A Day of Remembrance

The past two days, our classes have focused on more foundational pieces of the Lutheran faith, specifically Law and Gospel, and baptism. I am thankful for the opportunity to revisit these lessons of Luther, and to have colleagues from around the world to discuss them. It is like being in seminary all over again, with classmates from around the world. 

We have had a chance to wander the streets of Wittenberg, and taste some of the local fare, including apple strudel, pretzels and soup and gelato. And on Thursday night, we visited with people of Wittenberg who gather every week to drink beer and work on their English. I spoke with Thomas, a retired teacher of art and chemistry. He now leads tour groups in town.

Today I was fortunate to run into Pastor Steve Kimm from Beavercreek, who is traveling with a group and had a day in Wittenberg.

Today, November 9, is a day of remembrance in Germany – some good remembrances, but the others are definitely very difficult and painful.

The good days include this day in 1918, World War One in Germany came to an end, and the great day in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down.

But it was this day in 1923, Adolf Hitler made his first attempt to take over the German government but failed.

And in 1938, eighty years ago today, Kristallnacht or “Crystal Night” also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass. This was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians. The German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues were smashed (information from Wikipedia).

To remember this night, we gathered with people of Wittenberg outside the Town Church under a sculpture that is found high on the wall in the corner of the church. It is the perfect place to meet tonight.

From the Christian Century, these words about the sculpture:  “Perched 26 feet above the ground, on the exterior southeast corner of the Town Church, is a 14th-century sandstone sculpture of a pig with two people in identifiably medieval Jewish hats suckling at its teats and another holding a piglet’s ear. An additional Jewish person lifts the tail while looking into the sow’s rear. Written above the relief is an inscription with the words, “Rabini Shem Hamphoras.” This nonsensical reference to the Jewish appellation of God’s name, added after Luther’s time, quotes a derogatory comment in one of Luther’s writings.”

The counter-monument’s role, as explained on the wall, is to not allow this history to be forgotten. The design of four blocks with cracks in between symbolizes a cross that wells up as a sign of guilt and atonement.  The memorial plaque installed Nov. 11, 1988, the words surrounding the plaque state, “The true name of God, the maligned Chem Hamphoras, which Jews long before Christianity regarded as almost unutterably holy, this name died with six million Jews under the sign of the cross,” followed by words in Hebrew from Psalm 130, “Out of the depths, I cry to you.”

This night, we gathered with the community to remember and to pray. We lit candles and laid stones on the sculpture on the ground, remembering the six million Jews who were killed in the concentration camps in World War Two. It was a moving and powerful service.



We concluded the night with a concert of Hebrew music – viola and organ, then a reception in the Town Hall. 
Tomorrow we are off to Erfurt and Wartburg Castle. Sunday we go to worship at the Town Church and visit Torgau. I will post again after the weekend is over!


Pastor Charlie

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