MUNICH PART 2
Munich has the ability to suck you in, not only because of its modernity and dynamics but also because of its past history. Past history involves stories about its founders and the movers and shakers of centuries past.
Cordela is very well versed in German history and I managed to glean from her interesting facts that are not in the tourist leaflets or history books.
From what I understand he was a most admired king. Apparently he had a gentle disposition and that is why he is seated and not in a standing, dominating position.
One of Munich’s much less revered rulers was of course Adolf Hitler. In 1972 I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and ever since then I have wanted to visit some of the places described in the book. One way of doing this was to take a guided tour.
Our Third Reich tour guide (Levi) was from America but living in Munich. His presentation could not be faulted. The tour was scheduled to take two and a half hours and ended up taking three, maybe because I asked a lot of questions.
Initially I wrote a detailed story about Munich and the Third Reich but because it is so involved I have decided not to post the story in its entirety as it is far too long. Instead I am simply going to post pertinent points and a profile of the incredibly powerful man of the time, Adolf Hitler.
Hitler was born April 1889 in Braunau am Inn on the Austrian/Bavarian border.
As a boy he was dominated by his father and spoilt by his mother. He didn’t get on with his father due to a difference of opinion over career choices. His father wanted him to join the civil service.
In 1907 he moved to Vienna, the capital of Austria, where he attempted to fulfil his dreams of becoming an artist. He had limited success. Twice he was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts. Without income he lived on an orphan’s pension in a hostel for the homeless.
In 1913 he moved to Munich where he eked out a living as an artist and technical draftsman.
I’m guessing I stood in about the same spot to take this photograph that Hitler positioned himself to paint the copy Levi is holding.
In 1914 he served as a runner for the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment. A runner’s job in those days was to run through enemy fire and deliver orders to the front line. Orders were duplicated and up to fifty runners with the same message would make a run for it. Multiple runners meant hopefully one would make it.
After WW1 ended he stayed on in the army and in 1919 was appointed as a police spy. His job was to spy on organisations considered a threat to the democratic government of the day. At around this time he believed that Marxists and Jews were responsible for the defeat of Germany in WW1. At a meeting of the German Workers’ Party he became inspired by their beliefs so he resigned from the army and joined the party.
In 1920 under the direction of Hitler the party adopted the swastika as its emblem and changed its name to the National Socialists (Nazi) Party. Their platform included the removal of Jews from Germany.
As the German economy began to buckle under the weight of the enormous WW1 reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles and debts incurred during the war the government started printing money. Inflation and unemployment climbed. In mid 1920 US$1 was worth 40 marks and by November 1923 the figure was 4.2 trillion marks to the dollar. Almost overnight Germans lost their life savings. Social unrest began to escalate. Hitler exploited the situation, blaming Jews and the political leaders for the turmoil and claimed to have a solution to the economic crisis. Many Germans came to see the party as a credible alternative.
In November Hitler and 600 armed members of the Storm Troopers staged an abortive attempt to seize power in Munich. Hitler was arrested and tried for treason and sentenced to five years jail. In prison he was allowed to receive visitors and to employ Rudolph Hess as his private secretary. While in prison he began to write Mein Kampf (My Struggle), an autobiography detailing the superiority of the Aryan Race and the menace of the Jew. Hitler served only nine months of the five year sentence.
In 1927 the Nazi Party took the opportunity to exploit the political unrest in the country at a mass political rally (Nuremberg Congress), which turned out to be the party’s signature propaganda event.
In 1929 the German government was crippled when the Wall Street stock market crashed. The crash ushered in the Great Depression, unemployment rose to almost 30%. This suited Hitler’s agenda. He promised work for all, profits to industry and small business, expansion of the army and the restoration of German national pride. Public support blossomed. Joseph Goebbels began to create the Fuhrer myth and organised highly ritualistic and choreographed party rallies. These events help convert the masses to Nazism and provide a platform for Hitler’s accession to power in January 1933.
Around this time Hitler met Eva Braun. Braun became his lover after his previous mistress (his niece) committed suicide to escape his attentions.
In 1933 Hitler seized power and was appointed chancellor. He successfully persuaded the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Law allowing him to govern independently for four years. The Nazis then had full control of the state apparatus.
The burning of the books took place in Berlin and other German cities.
In 1934 Hitler organised the ‘Night of the Long Knives”, a massacre of rebellious leaders of the Storm Troopers. In August he became the president and chancellor giving him supreme power over the armed forces.
In 1935 Jews were stripped of their rights to citizenship.
In 1936 Hitler joined with Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and signed the ‘Anti- Comintern Pact” with Japan (an agreement to stop the spread of communism).
In 1938 the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia was ceded to Germany under the terms of the Munich Agreement. Britain, France, Germany and Italy were signatures to the agreement. No representative of the Czech government was at the signing.
I wonder if this couple know the history of the spot where they are sitting. Hopefully from now on it is ‘make love not war’.
In November 1938 the Nazi orchestrated the ‘Night of the Broken Glass’ (Kristallnacht) where Jewish shops, houses and synagogues were burnt. Ninety-one Jews were killed and 30 000 arrested and deported. In January of the same year Hitler declared a new world order which included the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.
The martyrs were Nazi sympathisers killed by government troops at the time when Hitler attempted to seize power. If people walking past the monument did not give the Nazi salute they were arrested and sent to concentration camps.
To the left of the monument was a laneway, which people took to avoid having to give the Nazi salute. The trail where people walked has been marked with bronze cobbles.
On the 1st September 1939 Hitler’s forces invaded Poland and as a result Britain and France declared war on Germany. WW2 commenced.
In 1941 Hitler breaks the non-aggression pact with Stalin and invades the Soviet Union. Also declared war on the United States.
April 30th 1945 Hitler shoots himself after biting on a cyanide capsule.
Hitler’s charred body was discovered near his bunker in Berlin by Soviet forces. It is believed by some historians that Hitler’s charred remains were smuggled back to the Soviet Union where the upper and lower jaws and the cranium are said to still exist in official archives. The rest of his body was buried under a parade ground at Magdeburg in what was to become Eastern Germany. In 1970 the remains were secretly dug up, cremated and flushed down the sewer.
Debate has raged as to Hitler’s mental condition. Some experts say he was borderline schizophrenic, others say bipolar, but an expert in Aspergers syndrome suggests Hitler suffered from this condition. We will probably never know who’s right. A friend said to me recently when discussing the issue ‘do we really need to know’. My reply was that maybe it helps to understand the past so the same mistakes are not made in the future.
Battle scars of WW2 are still evident in Munich if you know where to look.
World War 2 memories for the people of Munich will not go away as every now and then unexploded ordinances are discovered. Margit took us to a site where a 250kg bomb was recently discovered and detonated on the 29th August 2012.
The bomb disposal expert in charge of the operation said: ‘At first I thought the bomb could be defused……. the fuse was a real bastard, totally rusted in. Any manipulation of the bomb, such as touching it with a force of 100 grams, a slight knock with a hammer, could have led to disaster. We were all thinking about Göttingen, where three bomb disposal experts were killed during a defusing operation in 2010. There was only one possibility: to blow the thing up’.
Straw matting placed around the bomb swirled upwards in the vortex of heat created by the blast and set the roofs on fire of five nearby buildings. Hundreds of windows were shattered and the day Bev and I looked in on the site many had not been replaced.
Looking at the site I was thinking about the people who lived in the apartment over the unexploded bomb for years and how many more bombs are lying hidden and awaiting discovery in cities of Germany.
If you want to see a video of the controlled detonation go to rt.com/news/munich-war-bomb-explosion-870/ It’s an amazing piece of footage.
Travel and writing takes its toll. It was a cold day but the sun was beautifully warming. The photograph was taken on a hill overlooking the Olympic stadium. The hill was created from WW2 building rubble.
Following are some of Bev’s favourite images. She was most impressed with the Munich buildings.
And, finally, a colourful end to a wonderful revisit to Munich.
The next posting will relate to our time visiting friends in Switzerland. On Saturday the 17th November we left Munich by train, bound for Rebstein in Switzerland.
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Auf wiedersehen for the moment.