Simple bus ride to Train Station
Arriving in Cologne was so simple today. We left our hostel – and our new friend Wolfgang at about 7:00 am this morning. The bus ride was easy. I had forgotten that I could use Google Translate to write out questions and simply show them to people. So . . . I wrote out that I needed the bus driver to tell us when to get off for the transfer to the train station bus. He nodded and told me the name of the stop. Easy.
We got to the Train station in Aachen earlier than we thought and I was able to get us on a train an hour earlier than I’d thought we could. I can’t begin to tell you how easy it is to travel with the Eurail Global Pass! With the Rail Planner app (put out by Eurail), I just find the train we need, add it to our profiles and it prints the ticket digitally – which the conductor scans and voila – we’re done!
Say that fast 3 times . . . It was about a 15 minute walk from the train station in downtown Cologne. As we exited the train station though, we caught our first glimpse of the Cologne Cathedral. Construction on the Cathedral began August 15, 1248. It opened in 1880 and is still being completed today! Needless to say, it is a magnificent, ostentatious, remarkably beautiful building.
Words fail me. After dropping our luggage at the room, we headed out to the El De Haus. Pronounced “L D House,” it was named after the owner of the building, Leopold Dahmen. The design was for the building to be a new location for both residential and commercial use in the early 1930s. Just after its completion in 1935, the entire building was leased by the Nazis and became the Cologne Gestapo Headquarters until the end of the war in 1945. During the Gestapo tenure, there were over 1,800 people put to death there at the hands of the Nazis. Mostly Jews and Russian Prisoners of War. I’ll show some photos and then try to comment.
We spent several hours in the El De Haus, pausing at most of the 300 spots, each of which had audio commentary which we listened to through a hand-held player describing the Nazi rise to power and the ultimate control Hitler had over the country and the people. It was staggering.
I'm in you, you're in me
One thing I didn’t know was that if you joined the Nazi party early, you were rewarded with stipends, pensions, government positions and other “rewards” for loyalty. That’s how so many people rose to power in positions far beyond their ability. Having read Bonhoeffer’s biography, I knew there was a huge effort to devalue lives of faith. Obviously Hitler hated and killed Jews, but he also hated and persecuted Christians who wouldn’t accept his dogma about race (Aryan purity) and the State control of everything. The first photo above is of an altar in a church, and behind it is the statement Hitler made, co-opting Jesus. Hitler said, “I’m in you and you’re in me!”
The second photo is a record of Jews killed on a single day, which also included the SS police rounding up and ushering Jews into a synagogue – where they were locked inside and the building set on fire. 800 people died in that single synagogue fire.
The third photo shows the Nazi power in Cologne, where the citizenry came out in support of Hitler, the Nazi Party and their hatred of everything Jewish.
Twice a month
The last of the above four images shows the gallows, built in the very courtyard we visited. Hangings were conducted twice a month, every month beginning in 1944 and continued until the Allies freed Cologne on March 6, 1945. 7 people were hung at each of those “appointments.” When Cologne was freed by the allies, they found hundreds of bodies of murdered Jews and Russian prisoners who couldn’t be buried quickly enough.
Standing on the actual sites where hundreds of people, humans “made in God’s image” were murdered, does something to you. Realizing that some people can become so callous to other human life is mind boggling. It’s actually kind of scary to realize how deeply evil men can become when they see themselves as their own gods. When there’s no standard against which to measure morality – other than what they think is right and good – anything goes. Murdering Jews; murdering Russian prisoners of war; murdering Romani people (gypsies).
Equally mind boggling is how otherwise good people bought into the Nazi propaganda machine either out of fear or ignorance. God help us when we reject Him and make ourselves god in His place.