Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday: Frankfurt Walking Tour

memorial to book burnings

memorial to the Jewish people from Frankfurt who were killed during the Holocaust

a stumble stone

the last remaining tower

Euro symbol and banking skyscraper

So this morning I went on a walking tour around Frankfurt. I was surprised that there are so many things to learn about in the city because it's pretty small.

On the tour, we went to some of the churches in the area. Frankfurt once served as the meeting place for electors of the Holy Roman Emperor, so Frankfurt is the place where holy emperors were chosen and coronated. In one of the churches we were in, we actually got to see a small class of students reenacting the coronation process, which was pretty adorable.

I also learned a bit about Jewish/Holocaust history. Over 11,000 Jewish people from Frankfurt were killed during the Holocaust. There is a memorial where each person has an individual placard with their name, birth and death date (if known), and the death camp or ghetto where they died. It was astounding to see how many placards there were. The path around the memorial was not paved, it was large pieces of loose gravel--apparently the developer made it this way so that no one could ever stand comfortably while looking at the moment, they would constantly be on uneven ground. Near this is was a memorial to the synagogue that was burnt during Kristallnacht (a night during which a large amount of anti-Jew violence were carried out), which is basically a cube of the remaining rocks that made up the synagogue. Throughout the city there are also stumbling stones, which are markers that are placed where victims of the Holocaust formerly lived. The stones are put in after a fair amount of research is done, and there is a ceremony where living relatives or the researcher is present. They stumbling stones are set into the pavement and the idea is that when one looks at them to read the name of the victim, they have to bow down. Also, feet walking on them helps to keep them polished.

I also saw a memorial dedicated to book burnings. After the Nazis gained power, many books were burned that were considered anti-Nazi. Authors such as Upton Sinclair and Karl Marx were some of the first to be burned.

Another part of the tour was about much of the damage sustained from bombings during World War II and the rebuilding of the city. Because Germany was on the losing side of the war, there was no one to help them rebuild cultural sites in the aftermath. Citizens, therefore, had to personally contribute to rebuilding things, and were therefore allowed to choose which things were to be rebuilt. The first thing that they agreed to rebuild was the birthplace and house of Goethe, an author/playwright who is often referred to as the Shakespeare of Germany.

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