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Behind Munich's stylish facades

The city has been rebuilt since the war, but remnants of its Nazi past linger. Just ask Joachim von Halasz.

July 30, 2006|Susan Spano | Times Staff Writer

We stopped at the Neues Rathaus on Marienplatz to see the inscription about Munich's World War II liberation and passed the Roman Catholic Church of St. Michael, where Father Rupert Mayer bravely preached against the Nazis. Nearby we found a plaque in the pavement at the Feldherrnhalle, commemorating four policemen killed while facing down an unruly crowd during the climax of the Beer Hall Putsch, which also claimed the lives of 16 Nazis.

Over coffee, we discussed the possibility that marking Third Reich sites might create neo-Nazi shrines, which city officials sometimes cite as a danger. But Von Halasz said that when a documentation center was opened at Hitler's alpine retreat near Berchtesgaden, about 100 miles southeast of Munich, the neo-Nazis disappeared. And recently, despite fears about giving neo-Fascists a symbolic gathering place, a plaque was erected on the site of the underground bunker in central Berlin where Hitler killed himself, all the more potent because is it is abut 600 feet from Germany's memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Most moving was our visit to the university building where the Scholls dropped White Rose leaflets, were seen and arrested. The brother and sister are well remembered here, with busts, plaques and a small display about the White Rose.

One more time before parting, I asked Von Halasz whether it might be healthier for the German people simply to let the past go. But the young author was firm.

"You have to see the sites comprehensively," he said. "You can't pick and choose. To be a full human being you have to remember both the bad and the good."

Susan Spano also writes "Postcards From Paris," at

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