Training Ground of Hate

On a cold gray day in October I stood alone on Nuremberg’s Zeppelin Field and looked up at the high podium where Adolf Hitler spat his words of hate. A short distance away our tour guide told us how Albert Speer designed this area to be built with white stone so it would gleam in the September sun. Now the stone is crumbling, gray, and sprinkled with weeds. The area on which I stood was paved over and marked for bus parking. Across the way — past a soccer field, a chain link fence, and a sand pit — I could barely see the stone bleachers that were once filled with Nazi supporters. They were also covered in weeds and showed their age and neglect.

As I stood in that cold place the tears started to flow. I shed tears for the way this place was designed and used to teach hate. I shed tears for the way people listened to Adolf Hitler and believed his awful rhetoric and thought their personal growth and the economic well-being of his “glorious” Third Reich were more important than humanity, compassion, and decency. And I shed tears for all the people who still today put themselves above others whom they see as different and “less than” and therefore not deserving of a peaceful and secure life.

When I couldn’t handle these emotions any longer I turned to leave. At that point a German man asked me to take his picture in front of the bleachers.  I motioned “1, 2, 3” with my fingers. Without warning he smiled and gave a thumbs up sign with both hands as I clicked the photo. I handed him the phone and went back to the tour bus at a total loss for words. What had just happened? I wish I had had the composure to have him snap a picture of me. I would have pointed a different finger towards the sky.

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