Doing homework for Europe tour now. Preference is for WWII specific Memorial places e.g. Normandy landing beaches, Hitler's Eagles Nest, Dachau or other concentration memorial, Anne Frank house, Bastogne Easy Company fox-holes, famous battle bridges/sites; American cemeteries. Any recommendation for which RS tour would be best to offer any/some/all WWII specific memorial places? Thanks.
I can't answer your question directly. But since you have such a specific interest, you'll probably do better going on your own. I think you'd be disappointed in a general interest tour, where the WWII sights are not the main focus.
Instead of paying for a Rick Steves tour, budget some money for private transportation and/or private guides to places that are hard to get to on your own, or where a guide is useful (the Normandy beaches come up frequently in both categories).
One problem you'll run into is that the sights you've listed are spread out, and you will need a lot of time to see them all (whether on a tour or on your own). How much time do you have for this trip? If you have to start winnowing down the list, which are the highest priorities for you to see on your first trip? Lots of people here can help you with a tour itinerary, as well as specifics to visiting each place (for instance, the Anne Frank house has long lines, so you'll want to make a reservation).
Many Rick Steves Tours include one of these historic sites. Since you have that interest, I would not recommend Dachau (near Munich) as your one concentration camp memorial; Mauthausen in Austria (on the Germany/Austria/Switzerland tour) or Auschwitz in Poland are more moving to visit. On the 16-day Eastern Europe tour, you visit the Jewish synagogues and memorials in Prague, as well as Auschwitz and Oskar Schindler's Factory Museum in Krakow. The Paris & Heart of France spends a whole day around D-Day beaches and cemeteries, while the Loire to South of France tour makes just a short stop at Oradour-sur-Glane.
Skimming the list of Mr Steves' tours, it doesn't look like anything would work.
Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours (out of either New Orleans or Atlanta, I forget which) would do the trick for a lot of it, but they're expensive.
I think I'd just put the more important Xs on a map, rent a car at one end or the other, and link them together myself.
One possibility would be to use a combination approach. Take the Paris & Heart of France tour that Laura mentioned to cover the D-Day sites. You'll have an exceptional local guide in Normandy, and will get a good overview of the history. Either before or after the tour, travel to one or two other locations that might interest you. For example....
- Munich will provide an opportunity to see Dachau, Ludwig's Castles (not WW-II but interesting) and a side trip to Berchtesgaden to visit the Eagle's Nest, the Dokumentation Centre and Bunkers and also a working Salt Mine (again, if you're interested). Displays at the Dokumentation Centre are in German, but English Audioguides are available. You might consider a tour of the Eagle's Nest with Eagle's Nest Tours (they get great ratings). While there you could also include a few days in Salzburg and Hallstatt (one of the most beautiful locations in Europe, IMO), and possibly a visit to Matthausen.
- Berlin has many historic sights related to WW-II. You could take a walking tour with Original Berlin Walks to cover the main sights. Their guides are excellent, and know the history well. There's not much to see at the site of the Bunker, but there is a large diagram that shows what it once looked like. While there you could also visit Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, which is located in Oranienburg, about an hour from Berlin. That particular camp has some very unusual aspects, one of which is that it was the site of one of the largest counterfeiting operations in history.
- Prague is an easy connection from Munich and has a few significant sites also. Do a search of Operation Anthropoid for the details. There's a small but well done Museum in the basement of the Church that you can tour. The movie Operation Daybreak did a reasonably good job of covering the events (you can find clips of the movie on YouTube). Prague also has many other interesting sights.
- Italy and Sicily also have many interesting WW-II sights. The Museo dello Sbarco in Salerno is very well done, with many interesting displays.
- France has other sights besides the D-Day beaches. The "martyr's village" of Oradour-sur-Glane is certainly worth seeing, but it's a bit out of the way unless you're on a tour. It will take at least three hours to look around the remains of the town (IMO).
- Netherlands has in addition to the Anne Frank Museum, the various towns involved in the failed Bridge Too Far operation (Operation Market Garden).
There are an enormous number of choices. You'll have to decide which ones you most want to see.
My son's high school tour trip to Europe had a wonderful tour guide and he had the bus stop at the Netherlands American Cemetery. It was a (just a trifle) embarrassing moment to me that I didn't know cemeteries for a many-years-long-war would have more places for war dead than just Normandy. I haven't looked to see if RS tours hit these spots, but you get the complete list of possible sites to research the visiting logistics.
If you make it to Munich there is a very small museum, free entry but you can contribute in the jar or not, called The White Rose.
It's about Sophie Scholl, her brother and some other students and a professor. They were part of the resistance and were executed by the Nazis. The exhibits are in English and well done. Like I said, it's very small so wouldn't take half a day, but we really were glad we had gone. My memory could be wrong, but I think it's at the University.
Thank you all for your replies to my query. It appears that the best type of trip for my historical interests is not served by any one particular RS trip. And we are now pursuing that possibility of a specific historical WWII memorial (non-RS tour). Thanks again for your replies.