My dream of publishing my first book – my memoir — is about to come true! I spent five years writing it, and I spent another year suffering through twenty or so rejections (and even more instances of dead silence) from literary agents and publishing houses. Finally, after many emotional ups and downs, I decided to publish my book on my own (not a quick and easy project either :-)). So, in a matter of weeks, The Education of a Traitor will be available from Amazon—first in a Kindle edition and later in print. How do I feel about this? I’m scared and excited. After all, it’s my baby that I’m releasing into the world! I hope it will find readers.
P.S. If you’d like to be notified when my book is released, you may click here.
And now, “Travel 101: Nuremberg“
Never in my life did I plan to travel to Nuremberg.For one thing, as far as I knew, it was a relatively ordinary German town, remembered mostly for the Nuremberg Trials, a series of military tribunals held by the Allied forces after World War II. For another thing, it’s hard for me, a Jew, to visit places whose prominence is based on their Nazi past. Yet there I was, with a group of tourists who were brought there by their passion for travel, and who were kept together by Tünde, our energetic Hungarian tour director, and Giorgio, our Italian bus driver.
It was an English-speaking tour, although we had two South-Korean young women, six Lebanese middle-aged women, a Filipino family with an adult son (all now living in California), a Brazilian and a Portuguese married to each other (now living in Florida), quite a few Brits (some native to England and some brought there from Greece or Spain by marriage or other vagaries of life), lots of Australians, one former Russian (me) and several American couples – 47 people in all.
We were traveling to Prague (our tour started in Munich), and Nuremberg was just a convenient place for our bus to stop and for us to have lunch in the center of this medieval Bavarian town. Tünde gave us a brief introduction to the city, and Giorgio dropped us off in the Old Town. At first, we walked around the ornate Beautiful Fountain (that is its actual name!), densely surrounded by tourists trying to reach two golden rings welded within the fountain’s iron fence. (A legend says that if you turn the “golden ring” and make a wish, it will come true.) Then we spent several minutes gazing at the prominent facade of the Church of Our Lady, whose mechanical clock comes to life every day at noon, and, finally, wandered up the street to Kaiseburg Castle.
There was no lack of cafes and restaurants, many spilling invitingly onto the streets, offering beer, sausages and other German staples. Everything looked clean and appealing: the signs, the potted flowers on the window sills and the waitresses’ uniforms. After lunch, I thought briefly about visiting the Albrecht-Durer House, but our time in Nuremberg was up and soon we boarded our bus, ready to move on.
“That was a very cute town,” somebody said behind me.
“Sure,” I thought. “Today it is. But what was it in the past?”
Nuremberg first rose to prominence in the Middle Ages, as a key point on trade routes. The first big Jewish pogrom there took place in 1298. Some 700 people were killed, and a church and a city hall were built where they used to live. In the late Middle Ages, Nuremberg became known as a center of science, printing and invention. There, Albrecht Durer produced the first printed star charts, Nicolas Copernicus published his work, and baroque composer Johann Pachelbel studied music.
In the 20th century, the reputation of Nuremberg changed dramatically. From 1927 to 1938, it served as a playground for Nazi Party conventions (the Nuremberg Rallies), and quite a few buildings were built there to accommodate them. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, these rallies became important propaganda events. At one of them Hitler announced anti-Semitic laws, which took German citizenship away from all Jews; and the pogrom of Kristallnacht, a precursor to Hitler’s Final Solution, was crueler in Nuremberg than anywhere else in Germany.
During World War II, the city served as a site for military district headquarters and production. Airplanes, submarines and tank engines were built there, with many factories using slave labor (a branch of the Flossenburg concentration camp was in Nuremberg as well). After the war, Nuremberg was selected for conducting the International Military Tribunals (a choice based largely on the city’s importance for the Nazi party), where high-ranking Nazi officials, officers, doctors, and judges were prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Nuremberg was heavily bombed during the war – a fact many of today’s tourists wouldn’t know, since most of the city was rebuilt (with the exception of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which were left in ruins) and its prominent Medieval buildings reconstructed. Today, the city boasts Germany’s most famous Christmas market, the world’s largest toy fair, and many cultural events — from folk festivals to open-air classical concerts. Tourists come from all over the world, eager to inhale the medieval charm of the Old Town, try new foods, and generally enjoy themselves.
Nuremberg is a city in one of Europe’s richest countries – a status Germany achieved not by conquering other nations and erasing whole populations from the face of the earth, but by implementing a good education system, by supporting businesses, maintaining a stable political system, and encouraging a strong work ethic.
Ironic, isn’t it? So, what was it all about: the fighting, the deaths and the suffering of so many? Was it just a fluke? A lesson to remember? If so, how long must we remember? Fifty years, a hundred, or more? And is remembering always a good thing? Centuries-old ethnic and religious conflicts still result in horrific events even today. How strange it must be to be a German tourist, since so many places still preserve the evidence of their country’s infamous past.
Not Nuremberg, though. There, everything is minimized. In fact, the memorial to the Nuremberg Trials was not opened there until November 2010. Well, who can blame them for not wanting to stir up the past?
It was time for us, too, to move on – as in fact we did, our tour bus rolling through the pretty Bavarian landscape, taking us to Prague.