World War II Sites
After Adolf Hitler rose to power, he led the country into war in 1939 and perpetrated the darkest crimes against humanity. Nazi Germany systematically murdered 6 million Jews and millions of others deemed undesirable, including Roma and Sinti people, the disabled, and homosexuals. You can visit sites around the country that document and provide perspective on the extent of the horror.
Topography of Terror. This documentation center in Berlin takes a deep look at the political circumstances that led to the rise of the Nazi Party and the terror tactics they used. It stands on the former site of the headquarters for state security groups such as the Gestapo and the SS.
Obersalzburg. Upon his election, Hitler set about turning Obersalzburg into the southern headquarters for the Nazi party and a retreat for its elite. Located in the Bavarian Alps, the compound included luxurious homes for party officials. Today you can walk through the extensive bunker system while learning about the Nazis' takeover of the area.
Kehlsteinhaus. Not far from Obersalzburg you’ll find the Kehlsteinhaus, Hitler’s private home. Designed as a 50th birthday gift for Hitler by the Nazi party, the house is also known as Adlerhorst (Eagle’s Nest). It’s perched on a cliff, seemingly at the top of the world. The house’s precarious location probably saved it from British bombing raids.
Bebelplatz. The Nazis organized mass burnings of books they considered offensive, including one in May 1933 at Bebelplatz in Berlin. Today a glass panel in the square looks down onto an underground room filled with empty shelves. A plaque also memorializes the event with the haunting words of the German poet Heinrich Heine, who wrote over one hundred years earlier that those who burn books will eventually burn people.
Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Masters of propaganda, the Nazis staged colossal rallies intended to impress the German people. Hitler considered Nürnberg so quintessentially German he developed an enormous complex here to host massive parades, military exercises, and major assemblies of the Nazi party. The Congress Hall, meant to outshine Rome’s Colosseum, is the largest remaining building from the Nazi era. It houses a Documentation Center that explores the Nazis' tyranny.
Nürnberg Trials Memorial. War crimes trials took place here between November 1945 and October 1946. In this courthouse Nazi officials stood before an international military tribunal to answer for their crimes. The Allied victors chose Nürnberg on purpose—it’s the place Germany’s first anti-Semitic laws passed, decreeing the boycott of Jewish businesses.
KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau. This is the memorial and site of the former notorious death camp. Hitler created Dachau soon after taking power, and it became the model for all other camps. Tens of thousands of prisoners died here. Today you’ll see a few remaining cell blocks and the crematorium, along with shrines and memorials to the dead.
Bergen-Belsen. This is the concentration camp where Anne Frank perished along with more than 52,000 others. A meadow is all that remains of the camp, but it is still a chilling place to visit. The documentation center exhibits photos of the prisoners and interviews with survivors.
Other concentration camps include Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, and Dora-Mittelbau.
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