Weekend in Nuremberg, for a dive into history
This article is part of our weekly tourist advice column.
75 years ago, on January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp was liberated by the Soviet army. This year, leaders from around the world are in Israel to take part in the largest rally ever to fight anti-Semitism and to commemorate the 6 million Jews killed in the camps. A year after the events, in Nuremberg, around twenty senior officials of the Third Reich were tried before judges from four allied countries. It was in Nuremberg.
It is a little away from the old town that the Palace of Justice is located, still in operation today, where 24 high-ranking Nazi officials were tried before an international criminal court. The Nuremberg trials, which took place between November 20, 1945 and October 1, 1946, were a major first in international law. It is also the first time that a trial has been broadcast live on such a large scale and that interpreters have played the game of simultaneous translations. You don’t go to this small German town for its landscape and nature. The Nazi past weighs too heavily on the city to escape this sudden return to the darkest hours of history which sometimes dangerously echo the news.
The city center destroyed and rebuilt
In the center of Nuremberg, the old Burgraves castle, built in the 11th century, overlooks the city with its orange roofs. Destroyed in 1420, it was rebuilt to suit the emperors and kings who made it their home. It is like the historic city center almost completely destroyed during the 1940-1945 war. From above, we can still see many small colorful houses that line the cobbled streets. The churches seem to have withstood the Allied bombs, as does the Weißgerbergasse street, whose many small half-timbered houses still bear witness to the architecture of the Middle Ages.
Walking through the city center, one is struck by the grandeur of the various churches and the colors of the houses that crisscross old Nuremberg. Passing the Hauptmarkt, the main market, one arrives at the nerve center of the old town, crammed with big brands, (Italian) restaurants and cafes. For something typical, we recommend rue Theatergasse. Further on, the bridge that crosses the Pegnitz river takes us straight to the craftsmen’s market, nestled in the heart of the ramparts. We dive directly into the Germany of the Middle Ages, plus the typical shops and cafes.
To the south of the city, far from the tourist center and the Palace of Justice, are the former meeting places of the Nazi Party. From 1933, Hitler held Nazi rallies there, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people in front of whom he held megalomaniacal speeches. The whole complex is megalomaniac. So much so that the huge planned constructions will hardly see the light of day there, because of the war. The remains in which the documentation center of the Nazi Party convention site is currently located are often compared to the Coliseum in Rome. Today, it serves as a place of memory of the crimes committed by the Nazis during the war.
History with a capital H is omnipresent in Nuremberg. It is impossible to go there without taking a detour in the past. Fortunately, the activities of the city center allow you to cheer up a little after a day of tampering with too dark memories. A duty of remembrance, oh so necessary and educational.