War and Remembrance
As world tensions over war build, perhaps it's the time to remember the horrors of the last big war. Europe offers a wide range of WWII battlefield sites, museums, and tours devoted to the study of the activities leading up to armed conflict and the horror of war.
Here you'll find some of my favorite ways to recall the war, remember the victims, and study how it all came about. Net Resources used in this article are on the right.
The Anne Frank House - Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the site of the house where an amazing young woman reflected upon the fates that landed her in a dim annex of her father's jam factory hiding out from the Nazi forces.
Holocaust Museum - Berlin
The Wannsee Conference was the meeting held at a villa in Wannsee, Berlin on January 20, 1942 to discus the "Final Solution," the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jews. You can visit the villa in Wannsee where this all took place. A good virtual tour of the museum comes from the good folks at Scrapbookpages.com.
Also in Berlin is The Holocaust Memorial.
"Americans" weren't alone in fighting WWII; just take a look behind the scenes of the resistance movement in Europe in museums in the following places:
- Copenhagen - The Museum of Danish Resistance 1940-1945 is one of my favorites. Normally, you could see the crude radios and other apparatus used by clever resistance fighters, but the building was burned down and had to be removed (but the contents were saved). A new building will be built on the site. One of the most interesting exhibits for me was a long roll of toilet paper with an account of living in a concentration camp written on it using the prick of a pin to form the letters. It was found stuffed in a vent and miraculously someone actually noticed the writing before tossing the wadded-up paper away.
- Amsterdam - Amsterdam has a museum called the National War and Resistance Museum as well. You can combine it with a trip to the Anne Frank House. See: Top 3 Amsterdam Musuems for World War II History
- Paris - Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation "is a memorial to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy France and evokes certain characteristics of the concentration camps: imprisonment, oppression and impossible escape, the long process of attrition, the desire for extermination and abasement."
- Champigny-sur-Marne is the location of France's Museum of National Resistance.
The Origins of the Nazi Power
All of the above is nothing without the remembrance of how things got started. That's the part of history that you have to remember in order to make sure a ruthless dictator doesn't rise to power in your country.
One of the pivotal moments in the Nazi rise to power was the burning of the Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament.
In the midst of an economic crisis, a foreign dissenter had begun to launch attacks on important buildings. Warnings of investigators were ignored, until the Reichstag, the German Legislative building and beloved symbol of Germany, started to burn. Dutch terrorist Marius van der Lubbe was arrested for the deed, and, despite denying he was a communist, was declared one by Hermann Goering. Goering later announced that the Nazi Party planned "to exterminate" German communists.
Hitler, seizing the moment, declared an all-out war on terrorism and two weeks later the first detention center was built in Oranianberg to hold the suspected allies of the terrorist. Within four weeks of the "terrorist" attack, legislation was pushed through that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy and habeas corpus. Suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to lawyers. Police could search houses without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.
You can visit the Reichstag today. A controversial glass dome over the plenary hall was added and has today become one of Berlin's most recognized landmarks.
I recommend also the Hitler's Munich tour for insight into the origins of the National Socialism movement. You can easily combine it with a visit to the Dachau memorial. For more information see the links below.