Sights and Sound-Offs: A Jew in Munich
Six sweet days in Bavaria
From the Alps, Oktoberfest, and exploring Munchen
Munich is in many ways an idyllic European city. It's a place with rich history and is mired in tradition, both of which show themselves in everything from the winding, cobbled streets to the more socially reserved locals. Even the very festival that brought me to Munich is hundreds of years in the making. I could not have picked a better place to be for the onset of autumn, especially since our own Indian Summer was well underway in 90* San Francisco.
Despite the tradition, Munich bares the scars of a much more recent past: World War II. Bares may be too strong of a word; anytime Munich is forced to confront the Nazi era and the terrible events that came with it, Munich winces and turns its face away until it's over. Whether this is due to genuine remorse or embarrassment is up for debate.
One place where this was apparent was at Munich Residenz, a museum I highly recommend as a must-see. The compound is a series of mansions, courtyards, and gardens built by Bavarian royalty from the 16th century on. It's not only filled with beauty, like the Grotto room, but depicts the narrative of hundreds of years of rule very well. This particularly interested me because in high school, I dedicated months of my life to researching how King Ludwing the II of Bavaria's obsession with Richard Wagner contributed to the decline and eventual bankruptcy of his country for my senior thesis. If you look closely at the plaques and listen to the last sentences of the audio tour, many of the rooms have been 'reconstructed due to damage in 1942.' Rather massively important events in Germany's and Munich's history are glossed over with a cheap reconstruction of what once stood and a quick quip noting the year. If this isn't telling of national sentiment, I'm not sure what is.
When I brought this up to my friend living in the city, he retorted that the marks of the Nazi era were everywhere. One example he brought up were some statues in the English Gardens (a beautiful treasure in the city, by the way) were dedicated to Holocaust victims. He argued that Munich was reminded of the 20th century every day, if one took the time to notice.
I spent hours wandering through the peaceful yet lively gardens and saw many statues, none of which happened to mention anything related to WW2 or the Holocaust. For those living in Munich who desire to focus on their rich and storied past and ignore this blip in time, subtleties like the occasional statue may keep these thoughts in the public consciousness a satisfactory amount. As a Jew on her first visit to Munich, the remnants were difficult to find even for an active seeker.