Nuremburg is one of the two cities that I had visited before when I was a student. At that time I came with my then-roommate Peco after our summer session had ended. I remember visiting the Albrecht Dürer house and saying goodbye to Peco. She was off to visit a pen-pal somewhere else in Germany before returning to Japan, and I was off to West Berlin for a solo excursion before joining my classmates in London for the trip home. As it happens, on this trip we also said good-bye to some of our Road Scholars at Nuremberg. Our excursion was offered in three flavors: Amsterdam to Budapest, Amsterdam to Nuremberg/Munich, and Munich/Nuremberg to Budapest. It was a sad parting from friends we had gotten to know, but we also got to welcome four new Road Scholars who joined us here.

Nuremburg (or Nürnburg) was a lovely medieval city that was over 90% bombed to smithereens during WWII. It was the major industrial center of southern Germany so a prime target. Only Dresden was as completely destroyed. Although the center city has been largely rebuilt to look as it did, it has to be considered a reproduction. Ironically, considering the destruction, Nuremburg was also the site of the post-war military tribunal that sentenced so many surviving Nazi leaders to death or imprisonment.

Hitler considered Nuremburg the quintessential German city, for whatever twisted reason, and located many of the monumental Nazi works here. That would be the focus of our excursion today.

SS Barracks

We passed the former SS Barracks on our way to the rally area. The central balcony was designed to give Hitler a place to stand and exhort the faithful.

After the war the barracks were used by the US occupation forces.

Now, in an excess of irony, they are the HQ of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Zeppelin field tribune

Our first stop was Zeppelin Field, which was the only completed arena where troops and armaments could be passed in review. Hitler would have been located in this large tribunal, which was originally designed to mimic the Pergamon altar, with its religious and heroic overtones. The actual altar was excavated by Germans in the 19th century and is now located in Berlin, far from its Greek origins.

Albert Speer's construction that was to last "a thousand years" is crumbling at a rapid rate and what to do with it is controversial. Most of the superstructure was deliberately destroyed, but what remains is dangerous and currently fenced off. We were told that the German government has decided to stabilize the remains so that they can stand as a warning against the kind of megalomania that seized the nation when Hitler took power. May it be a warning to us all.


The "grandstands" and part of the parade ground.

The area has been most recently used for rock concerts!

Congress Hall

Our next stop was the Documentation Center, a museum dedicated to the rise of Nazi Germany and the Second World War. The museum is located in the unfinished Congress Hall. There was a design competition in the late 1990s that was won by Günther Domenig. The general idea is that it is a stake through the heart of the Nazi edifice. Our guides called it a "spear through Speer," although Speer didn't design the Congress Hall; Ludwig & Franz Ruff did. They don't appear to be noted for anything else other than the SS Barracks shown above.


First, however, our buses drove around the interior. Had the building ever been completed, this would have been roofed in with the space used for large gatherings. Additionally, the building would have been another story higher.

It was intended to be reminiscent of the Roman coliseum, only half again as large.

When the edifice was first being constructed, there was a nearby shallow lake. It would have served as a reflecting pool and further increased the (I can't help it) vulgarity of the place. As it happens, however, it only contributed to the swampy ground and necessitated expensive footings that quickly put the entire project over budget. At present the lake is basically a mud flat.


The museum's permanent exhibition was spread over several rooms. The exhibits were all in German (this was typical of the museums we visited), but we were given handsets with English translations of the descriptions. There was no translation however, for the posters such as this one that described the various insignia that identified the concentration camp prisoners. They included categories such as "Jewish," "homosexual," "career criminal," and "Bible interpreter" (that one got me!). The various rows were harder to interpret, but they seemed to rank the individual categories in levels of badness as interpreted by the Nazi administrators.


One of the final exhibits was a symbolic representation of the railways that hauled prisoners to the extermination camps, Treblinka in this example.

Id Cards

Strewn around the "tracks" in the exhibit above were id cards identifying actual victims by name. There were an additional 100 (or 1,000? or 10,000?) killed for each card present.

Fascination and Terror

I took this picture as I was leaving. The unfinished walls with distorted reflections seemed to fit the exhibition's theme of "Fascination and terror." It was very disorienting and depressing, especially in light of current events in the US. Who could have thought that we would see Nazi sympathizers marching in Charlottesville, VA!

Nuremberg City Wall

Our next stop was the Palace of Justice where the International Military Tribunal was held to try Nazi war leaders. On the way we passed the rebuilt old city wall shown here. The former moat is now a park that circles the inner city.

The decision to hold the trials in Nuremberg had many dimensions. It was a symbolic location as the seat of many of Nazism's early successes, and although over 90% of the city was destroyed, the judicial complex was relatively intact. It was also adjacent to a prison that could be used to hold the defendants. There was concern that they would be assassinated while being transported to and fro.

The defendants and their fates can be found at the link above.

Nuremberg Palace of Justice (Annex)

The Annex to the Palace of Justice was the location of the trials. The four large windows in the center section mark the location of the courtroom. The attic is the home of Memorium, the Nuremberg Trials museum, which was opened in 2010.

Courtroom 600

We were unable to visit the actual courtroom, which is still active, because it was in use for a succession of moot court trials. Since it was not an actual trial, they at least had the windows open overlooking the area.

Memorium Museum entry

The judges who were to hear the cases represented four countries: the US, UK, USSR and France. There were four kinds of indictments:

  • Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace
  • Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace
  • War crimes
  • Crimes against humanity

Each judge was responsible for considering a specific indictment and most of the indictments were controversial. Many felt that every nation had been guilty at some point of "crimes against peace" and "waging wars of aggression." "Crimes against humanity" was a new concept. The only charge that was generally accepted at the time was war crimes, which began to be codified in the mid-19th century.

Courtroom 600

On our way down from the museum we could see the differences between the courtroom configuration then (L) and now. One other ground-breaking idea of the trial was the admission of motion pictures as evidence. There was a large recessed screen in the back of the courtroom, which was used to show the situation at the concentration camps for the "crimes against humanity" charges.

Rhein-Main-Danube Canal

As we left Nuremburg we were treated to a lecture by Dr. Markus Urban, who has written a book in collaboration with Daniel Gürtler, whom we had met earlier in the trip when he gave us a lecture on Bavaria. The topic today was the Rhein-Main-Danube Canal and its predecessors.

Attempts to build a canal across Europe date back at least to Charlemagne's unsuccessful attempt in the 8th century. In the 19th century the "Ludwig Canal" was completed from Bamberg to Nuremburg. It was a day late and a dollar short, but it did stay in operation until the start of WWII. The dignitaries who attended the grand opening in 1846 returned home on the newly constructed railway!

There were still canal believers, but they focused their efforts on taming the rivers first by building dams, locks and power plants on the Main (34) and the Danube (6). It was the sale of power from these power plants that financed the eventual canal.

We are about to enter our first massive lock of the new (1992) canal.

Canal Lock

I have run to the back of the ship to capture the lock door closing.

To return to the lecture, the new canal was controversial -- largely because of environmental issues. In response a significant portion of the eventual expense was dedicated to remedial work, especially on the portion that followed the scenic Altmühl River.

The canal was envisioned to carry freight -- passenger traffic wasn't even on the radar of the planners. Today, however, 21% of the ships are tourist ships like ours. This has required numerous infrastructure modifications.

The bottom line is that it is difficult to say whether the canal can be considered a success or not. Its operation is still heavily subsidized, but the increase in tourism has been a boon to the cities along its length. Certainly we would not be here if it weren't for the canal.

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