Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stuttgart's World War II Legacy

Stuttgart's city center destroyed by Allied bombs (http://www.macalester.edu)

You can't be in Germany and not think about the effect the war had on this country and its people.  It seems to me that the German people still very much have a suffocating guilt that they are still dealing with.  Very few people are alive today that had anything to do with the war, but one's parents' or grandparents' generation is not that far off.

When doing our various tours around Germany, we see countless memorials and, let's call them "caveats."  What I mean by that is, we'll walk through a beautifully historic town center that begs one to believe that you're taking an authentic glimpse into the deep past and what you're seeing is quite similar to what people saw hundreds of years ago.  The truth is, nearly every medium-to-large city in Germany was severely damaged, if not completely annihilated, by the war.  Thus, much of what tourists see are carefully rebuilt replicas of what city centers used to look like, pre-war.

Some cities, like Frankfurt, decided to "embrace the future" and build modern.  Others decided to harken back to a better and more romantic time and thus rebuilt their cities in the medieval, Gothic or baroque styles.  However, this is not to say that 100% of Germany was destroyed.  Thousands of historic sites escaped the war unscathed, specifically castles, because they're often found on remote hillsides and were never actively targeted by the Allies.

As for Stuttgart, there was no such luck for it's residents.  The city experienced 53 air raids culminating in 142,000 air-dropped bombs, 4,590 deaths with15 million cubic meters of rubble left in their wake.  Something that most people may not think about is, what did they do with all that rubble and debris?  Well, Lori and I saw Stuttgart's solution to that problem today: they created a gigantic man-made hill.  The tallest point in Stuttgart is a hill largely made of rubble, piled up from the city below.  The original hill grew by 40 meters (131 feet) from the debris.  Today, it's a park that you can walk up, which offers some of the best views of the city.  Crowning the peak is a steel cross with large pieces of building facades surrounding it.  It's quite eerie and felt very solemn.  There's a plaque attached to one piece of rubble (picture below) which roughly translates as "this mountain piled up after World War II from the rubble of the city stands as a memorial to the victims and a warning to the living."  

Almost to the top; the steel memorial cross

Pieces of building facades

A warning and a memorial

More rubble

Whole columns, decorative facades and the like

Steel beams form a cross atop the hill

Outstretched wings mimic the cross

Nearly half of Stuttgart was completely destroyed

On a more cheery note, we ventured over to a large city park that simply blew us away.  It had all the elements of a perfect city gathering place.  Amazing playgrounds and a petting zoo, complete with llamas, pigs, goats, ponies, and donkeys.  Meanwhile, several large ponds/lakes had a wide array of ducks, geese and even flamingos!  Germany definitely knows how to do parks!

Little train making its way through a park paradise

Pretty flowers and a pretty lady!

I guess I like taking bee pictures now

Espresso with a view

A climbable tower in the park

Flamingos in a city park!

Stretching the wings

There were several flower gardens throughout the park

Shy donkey


  1. Can i ask you some questions? waylonsmith13@gmail.com

  2. I believe you were at Killesburg Park, which, when it was a trade fair center, was used as an assembly point for the city Jews before they were transported to concentration camps.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Sorry, for some reason I didn't see your message until now. You are right about the park and its history. Being at such a beautiful place knowing the history is an incredible juxtaposition.

  3. What park or place in stuttgart is this ... my daughter visiting stuttgart on aschool exchange program n iam wondering what all places she can visit. Thanks

    1. Hi Smita, the latter location was at Killesburg Park, which is a truly amazing city park. The first location was at Birkenkopf, also known as "Rubble Hill." You get a great view of downtown Stuttgart up there!