Nuremberg and the Nazis

I didn’t know that history could be so… heavy.

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived in Nuremberg and, after briefly settling into my hostel, hit the city.  As the sun began to set, I wandered around the old town, soaking in ancient churches, marketplaces, and the beautiful castle.

Then I did my research.

I knew that Nuremberg was an important city for the Nazis, but not much beyond that.  Before going to bed last night, I found some old photos that were uncanny.  They depicted Hitler, flanked by crowds of swastika-waving supporters, parading through the streets.  What bothered me wasn’t necessarily the pomp–I’ve studied history and have seen such photos before.  What bothered me was that the churches, marketplaces, and even the castle gleaming in the background of the photos were the same ones I had been admiring only a few hours before.

I dedicated my day to seeing Nazi-related sites.  My main stop was the Documentation Centre, a museum dedicated to the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.  I spent hours in the museum, going from room to room.  The entire exhibit was in German, but thanks to an audio guide, I was able to follow along in English.  I encountered the Third Reich in a way I never have before.  In American schools, they don’t explain all the steps that lead to Hitler’s rise in power.

Until today, Nazi Germany was just lines in a textbook or scenes in a movie.  It’s hard to explain, but I feel like I understand now.  I understand the political tactics Hitler took on his route to dictatorship–well, not all of them, but enough to appreciate his cunning.  I understand the fear-mongering.  I understand the purpose of the rallies–to whip up the people into an emotional fervor that keeps them from rationally realizing they’re being manipulated.  I understand the indoctrination of young people.  I understand the appeal of a unified country with a single, shared identity.  I understand the dehumanization of entire classes of people.

I understand… and I feel the weight upon my shoulders.  So many times as I walked through the exhibit, I wanted to break down weeping.  For the second time in my life, I feel like I encountered pure evil.

Pure evil is intelligent. It tells lies, it manipulates, it preys on fears, takes advantage of ignorance, and silences any voices other than its own.  The most dangerous thing about evil is that it disguises itself as truth.

And, God, the consequences.

The museum didn’t shy away from the Holocaust.  It hit it straight on, explaining in detail the different concentration camps, what they were used for, who went there, and how many people lost their lives to starvation, forced labor, biological experiments, and the gas chambers.  Millions of human lives exterminated, slaughtered, killed like animals.  I don’t know if I will ever forget the photos of the malnourished naked corpses piled in the dirt and grime.

Of all the Nazi’s actions, what disturbs me most is probably dehumanization.  I believe that people are made in the image of God, therefore the simple act of being human deserves dignity and respect.  Our humanity is what links us together–we differ in language, culture, and appearance, but at the end of the day, we are all human.  To deprive a person of their dignity is disgusting.  To strip away their humanity is disturbing.  But to slaughter millions of people… horrifying.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to visit the courthouse where the Nuremberg Trials took place after World War II ended.  For some reason, it was closed today.  But I did spend a few hours wandering around the grounds where the Nazis had their rallies.  The once-grand structures have fallen into decay–a remnant of history that Germany doesn’t care to preserve.  As I stood on the balcony where Hitler delivered some of his greatest speeches, I could imagine the scene: Banners waving, people cheering, thousands of soldiers in perfect regiments raising their arms.

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The platform from which Adolf Hitler gave some of his most stirring speeches at the annual Nazi Party Rallies.

I’ve loved my time in Nuremberg.  It’s a beautiful city.  I’ve loved wandering its historic streets and meditating in its grand churches.  What more, I’ve entered into–no–I’ve been sucked into history here.  I’ve encountered the past in a way that is so much deeper than storing away facts intellectually.  My emotions and deeper being have been touched.  It’s not often that I’m moved in this way and to experience it here has been incredible.

I’m so glad I came here.  Tomorrow, my adventures in Germany continue as I head south to the town of Konstanz near the Swiss border.  I’ve got an early bus and need to pull away from the blog so I can pack my bags…

Fighting off the evil College Monster

Every once in a while, College likes to pick you up, toss you in the air a bit, and then to grind you into dust.  It doesn’t matter how diligent a student you are–no amount of non-procrastination shields you from its bloodthirsty gaze.  When College decides to devour you, you really don’t stand much of a chance.

But still, valiant scholastic warrior that you are,  you grab your textbooks, put your laptop in your bag (just in case) and step into the fray.  Wielding your mighty number 2 pencil, you are determined that no amount of homework, tests, and studying will defeat you.  You will not go down without a fight.

That pretty much sums up my week.  Unexpected projects and assignments have come up, leaving me to study every second of the day and still come up short.  I hit a point where I was sitting in my Visual Journalism class listening to the computer services guy teach us Adobe Premiere Pro and I was near tears from stress.  I felt like screaming, vomiting, and sobbing helplessly all at once.

But I didn’t.  I didn’t scream.  I didn’t cry.  And no, I didn’t vomit.  (Thank goodness.)

(If you know me, you’ll know that I’ve NEVER gotten this overwhelmed in my sixteen years of education.  Except for maybe that one time in fourth grade when my teacher made me cry.  Which is another story entirely.)

When the lecture was over, I plugged in my headphones and went to battle.  My tactics included a rude comment to my hover-happy professor about how I had a lot on my plate and just wanted to work.  I felt a bit bad, but that was soon lost as I began logging raw video footage for my big project due on Monday.  After a bit of that, I went off with my group to shoot another interview (producing another 45 minutes of footage to review before I can even think about entering the editing phase).

I miraculously had enough time to grab a bowl of cereal from my apartment, which I ate as I walked across campus and sat through the weekly IVCF large group meeting.  I sent the bowl home with my roommate, headed to the library to write the three page paper due tomorrow that I hadn’t started till today because I was too busy doing other assignments.

This is slowly turning into a rant.  I apologize about that.

The evil monster of College was out to kill today.  It certainly kicked my butt, and I know I’m not the only one.  Everyone I come across seems to be having one big terrible day.

Thank goodness it’s over.  Yes, I still have a mountain of work to do, but my textbook shield and pencil sword seems to have worked for now.

Time to hide out in the blanket fort under my bed, watch Downton Abbey, and forget about the world.  After a good night’s rest, I’ll be ready to resume battle in the morning.