[Editor’s note: I have just arrived in Israel after spending three days in Nuremberg Germany. I decided to stop in Nuremberg as a result of another story I have been working on that I will soon be publishing. This article is the first in what will be a series of articles on Nuremberg-past and present. ]

“You must try the pig knuckles when you get to Nuremberg,” said the middle-aged German man I met on my flight to Frankfurt, Germany.

“When pigs fly, that’s when I’ll eat pig knuckles,” I thought.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I don’t eat pork, (haven’t for over 25 years) and that I couldn’t imagine that the knuckles would taste very good without the pork.

When he heard I was going to be in Nuremberg for three days, he said that it’s a very nice place, that it has an old medieval city and that I’ll want to see the castle.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had no intention of seeing the castle, but was actually going to spend my time there looking at Nazi history. I planned to visit the former Nazi party rally grounds, go to the documentation centre, and sit in the Palace of Justice where the famous Nuremberg trials were held where the members of the Nazi leadership were convicted of crimes against humanity. I probably would have to skip the castle just like I would be skipping the pork knuckles.

The two hour train ride from Frankfurt to Nuremberg was quiet, swift, and the countryside was idyllic looking- green fields, rolling hills, and little towns with church steeples. Between the towns, there were swaths of forests–and as the train sped through the forests I couldn’t help but wonder whether any Jews had found refuge hiding in them during the Holocaust.

The Secrets of Nuremberg

I booked in to the Sheraton Hotel primarily because it was close to the train station and the old city of Nuremberg. It was only when I was researching another point on the internet that I came upon the fact that the hotel which was renovated in the 1990’s used to be where the Nazi press corps stayed. It was called the Frankisher Hotel and then it became the Carleton Hotel. Well, at least I found the place where journalists stayed. So here I am as Jewish press some 75 years later writing this article where the Nazi press used to stay and write.

I began searching the website “Third Reich in Ruins” and found out that the actual insignia from the Nazi era was still on the front wall of the hotel, even though it was renovated in the 1990’s. It’s an insignia with an eagle and a not completely wiped off swastika! I couldn’t find it on the front of the building so I asked the manager Victoria. I told her that the hotel had been where the Nazi press corps stayed. She said it had been planned for that, but was never was actually used for that purpose. She’s wrong. It was used for the Nazi press corps. Then I asked her if she could show me the insignia on the wall outside and I pointed out the eagle crest. She happily went out to show me and then after I took a photo of it, I told her that it was the remains of a Nazi insignia. I began to get a slightly nauseated feeling as I said it. Her face reddened.

“I didn’t know that,” she said.

I went to show her the website that explained it and then she agreed. The original shield for the Frankischer hotel bore the Eagle and the Swastika insignia. [see my photo].

“I’ve seen that site but never noticed this. When the owner comes in tomorrow, if you are here, you can ask him about it,” she said.

I didn’t think I needed to speak to the owner. What is there to say? In the 1990’s when the hotel was redone, the Nazi eagle and the partly visible swastika could have been taken down, surely. But, the owner decided to leave it up.

The building where the Nuremberg laws were first enacted was not far from my hotel. Today, it’s an office building for AOL, a company selling medical insurance my guide Eric told me. Eric, a Czech who has lived in Nuremberg for 30 years and is originally from Prague gives hour long tours on his bicycle cart. As we drove within view of the building Eric said, “Here’s where the Holocaust started.”

The original older building where the Nuremberg laws were enacted was torn down. I am not surprised by that.

Here’s what the current city guidebook of Nuremberg I bought says about the Nuremberg laws in the “Short history of Nuremberg” section.

“1935 – The “Nuremberg Laws’ are passed. These rob the Jews of their place in society and state.”

What caught my attention was the fact that nowhere in the section does it say how many Jews of Nuremberg there were when the Nuremberg laws were passed and what happened to them. Nowhere does it say how many were murdered or if any, survived. That is to be compared to the next part of the history where the guidebook says that on January 2, 1945 “Over 90% of the old Town is destroyed in an air raid. 1829 people lost their lives.” There were in fact 10,200 Jews before the Holocaust. In no other German city were more Jews killed or committed suicide than in Nuremberg. Virtually none of them survived. Notwithstanding that, the current city guide says (and I raised my eyebrows when I first read this). “The odd thing was, however, that there were fewer Nazis in the Franconian metropolis [Nuremberg] than elsewhere.”
Now ask yourself if that is really a city that has confronted its past?
Hitler chose Nuremberg as the centre for the Nazi party because it had been the most important city of the German empire in the Middle Ages, and he harkened back to the glory of those days. He built the Nazi party rally grounds to face the castle of Nuremberg, a castle which signified the city’s glory in medieval times.

King Street is where the Nazis used to parade before Hitler, the largest artery in the old city, and Eric pointed out the prominent protruding balcony of the Hotel Deutscher Kaiser (built originally for the Kaiser to stay) where Hitler would stand on the first floor balcony and wave to the adoring crowd. It’s an eerie feeling walking by it, especially if you have seen the old photos of Hitler standing there. I have seen them on the internet, and you can see them by clicking on http://www.thirdreichruins. com/nuernberg.htm

Again, there is no marking and you wouldn’t know it unless someone pointed it out to you. The hotel still functions as a hotel, because as Eric said, “Hitler just stood there, but didn’t sleep there.”

Eric explained that Hitler choose that spot since it is where the most people could gather in the old city and get a glimpse of him, with its narrow alleyways. The dark restaurant underneath the balcony is from Medieval times, around1422.

Across the street from the Hotel Deutscher Kaiser the next day I stopped at a café where a sign advertising the “Nuremberger” caught my attention. A “Nuremberger” is a sandwich made of two pork sausages and cheese. I decided not to order it.

It wasn’t too long into the tour before Eric suspected I was Jewish. It came out when I came across a pillar that said in Hebrew Lo Tirzach (Do not Murder). I was stunned; I read the Hebrew out loud and asked why it was there. In 1999, the city of Nuremberg built the Human Rights Path–a structure of thirty columns where it says “Thou shalt not murder” in many languages. Hebrew is the first one. I don’t know what I had expected to see in Nuremberg, but I hadn’t expected to see Hebrew. (I also heard Hebrew in my hotel where I was easily able to identify the four Israelis staying there.)

Eric took me to the place where the first synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis. It was on August 10, 1938 in Nuremberg. Kristallnacht came afterward.

The spot where the synagogue stood is very beautiful, next to a river and idyllic looking greenery on a street called Katzenberger Way. It’s not marked in the tourist book I bought, nor is there any mention of what happened to the Jews of Nuremberg and if any survived the Holocaust. There’s no English sign for the synagogue. There are German words and Hebrew engraved at the sides and I don’t know if I would have been able to make out that it had been a synagogue unless someone had specifically pointed it out to me.

The next day when Eric wasn’t around I returned to this outwardly serene spot and whispered the words of the kaddish (the Jewish prayer for the dead). I then strolled down Katzenberger Way, which is dotted with wild mushrooms and vines crawling up from the river, and watched students reading on the river’s edge, with the sound of rushing water behind. Since the synagogue was nearby, Jews must have lived on Katzenberger Way. I paused by the river with a knot in my stomach and that slightly nauseated feeling returned.

I asked Eric if there are any Jews living in Nuremberg– I had read that there are about 2-3 thousand mostly Russian Jews.

Eric responded, “Maybe a thousand Jews live here. Why would any Jew want to live here?”

Editor’s note: I kept on thinking about what Eric said when I stopped into a shop looking at souvenirs from Nuremberg. I couldn’t find something I could possibly want to buy, such as the coffee mugs or purses that said “I love Nuremberg” or plates with churches or the castle (the one that Hitler oriented the Nazi party rally grounds towards). In the last part of this series I will tell readers what I did buy, something I have never in my life seen before, and I doubt that any of my readers have either. Stay tuned. If you thought this article was interesting, it only gets more interesting.