We continued on to Nuremberg, which is a critical place to visit in order to understand The Third Reich and the Nazis’ rise to power. Nuremberg is known not only for its infamous anti-Semitic laws, the Nuremberg Laws, but also for the Zeppelin field, where Hitler held massive party rallies. Nuremberg is also known for the 1946 Nuremberg trials, where the city once viewed as a symbol Nazi power became a symbol of the downfall of Nazism.
Our first stop in Nuremberg was at the Documentation Center at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, formerly the Congress Hall of the Nazi Party Rallies, which is now a museum that educates about Nazism and the Holocaust. We attended a presentation that helped us review and learn more about the Nuremberg trials. The presentation reviewed which Nazis were tried, their indictments, which judges and lawyers presided over the trial, and the verdict.
After attending this fascinating presentation, we had the opportunity to walk through the temporary exhibition on railroads and the Holocaust. We learned about how the train tickets were often paid for by the Jews who themselves were being deported. It was also made clear that many working for the railroad companies knew about the atrocities being committed against the Jews, but refused to acknowledge this in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Part of this exhibit includes a camera that shows live feed from the concentration camp sites. We later saw this video camera on our visit to Treblinka.
Also on view at the Documentation Center is the permanent exhibition which contains the original copies of the Nuremberg Laws. It was chilling to see these documents that had the power to make life unbearable for Jews in Germany.
We then stepped outside and headed over to the Zeppelin Field, where Professor van Pelt gave an amazing lecture on how Nazism morphed from being a political party into a fervent religious ideology in Germany. This change occurred after the “Night of the Long Knives” (June 30 – July 2, 1934) when the Sturmabteilung (SA), known as the Brown Shirts, were eliminated from the Nazi Party. The SA had been the symbol of the Nazi party on a local level, and their removal caused Germans to seek a new embodiment of the party, which they found solely in Hitler. The fact that Nazism was an ideology so closely intertwined with the idea of a “pure” German spirit allowed Hitler to also become the embodiment of Germany itself. In this way, Nazism in Germany went a step beyond being an extremist and fanatical political party; it became a religious ideology embodied by a single man and followed wholly by a nation.