Holocaust Memorials: 2008
There are many WWII & Holocaust memorials/sights in Europe (e.g. Dachau , Anne Frank's house). They provide travelers powerful opportunities to learn from the greatest horrors of the 20th century. Share your experiences and suggestions so others can heed the wish of the the victims of the holocaust…that we never forget.
Please Note: This topic was previously known as "Nazi Sights."
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Yad Vashem Jerusalem
Visited Auschwitz prior to Israel. This is a fantastic structure(s). Not to be missed if at all possible. Took the# 20 bus (took 1 hour) because Jaffa Road under construction. Bus stops past the entrance to the museum (people on the bus told me where to get off). You have to walk down a road/path about quarter mile. As is usual, there are taxi drivers waiting outside who try to charge you 3x what the meter rate would be. I feel the best approach is to walk out to the busy street (both here and a shrine of the book) and flag one. However, after riding the bus (much pushing, shoving, crowding and yelling) I just over-paid him, as it had been an exhausting day (but at Shrine of the book when I got out of the 60 request cab and went to the street, the rate I paid was 17).
lake forest, il USA Sun 11/23/2008
The town of Dachau
On a trip to Germany this summer, my husband and I went to Dachau. (Part of my husband's job as a social studies teacher is Holocaust education.) As we waited near the road for the bus to take us back to the train, a bus arrived from the town of Dachau. A gray-haired woman got off and explained that the bus was free and would take us into the little town of Dachau where we could have lunch or just look around and then catch another bus back to the train station. Only one other small family group and my husband and I took her up on the offer. On the way into town she told us the history of the town of Dachau from long before the Nazi period to the present time. Apparently, it was once an artist colony. We passed by some institutional looking appartment buildings that I'd noticed on the way to the camp earlier in the day. Our guide explained that they had been built as SS barracks and are still being lived in. We had a lovely lunch at a cafe - the cheese spaetzel was wonderful - and caught the bus back to the train station. This unexpected side trip helped reinforce in our minds that Germany is NOT just the 12 years that Hitler was in power.
Oakland Park, FL USA Sun 09/07/2008
I just returned from a trip to Poland and Israel. While concentration camps arent exactly fun sights to see, I feel that everyone NEEDS to see them. Everyone has sympathy for the victims and their families, but I dont really feel you can have empathy until you've actually seen the camps.
The first camp I visited was Birkenau. Usually people go to Auschwitz and then over to Birkenau, but seeing Birkenau first made the accomodations at Auschwitz look the like the Ritz Carlton. You MUST get a guide for these camps. Just wandering around by yourself isn't as intense of an experience. Birkenau is a hard place to see. The gas chambers and creamatoriums are in ruins, but its still extremely powerful.
Auschwitz is a very different camp because it was not built from scratch. It belonged to the Polish army, but then the Nazi's took it over for their own use.
I also visited Majdanek (my-dan-ick), in Lublin, Poland. The gas chambers and creamatoriums are in tact there. You can stand in the gas chambers and see the blue stains on the walls from the Zyklon-B gas. You can see scratch marks on the concrete walls made while people frantically tried to escape. The creamatorium is large, has maybe 15 ovens. There is also a mausoleum with SEVEN TONS of victims ashes, right out in the open for you to see. If you could only see one concentration camp, I would recommend Majdanek because there arent the crowds you get at Auschwitz. In fact, it was quite empty when I was there. I think it lends to the experience more.
Tallahassee, FL USA Sat 09/06/2008
Templehof Central Airport
You may not know it, but one of the oldest operating airports in the world is Tempelhof Central Airport in Berlin's Tempelhof District. The Berlin authorities have decreed that TCA will cease all operations effective 31 Oct 2008. A city-wide referendum has held last April and the City authorities said 35% of all voters had to vote to make it binding on whether the airport should be closed. Only about 30% voted, but they overwhelmingly said keep it open. That was not enough to do the trick, so it will close in Oct. The last flt out is scheduled for 2000 on Thur, 30 Oct 2008. I was stationed in Berlin 1984-90 and saw the wall come down. Another retired USAF NCO and I are going to Berlin and will sip some champaigne in front of the LuftBrucke monument on that last day. The city doesn't plan any commeration. Plans are afoot to also close down Tegel Airport in the French sector next year. They are pouring money into the old East Berlin airport at Schoenefelde to upgrade it and are building a newer Brandenburger International airport. If you are in Berlin Oct 30th, look for two Americans in front of the Luftbrucke Monument, mention the name Rick Steves and I'll give you a sip from my champaigne bottle. I might have to bring 2 bottles!!!!!
Palm Bay, FL USA Sun 08/31/2008
When I went to Poland with my Dad about 5 years ago, the last place I wanted to see were the concentration camps Auschwitz and Berkinaw. I never realized they were in Poland, not far from Krakow. One of the Berkinaw camps remains but there were 2 others that are gone now.
At both camps, you cannot just wander around. You have to be escorted in groups with guides. Auchwitz is pretty much intact and alot of Berkinaw is as well. They are 2 kms apart. You go to Auschwitz, pay for the tour there and they take care of the rest.
It is a very somber place and rarely do you see people talking, other than the guides.
Millions of Polish, Russian, Romanians and Jews were killed in these camps (I am sure there were others). The documentation, pictures and horror of it all is there as a constant reminder of what horrible crimes against humanity occurred there. Lest we never forget.
When I was done I was sad but glad to see it first-hand. No one can explain it better than seeing it. A must see if you are in the area.
Surrey, BC Canada Wed 08/20/2008
Anne Frank House
I second the remarks about the Anne Frank house, and would add one more: Buy your tix online in advance, if possible. We whisked past a long line of rain-drenched folks, into a separate door with immediate access. You do have to sign up for a specific date and time, but it's a wonderful advantage if you can do it.
San Carlos, CA USA Thu 08/14/2008
Following advice from this website, we decided to make a stop at Mauthausen Concentration Camp near Linz, Austria. The train station was completely empty except only one attendant whose English was questionable at best. We communicated that we wanted to see the camp and he gave us a cab company business card and pointed us to an outside phonebooth. We struggled to get the call through, but the cab service was EXCELLENT. It was Taxi Brixner 0664/46 23 699. Not only were they timely, but when we didn't have correct change he allowed us to pay for the roundtrip fare on the way back. He was waiting for us after 2 hours.
The camp now has very a informative film (available in multiple languages) to begin each tour which we HIGHLY recommend. There were interviews of surviors, the liberating soldiers and local townspeople which was extremly moving. The movie lasted an hour, so plan to spend at least 3 to see it plus the camp.
Also, we were there in March and a fresh snowfall prevented us from going to see the Quarry, stairway & so called "Parachute Jump."
We were very glad that we made the effort to get to this camp. It is hard to fathom the atrocities that took place there, but so important that we never forget!
Ft Walton Bch, FL USA Fri 07/11/2008
Memorial Wall in Frankfurt
Frankfurt has a very moving Memorial to its murdered Jewish citizens. A wall containing 11,000 names has been erected around the medieval Jewish cemetery. This is right next to the Judengasse museum, 2 blocks from the Dom Cathedral. This is quite a personal and emotional tribute to those who lost their lives. Though not well known, it should be. It would be nice if Rick Steves would mention it in his next guidebook so more people will know about it.
Frankfurt, Germany Sat 06/28/2008
On 10 June 1944, the idylic French village of Oradour-sur-Glane was completely destroyed and 642 innocent men, women and children were massacred by soldiers in Hitler's elite Waffen-SS army. The ruins of the martyred village have been preserved as a reminder of German barbarity.
This town was preserved exactly as it was found after the massacre: old cars are still parked in the streets, bullet holes can be found in the church, businesses and homes are still standing (most without roofs, etc.
My wife and I visited this town in the summer of 2006 and it was chilling and well worth the effort to get there. This town is in the south of France not that far from Lyon. Here are some web links:
USA Sat 05/31/2008
This is a difficult site to see. The former work camp Auschwitz I is still pretty much intact and houses a very interesting museum. But Auschwitz II where the murders took place has almost nothing left standing. Yes, you will certainly get a *feel* for this depressing site just walking through it but it's hard to *understand* it by yourself. This is the one place in my travels where a personal guide really made a huge difference. It was worth every penny - and the cost of the guide is actually quite reasonable.
Calgary, Canada Sat 03/29/2008
Anne Frank House
The most heart breaking hour and a half of my life was spent in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. As far as holocaust memorials go, this one is so personal. Most people have read her diary and when one is walking through the actual building, it is like reality slaping you in the face. It takes an event that seems far removed for most younger Americans and makes it almost uncomfortablly real. This destination is a must.
Albertville, AL USA Thu 01/24/2008
Schindler's List Tour
A few years ago our family was visiting Krakow. We found out about a "Schindler's List" tour that is organized from a bookstore in the traditional Jewish neighborhood. It was winter and we were the only sightseers that day, so the guide packed us into his car and took us all around the city. We saw the actual sites were the events took place and the places Spielburg used for filming. Our guide is a Polish historian and was very passionate about this time in Krakow's history. He was very informative and we learned a lot.
Tucson, AZ USA Wed 01/16/2008