On the road to Wurzburg (not direct, but along the Autobahns – so much faster, if longer in distance, than the ‘direct’ route, is the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
Most camps in Germany weren’t death camps, per se. That is, they weren’t originally designed to be mass extermination camps … but the conditions there were so harsh that deaths were inevitable. And, of course, as things got worse for Germany and the Final Solution got well and truly under way, things got worse in the ‘not’ death camps.
Buchenwald was originally for political prisoners, but also held Russian POWs, Jews and, well, any number of odds and sods who had the misfortune to either come to the (unfavourable) attention of the Nazi authorities or who were regarded as racially (or other category) ‘undesirable.’
Interestingly, after the end of the war the Russians took it over and continued to operate it as a camp, no less brutal and no less lethal, for their political opponents. And, of course, the DDR followed suit for quite a while.
As it turned out, the Residenz, the main museum in Dresden was closed the day I went to see it … but the Zwinger, the second main museum, was open … or most of it was. The bit with the Old Masters (paintings) was, of course, being refurbished and only a small selection were on display … but since old paintings, by and large, aren’t my particular thing, that wasn’t a big deal.
A proper ruler, at least in Germany, kept good records … and, to create many of those records, he needed many scientific and measuring instruments. One of the sections of the Zwinger contains all of those which belonged to the ruling house.
There were other collections in the museum, including the aforementioned Old Masters (which had nothing I was really interested in photographing) and the Porcelain collection – one of the rulers was a big collector and his descendants hung onto it …
Another museum in Dresden, and more interesting than the other sights, quite frankly. Situated in a partly rebuilt armoury and barracks complex towards the outskirts of the city it covers the German army (Heer) from the middle ages onwards … and pulls no punches …
The big drawcard that was easy to photo (being outside and well lit, of course), was the vehicle park … including the usual West German homegrown stuff as well as their US/European made bits and bobs, but also including a lot of Russian stuff that was used by the DDR’s Volksarmee.
There was a lot more, especially inside, but, as is all to common, the lighting was rubbish and/or seemed to be deliberately placed to reflect off the glass display cases … in both cases making it impossible to actually take usable photos … even with Flash, I suspect (though that wasn’t allowed).
Lots of stuff on the Volksarmee and the Bundeswehr and how they interacted with their allies and civilian populations … all quite interesting, but, again, nothing in the way of written material that you could purchase in the sparse museum shop … not even in German.
The Germans take their military history very seriously. This huge monument was built for the 100th anniversary at huge expense – which isn’t surprising as the structure is massive.
As you will remember, Leipzig was where the anti-Napoleon Grand Coalition came together and trounced the Grand Armee, weakened as it was, both in numbers and morale, after the disastrous Russian Campaign. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and sent to St Helena the next year.
This happened to be on the way … the Museum took up a small part of the prisoner’s wing – the main part of the Castle was the German Kommandatur – Offices, Administration and Barracks for the Guards and their commanders … unfortunately it is now a Youth Hostel and, unless you’re staying there, you can’t go inside … and it’s been completely refitted anyway.
The interior of the place was used as a Mental Hospital by the East Germans and there wasn’t much left of the ‘original’ WW2 fittings even in the prisoner’s wing.
And that, gentlebeings, is all the photos I have downloaded from both cameras so far … there are more on the memory cards and I will get around to transferring them to my laptop and thence, gradually, to this Blog, over the next little while …
Just over (one of) the bridges connecting Museuminsel to the ‘mainland’ is the German History Museum which, as you might guess, covers German History. Unfortunately, while quite interesting (especially the special Exhibition on the Weimar Republic and how it failed, there wasn’t a lot to take pictures of … just lots of audiovisual material or stuff that I’ve captured on film (so to speak) elsewhere.
The Altes Museum is one of the lesser biggies on Museuminsel – mainly lesser stuff, or smaller stuff than in the Pergamon.
There’s a fair bit more at the Pergamon Museum than just the Ishtar Gate.
The Neues Museum
Despite the name, this contains much in the way of Egyptian and Germanic antiquities … it is a separate institution (at least nominally) but with the new construction on Museuminsel it is now connected to the Pergamon Museum by an underground walkway.
There’s much more on Berlin to follow … but that will be in a later post
Museuminsel is a collection of several important national museums – not all of which I visited (the Art/Painting/Old Masters … not particularly interested) …
Pergamon Museum – The Ishtar Gate
This is well known as the location of the Pergamon Altar (not really an Altar, but, hey, who cares) from which it takes its name and which, like the other big items on ‘display’ was disassembled and removed to be re-erected in Berlin.
The last time I was here in 2003 the museum was undergoing refurbishment and the Altar was only partly displayed as were other of the major features … this time it was not accessible at all as there is (another) major rebuilding project under way.
The Ishtar Gate, however, and the Processional Way, however, which, last time, were also only partly on display were fully on display this time!
The reconstruction is not 100% original, some of the glazed bricks were not found (shattered into two small fragments?) and they were replaced with modern reproductions when erected … the rosettes above and below the animals, for example, are almost entirely replacements based on the few surviving fragments.
You get a real feel for what it may have been like back in the day … it must have been an awe-inspiring sight to foreign embassies and other visitors and to anyone travelling to Babylon on business, commercial or religious. Which, of course, was the intention of the thing … conspicuous display of just how wealthy (and, therefore, powerful) the King was and how strong his desire to please the Gods was, and, of course, this implied that the Gods would favour him in all things as well. A sobering thought for those visitors.
Visited after seeing all those tanks – Pictures speak louder than words.
There is also an excellent on-site museum with many audio-visual segments in a variety of languages as well as a great many artifacts and the story of the various phases the Camp went through … it wasn’t always a Death Camp as such. One of the better presented such museums I have seen (Sachsenhausen near Berlin and Dachau near Munich) in 2002/3. Pulls no punches.