MUNICH, GERMANY. I love cities with trams.

Often the newer parts of European cities have underground subways or metros, built long after the second Great War that convulsed the continent. But the older parts of cities, the parts that we find so charming to stroll through, often have trams still running through the streets on rails laid down at the turn of the last century, before the first Great War that convulsed the continent.

What I love about trams is how they move at human speed, and just at ground level. So easy to enter and alight from. And when you are riding them you can enjoy the passing scene, the shop windows, the people walking along or clustered in conversation. And when you are the one walking, you can watch the people in the trams go by.

Also, you can look up the tracks and trace the path of the overhead wires, at least until they curve out of sight. The tramline seems a confirmation of direction — a reassurance that the street is a useful one and leads to a pleasant place. One knows better where one is headed. Looking back along the line one can see from where one has come.

It is particularly at twilight that I think trams are most beautiful. Then you see in the light from their windows, while it is still a gentle glow and not yet a glare, the figures and faces of students returning from school, of women and men returning from their work and shopping, or perhaps a visit with friends or some modest outing. They on the inside and you on the outside are at the same level, face to face. It feels a very democratic form of transport.

When we see those old newsreel films of Europe, capturing crowds moving quickly through a public square or motionless and looking at the camera, the men dressed almost always in suits, the men and the women almost always wearing hats, there is often a tram in the picture.

There were many trams in the photos of Munich during the 1920s and ’30s that are displayed in the special museum that this city has endowed to document the rise of National Socialism. This city of culture and grace, of universities and public gardens, was where the Brownshirts of the early Nazi movement first roamed the streets. The museum, with its clear exposition of the tragedy and responsibility of history, its meticulous fairness to complicated issues, is a model of what devotion to truth and to historical facts looks and feels like. It demonstrates the conscience of a liberal and responsible society.

The museum shows how the fear and violence and shame and poverty that followed Germany’s defeat in the first Great War, and especially the fear of Kommunismus, of the ideology of the newly formed Soviet Russia that was rampant in Berlin to the north, gave rise to the right-wing governments in Munich in the early ’20s that protected Hitler’s party as it gained strength.

A leader of the incompetent and treasonous Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Hitler escaped serious punishment through a perversion of the courts. But he had just enough time in a comfortable jail cell to write “Mein Kampf,” or My Struggle, a book of egotism and hate and ambition that no decent person and no liberal democrat in Europe or America took seriously enough at the time.

On one wall of the museum are various German laws passed before and during Hitler’s war. In November 1938: “Jews are forbidden from attending theaters, dramas, and exhibitions.” That same autumn a Nazi newspaper called Jews “the enemy of the people.” In September 1941: “Jews six years and older are forbidden from showing themselves in public without the Yellow Star.” In November 1942: “All concentration camps within the Reich are to be made Jew-free, and all Jews are to be deported to Auschwitz and Lublin.”

My last evening in Munich, I was returning late to where I was staying. Rather than wait for the tram, I walked through the damp mist that had arisen from the river Isar. I could only see a few hundred feet ahead in the fog, but I followed the rails of the tramline all the way home. Just when I arrived at my stop, the tram caught up with me, empty but for a few isolated figures, who were lighted as if on a theater stage, but almost motionless within the moving tram.

I thought: Evil will have its day, again and again, there and here, the violence, and the lying about violence, and the violence caused by lying, but good and truth somehow persist.