Europe is ripe with history, but to truly experience the sights and sounds of World War II, Germany is the place to start. Tourists come from around the world to see such sites as Dachau, Nuremberg
Dachau Concentration Camp
The first concentration camp established by the Germans, which would be the model for all death camps to follow. Dachau, of course, is a very haunting place, but it is also full of vital Nazi support information that will help you to better understand all their future strategical moves. While visiting Dachau you will see the blueprints for the concentration camps and the desk that holds all of the inmates’ identification cards. You learn so much about what the first 24 hours in a concentration camp would have been like.
Dachau is now home to some very moving pieces of Germany artwork. These pieces were primarily dedicated in the late 1970s and early 1980s in memory of the lives lost at the Nazi hands. The grounds of Dachau have been left in their original state – as much as possible – and you can wander in and out of most of the buildings (which are also handicapped accessible). The grounds are barren and grey but full of history and stories longing to be told.
When deciding to visit Dachau you should plan on spending a long afternoon or morning there. You could easily spend a full day, but half a day is all that is really necessary. Make sure to dedicate some time to the photo catalogs that were confiscated after the war and to reading about the prisoners from whom historians have uncovered beautiful pre-Holocaust lives.
Berchtesgaden and Hitler’s Eagle Nest
An absolute must-do in Germany, whether you’re a World War II history buff or not, is Hitler’s Eagle Nest. Part birthday gift and part fortified hideout this place is amazing. You need at least a day to fully appreciate the magnitude of the site and another day to wander through the amazing village.
Getting to the top of the Eagle’s Nest is quite the ordeal. You must purchase bus tickets from the visitor’s parking lot and then you are shuttled the 8 miles to the top, but you learn a lot about the land along the way. Once you have reached Hitler’s private entrance you walk through a passageway cut through the mountain where you find Hitler’s private elevator. The history of the people that have walked through that space is very chilling. The conversations had in the elevator can only be imagined, but surely they were quite extraordinary.
Once you have reached the top of Hitler’s Eagle Nest you have the option to eat, as the original building has been turned into a restaurant. The most impressive thing is the scenery itself. The view is spectacular, the isolation is inspiring and the available hiking should be done time and time again. At the end of this stop on our World War II Germany Tour, we wished we had had more time to hike there. A full day wasn’t quite enough.
This beautiful, historic city has so many things to offer. If time allows a few days here would be best, but for World War II enthusiasts there is one-stop, in particular, that must be done. The Nazi Documentation Museum and the Old Nazi Rally Grounds. All of the documents that truly exist, but are hard to imagine are housed here. Disclosing the Nazi secrets to the public and educating visitors about how a tragedy of this magnitude comes to be.
Planning Your World War II Germany Tour
When deciding to travel throughout Germany the very best way is by car. Car rental is very affordable and driving is quite easy. The largest issue with traveling by car is that there are signs for amazing things to see everywhere! Getting to your destination in a timely manner is difficult due to off-highway exploring of other wonderful sites.
If World War II is your main focus, I highly recommend starting in Germany as these sites mentioned above will give a very solid foundation for what you will see elsewhere in Europe. If you make it as far as Hitler’s Eagle Nest then you are only 45 minutes from Salzburg, Austria and many many more World War II sites in Austria and beyond. Get out there, but remember the solemn space that many of these places try to hold and tell the story so history doesn’t repeat itself.
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Photo Credits: Lydia Bradbury