Both cities I visited in Germany had the privilege of hosting the Olympic games, Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972, and both occasions are remembered for their dramatic events and circumstances. The Hitler Games in 1936 were particularly controversial as only members of the Aryan race were permitted to compete for Germany. However, despite this glaring indication that Nazi Germany was heading down a dangerous path, other countries looked the other way, a feat made easier because the Nazi party removed their slanderous signs including those stating “Jews not wanted.” The Olympic Stadium itself contained Roman elements as Hitler aspired to lead a nation similar to that of Ancient Rome; however, most decorative aspects prevalent in Roman architecture were removed leaving behind square columns and clean, flat surfaces. With the rest of the world in Germany in 1936, there was an opportunity for anyone to recognize the signs of what was to come. There was the “cleaning up” of the gypsies as they were sent to camps. There was the no-Aryan rule. There were remnants of the discriminatory practice against the Jews. In an event meant to symbolize nations coming together to compete on the highest and fairest of stages, the German activities of the times did not embody those sentiments.
The Berlin Olympic Stadium
The Munich games 36 years later also had their share of turmoil. Known as the Munich Massacre, a tragic event involving the taking hostage and murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian gunmen overshadowed the games. During an Olympics designed to move forward from what had transpired during the Hitler games, this event achieved much of the opposite effect and continued to tarnish the German Olympic-hosting legacy.
Outside the Munich Olympic Stadium
There are two museums in Munich in which I let my inner-nerd come out, the Deutsches Museum and the BMW Museum. The Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of science and technology, is too big to handle in one afternoon, but I run around anyway spending extra time in the New Technologies section, the Transportation section, and the Materials and Production Section. Specifically in the Materials and Production area, I have a fun time looking at the power machinery of old. The exhibition is laid out in chronological order demonstrating the development of machine-tools and engines. On a different afternoon, I visit the BMW Museum, which is adjacent to the BMW headquarters and factory. Not only do I enjoy learning about the history of the BMW brand and its many cars over the years, but equally impressive is the unique and design conscious architecture of these many buildings. Through these two afternoons, I have at least received a flavor for the excellence of German engineering.
I get to know Munich through the NewEurope Free Walking Tour. At first, I am skeptical of the tour as a large number of people make their way to Marienplatz. Large groups, soft speaking tour guides, and crowded cities are all part of an equation that usual pushes me towards a self-guided tour. However, I’m with a couple friends I met at the hostel, and I decide to wait it out a little before making a decision. Before the tour starts the group gets divided up several times eventually placing me in a group of about twenty-five. It is still a sizable number; however, the tour guide can project her voice and as a result, I become more optimistic about the tour to come. By the end of the tour, I would highly recommend this activity, which is offered in several European cities by Sandeman’s NewEurope Tours. The tour is free with the guides expecting tips based on their performances. This, in turn, creates a great incentive for the guide to provide an excellent tour complete with jokes, fun stories, and a lot of entertaining background as we walk around the city.
A message repeated throughout the many museums and monuments of the Holocaust is that retelling its story is critical so as to prevent anything similar form happening again. I fully agree with the message and the sentiment; however, I feel that it ignores the many examples that have occurred between WWII and today. I will admit that determining what events should classify as genocide can be difficult; however, below are examples of others that could be included:
- Soon after WWII in 1947, the partition of India, in which a newly formed border was created separating the Hindus and Sikhs, resulted in 500,000 to 1,000,000 dead because they were on the wrong side of that border.
- In Australia, between 1900 and 1970, twenty to twenty-five thousand Aboriginal children were taken from their homes and separated from their families. Some now call them the “Stolen Generation.” (As a side note, the way that Native Americans were treated when European first settled in North America can also be interpreted as genocide.)
- In Pakistan, during the Bangladesh War in 1971, there are estimates ranging from 300,000 to 3 million people killed by the Pakistan Army. Targeted during this killing include the Bengali intellectual, cultural, and political elite along with Hindus.
- The Rwanda genocide in 1994 is estimated to have killed 800,000 people. This genocide, lasting 100 days, was performed by the Hutu militias against Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus.
- The first president of Equatorial Guinea, Francisco Macias Nguema, killed or exiled up to 1/3 of the country’s population (80,000 out of 300,000 are estimated to have been killed).
- The Khmer Rouge from Cambodia, whom I commented on in an early entry, are responsible for killing about 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.
- Indonesian occupation of East Timor resulted in approximately 100,000 deaths between 1974 and 1999. Many of deaths resulted from malnutrition and it is rumored that the Indonesian military used starvation as its main tool of “exterminating” the East Timorese.
These are only a handful of examples of mass killings that have occurred since the events that took place in and around Germany under the Nazi regime. I agree that the history of the Holocaust should be retold to try to prevent it in the future; however, I also feel we need to try to recognize its signs and instead of learning about how it affected history, learn how it can be prevented in the future.
In addition, most museums I visited did not recall other examples of mass killings and I feel when the take-away message is to prevent something similar form happening again, explaining that it already has will only help emphasize the point.
Munch, a city known for its Oktoberfest, must have great beer gardens. After all, the city swells to about 10x its usual size for the two weeks of Oktoberfest. As I made my way through a handful of these beer halls with friends I’d met from my hostel, the Euro Youth Hotel, I enjoyed tasting many of the varieties that Munich has to offer. In addition, beer is most typically served by the liter, which presents challenges based on the sheer amount of liquid and the weight of the mug as the night progresses.
The two most memorable beer halls were the Englischer Garten, where I sat on a picnic bench next to a large Chinese tower enjoying my beer and a book during a sunny afternoon, and the Hofbräuhaus, an über festive and famous beer house in Munich.
To both exaggerate and demonstrate the size of these beers, the below photo shows how the beer can be distorted to reflect the keystoning affect that often occurs when trying to photograph large buildings from below.