Capital city of Bavaria, which was once a kingdom of its own and is now the largest of the Federal Republic of Germany
's constituent regions/states (Länder). These days, Munich is more famous for beer festivals with oompah music and lederhosen, but the city also earns its place on the dark tourism map, mostly through having been the "capital of the movement", i.e. that of the Nazis
, from the early 1920s through to the end of WWII
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
More background info:
Munich was in fact "officially" declared the "capital of the movement" ('Hauptstadt der Bewegung') by Adolf Hitler
himself. It was here that his Nazi
) was founded in 1920, and it was here that the first attempt at seizing power took place in the "Hitler Putsch" of 1923. It failed and Hitler was "imprisoned" (comfortably) near Munich, nominally for five years, but he only did nine months' time. During that time he wrote, or rather dictated to his secretary Rudolf Hess, his infamous manifesto "Mein Kampf", It is, by the way, an exceptionally shoddy piece of near unreadable writing – not even counting its abominable contents.
Later, after Hitler had successfully come to power in 1933, Munich became a kind of headquarters for the Nazis, even though the official government of the country as such took place from Berlin
, of course. But the party HQ remained in Munich (see here
), and it was also in Munich that the Nazis had their first "shrines" to their "heroes", i.e. those killed in the failed putsch of 1923. Here they would hold their pompous ceremonies involving torches, guidons, goose-stepping and all … the sort of stuff that was later put to even greater effect in Nuremberg
The first examples of Nazi architecture were also erected here. Hitler
himself made many appearances in Munich's big beer cellars giving his typically invective speeches.
Munich also gave its name to the Munich Agreements, or 'Munich Accords', of 1938, when the French
prime ministers meekly allowed Hitler to annex the Czech
Sudetenland in a misguided and mistaken effort of "appeasement" in order to secure "peace for our time" (Chamberlain) – which instead, of course, as soon after became only too clear, made Hitler only stronger and more determined to go for all-out war.
It was also here in Munich, however, that significant internal resistance against the Nazis was mounted: the famous White Rose movement, associated mainly with Hans and Sophie Scholl, operated at Munich University (see White Rose Memorial Museum
One of the nearly successful assassination attempts on Hitler
's life was made in Munich too, in November 1939, when the lone assassin Georg Elser planted a bomb in the Bürgerbräukeller beer cellar next to Hitler's lectern. Hitler only escaped the blast because he left prematurely – the bomb went off minutes after Hitler had hastily left to carry on organizing his war on France. Had he continued delivering his speech for the usual length of time, he would almost certainly have been blown to smithereens and Europe would most probably have been spared its greatest catastrophe … Elser, however, was quickly captured and imprisoned (at first) in Sachsenhausen
concentration camp and was executed at Dachau
in April 1945, just before the end of the war.
Dachau is a small town some 10 miles (16 km) outside Munich, and it was here that in fact the very first of the Nazi concentration camps
was set up – it therefore has is own full-length entry here
As if all this heavy load of Nazi legacy wasn't enough Munich also has another couple of significant dark blots in its (post-war) 20th century history: during the 1972 Olympics, a number of Israeli athletes were taken hostage by a Palestinian terrorist organization. In a botched attempt by German police forces at freeing them all hostages, a police officer and five of the kidnappers were killed at Fürstenfeldbruck air force base near Munich. It was one of the early and darkest chapters in Germany
's prolonged period of terrorism in the 1970s. It also triggered one of Israel
's secret service Mossad's infamous retaliation operations, provocatively named "Operation Wrath of God". Both also featured in Steven Spielberg’s much-discussed 2005 movie "Munich".
It was however the bombing attack on the Oktoberfest of 1980, in which 13 people were killed and over 200 injured, many of them seriously, that stands as the worst terrorist attack within Germany
. The alleged perpetrator, who had extreme right-wing connections, was killed in the blast too – whether he had indeed been the lone villain as was officially concluded, has however always remained controversial ... more or less wild conspiracy theories included. Anyway, several requests to have the case reopened were rejected even in recent years. The current memorial at the site of the bombing was inaugurated as late as in 2008.
What there is to see (and where): Two places are given their own separate chapters here, both have to do with Munich’s association with Nazism:
Also related to the Nazi
legacy is the "Feldherrnhalle
" on Odeonsplatz. This was the place where the Nazis worshipped their "heroes" (meaning: those killed in the unsuccessful 1923 Hitler Putsch), though today nothing at all reminds the uninitiated passer-by of the fact this place once served such a function. Back then, citizens passing by were required to salute the building with the usual right-hand salute. A side street nearby, Viscardigasse, was the only way for people to get past the Feldherrnhalle without directly passing it so that they could proceed without the Nazi salute. This street, then called "cop-out alley
", is now marked by bronze cobblestones snaking along the first 20 yards or so of the street from the corner facing the Feldherrnhalle.
Along Arcisstraße a monument of a man and a horse bears witness to WWII
by way of being riddled with bullet holes. A plaque points this out. It's called "Wounds of Remembrance Memorial
". A similarly marked plain brick wall with bullet holes can also be found at the university on the corner of Ludwigstraße and Schellingstraße.
For those into technical museums, the gigantic Deutsches Museum
, located on an island in the river south of the old city centre, must not be missed! It is one of the largest institutions of its kind worldwide – you can spend days here exploring it all. For the dark tourist it has various war-related bits and pieces, including a V2
-rocket in the stairwell(!), as well as sections on e.g. nuclear energy.
In the old city centre, the City Museum on St-Jakobs-Platz has a section about Munich's Nazi past – and opposite a more recent Jewish museum is to be found.
Of the many beer halls that the Nazis used for their rallies and propaganda events in Munich, many have been destroyed; a simple plaque at Rosenheimer Straße identifies the former site of the Bürgerbräukeller, for instance, where Georg Elser's failed assassination attempt on Hitler took place (near the corner with Schleibingerstraße).
One of Munich's premier tourist spots, however, the famous and immensely popular Hofbräuhaus
, not only still stands and does good business, there's even a trace of its Nazi past (the Nazi party
was formed here): namely in the form of a kind-of stylized swastika shape that now is part of the somewhat remodelled ceiling paintings, in the typical Bavarian blue-and-white chequered pattern .. but look up closely and you can still make out the basic swastika shape all the same.
These and various other Nazi-related buildings/sites, including the apartment houses where Hitler
himself used to live, are dotted around and many are part of the thematic guided walks offered by various local operators, called "(Hitler and the) Third Reich Tours
" or something like this. You'll find leaflets in practically every hotel or tourist information centre.
Those who are really into that sort of thing, and would prefer to trace Hitler's and the Nazis' steps independently, can refer to the Munich chapter in Chuck Thompson's "World War II Sites – European Theater"
, or Maik Kopleck's "Munich 1933-1945" edition of the German PastFinder series published by Ch.Links Verlag.
An unusual trace from Nazi times is the “Goldene Bar” inside the Haus der Kunst (‘House of Art’). The latter is an early example of typical Nazi architecture that survived the war and is again an art gallery. The ‘Golden Bar’ inside this building still has its original gold mosaic wall decorations. Images portray sources of wine and spirits around the world creating an image of internationalism that rather jars with the Nazis’ extreme nationalism. It’s worth popping in.
By far the darkest and most significant site of that sort that Munich has to offer, if, however, not actually in Munich itself, but east of a small town some 10 miles (15 km) north of the city: Dachau. There are tours departing from Munich to the site, but you can just as well get there independently.
Of Munich's dark sites that are not in any way Nazi or WWII related, in particular the sites of the 1972 Olympics terrorist hostage drama and massacre, only a couple of memorial plaques can be found: One is located in the Olympiapark itself, ca. three and a half miles (6km) to the north of the city centre (easily reached by metro). The other, also complemented by a memorial, is to be found at the former Fürstenfeldbruck air base, which is now decommissioned and has provisionally been turned into a small-scale civilian airfield. It lies some 15 miles (25 km) west of Munich. This is where the deadly shoot-out finale of the drama took place. The town can be reached by regional metro train, S 8, from Munich.
The memorial to the victims of the Oktoberfest bombing in 1980 is to be found at the northern entrance to the "Wies'n", as the Oktoberfest and its venue are locally known. The memorial consists of a semi-circular rusty iron wall with holes in it that are made to look like they're the result of a bomb blast. At the centre point of the monument stands a column marker with the names of the dead engraved on the sides. It's a place for a moment of quiet contemplation before indulging in the beery madness of the funfair/festival beyond the entrance …
in the south of Germany
, near the foothills of the Alps.
Access and costs: easy and not necessarily expensive.
getting to Munich is easy, by air, rail, or road. It is the hub in southern Germany
, so in a way all roads lead to Munich down there. Regular scheduled as well as budget airlines serve Munich's Franz-Josef-Strauss Airport (named after Bavaria's former prime minister, who was quintessentially Bavarian and as charismatic as he was controversial).
Road access is excellent too and as are train connections from practically all major cities in Germany and beyond (e.g. Basel or Vienna
). Booking train tickets early can pay off.
Accommodation-wise, Munich covers the whole range, including some surprisingly affordable options in quite central locations; e.g. there are several inexpensive but perfectly adequate hotels in the area south of the main train station (which may be a somewhat grotty part of town, but is very conveniently located).
Getting around in Munich is facilitated by an excellent network of public transport, esp. a metro (U-Bahn) system, and regional metro trains (S-Bahn), which make a wide range of places outside Munich easily accessible too (e.g. Dachau
). The city centre is perfectly walkable, parts of the historic centre are even pedestrianized.
to see the two main Nazi-era-related sites you need about one whole day. The other dark or dark-ish bits can be covered in another half day or so, although a thorough visit to the Deutsches Museum may require (at least) a whole day in itself. The same is true for the premier dark attraction jusrt outside Munich: Dachau
. All in all, also allowing time for some of the non-dark bits, a long weekend or short week should be adequate.
Combinations with other dark destinations
: in general see Germany
, 10 miles (15 km) out of Munich, is the most obvious dark combination, in fact for many die-hard dark tourists it will be the main reason for coming to Munich in the first place, as the city is the perfect base for the day trip out to Dachau.
There are also some less well-known dark sites from that period elsewhere, such as the massive bunker remains in the forest near Mühldorf east of Munich, which were intended for a massive underground arms production facility, but were never completed.
Various less spectacular and/or less accessible WWII
relics can also be found in the vicinity of Munich – those interested can consult Maik Kopleck's "Munich 1933-1945", published in the German PastFinder series (Ch.Links Verlag).
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
Munich is one of Germany
's top tourism draws generally. In late September (not October!) the city's famous (or infamous?) Oktoberfest
attracts heavy throngs. But also year round, Munich is prized for its characteristic beer gardens/halls, although, frankly, the beers are typically not all that spectacular, it's more about the atmosphere – for those who like that sort of thing … it can get quite rowdy indeed … The year-round most popular beer hall is certainly the Hofbräuhaus
, one of the city's main landmarks.
There's also plenty of grand architecture (much of it reconstructed after WWII), especially from the days under Ludwig I, when Bavaria was a kingdom of its own.
The Englischer Garten, modelled as the name suggests on an English landscape garden, is one of the world's largest city parks.
The surroundings of Munich also attract lots of visitors, the more so the closer you get to the Alps
, with its mountain scenery and castles. The one castle that is by far the most popular, again esp. with Americans, is Neuschwanstein
castle. Even though it's actually just a dreamy folly, and in no way whatsoever representative of any architectural style of castles anywhere else at any time before, it somehow became the model for the archetypical Disney castle. So even though it is a real castle, it uncannily has this Disneyland look about it which makes it look fake to those who know what castles otherwise look like in Europe. That doesn't deter the transatlantic visitors, though; on the contrary … they probably find their expectations about quaint old Europe fulfilled here much more than at any older and more typical edifice in Germany
- Munich 01 - classic
- Munich 02 - Frauenkirche
- Munich 03 - city hall
- Munich 04 - Feldherrnhalle
- Munich 05 - classic statuary
- Munich 06 - cop-out alley
- Munich 07 - Königsplatz
- Munich 08 - Königsplatz by night
- Munich 09 - Wounds of Remembrance monument
- Munich 10 - Deutsches Museum
- Munich 11 - City Museum
- Munich 12 - Jewish Museum
- Munich 13 - Bürgerbräukelle plaque
- Munich 13 - square commemorating the victims of Nazism
- Munich 14 - Haus der Kunst
- Munich 15 - another Nazo relic, eagle sans swastika
- Munich 16 - Oktoberfest bombing memorial
- Munich 17 - Oktoberfest
- Munich 18 - beer brewing
- Munich 19 - the Isar River
- Munich 20 - riverside architecture
- Munich 21 - inner city architecture
- Munich 22 - Muchael Jackson remembrance shrine