Germany's Dark History

Trip Start Jun 06, 2012
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Trip End Oct 29, 2012


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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saturday 8 September 2012 – Munich

We had a lovely breakfast then headed into the city for our guided walking tour of Munich. We first did a bus tour with our local guide Michael – he was absolutely fantastic and played music to go with his spiel.  He gave us a very honest account of Germany's history and part of its darkest days.  When he was talking about the Nazi’s marching to invade a country, he did all the sound effects - the boots stomping on the ground and the gun fire.

We stopped at a memorial which was made famous by the students that played a big part in the resistance to the Nazi’s.  The White Rose, which was a non-violent resistance group consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor.  The group became known for an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943.  They were calling for active opposition to dictator Adolf Hilter’s regime.  The six members of the group were arrested by the Gestapo and beheaded in 1943.  The text of their sixth leaflet was smuggled by Helmuth von Moltke out of Germany through Scandinavia to the United Kingdom and in July 1943 copies of it were dropped over Germany by allied planes, retitled "The Manifesto of the Students of Munich".  The memorial on the pavement is very unusual – the actual print of their papers set in concrete. 

It was now time to head over to the Marienplatz as it was getting close to 11am.  The town hall is a very ornate gothic style building with the Glockenspeil tower which re-enacts two events of Munich’s history – a tournament held in 1568 to celebrate a royal marriage and Schafflertanz (Cooper’s Dance) which dates back to the 17th century then celebrating the passing of the plague.  It consists of 32 life size figures, has 43 bells that play a lullaby during the performance and is 260 feet tall.  However, it was very crowded in the platz and two people from our tour managed to get lost!!  The were eventually found safe and sound.

We wandered back to the café area and decided to have a sandwich and coffee.  We sat with David and Jill and Terry and Jill.  We spent a bit of time people watching, sipping coffee and chatting.  It was a nice break before we walked back to the opera house and headed over to the next part of our tour.  This was now the serious part – Dachau Concentration Camp.

The drive over took about ˝ hour by the time we dropped half of the group at the BMW factory to do a tour.  Everyone in the bus was very quiet and not doing too much talking. Our guide was giving us an overview of Hitler’s life before he came to power, how the Nazi’s managed to hide their atrocities and how eventually their terrible reign was bought to an end. 

I really don’t’ think there are any words that could best describe my feelings as we walked through the gates into the camp.  The exhibit that is now displayed in the buildings is very well done and gives insight into the workings of the camp and the terrible events that took place – if only the walls could talk.  Our guide mentioned that the Red Cross did inspect the concentration camp and the prison several times during its years of operation and found nothing amiss.  It is very hard to believe that they could not see the starving people and see the treatment that they were given.  Our final destination before finishing the tour was the gas chambers and crematorium ovens.  Our guide warned us that it was not going to be pleasant and if we wanted to skip it we could.  Ian and I both decided that we would go and see them.  It was an eerie feeling standing in the chamber and listening to the account of how the guards tricked the people into thinking they were going for a shower.  It is hard to comprehend that one person could bring about so much suffering and misery and could actually treat other human beings like that

It was on to the gardens and a quick walk around the trees – unfortunately this is where the mass graves are located.  Due to the numbers of bodies found when one trench was opened up, the government decided not to exhume any but to the leave the bodies to rest in peace.  There are some touching memorial stones placed throughout the gardens.

We also toured the Jewish memorial that was built within the grounds of the camp.  The building is made out of basalt lava and the floor of the prayer room is six feet underground.  The 18-foot walkway leading down to the underground room is outlined by an iron fence which is reminiscent of the barbed wire fence around the concentration camp.  Like the Catholic chapel next to it, the memorial is open to the elements and has a hole at the apex of the roof from which a marble shaft protrudes.

It was good to have such an honest guide who did not try to hide anything – unlike the government who were ashamed of the atrocities that took place and tried to demolish any evidence of them.  Luckily there are organisations that are willing to put in the time and effort to remember those that lost their lives.

Once we had seen this, we headed back to the hotel.  It was nice to get back to the hotel and have a shower.  However, dinner was not such a success.  The waiters were absolutely hopeless, kept forgetting our orders and drinks!!  We were glad to get see the back of that restaurant.
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