Five hours after waking up to cold, dark Shrewsbury, we touched down in the soothing sunshine and heat of Munich. After dropping our luggage off at our hostel, we spent the first day getting a feel for the city and later going around a museum (the München Stadtmuseum), which has a separate wing devoted entirely to the history of the city during the Nazi era.
On the second day we went (slightly apprehensively) to the former concentration camp at Dachau. This camp held political prisoners and other ‘asocials’, the Nazi’s perceived enemies from within Germany and the occupied territories, as well as ‘VIP’, high profile prisoners, held in solitary confinement to be made an example of after Germany had won the war. We had a guided tour of the entire camp, including the gas chamber, crematoria and huts where people slept. The description of the horrific conditions there really hit home, but what really struck me was how normal it all felt. Thinking back on it, this is what was so significant about the visit for me: the fact that the area resembled pretty much any other place, reminded me how there is only a minor gap between our way of life and that of a horrifying regime, and how in our world someone or something could still be able to bridge this small gap between ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
The next day, we visited the medieval town of Nuremberg and, on the outskirts, Hitler’s parade grounds. The parade grounds themselves, the fortress-like Zeppellin Field, and the colossal Congress Hall, built to resemble the Coliseum, were all hugely oppressive and bleak structures that showed the Nazi Party’s claims to omnipotence. These austere Nazi structures had been covered up by the local authorities, presumably ashamed of their past; for example, the 2km long Great Road is now used as a giant lorry park. I think on that day we all got a sense that the Nazis saw themselves not as a cult that would come and go, but that they actually expected to have a legacy similar to that of the Ancient Romans.
The following day we had a guided tour of Munich, which was really enjoyable. Wide boulevards, impressive buildings and wonderful architecture made for an extraordinary city. We visited various places in the city, but the one that I enjoyed most was the Königsplatz, a large open square formed by three classical Greek buildings. These imposing structures had been taken advantage of by Hitler, who used the open space as a parade ground and draped flags of the Swastika from the monuments. After the tour, we were given free time to explore the city in small groups. The final day, we visited the BMW Museum, the Olympic Park and the Nymphenburg Palace, before wearily catching our flight home.
Archie Thomason (Rt IV)