Whether you're a history buff or looking to add some depth to your next trip, Europe offers a wide range of World War II (WWII) battlefield sites, museums, and tours devoted to the study of the activities leading up to armed conflict and the war.
Here are some ways to recall the war, remember the victims, and study how it all came about.
Museums and Memorials
- Amsterdam—The Anne Frank House: Amsterdam is the site of the house where Anne Frank reflected upon the fates that landed her in a dim annex of her father's jam factory hiding out from the Nazi forces. You can see the writer's house, now turned into a biographical museum.
- Berlin—House of Wannsee Conference: The Wannsee Conference was the meeting held at a villa in Wannsee, Berlin, on January 20, 1942, to discuss the "Final Solution," the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jews. You can visit the villa in Wannsee where this all took place.
- Berlin—The Holocaust Memorial: The Holocaust Memorial, also called the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is a field of concrete slabs that were designed to create a confusing feeling. The artist's goal was to create a scene that appeared orderly, but at the same time was unreasonable. At the memorial, you can also find a list of about three million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Americans weren't alone in fighting WWII. Just take a look behind the scenes of the resistance movement in Europe in museums in the following places.
- Copenhagen—The Museum of Danish Resistance 1940 to 1945: This museum was closed due to a fire in 2013. The contents were saved, including the crude radios and other apparatus used by resistance fighters, and will be on display in a new museum when construction is complete. It is planned to reopen in Spring 2020.
- Amsterdam—The National War and Resistance Museum: Here, visitors can see an in-depth view of how the Dutch resisted the oppression through strikes, protests, and more. This museum is located in a former Jewish social club. Combine a visit here with a trip to the Anne Frank House. Read more about the top Amsterdam museums for WWII.
- Paris—Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation: This is a memorial to the 200,000 people deported from Vichy, France, to Nazi camps during the war. It's located on the site of a former morgue.
- Champigny-sur-Marne, France—Musée de la Résistance Nationale: This is France's Museum of National Resistance. It houses documents, objects, testimonies from French fighters, and their families that help tell the French side of the resistance story.
You can also visit many of the famous battlegrounds in the Normandy region of France. This link also provides info about where to visit, how to get there, and where to stay.
The Origins of the Nazi Power
All of the above is nothing without the remembrance of how things got started.
One of the pivotal moments in the Nazi rise to power was the burning of the Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament.
Amid an economic crisis, a foreign dissenter had begun to launch attacks on important buildings. Warnings of investigators were ignored, until the Reichstag, the German legislative building, and symbol of Germany, started to burn. Dutch terrorist Marius van der Lubbe was arrested for the deed and, despite denying he was a communist, was declared one by Hermann Goering. Goering later announced that the Nazi Party planned "to exterminate" German communists.
Hitler, seizing the moment, declared an all-out war on terrorism and two weeks later the first detention center was built in Oranianberg to hold the suspected allies of the terrorist. Within four weeks of the "terrorist" attack, legislation was pushed through that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to lawyers. Police could search houses without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.
You can visit the Reichstag today. A controversial glass dome over the plenary hall was added and has today become one of Berlin's most recognized landmarks.
You can also visit Hitler's Munich tour for an insight into the origins of the National Socialism movement. You can easily combine it with a visit to the Dachau memorial.