During my recent trip to Europe, I finally got to visit Germany. Of course due to some inconveniences with the trains largely caused by my lack of organizational skills I was only able to spend 4 and a half hours there. In spite of the frustrating set backs, I took the train from Utrecht to Cologne. It was immediately evident that I made the right decision. Even on a cloudy day it’s one of the better views from a train station, I would argue.
Of course I didn’t have much time, but I did manage to visit The National Socialism Documentation Center and Cathedral… Unfortunately I managed to run out of money before I got any gluhwein. Of course that seemed like a pretty first world problem after visiting a Gestapo prison, but still a bummer.
The National Socialism Documentation Center is a short walk from the train station and is only 4 Euros to enter (2 Euros for students or American girls they feel sorry for), but they only take cash. The Museum is made of of two main parts. The first to visit is the Gestapo prison in the cellar.
The prison consist of several small cells that were sometimes used to house 30+ people at a time, many of whom were only guilty of not being German.
The cells have over 1800 inscriptions in several different languages that are both preserved and thankfully, translated into English (and several other languages). Many of them are certainly interesting reads. Most of them are absolutely heartbreaking. I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Some were interesting proof that Russians have always been Russian.
And of course, the French have always been French.
And some Germans that remained oddly patriotic given the circumstances.
As you can tell, life in the Gestapo prison was pretty grim. Technically, most prisoners were “held for questioning”. It was war time, you have to take precautions I suppose, but this was a bit extreme.
I know we now cry for equality, but it’s still harrowing to think that German officers had no problem beating women bloody with little or no reason. It does pose some interesting questions about human nature. Later into the war, officers were even given the authority to execute non-Germans, which is obviously a recipe for corruption.
Obviously we’ve all heard about the horrors of World War II, particularly Nazi Germany, but physically standing where many of the atrocities occurred is haunting. Outside of the cellar there is a courtyard where at least 400 people were executed in a 2 year span, which of course represents only a small portion of the destruction of the Nazi regime.
You can’t help but applaud the Germans for preserving a period I’m sure they’d rather forget and this jail was particularly well preserved down to the last detail.
Walking down into that cellar was like walking back in time in the foot steps of so many that walked down those steps 70 years ago. You can really feel the history, but can’t help but wonder how something so atrocious could have happened so recently in the span of human history.
Upstairs you’ll find the bulk of the National Socialism Documentation Center in the library.
-National Socialism Documentation Center Library-
Unlike the cellar, nothing upstairs is translated to English. They do offer an audio tour, which I did not partake in, but I certainly wish I had. None the less, it was interesting to walk around and look at the photos and Nazi propaganda.
There is something particularly disturbing about Nazi children.
The photos of Cologne were especially scary. Photos a beautiful city I saw for the first time just a few hours before as it would have appeared during the war really made me realize how frightening it would have been in Europe then.
It is pretty impressive it is that Germany has been able to pick up the pieces and move forward. This building was a heavy place to walk around, though I’m very glad I visited. A quick glance at the guest book revealed mostly people deeply moved by having experienced this museum, and a few people who perhaps didn’t get it.
We’ve all heard the adage that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps Germany’s effort to preserve such a dark period in its past will remind the world that this should never be allowed to happen again.
17 thoughts on “Cologn, Germany- National Socialism Documentation Center.”
This place is a grim reminder. We konw what the nazis did but we are still are kinda speechless. 30 people in that cell at a time! Couldn’t imagine…
Thanks for sharing
One Modern Couple
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It’s definitely a haunting place to visit. A crazy reminder that something so terrible could be allowed to happen.
Sorry to hear you didn’t have much time in Germany — hopefully you’ll be back again soon! I haven’t been to the The National Socialism Documentation Center in Cologne, but I visited several memorials and museums in Nuremberg, which were also pretty big eye openers.
Glühwein is my favorite! Sad that the Christmas markets are gone now (and with them the mulled wine stands on every corner!!). You can buy pre-made stuff at the store, but this weekend I’m going to try (and hopefully make a video about) making the stuff from scratch! Then I won’t be reliant on the Christmas markets for the potion 😀
I will definitely be back to Germany! I didn’t have nearly enough time. I have Gluhwein at Germany in Epcot every year, but somehow it’s just not the same lol. I’ll have to try your recipe for it.
Great post about a really tough subject. I currently live in Dusseldorf, so I will try and make it over to visit the museum soon – it’s such a fascinating and tragic period of history.
Also when you come back to Germany, you’ll learn that almost everywhere only takes cash!
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[…] could you want? I will definitely be back. It makes me feel slightly better about only spending 4 hours in actual Germany (it’s pretty much the same thing […]
As a German we have always been confronted with it. As students we would visit many places and talk about it in many subjects- since it is such an important topic I think it is good to not to forget what happened!
Well-written post. Pictures are helpful, too. It reminded meof my visit to Buchenwald. So sad, but we must keep those memories alive.
I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of the National Socialism Documentation Centre, but you’ve certainly put it on my radar. Sounds like a place that I’d both regret and appreciate having visited – much like S-21 or the Genocide Memorial in Kigali.
I’ll definitely remember to get the audio tour should I go.
That would have been a pretty spooky experience. Really sad to know what the prisoners went through.
We still haven’t made it to Germany yet but are hoping to check it off either this year or next year. Even though this is more of a grim experience I think it’s interesting and such a historical place to witness. I feel like I might leave feeling a bit somber though, similar to how I felt after going to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. I can’t believe they fit 30 people in that one area.
What an interesting place! You really did make the most of your quick 4 hour visit to Germany. Those stories of the inmates are heartbreaking. 18 and pregnant and about to face the gallows for no reason. Just heartbreaking. Thanks for sharing this story.
Germany has done a great job at preserving a time period they would rather forget. In recent years, I keep telling myself to stop visiting Europe and only doing WWII history things. That doesn’t seem to be working for me but at least I did some Cold War history last time I was in Europe.
Wow history can sometimes be really bad. I think it is important to know about our past and pasts of other countries around the world. I best learn through seeing things rather than a text book. This is really interesting along with being incredibly sad that humans can treat other humans like this.
Thank you for sharing.
I loved the quote from the French! Hilarious! This is a great reminder of our past(regardless of nationality) and what can happen if evil isnt kept in check. Great post!
I don’t think I would enjoy the Gestapo prison. Sites like this are so important because it reminds us that these awful things happened and hopefully keeps history from repeating itself, but I am far too sensitive. Especially to stand in one of the tiny spaces where up to 30 people were held.
Thanks for introducing us to National Socialism Documentation Centre – we are definitely adding it to our list of places to visit in Germany. It’s sad to read about the history of this place.