USAG Ansbach Traveling Book Club members see, touch history in Nuremberg
March 22, 2013
NUREMBERG, Germany (March 22, 2013) -- Eighteen members of the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach community took a trip March 16 to the Palace of Justice here to tour the Memorium Nuremberg Trials exhibit and Courtroom 600, where members of Nazi Germany's leadership were tried between 1945 and 1946 for war crimes.
The trip marked the culmination of the USAG Ansbach's Traveling Book Club's activities for this quarter, which also included a viewing of the film "Judgment at Nuremberg" and William F. Buckley Jr.'s book, "Nuremberg: The Reckoning."
The club was organized through USAG Ansbach's Storck and Bleidorn community libraries as a way to get people talking about subject for which they would go to the library, give them an opportunity to see and learn about something in person that they can also read about, and help familiarize them with the region's transit network to do so.
Librarian Mike Colarusso, who helped organize the event, said library officials are also planning more trips, including to Rothenberg and Munich.
He added that these trips are different from those offered by Outdoor Recreation because these are only daylong trips people can take separately and on their own time. Plus, the group incorporates library materials into the event as an educational component.
"It's something that, once we put an idea in someone's head, they don't have to go with the group," he added "They can say, 'Well, that's cool. I can do this any time.'"
For this first trip, tour guide Ingo Eigen led the group through the exhibit in the top floor of the Palace of Justice's east wing, weaving through the sectioned room and stopping at each backlit informational panels to assemble the pieces of the trials: from the events leading to the trials to the judgments of the defendants. In between, Eigen provided biographical information on the defendants, the prosecutors and the judges; he outlined the course of the trial, which included successes and failures on both sides; and he talked about the aftermath of the trials, including the judgments themselves, and the trials' legacy and applications for such venues as the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Eigen then led the group into Courtroom 600, a site that is not always accessible during tours because it still serves as a regular venue for jurisdiction today. In fact, the courtroom itself has only been open to visitors since 2000 and only as part of the exhibition since late 2010.
Eigen, a native German speaker, leads tours both at the Palace of Justice and the nearby Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds. He said his style of teaching often differs based on his audience.
"When I have school classes and students are 15 and 16 [years old], I am happy when they realize that history is important and not some 'boring, nerd stuff,'" Eigen said. "When I have adult groups or senior high school students, I try to teach them to think for themselves education for autonomy -- maybe to have a look at the sources themselves. But this is usually hard to do as I just have the chance to work 45 minutes to one hour with them."
The tour group from USAG Ansbach included Soldiers, spouses, children and civilians. Eigen said with American groups in particular, he's noticed a positive reaction when they walk through the doors of the real Courtroom 600.
Brooke Covington, spouse of Chief Warrant Officer Neil Covington, an AH-64 Apache pilot assigned to 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, said being inside the courtroom stood out the most to her.
"Architecturally, it's gorgeous," she said. "I don't know many people who can say they've stood in the courtroom where the Nuremberg trials were held. Since I've also been to Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Krakow Ghetto, [Oskar] Schindler's factory and other World War II historical sites, it's nice to be in the location where some justice was served."
Brooke said she has become a World War II history buff since she and her husband have been in Germany. Once she found out a tour was in the works for Courtroom 600, it was an easy choice because she had not yet visited.
"I would definitely recommend the trip to anyone who has studied the history of the trials. I found the fact that the location hasn't been preserved given its significance to history," Neil said, referring to changes to the courtroom throughout the years, including modernization. "I also feel that anyone who doesn't know the full history would greatly appreciate the guided tour and find it quite informative."
"We enjoyed it," Brooke added. "We thought it was very cool to be in a place of so much history."
The Traveling Book Club, organized by the community libraries at Storck and Bleidorn, are planning more trips. To learn more, call the Bleidorn Community Library at 09811-83-1740 (DSN: 468-1740) or Storck Community Library at 09841-83-4675 (DSN: 467-4675).