Friends, I am reading over Rick Steves' fine piece on "Sobering Sites of Nazi Europe." Any first-hand recommendation(s) for a sound, scholarly guided tour (in English) of Germany focused on World War Two sites? Please advise and many thanks Bob
Hi, Are you primarily interested in military and war sites, such as (these are the ones I would recommend) Remagen, Zossen/Wünsdorf, Berlin-Treptow, Fürstenwalde, Berlin-Karlshorst, Seelow, the Reichswald, the Oderbruch at Frankfurt an der Oder, Torgau an der Elbe, the Resistancemuseum in Berlin, just to name a few, I don't recommend the Luftwaffe Museum at Berlin-Gatow. Or, do you want to see mainly Nazi sites, such as the camps, Landsberg am Lech, Bad Tölz, those sites connected with Holocaust such as Wannsee, the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Munich, Berchtesgaden, Nürnberg...the building where the War Crimes Trial took place and party rally site remnants. Presumably, you should find audio guides available, but don't bet on it, esp at the more esoteric places, where a reading knowledge of the language is expected.
No first-hand recommendation, but you might look at Valor Tours. http://www.valortours.com/tours.html
Much depends on the cities you want to visit, and what part of WW2 sites interest you the most. Do you want the cities where decisions were made, monumental buildings created, or locations for battles, or sites of horror, like Concentration Camps. Are you interested in the hows and whys or just the locations to see them? You can pop into Wannasee or the Olympic Stadium near Berlin, if you just want to see them, but to get a real sense of the history, and the meaning of these places, you will need to read a lot of the text at the exhibits and sites or have a guide who can give you an accurate, but condensed version. Most cities will have guides who can give you a specialized tour concerning the 3rd Reich or WW2. Once you narrow that down, where you want to go, it will be easier to find your tours and guides.
Hi, If you want to see more on the Resistance, aside from the Resistance Museum in Berlin, I absolutely recommend two other places: Schloss Hardenberg in Neuhardenberg, located east of Berlin near Seelow on the way to the Oder. It's part of the famous von Hardenberg family estate. The Museum is revealing as it is poignant. That member of Hardenberg family was part of the July 20 events but survived to write his memoirs of the event. You need a car to go from Berlin out to the town and the Schloss. I don't recall seeing any audio guides, certainly wasn't asked if I wanted one. The 2nd place: South of Hechingen (south of Stuttgart) is the Schloss Stauffenberg, one of the von Stauffenberg family Schlösser open to the public. Definitely you need a car or go by taxi to reach the grounds from Hechingen.
I'll just note this... most of the legacy of the Nazi and WWII era is not what remains, but what's missing. The appearance of most German cities today is the result of the massive post-war rebuilding projects. Almost no damaged or destroyed Nazi building projects were rebuilt, and most of those that weren't significantly damaged remain in private ownership or government use (some of the few exceptions noted above). There are no preserved battlefields, although you can see some of the crumbling remains of the western defenses if you're willing to hike deep into the woods. Otherwise, many of the tours I've read about highlight "non-sites", mainly places where something of historic significance formerly stood or ocurred, but is now long since gone. Probably the most visible sign- nearly every town has a war memorial for the local sons who died in the world wars. These are generally rather low key and sober. Even more tragic is that many of the listed dead shared the same last names. You wonder how many families were wiped out by that needless war.
All, I appreciate the quick and rather thorough replies. I will have to prioritize my interests and I'm grateful for the detailed comments. I am familiar with Valour Tours, but have not used them. I would still prefer a small or private guided tour by a scholar on the subject in whatever city/cities that my traveling companion and I decide to visit. I know sometimes that college professors/local authors will conduct walking tours as a side job and I have had great experiences in Dublin with this approach. Again my thanks.
If you are going to visit Munich, I would contact Taff Simon, from Dark History Tours. See if he can help you with your quest by either planning a tour for you, or giving you the names of someone who can. http://www.dark-history.eu/index.htm
Hi, On "...conduct walking tours" and "scholarly," I suggest you contact the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Military Historical Research Office) in Potsdam. It may be well worth it when in the greater Berlin and Potsdam area.
Bob: Would you mind sharing what you find out/who your tour with and post it in the "trip report" page in the Traveler's Helpline? Thanks very much.