hand man, Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary and Hess, the Deputy Fuhrer. The 12 were hung and the location destroyed, their bodies cremated and all ashes spread across small rivers. When the last prisoner died Spandau was also demolished. No where did they want the ability to make them martyrs.
Now we go around the old town. The moat never did have water and the only time it is filled these days is with people. Every May for 3 days they have a Beer Fest. 80 breweries all in the moat.
We now travel to Zeppelinfeld, the famous site of the Nazi rallies. Our guide Chris, who is incredible, starts to relay the story. In 1933 in the last of the democratic elections till the end of the war, Hitler and his National Socialist party or Nazis are elected. In the wake of a European economic crisis with 30% unemployment he promised stability and jobs. Little did the world know, who helped fund this rebuild, that what they were funding was the growth of an army of 2.5 million soldiers and building tanks and bunkers.
His first step in 1933 was to institute mandatory military service and then use the SS to stop people from shopping at Jewish shops. Then in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws came into effect prohibiting any relations between Jews and Aryans, the chosen people. Jews were removed from civic offices and declared not citizens. They lost their jobs overnight. Finally in 1938, the last year that Jews were able to leave the country, all the Synagogues were burned down.
During this time he started through mass propaganda to brainwash the German people. The first step was the creation of Zeppelin Feld for his party rallies. The structure developed over time to become a massive square with a giant grandstand and the Fuhrer’s rostrum. Hitler would drive in and slowly walk the stairs to the rostrum, giving the impression that he was part of the community. Creating the feeling of community was key to the Propaganda plan.
These rallies would last for 5 days and include 500,000 of the faithful, primarily young men of the Young Nazis. The idea was that they would go home and share the amazing experience with family and friends. Convincing all that Hitler was the saviour. In the end when the Americans took over, the giant swastika on top the grandstand was ceremoniously blown to smithereens.
Today it is not maintained and there is great disagreement. Those that feel it is an important part of history and should be preserved. And the people of Nuremburg who feel it should be left to fall apart leaving no place that was so important to the Nazis. To date the town has refused to put any money toward it and any work is for concerts or other events that take place there.
In 1939, earlier than planned, Hitler was forced to invade Poland. Being so far in debt to the rest of the world he could no longer wait on his plan to take over the world. And so it all began. Including the eventual edict that all Jews should be sent to the camps and exterminated.
From here we visit the Congress a massive building in the shape of the Coliseum but much larger. This was to be the Hitler once a year speech centre and planned to be twice the height of what ultimately got finished. This building was never used and now is a storage site.
We spend the rest of the morning at the Information Center which is both informative and moving. Through movies, pictures and artifacts it tells the story of Hitler’s rise and fall. Ending with the surrender of Nuremberg on April 20th, Hitler’s suicide 10 days later and 10 days later the surrender of Germany. Throughout we learn that there were 70 concentration camps and that only 2 out of 1000 Germans were actually resistors.
The final room is all about the Trials. It holds all the charges and verdicts plus pictures of the accused and tapes of Goering’s testimony. This almost puts a comical spin as he testifies that he, as second in command, knew absolutely nothing about the extermination order. After many denials the prosecutor finally replies ‘then I guess the war never happened’.
The final and lasting image is of a small set of rail tracks with 60,000 coaster size card each embossed with the name, birth date, death date and name of camp. This was created on the 125th anniversary of the rail in Nuremburg. It was created to symbolize that these trains took the people to their death. Each card represents 100 people. If they had a card for all 6+ million deaths the track would have to be 4 km long.
We now head into the old town for lunch and the famous sausage. Made simply with pork, salt, pepper and marjoram then grilled on an open BBQ they are absolutely delicious. They are served as a minimum of 6 with sauerkraut or 3 in a bun. Fortunately they are not big just about the size of your finger. We enjoy the sausage with Spargel, or white asparagus which is not cheap.
A steep climb after lunch to the castle has us huffing and puffing but we get a great view of the city. One of the most interesting stops is St Sebald Kirche or church which has interesting photos of the bombing damage. The towers were not hit and stayed intact but the roof of the main area was demolished and bells melted.
It has been a long day so when we get back and I nod off during the second half of the movie. After dinner we come to the largest lock, 27 meters. The weather cooperates and they open the top deck when we are in the lock. The added touch is fantastic as the ship passes out champagne. A very nice touch. But when we get to the top of the lock we are ushered back down and the rails once again collapsed. There is a very low bridge right ahead.