Travels with Susan Spano

People, Places, Stuff


January 7, 2013

Tags: Germany, World War II, Nazis

All across Germany monuments like Berlinís Holocaust Memorial have arisen to engrave the Second World War on the mind of man. And historic sites have opened telling different chapters of the story from the birth of the National Socialist Party in Munich to concentration camps like Bergen-Belsen and Eagle's Nest, Hitlerís Bavarian mountain retreat atop a network of bunkers and tunnels built as last-ditch hideouts for top Nazi brass.

Some of these World War II memorials attract international travelers. But increasingly, it seems, others have opened in out-of-the-way places visited chiefly by Germans.

Iím thinking specifically about Vogelsgang, a Nazi site I virtually stumbled upon during a visit to Schnee Eifel National Park, a lost pocket of northern Europe where Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg meet. My sister and I were going hiking across the regionís high plateaus, cut into puzzle pieces by impounded rivers like the Urft and the Rur. One afternoon our path took us to Vogelsgang above the Urftsee reservoir.

There was a village once. But since its opening to visitors in 2006, Vogelsgang has become better known as the site of an academy for Nazi youth, part of an ambitious program begun in 1934 to train the next generation National Socialist Party leaders. Several other academies--known as Order Castles--were planned. Vogelsgang was never completed because manpower and materials were diverted to build Hitlerís Siegfried Wall, part of which runs through the national park.

Even so, Vogelsgang is impressive, a 12-acre complex poised at the edge of a cliff, with terraces and staircases leading to amphitheaters, parade grounds and sports facilities below. The ensemble of barracks, dining halls, class rooms and auditoriums is a sterling, if eerie example of the Nazi building style which took notes from the monumental architecture of ancient Sumeria, Greece and Rome, all supposed cradles of the Aryan people. Cologne architect Clemens Klotz added Teutonic carved roof beams, lattice windows and dormers along with dour stone reliefs of naked horseback riders, swastikas and imperial eagles.

In this strange, isolated place elite Nazi cadets--or junkers--studied racial theory, history, ideology, military science and sports. Religion was replaced by unquestioning obedience to the Reich, worshipped in a church-like Cult Room with a statue of the archetypal Aryan man at what would otherwise have been the altar.

Between 1936 and 1938 the Vogelsgang Order Castle graduated 800 junkers who, like other young people, fueled the German war machine. When the Allies crossed the Rhine it was occupied by American and British forces, then turned over to Belgium as an extra-territorial military installation that could be visited only by special permit.

Now young people have returned to Vogelsgang, most of them born after the war, come to learn and teach their children about Nazi Era. Seeing them there made me hopeful that the past is not being forgotten in the new Germany.
From the first annual SPEAK UP! contest, June 23, 2018, Muhanga, Rwanda

Syracuse Archaeological Museum, Sicily

Proshyan School bathroom with water tank

Takar and Kataro are my favorite Armenia reds

School time in Armenia.

Garni Temple, Armenia

Big Sur from Soberanes Point


Artichoke Pickers by Henriette Shore

On the way to the beach

Jalama Beach, CA

Hello, little sea urchin!

Famous Jalama Beach Burger

Three by Peter Hessler

Spring time on the Big Sur Coast


Jalama Beach, CA

Motya Charioteer. Image from

Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA

Homesick for Rome

Therme Vals in Switzerland

At Vogelsgang

National Socialist Party poster from Vogelsgang

Palm Springs

Image courtesy of Tylas at English Wikipedia

Vintage Naples Historic District

From Palm Cottage

Borobudur frieze; Buddha's life

Borobudur at sunrise

Shikellamy State Park in Pennsylvania

Tacoma Narrows Bridge

Image courtesy of Politics and Prose

Image courtesy of John Wehrheim.

Lotusland in Montecito, CA

Ganna Walska of Lotusland

Image courtesy of Flickr user ViaMoi.

Conques Church. Image courtesy of Flickr user Seligr.

Weiming Lake, Peking University. Image courtesy of Flickr user ImGump.

The Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel near Santa Barbara

Agrodome, Rotorua, New Zealand. Image courtesy of Flickr user _gem_.

Vandalized images at Painted Rock

Painted Rock, Carrizo Plain National Monument

Mesa Verde National Park. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons user BenFrantzDale.

A map of Chicago, Illinois, imprinted in 1913 from the United States Geographical Surveyís historical topographic map collection. Image courtesy of the USGS.

Image courtesy of Flickr user hattiesburgmemory.

Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro. Image courtesy of Flickr user alobos flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr user joiseyshowaa.

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Selected Works

Nonfiction, Travel, Human Interest
A new collection of travel essays by Susan Spano
Tracking Colette in Paris and Burgundy
A draught sinks Lake Powell, revealing lost wonders of Glen Canyon
Rome's Most Roman Neighborhood
Studying Mandarin in Beijing
Around the world and back to New York
Nonfiction Book
Divorce. Why do we do it? And what does it do to us? fourteen prominent writers have pondered these questions and have set down heir thoughts and personal stories, in this gathering of sometimes irreverent and always intelligent essays. "A disarmingly candid, invaluable collection." --Publishers Weekly
"Anyone who doubts that men, too, suffer in divorce should be required to read this." --Glamour Magazine "A rare, unusually focused anthology of original essays that both entertains and instructs." --Publishers Weekly

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