Munich: A Step Back in Time

This blog post has been somewhat delayed, as I would have liked to include it nearer to my posts about Dachau. Nevertheless, I wish to share some of my experiences in the beautiful and historic city of Munich with readers.

For me, the timing of Laurence Rees' latest documentary series on Hitler was excellent (for a review of the series, please click here). The series paid much attention to Munich and included shots and narration focused on certain parts of the city. I was, therefore, extremely enthusiastic to visit these places when I travelled to Munich in early December 2012.
There is so much to see and do in Munich, and it has a rich culture. I visited a number of famous beer halls, tried on the traditional durndl costume and ate my fill of Bratwurst. In this blog, however, I will detail the historical landmarks and sites of importance that I visited.

The first site that must be mentioned is the wonderful Mariensplatz, a large square in the centre of the city. It is popular with tourists due to the Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall - although it is not so new, having been completed over 100 years ago). The building boasts beautiful Gothic architecture and excellent views of the city from the top of the tower, which is open to visitors.
The Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is situated very close by, on another side of the square. It is renowned as the venue that Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister, gave the speech that precluded the terrible Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).

Marienplatz during the Beer Hall Putsch, 1923. The Neues Rathaus is in the background.

The Neues Rathaus, 2012. With permission from Matthew Johnson.

Although Nazism is a large part of Munich's history, it is its early days that it is best known for. In 1913, 24-year-old Adolf Hitler, an unknown failed artist, left Vienna and settled in Munich. He volunteered to join the Bavarian Army during the Second World War and returned to Munich afterwards, signing up to the German Workers' Party (later changing its name to National Socialist German Workers' Party - the Nazis). His strong anti-Semitic beliefs, passionate public speeches and charisma ensured his ascension through the party, until he decided to try and seize power in 1923. This later became known as the Beer Hall Putsch, or Hitlerputsch. This failed attempt culminated in Odeonsplatz, and Hitler was later put in prison for his part in the Putsch.

Odeonsplatz, therefore, was another favoured destination. In 1923, it was the scene of an attempted revolution, with shots fired and several policemen and Party members killed. A plaque remains in Odeonsplatz, paying respect to the four policemen killed (see pictures below). During the Nazi regime, Odeonsplatz became the site of an annual ceremony, where the 'martyrs' of the Party were remembered and celebrated. When we went, tourists and businessmen walked round with umbrellas, shielding themselves from the snowfall. The middle of the square was covered in Christmas trees for sale. It was almost hard to believe that such a peaceful-looking place was once the scene of violence and uprising.

Photos used with permission from Euan Wilson.

A little walk away from Odeonsplatz is the Nationaltheater (National Theatre), Munich's opera house. It has stood on the site since 1810, although was bombed heavily during the Second World War and largely rebuilt. Hitler was said to be a fan of opera, and confessed to visiting the opera house frequently to watch the works of composers such as Wagner. This is not surprising when one considers the anti-Semitic undertones in much of Wagner's work, something that Hitler would certainly have identified with. (See picture above).

The last spot worth mentioning is Königsplatz, home to Munich's more cultural area, including the Kunstareal. In the early days of the Nazi party, however, it was better known for being home to the Nazi headquarters, or the Führerbau. This building and another, almost identical building opposite still remain. The former is now a school for music and theatre. It can just be made out behind the trees in the picture below.

Used with permission from Matthew Johnson.

With much of its architecture and sites of importance unchanged, it was easy to feel like I was seeing Munich as Hitler would have seen it during the early 20th century. One can also ask so many questions about the events that happened here, and how, if things had occurred differently, Hitler and his Party's future might have turned out.

With thanks to: Euan Wilson, Matthew Johnson.