Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

World War Two, the Holocaust & the Third Reich

In January 1933 Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Within months he brought in laws that gave him and his cabinet unprecedented powers. By March the first concentration camp, Dachau, was opened. Kristallnacht in November of 1938 saw a marked escalation in the persecution of Jews in Germany. And less than a year later, 3 September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. At the Wannsee Conference in January 94 the ‘Final Solution’ was devised, which would see the murder of millions of  Jews, Roma, disabled people, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Socialists and Communists tortured and murdered. After years of war, his slaughter was brought to an end with the Allied invasion of Europe starting in June 1944, D-Day.

In Februry 1938 Hitler ended Germany’s relations with China and forged an alliance with Japan. Relations between Japan and the United States of America had been strained since the 1920s. On the morning of 7 December 1941, Japan caried out a surprise military attack on an American naval base in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. It was this attack that led to the US, and many other countries, formally entering WWII. By 11 December most of the world’s nations were involved  in the war. 

Mention of WWII tends bring images of the death camps and battlefields of Europe to mind.  As it truly was a world war, there are sites, museums and memorials throughout the world. 

Guides to WWII Battlefields, Sites of Deportation, Death Camps, Memorials & Museums

15 Key & Thought-Provoking WWII Sites Around the World

Anhalter Bahnhof

Inaugurated in 1841, Anhalter Bahnhof was one of Berlin’s most important train stations. And known as the Gateway to the South. During the Nazi era, it is estimated some 500,000 people fled the country from here. From 1942 to 1945 over 9,600 Jews were sent from here to Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia. In the final months of Second World War the building was destroyed. A new museum telling the story of exile will open on this site in 2026.

Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House offers insight into one of the more harrowing chapters of modern history. This is where the Frank family and four others hid from persecution during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. After they were discovered, they were sent to extermination camps, where Anne was killed. Her diary was posthumously published in 1947, with the House opening in 1960. Although queues to see the space where the young author scripted her famous journal tend to be long, it is an altogether unique experience.

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial is two sites, both former Nazi concentration camps. Auschwitz I was created out of prewar Polish barracks, with the first prisoners arriving in 1940. It held anywhere between 15,000 and 20,000 prisoners at one time. Work began on building a second camp in the village of Brzezinka (Birkenau), 3km away. In 1944 it held 90,000 prisoners and it was here where most of the mass exterminations took place. Both sites are open to the public and the visit begins at Auschwitz 1. Three hours is the recommended time to visit both parts of this memorial and the museum.

Casemates Museum

Still accessible by car or public transport, the Kazemattenmuseum (Casemates Museum) is situated on the afsluitdijk: the 32 kilometre long dam which separates the Zuiderzee from the North Sea. This dramatic landscape feature was the setting of one of the lesser known battles of World War II, the Battle of the Afsluitdijk in May 1940. Thanks to the casemates, another term for fortified gun emplacements, this was one the few places where the German Blitzkrieg was successfully halted. Visitors can learn more at the visitor’s centre before exploring the casemates themselves.

Churchill War Rooms

From the First World War the British government was concerned for its vulnerability in the event London suffered an aerial bombardment. In 1938 the basement of a building in Whitehall was renovated and equipped to provide an underground headquarters for the core of the British government. Hundred of men and women spent hours here directing the Second World War between 1940 and 1945. Combining archival photographs, film footage and oral histories five themes are covered in permanent displays in the Cabinet Room, the Map Room and Churchill’s bedroom.

Éperlecques Bunker

The Blockhaus d’Éperlecques was built by Nazi Germany between March 1943 and July 1944 intended to launch V-2 ballistic missiles from France to London. The bunker was built using prisoners of war and other forced labour. It was designed to launch 36 missiles per day. Aerial attacks from the Allies meant the construction was disrupted and it was never completed to be used for launching missiles. Éperlecques was captured from the Germans in September 1944, but it was not until much later was the true purpose of the bunker revealed. An interesting audio tour guides visitors on a present path through the facility.

Gleis 17 Memorial, Grunewald Station

The goods platform station of Grunewald S-Bahn is where an estimated 50,000 Jews from Berlin were transported to their death. From here, one of three deportation stations in Berlin, Jewish citizens were deported to labour and concentration camps in Riga, Warsaw, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Theresienstadt. Platform 17, or Gleis 17, has a metal installation that preserves the platform and records the dates of the departures, the number of people and their destinations.

Minidoka National Historic Site

During the Second World War, in which the U.S. battled against Japan, the government interned Japanese Americans, fearing that they may be enemy agents. The Minidoka National Historic Site preserves one such internment camp, where 90,00 people were imprisoned on the basis of their ethnicity between 1942 and 1945. In 2001, the site was declared a national monument by President Bill Clinton, after which efforts were made to return it to its 1940s appearance.

Nazi Forced Labor Documentation Center, Berlin-Schöneweide

During WWII 12 million people from around Europe were forced to work in the German economy. Labouring and living under appalling conditions. They were housed in specially constructed camps of barracks. Only one such camp has survived in Berlin, in the south east of the city. Over 400 forced labourers from Italy were among the detainees here. Today the camp is a documentation centre on Nazi forced labour. Poignant and moving exhibitions tell the stories of the men and women incarcerated here and elsewhere in Berlin during the war.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds

For both symbolic and logistic reasons Nuremburg was chosen by the Nazis as the venue for their part rallies. A total of six rallies were held between 1933 and 1938. The site covered an area of 11 square km and vast structures were specifically build to glorify the leadership and the party. Some of these, such as the Congress Hall, were never completed before the war, others were damaged. But a number of landmarks remain. Part of the Congress Hall houses the Documentation Centre. From where it possible to start a self guided tour of the party grounds.

Oradour-sur-Glane Martyr Village

Oradour-sur-Glane is a small town in the centre of France where, on 10 June 1944, the Der Führer Regiment of the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division Das Reich unexpectedly entered what was then a village with little over 650 inhabitants, rounded up all who were present at the time, massacred them, looted the houses and shops and then set fire to the town before continuing on their way north to join other German troops defending their position in Normandy. Only one person survived the attack, 64 were killed. With minimal intervention, the village has been left as a memorial ever since.

Pearl Harbor National Memorial

In December 1941, the Japanese military attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, bringing the U.S. into the Second World War. Several distinct memorials, collectively known as the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, help to commemorate this momentous and tragic event in U.S. history. It includes memorials to the USS Arizona, USS Utah, and USS Oklahoma, all ships lost in the attack. Also part of the park is the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.

Resistance and Deportation History Centre

Opened in 1992, the Centre d’histoire de la résistance et de la déportation is a museum that chronicles the work of the French resistance and the deportation of Jews from France to the death camps in the east during the Second World War. The museum is housed in a former military health school. From the spring of 1943 the school was occupied by the German Gestapo. It was here that the notorious Gestapo chief for Lyon, Klaus Barbie, tortured members of the resistance. Including the first president of the National Council of the Resistance, Jean Moulin.

Topography of Terrors

Topographie des Terrors in central Berlin is an indoor and outdoor exhibition space detailing the horrors of the Nazi regime. The site was the headquarters of both the SS and Gestapo. Who not only planned many atrocties here, but so too were prisoners tortured in the Gestapo cellar. Before May 1933 this was the Prinz-Albrecht-Palais. The area was heavily destroyed at the end of the war, but recent excavations have uncovered the cellars and other basement elements.

Westerbork Remembrance Centre

Westerbork camp was built in 1939 to house Jewish refugees fleeing Germany and Austria. Following Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the camp became known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’; a transit camp where hundreds of Sinti, Roma and Jewish people were sent before being transferred to concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor. Following the liberation of Europe Westerbork became an internment camp for ‘bad Dutch’ and members of the SS. In the 1950s and 1960s it served as a camp for Indo-Ducth citizens being repatriated from the newly independent Indonesia. Through personal stories, the Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork tells the layered history of the site.