While our schedule was certainly packed today, and we made many an interesting stop, there are truly only two words to describe the day: imposing architecture.
After a waking up at 6:45 and eating the standard breakfast of the trip of yogurt, hot dogs, and gnocchi, we left Praha for Nuremberg. The three hour bus ride included a fifteen minute stop at a rest stop that mainly consisted of people spending all their remaining Czech Crowns on packaged corn dogs, excessive quantities of chocolate, and coffee in a can.
Upon arrival in Nuremberg, we stopped at our hotel for a quick baggage drop before heading off to lunch at a local mall. After lunch we made our way over to the courthouse in which the Nuremberg trials were held following the conclusion of the Second World War. While it is a museum, it also functions as a German regional courthouse. Since the military tribunal in 1945, the courtroom in which the trial was held has been renovated, meaning that it no longer appears as it did during the trial. The museum was packed full of information regarding the proceedings at the trial and the history/ precedent made by the allies' pursuit of justice as opposed to vengeance. Beyond the trial of the Nazi high ranking officials in 1945, the museum also emphasized the importance of the international criminal court at the The Hague, a crucial and under taught topic.
After this museum we made our way to Hitler's Nuremberg congress, a building designed to be one of the focal points of the party's parade grounds. While the building was very cool and the information very interesting, the prevailing sentiment at this point was certainly exhaustion. We were all quite tired and just about filled to the brim with information.
We then walked the short distance to the stadium in which Hitler addressed 65,000 people at the Nuremberg party congress in 1935. It was at this location the German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl filmed a number of iconic shots of Hitler for her propaganda 'documentary,' "Triumph of the Will". This was quite the experience as we stood in the exact same place as Hitler stood as he addressed tens of thousands of men, women, and children. Hitler's expensive, regal, and expansive building projects were especially impactful when juxtaposed to the numerous concentration camps we have seen in the last week and a half.
It has been truly astounding to experience the concentration camps as they are now and has displayed even further that one can only imagine the experiences of those victimized by the National Socialists. While the camps were horrific to a previously unknown degree, Hitler's stone "stage" of you will, was also extremely disconcerting. The overall sentiment was that the "stage" had "bad juju" which was certainly the feeling experienced while perched atop the imposing , somewhat rundown, gray, stone tower that Hitler used to rally his followers and generate political backing for his genocidal policies and beyond horrific actions.
Following these educational endeavors, we filled our stomachs and quenched our thirst at a German style restaurant in the city before returning to the hotel to get some sleep before the impending transatlantic journey and subsequent return to school.
The theme of the day was certainly that the city of Nuremberg played a HUGE role in not only the Nazi's rise to power and success, but also in the 1945 quest for lasting peace and uncompromising justice.
I woke up today at 7:22 AM (even though the wake up call was 6:45) and had three mini croissants and orange juice for breakfast. Yum. It was our last morning in Praha and while we didn't do anything but file onto the bus for a three and a half hour drive spending my last krowns at a gas station convenience store on a 1 liter bottle of Fanta, Pringles, and a magnum ice cream bar.
After we got into the hotel and had lunch we went to the Nuremberg courthouse to see room 600 where the trials for the Nazis took place and the museum exhibit above. When I went to the exhibits I wasn't particularly determined to see one thing or read one plaque, but when I came across the area of the room for the Japanese my interest peaked.
We haven't really gone over what the Japanese had done during the war and their crimes against humanity including their massacre and rape of women in Nanking. What shocked me the most was that I had just been through the readings and long winded tape recordings on my Walkie-talkie device about the importance of the trials for the Nazis, how they departed and struggled over how to classify the crimes, coming up with true punishments for what perpetrators had never been punished for before (@Namibian genocide and Armenian genocide), yet some different but still extremely horrible crimes committed by the Japanese was treated a whole different way. Instead of being held by the allied forces the trials were conducted by the US, they were the ones to decide everything that went on, and instead of focusing on the crimes against the thousands of brutally murdered, raped, and tormented people by the Japanese, the focus was "aggressive Japanese foreign policy" and the personal grievances of the leaders of the 11 invited representatives of Australia, British India, China, France, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands, USA, Philippines, and the USSR.
Also, the constitutional leader of Japan was not tried as a war criminal because the US was afraid that if they did Japan would fall apart. I partially understand this the same way I understand not being able to try every Nazi just because of numbers but also if you were to convict and jail or kill every Nazi you would be wiping out a whole government and that doesn't do much good for those that already have to rebuild after a world war.
To me this part of the exhibit made it clear that the point of these trials wasn't to bring any reparation to the true victims but to just nip things in the bud and try and clean up a mess hastily, seeing as only in 1952 the US signed a treaty with Japan basically saying any participant in the crimes of WWII that hadn't yet been caught was absolved and granted amnesty whereas ever now and then you still here of a random 80 year old Nazi being arrested for their crimes. It baffles me that Japan just got to get away with it because Germany was all they had energy to deal with.
There was also a video in the museum with a man talking (his name escapes me) about how he was a member of this committee that met for 30 years in the mid 1900s onward to discuss the term "aggression" and define it, because if the world were to make a war of aggression illegal here better be a definition. After 30 years of talking and circling ideas they basically came he consensus that "aggression" can be defined by any country differently. 30 years to get to the consensus "it depends" or "it's a personal decision" just honestly annoyed me so much.
It made me think of a question I brought up to Ms. Freeman that you guys can answer or give input on: what is the use of having laws for punishment for crimes against humanity or war etc if they almost aren't or never enforced? Rape is clearly stated a crime against humanity yet it happens daily at almost every college campus in the US, not to mention in tons of other cases. Wars of "aggression" (as if there is a non aggressive type of war) were made "illegal" after WWI yet how many wars have we had since then? Do we just have these laws as principles or do they actually mean something?
Today was our last full day:( Everyone was sad to leave Prague, a place we all are sure to return to after falling in love with the beautiful architecture and scenery. After a 3 hour bus ride, easily crossing the boundary from Czech Republic back to Germany, full of sleeping teenagers (and 4 very sleepy chaperones as well), we went to a mall where we picked up some food. Then at 2pm we visited an exhibit about the trials that were held in Nuremberg.
First, we walked into an impressive room where the trials had occurred, and we were lectured through a 2000s walkman about what happened. The room was very beautiful, consisting of chairs for witnesses, judges, prosecutors, defense counsels, interpreters/translators, etc. The main idea of these trials was to convict people of crimes committed by Germans against citizens. This included violations of the norms of international criminal law- conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In August 1945, the prisoners (those preparing to go on trial and witnesses) had strict security rules, which I find weird because now they were the ones experiencing cruel treatment and no personal contact.
Those found guilty were sometimes arrested and sentenced to several years in work camps, but they were released before serving full terms which is not fair. Others were sentenced to death by hanging, shooting, or poisoned. Some were sentenced to life imprisonment, which for them was luxurious and empty. Someone was even released once he developed an illness, dying 2 years later.
But what I am left wondering is-- is this enough of a punishment for the terrible acts that took place? Does it seem like a justifiable or reasonable punishment? Is there something different that could've been done? I still don't have an answer. Especially since we are wrapping up our travels in Eastern Europe and considering everything we have studied thus far, this question now has a deeper meaning.
During this time, Francis A. Biddle and John Parker represented the USA. Biddle had no experience as judge, yet he was still considered to have the most influential legal personality during the Nuremberg trials as he believed in fair rules of procedure against those accused of being criminal (seems like we need someone like this leading our country now!!)
Overall, this exhibit was very cool as it included videos from trials and many illuminated pictures from the time.
It was noticeable that these trials were not easy, and most of the time there were seas of papers and endless testimonies in order to come up with a resolution.
At the documentation museum, which we visited next, the most memorable part was the exhibit about Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will", and her effect of portraying Hitler as a hero, which is a controversial subject, something that we discussed in class about a month ago. It emphasizes toughening the youth of Germany and being faithful to the country. If you haven't yet seen this movie, I highly recommend it!!
Then we visited Nazi party rally grounds, where Hitler stood above crowds of 65,000 people and gave speeches, of which one scene is included in "Triumph of the Will". This was amazing because it gave us a perspective on how large the area was and we were able to stand in the same spot that Hitler did, which made it all more real.
Lastly, we enjoyed a very fun evening at a restaurant where the room emanated with laughter and reminiscing about the trip. Mr. Lane is currently getting his eyebrows threaded. RIP. Clearly, we will miss you Eastern Europe. Gute nacht:(
So I am just about ready to go home. I think it is a combination of missing my family or being with the same people for twelve days straight but uh I really cannot wait for the Lufthansa home. Despite these feelings, Nuremberg was awesome.
We went to the Nuremberg trials courtroom after our three hour drive. The amount of detail packed into this small audio guide was amazing and I appreciated its availability in different languages very much. We spent an hour here then made our way to the documentation center, and it was a true challenge to keep our eyes open because we were so tired. Challenge accepted, every one of us made it through the exhibition in no more than an hour. The setup was very similar to parts of other museums we have been to but again the audio guide did its thing and helped me learn a lot more about the topics we've covered in class.
Then came the rally grounds. They were massive and today if you were not told you would not be able to connect that they were in fact the same grounds used in triumph of the will. Crumbling, Ms. Freeman asked us if they should be restored - why, who would pay, for how long, etc. On a plaque sorta thing, the nazis wrote that it would be there for eternity. Would a restoration be fulfillment of their wish?
While I have your attention, I'd like to bring up a few weird things about Europe:
1. Bathrooms: flushing is pushing a button, you even have to pay to use at some places (especially in poland), and the showers in the hotel were fun to decipher, as was the vacuum style blow dryers simply titled "vacuum blow dryer"
2. The food: curry wurst is NOT good. My little German heart was crushed. Subtopic: breakfast buffets: I'm usually a muffin gal, but have had to become a lunch meat and scrambled egg gal. The holiday inn even had meatballs as a part of the selection, capital D-elicious. Subtopic: ketchup: Europe isn't really big on condiments, and I thought that was okay because neither am I, but i assumed ketchup with fries is always a given???? One night, I accidentally insulted a chef by asking for just a small bit of this Crimson goodness. Oops.
3. Conversion has been a little hard, as it's made me disconnect from how much money I've actually spent but I am sure my dad will pursue this matter further upon my arrival. My answer will be "I dunno."
Dinner was my favorite, we made a phone tower at the table and I included my jinky German phone, too. The salad was lacking in dressing but not in love -- our waiter was awesome. The actual meal was superb, for me being Zander fish and potatoes. We got to order dessert, too. I went with the apple strudel and ice-cream. I love strudel and ice-cream.
I kinda felt that it was our last night, and I believe everyone else did too. Mr. Lane certainly did, and this ginger bear got his eyebrows threaded by our very own Molly. Hopefully my picture attaches. With a trip this heavy, it is really these moments that you look forward to.
At the hotel the wifi was not at all popping, so people say in waves in the hallway. At around 1 am, I finally found my bed. I cannot wait for my actual bed.
I'm sure if my family was here, I'd want to stay for so much longer, and after the BMW welt today I will be exploding with anxiousness and anticipation. I even picked out a really nice welcome home outfit. :)