Dave the motorhome hasn’t moved, he’s still in the car park in Nuremberg but the other motorhomes have mainly been replaced by cars.
This morning we took Charlie for a walk around the park we’re stopping in. The plan was to tire him out so we could visit the catchily titled ‘Documentation Centre Nazi Party Rally Grounds’, however as we walked towards The Great Road we soon realised we could walk around most of the sites with him, so off we went. To explain a bit about where we are, the park we are sleeping in – well where Dave is parked, we’re not sleeping on park benches or anything – is an area which was designated to be the rally grounds for the national socialist party. Big plans were drawn up to build oversized, powerful looking buildings. Some were started, one was even finished but most of them only existed as models or had their foundations laid. If it had been finished the whole site would have been hugely impressive, as it is today it still exudes a sense of a once powerful force behind it.
We followed a walking trail which firstly took us down a huge strip of granite known as The Great Road, an amazing sight to see – I daren’t even begin to imagine how many people it would take marching along it to fill it.
The road led us to the Volksfest ground where people were busy setting up fun fair rides and beer gardens in the shadow of the unfinished Congress Hall, which would have held 50,000 people. Walking around it I was reminded of the amphitheatres we’ve visited in other towns – I later found out that it was based on the Colosseum in Rome, but if finished would have been much bigger. As we stopped out front to find out what time the museum closed a lady approached us asking about Charlie, in my broken German I explained his name, age and breed – which usually answers any questions. ‘I want to eat him’ she replied in English – we hope she was joking!
Keeping the museum and Congress Hall until this afternoon we set off around the lake. Part way round we hear a voice ring out ‘Hello Charlie’, and turn to see the smiling faces of the Dutch couple we met in the town yesterday, it comes to something when your dog knows more people in a town than you do! At the far side of the lake is the Zeppelin Field, so called because a Zeppelin once landed there, but more famous as the one completed building of the Rally Grounds.
The monumental building is only half the height it was, the pillared section being removed for safety in the 1960’s, but standing on the podium section made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, to think that the one man who stood here, with thousands looking at him, changed the course of history which eventually led to the deaths of millions of people far away from their homes, including my Grandfather.
We made our way back to Dave and dropped Charlie off as museums aren’t his thing. The weather here is getting hotter, so after a bit of a rest and a slap of sunscreen we set off back across the park to the museum. It is housed in one section of the Congress Hall and is shaped like a huge point cutting through the building in an act of defiance as to what the building stands for.
Paying our €5 entry fee we didn’t really know what to expect. We were both handed an audio guide and told to plug in the numbers from the displays as we went around. The exhibition ‘Fascination and Terror’ focusses on the causes, contexts and consequences of the rise of the national socialist reign and provides history and background on the party rallies. We were in there for nearly three hours and didn’t once lose interest – it was fascinating.
As we walked across the main reception area the woman behind the audio counter desk called us over to take our guides from us, a couple of minutes later an announcement rings out that the place would be closing soon – looks like our timing was perfect. I have to say after the visit today I’ve learned way more than I did in my history classes. I’m also a little bit in awe. The start of the whole movement was a masterclass of propaganda and spin. Even down to the rally grounds themselves which were built of natural stone and in gigantic proportions so attendees felt part of something big and important. What it all led to was so, so wrong and it’s fitting that one of the last images you see is a series of photographs of the twelve people convicted and sentenced to death in the Nuremberg war trials – the nooses still round their broken necks.
After such a dark and moving journey through time, we step out into bright sunshine, smoke gently wafts around the park as the whole place has become a giant Saturday afternoon BBQ. Patches of grass designated as Grill Platz are filled with groups cooking up tasty treats – the smell is driving us wild, we dread to think what it’s doing to poor Charlie.