About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

25 September 2007

Human Rights

Nuremberg is also known for its role in shaping the declaration of human rights, and it is a fitting place too. The scene of the Nuremberg trials, the first International Trial for war crimes. The court room for the trial, Room 600, is still used, and is accessible via a guided tour during the weekend. The tour includes a detailed presentation on the proceedings of the trial and the various issues involved.

In the old town, a street is dedicated as the Way of Human Rights, where the articles of the declaration of human rights are engraved in different languages, representing the various oppressed nations (an oak tree represents all the other cultures not explicitly listed). But looking at human civilisation, has there ever been a culture that has not been oppressed at one time in their history by another culture?

Going back to the Nuremberg Trial, What I found interesting were the arguments used by the chief prosecutor (who was from the US) on why the trial was important for the future of mankind. He presented arguments on why the world needs prevent future genocides, and on the treatment of prisoners, against slavery etc. The idea of a humane war is downright stupid in my opinion, but what is clear in many respects is that the world has not really learnt from WW 2, or what the Nuremberg Trial was supposed to teach the world. Not only have we allowed genocide to happen again, and carry on happening and wars haven't stopped. In fact, it can be argued that, in modern wars, more civilians die than actual soldiers.

Time and time again, human rights are raised as something to be cherished. But deep down, do we really care?

The Nazi Rally Grounds

Nazi Germany is famous for its parades and rallies, unrivalled in the modern world, even by North Korea, and possibly unrivalled even if we go back to the past. While rallies took place all over Germany, but it was at Nuremberg that the biggest rallies took place. And, at Nuremberg, the Nazi government built purposeful rally grounds, that were truly impressive in scale and grandeur. It was after all the official city for Nazi rallies from 1933.

I will give details of individual areas of the grounds in the remainder of the post, but first an observation. In my Lonely Planet guidebook, in the information booths around the ground and in the documentation centre - a museum exploring the history of the grounds - the rally grounds are given as proof of the Nazi's Megalomania. Maybe. But great buildings from our past such as the Egyptian pyramids; also built with slave labour (large parts of the Nazi economy was driven by concentration camp prisoners); or the Roman Colosseum - the scene of bloody battles all for entertainment; or the pyramids of the Mayans which were often the scene of human sacrifices; are hardly treated in the same manner. This does not mean that I am condoning Nazism, but will it mean that in 2000 years time we will be voting the Zeppelin fields as one of the wonders of the 2nd Millennium?

Designed to reassemble to Colosseum, and to hold 50 000 people, the Congress Hall was never completed. It was still usable though.

Inside the Congress Hall.

The Rally grounds were built on former recreation grounds, and after the war, the area was largely turned back into a recreation area.

Many memorials or museums related to the Nazi years have a high degree of symbolism. The Documentation centre for example, built in a part of the Congress Hall has a glass corridor running diagonally through it, until the centre of the hall: symbolising a stake through the building. The museum has one of the best accounts of the rise and fall of Nazism I have seen in Germany.

The Great Road, used to 2 Km long, 60 m wide, running through the middle of the rally grounds. Now, largely a parking lot.

This lake, was once the building site of the German Stadium; never completed (actually, never really got started, as the war started close to the start of construction). It was designed to hold 400 000 people!!!

The lake is toxic ... ironic I think.

The Luitpold Arena, first a park dedicated to the fallen soldiers of WW 1, then the parade grounds for the SS and then back to a park. The original memorial is being refurbished, but some remnants of the parade grounds still exist.

The Zeppelin Field - the only fully completed part of rally grounds, and possibly the most impressive. On the one side, a massive grandstand for the dignitaries and the podium for Hitler to deliver his speech. On the other part, an area of about 12 football (soccer) fields and the surrounding stands to hold the common people attending the rally. What was impressive is what didn't survive - the stadium of light. The entire area was surrounded by spotlights that created a light pillar around the stadium, and together with massive fire bowls, it must have been a spectacular sight.

View from the podium