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Pastor Gen - Thoughts From A Sabbatical #3

From the experience of Goslar and Leipzig

Visiting Goslar I learned that nearly the entire town has been named a United Nations Historical site (UNESCO). I observed the difficulty that brings to telling the truth about the past. The story of the mine and the buildings are not just to be saved for the cultural benefit but also to bring in the people who might be interested in the amazing feel of the old, old town. That means little is said about the dark side of the mining past and it means that there is little for present day young people.

I talked with a guide at the mine. I told her we had a silver mine much like theirs and I wondered how they kept their water from being polluted as nothing I read spoke about heavy metal pollution. She said, to my great disappointment, that they didn’t keep it from being polluted. The mining began on the surface but soon moved underground and by the 900’s they had polluted their drinking water and people were getting sick. So, they created hollowed out logs and piped in clean water from the top of the Harz mountains — in the 900s -- into the homes of the rich and into a fountain in the center of town for the average and poor people. The polluted water of the Oker River is still being studied. The mine was worked for 1000 years. While it was greatly depleted by the time of the Nazis, the metal was needed so people were forced into hard labor in the mines. Thus, the mining had a 1000 year history.

The guide told me that there are plants being used at one of the waterfalls on the Oker River where the polluted water still runs. They have plants that identify the heavy metals in the water and plants that help remove the heavy metals. My eyes got big and I asked her to tell me more about these plants. She didn’t know the names but would look for me while I view the museum. After wandering the site, I returned to her and she said she was sorry that she had not found the names of the plants. More learning to be had here.

Goslar is celebrating 1100 years since it became a town. I learned from a guide at the town hall about the history as a market place, silver mine, and the strife over the question concerning to whom the good water out of the Harz mountains belong.

For all its restaurants, shops, and beauty, Goslar is heavily dependent on tourism. The mine no longer supplies metals, however, it is the draw for people to visit the town.

I was able to find four stumbling stone in Goslar. Sometimes it feels like a pilgrimage to find them. I read that there are 15 stumbling stones in Goslar. I was able to find a group of four from the Jacob family.

Leipzig, unlike Goslar, was a huge city. It seemed that there were more people than I had seen in Berlin. The odd thing was that the museums and historical churches were only open from 10am to 2pm. The bakeries, of which there was one below my apartment window, got noisy at 6:30 preparing to open at 7am. They also closed at 2. The restaurants stayed open late.

When I went looking for stumping stones at an address near where I was staying, I couldn’t find them. Later, when I was learning about the St. Nicolai Church and their amazing work for justice, I came upon a stumbling stone. As I was taking pictures of it, there was a woman in the door way of what have been Ernst Lewek’s home. She saw what I was doing and said that those were all around the city. She said , "We must never forget.” I agreed and she went into the building where there is now help offices for the current Jewish Leipzig residents as well as an office for Ukrainian refugees.

The most powerful memorial was of great synagogue otistroyed by the Nazis. The synagogue's entire foundation and its surrounding land has not been built on. Instead, chairs sit in rows facing east as if they are waiting for the congregation to return. So powerful! A picture cannot capture the experience. It was a, Wow!

During these days in Germany, I have reflected often on the words of Dorothee Sölle, a theologian from Germany. When asked how the mass murders could happen in Germany, she said that God works good through us but we must choose to work with God. More accurately, she said that God needs friends to get God’s work done. What startles me is that the brain washing of the nation began as early as 1925 with the Hitler propaganda. Towns turned against their neighbors. Doctors killed handicapped children in the hospital (I thought the people with handicaps had been sent to concentration camps. This was, if possible, even more horrifying). I kept saying, “O my God. Oh, my God.” I have seen several descriptions of how people didn’t speak up partly because they had come to believe the propaganda and when they realized they were wrong — it was too late. There always were resisters to the regime. One man is famous for being caught in a picture where everyone is giving the Hitler salute except him. His arms are crossed and his face determined. One woman who was quoted on a wall in the resistance museum in Berlin said that she recognized her prayers for the enemy of Germany to succeed were prayers of patriotism.

Actually, reading about the propaganda used in the early days feels very close the current days of our country. The worst thing that the average German did was that they kept silent in those early days.

So, now, I am in Würzburg. It is so alive here! More about that later.

With blessings,

Pastor Gen

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