World War II history: Nuremberg held great significance during the Nazi Germany era. Because of the city's relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and its position in the centre of Germany, the Nazi Party chose the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions – the Nuremberg rallies. The rallies were held 1927, 1929 and annually 1933-1938 in Nuremberg. After Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933 the Nuremberg rallies became huge Nazi propaganda events, a centre of Nazi ideals. The 1934 rally was filmed by Leni Riefenstahl, and made into a propaganda film called Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will). At the 1935 rally, Hitler specifically ordered the Reichstag to convene at Nuremberg to pass the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws which revoked German citizenship for all Jews and other non-Aryans. A number of premises were constructed solely for these assemblies, some of which were not finished. Today many examples of Nazi architecture can still be seen in the city.
During the Second World War, Nuremberg was the headquarters of Wehrkreis (military district) XIII, and an important site for military production, including aircraft, submarines and tank engines. A subcamp of Flossenbürg concentration camp was located here. Extensive use was made of slave labour. The city was severely damaged in Allied strategic bombing from 1943–45. On 29 March 1944, RAF endured its heaviest losses in the bombing campaign of Germany. Out of more than 700 planes participating, 106 were shot down or crash landed on the way home to their base, and more than 700 men were missing, as many as 545 of them dead. More than 160 became prisoners of war. On 2 January 1945, the medieval city centre was systematically bombed by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces and about ninety percent of it was destroyed in only one hour, with 1,800 residents killed and roughly 100,000 displaced. In February 1945, additional attacks followed. In total, about 6,000 Nuremberg residents are estimated to have been killed in air raids.
Nuremberg was a heavily fortified city that was captured in a fierce battle lasting from 17 to 21 April 1945 by the US 3rd Infantry Division, 42nd Infantry Division and 45th Infantry Division, which fought house-to-house and street-by-street against determined German resistance, causing further urban devastation to the already bombed and shelled buildings. Despite this intense degree of destruction, the city was rebuilt after the war and was to some extent, restored to its pre-war appearance including the reconstruction of some of its medieval buildings. However, over half of the historic look of the center, and especially the northeastern half of the old Imperial Free City was lost forever.
Between 1945 and 1946, German officials involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity were brought before an international tribunal in the Nuremberg trials. The Soviet Union had wanted these trials to take place in Berlin. However, Nuremberg was chosen as the site for the trials for specific reasons:
The city had been the location of the Nazi Party's Nuremberg rallies and the laws stripping Jews of their citizenship were passed there. There was symbolic value in making it the place of Nazi demise.
The Palace of Justice was spacious and largely undamaged (one of the few that had remained largely intact despite extensive Allied bombing of Germany). The already large courtroom was reasonably easily expanded by the removal of the wall at the end opposite the bench, thereby incorporating the adjoining room. A large prison was also part of the complex.
As a compromise, it was agreed that Berlin would become the permanent seat of the International Military Tribunal and that the first trial (several were planned) would take place in Nuremberg. Due to the Cold War, subsequent trials never took place.
Our tour: Very early this morning, we sail through the locks that comprise the Main–Danube Canal, an engineering marvel that stretches 106 miles from Bamberg on the Main River to Kelheim on the Danube. It began as Charlemagne’s dream in 793 and was completed in 1992 with 16 locks that raise the water level 1,332 feet. Today, it enables river travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
Today in Nuremberg, Bavaria’s second largest city, we toured Zeppelin Field, the former Nazi parade grounds, and the Palace of Justice, the venerable vestige of the Nuremberg Trials.
From the courthouse we traveled to Old Town, enclosed within ancient city walls. There the tour took us on a walk from the imperial palace grounds, past the Albrecht Dürer House and on to the Main Market Square with its elaborate Gothic fountain.
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