Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Travel Wish List: Historic WWII Sites

On this day in 1939, Germany, under the rule of Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland, ultimately starting WWII.  

Obviously, I wasn't around during WWII, neither were my parents.  All four of my grandparents were alive during this time, however, and one of my grandfathers fought in the European Theater.  Although it is a time I did not witness firsthand, it is a time period that has always held my interest and that I often think about.

I have a personal list of five historic WWII sites that I wish to see in my lifetime.  I have been fortunate to have already visited several of them (as denoted by a checked box before the site name).  I am still on a quest to see them all, though.

þ Anne Frank House - Amsterdam, Netherlands
For nearly two years, a young Jewish girl named Anne Frank, along with her parents, sister Margot, and four others lived in a secret annex in the building where her father once worked hiding from the Nazis.  Anne chronicled her experience in a diary she received for her thirteenth birthday.  The group was later betrayed by an unknown informant and all were transported to concentration camps.  Anne died in 1945, probably of typhus.  Anne's father, Otto, was the only occupant of the secret annex that survived the concentration camps.  Anne's diary was salvaged by one of the Dutch citizens who assisted in their hiding after they were discovered, arrested, and transported to camps.  The diary was returned to Otto Frank after the war and was published in 1947.
Why I am glad that I saw this:  I skimmed Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl when I was in junior high.  Although the details of the book didn't really make much of an impression on me for obvious reasons, the 1980 movie starring Melissa Gilbert did.  I remember, as I watched the movie, thinking how in the world those people survived in that cramped hidden apartment for 2 years. Seeing the secret annex in person made the incident very real for me.  It was no longer a story I had heard.  It was no longer just images that I saw on a TV screen.  It was a real place where a real family lived in hiding, fearing for their lives.  

þ Atomic Bombing Site - Nagasaki, Japan
The bombing of the Japanese city of Nagasaki was the second and last time an atomic bomb has been used on earth.  Although the Japanese did not officially surrender until September 2, 1945, the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9 is what prompted the Japanese to inevitably surrender.
This column marks the epicenter of where the atomic bomb exploded above.

Why I am glad that I saw this:
This is where the second and last atomic bomb was detonated on this planet. The Nagasaki bombing also prompted a quicker unconditional surrender by Japan, thus ending the most deadliest war in human existence.  That is significant.  For more on my visit to Nagasaki, click here.

¨ Auschwitz Concentration Camp - Poland
Originally built to house Polish political prisoners, Auschwitz evolved into the largest network of concentration and extermination camps used by the Nazi regime during WWII in the implementation of Third Reich's "Final Solution," a systematic plan to eradicate the Jewish race from all Nazi occupied land.  An estimated 1.1 million Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Romani, homosexuals, and other perceived enemies died in Auschwitz, making Auschwitz the most notorious of all the Nazi concentration camps and the most commonly recognized symbol of the Holocaust. 
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum is located near the city of Oświęcim, approximately 40 miles from Krakow.

Why I wish to see this:
I expect a visit to Auschwitz, or any concentration camp for that matter, to be a very solemn experience.  That alone may dissuade many visitors from ever stepping foot on those hallowed grounds.  I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to see any concentration camp, although Auschwitz is my first choice because, due to its size and notoriety, it is the most well known of all the Nazi concentration camps.  I feel it is important to see, acknowledge, and remember the places that contributed to the greatest atrocity in the history of mankind so that we will never forget what happened and hopefully prevent history from repeating itself. 

þ The Beaches of Normandy - France
The Invasion of Normandy, or D-Day, was the invasion and establishment of Western Allied forces in France.  The invasion, the largest amphibious invasion to ever take place, started on June 6, 1944.  D-Day was a crucial point in the war because prior to that, the Nazi's only had to wage war along the eastern front; western Europe was under their control.  When the Allies invaded, everything changed.  The invasion also provided the Allies with momentum for the rest of the war.

Why I am glad I saw this:
As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather fought in the European Theater during WWII.  Although he was not among the 156,000 who stormed the beaches that day, he did arrive via the Normandy coast a few months later.  It was important for me to see that.  It was also important for me to see the place where such a monumental event happened, an event that truly served as game changer in the war.

¨ Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, & the USS Missouri - Honolulu, Hawaii

In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor.  In approximately 2 hours, the Japanese destroyed 20 naval vessels and 200 airplanes, killed 2000+ servicemen, and wounded an additional 1000 more.  This unprovoked, sneak-attack abruptly ended a long period of American isolationism and marked the United States' entry into WWII.
The USS Arizona Memorial, where 1,102 U.S. Navy sailors and Marines are forever entombed.  Via

The USS Missouri (left) and the USS Arizona Memorial (right)

Why I wish to see this:

Even though WWII had already been raging in Europe for two years, Pearl Harbor is essentially the birthplace where the U.S. story of WWII begins.  I think it is fitting to essentially see where it all began (Pearl Harbor) and where it officially ended (USS Missouri).

Have you visited any of the sites included in this wish list?  Is there a site that you think should have been included but was not?  Please feel free to comment below.  

Thanks for stopping by!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...