Sunday, March 26

Standing in the shadow of Hitler

Owning a toy company involves a few unavoidable commitments.  One of these includes meeting our key suppliers face to face at least once a year.  The annual Spielwarenmesse, or Toy Fair, in Nuremberg provides an ideal opportunity to meet with many of them in a single journey. 

Garry and I made our second pilgrim to the city in early February.  Along the way we stopped briefly in New York to meet with several suppliers who weren’t attending Nuremberg.  Unlike our first trip to this event this year we felt more in control of the experience.  We knew what to expect and were arriving with another year of exceptional results under our belt.

The fair is an incredible event.  It’s the largest trade show for toy industry in the world.  Every year over a period of six days almost 3000 exhibitors from 60 countries present their products. More than 54% of its attendees are international visitors.  The event fills 17 enormous exhibition halls, many of which are dedicated to promoting a single toy genre.

It was an exhausting time.  We met with suppliers every day.  We walked many of its cavernous halls in search of new suppliers.  Our evenings were then filled by suppliers keen to entertain us and facilitate introductions to new industry contacts.  On reflection we’re glad we scheduled our arrival in Nuremberg to include a full day to rest and recover from jet lag before the madness began.

We spent part of our free day visiting some of the city’s famous sights.  Nuremberg has a fascinating history.  It’s been associated with toy manufacturing for more than 600 years which explains why the fair is held here each year.  However, Nuremberg is better known for its place in the Holy Roman Empire.  It’s been called the empire’s unofficial capital as its Imperial Diet (Reichstag) and courts met at Nuremberg Castle.

In more recent times Nuremberg is renowned for its infamous association with the Nazi Germany era. The Nazi Party chose the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions in part to emulate the Holy Roman Empire historical gathering.  These massive conventions, known as the Nuremberg rallies, were held in the city in 1927, 1929 and annually between 1933 and 1938.

Garry and I visited the Dokumentationszentrum (Documentation Centre), a museum that documents the city’s Nazi era.  It’s housed in the north wing of the partly finished Kongresshalle (Congress Hall).  The exhibition is a fascinating exhibit.  We spent several hours there learning more about this extraordinary period of Germany history. 

Afterwards we walked to the nearby Zeppelinfeld, where most of the big Nazi parades, rallies and events took place. It is fronted by a 350m-long grandstand, the Zeppelintrib├╝ne, where you can still stand on the very balcony from where Hitler incited the masses. It’s an odd sensation to stand here and recall the dramatic black and movie newsreels that captured these rallies.

We then made our way back into the old city and spent time wandering the castle grounds, admiring the view across its red tile rooves and exploring the old town’s narrow cobblestone laneways.  Last year we’d hoped to do this but soon found our days filled with trade show activities.  We’re glad we made time for a short break as the days that followed were even more frantic than those in 2016.

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