The Girl Who Sat Where Hitler Stood

Spoiler. I’m not that girl. I’m the one behind the camera.

Nuremberg rally ground today

Right now, I’m in Nuremberg, Germany. Sorrowful Andalusian flamenco sings from the speakers and my half-German, half-Greek host plants a complimentary glass of ouzo on my table. I suspect he’s trying to cheer me up.

Children cycle past, women in headscarves chatter in Arabic and a dog barks on cue like an immaculately trained Hollywood extra.

I stare at the bulb of the glass and try to make sense of it all.

Nuremberg. Columbine. Lockerbie. Hiroshima. Nagasaki.

Nuremberg. Columbine. Lockerbie. Hiroshima. Nagasaki.

All names that signify a spot on the globe. All names that signify horror.

Earlier today, I took tram number nine from the Hauptbahnhof to the Nuremberg Rally Grounds: the vast (and I do mean vast, a stadium covers around 10% of the area) complex built by the Nazis for the express purpose of stirring up National Socialist propaganda and broadcasting it to the globe.

If you’ve ever seen a photo of Hitler addressing an endless crowd of saluting “soldiers,” it’s likely you were looking at Nuremberg.

Today, a giant shard of glass pierces the entrance and the congress hall displays archive footage and a series of still photos that try to explain just how Nazism became a dictatorship through the democratic process that voted it in.It doesn’t waste its energy with emotive or theatrical language. The bare facts are traumatic enough.

Outside the congress hall, much of the area has fallen into disrepair. Some has even been converted into a sports arena.

I stride around the circumference of the boating lake, racing against the sun. As the shadows fall across the stone I reach the part. The part where Hitler stood, addressing the crowds of thousands with his rhetoric against the Jews, the disabled, the unusual, the unwanted.

I catch my breath.

Tweens play with bikes and skateboards on the cement as weeds watch them in the breeze.

Two lovers embrace on the steps.

And close to the plinth, a girl sits where Hitler stood. She wears pink, her ears are pierced and she reads a book in the glow of the falling sun. She looks at ease, at peace, and just occasionally bemused by the few silver haired Americans and then my good self who wander past her with cameras, aching for humanity, with humility, with a sense of loss – and great foolishness.

Not for the first time, I have to ask myself. What am I doing here?

What does the chasing of history achieve? What does it matter where events took place and whether or not I can understand them?

And can the world ever stem the tide of horror that flows alongside its greatness?

But before I can reach any kind of answer, a kind man provides a glass of ouzo.

And I sit down to write.

This.

What do you think?

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3 Responses to The Girl Who Sat Where Hitler Stood

  1. Patricia King September 5, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

    And unfortunately still the horror goes on and what on earth should be done about it this time. Thought provoking post as ever Abi.

    • Abi King September 8, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      Yes, that’s the difficult question. It’s so easy to say “learn from history’s mistakes” but so much harder for us to all do. I do so hope that peaceful solutions can be found fast…but that seems unrealistic.

    • Abi King October 12, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      Thank you. And yes, simply no clear answers even now…

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