I loved going to Nuremberg.
There was great shopping, good food, history at every corner.
It was also a city from Ansbach where I was stationed. Catch a train headed that way and you’d be there almost before you got comfortable. And it was actually a city that I knew something about. Granted, most of it had to do with WW II history and not all of that is good, but there was also a personal connection to it. My Father had told me of going through it, walking the old city and see the sights. He told me that (early 50s) there wasn’t a lot to see.
You see, a large chunk of the old city had been bombed into the stone age.
When he knew the city, there were still bomb craters. There were still buildings in shambles. My Dad was a bit of a historian like yours truly and it bothered him to see the wreck the historic old city had become.
But almost forty five years is a long time to fix things and the German people are very good at doing just that.
So, before I start talking about the old church there, let’s talk about what happened.
Flashback. World War II. B-17s and B-24s target the railyards at Nuremburg. The railyards were a huge target in that they were large and fanned out to all corners of Europe. Rolling stock that included ammunition, food, tanks, trucks, and troops rolled through almost constantly. There was ample siding for freight, repair shops, and supplies there.
And all of this was a stones throw from the old city.
Now, let’s talk about precision bombing.
Today, a fighter brings in the ordnance. Using a combination of different technologies, a pilot or weapons officer can just about choose what window or chimney to put the weapon through or down. While there are still misses, it’s nowhere as near as bad as the “Precision bombing” of WW II.
A statistic concerning WW II precision bombing can be found in the book Flyboys by James Bradley. He said that if one bomb out of six struck near the target, that was considered “precision bombing.” Not a very impressive statistic when you look at say a small strike of sixty bombs. That would mean only about six bombs hit where they were aimed. T other fifty-four went someplace else.
It was these misses that helped account for the destruction of the old city my father had witnessed.
Some state that the bombing of the old city was deliberate and an act of revenge. I guess the only one’s who know for sure are the folks who ordered the strike and God.
Whichever version you subscribe to, the Old City had pretty well ceased to exist by the close of the war. It had taken years to clean up the mess and begin the process of matching this stone to that and putting things back together.
It was little wonder my Father was astonished by the pictures I took
One of the many pictures I’d taken was of the St. Sebaldus Church. The place had been all but flattened by the bombing. In the pictures, there’s almost nothing left of it.
It took years to put it back together and if you look at pictures before and after you’d swear nothing had ever happened. But if you look closely, you can see small differences. You can see on the foundations where the stones had once set. Now they’d been displaced a little.
I wandered through the church, amazed at the effort of the restoration. I looked at the candles flickering on the altar and could smell the wax from them as it melted away slowly. I listened to the faithful praying and here and there I could pick out familiar prayers only they were said in a language I knew, but had never heard them uttered in.
I walked out and walked around the church looking at it from different angles. It was hard for me to imagine that it had been blasted almost out of existence.
I came around a corner and looked up. A little ways up the wall was a work of art. It was protected behind a barricade of sorts.
Now understand, when I say a work of art, I’m not saying it was beautiful. It was anything but and it wouldn’t be until year later I realized what I’d found repulsive about it. I didn’t even bother taking a picture of it it disturbed me so much.
I’ll try to describe it best I can. It was a large pig, a sow. And there were men suckling from it.
I wondered who would create something so repulsive and why.
Years later, I found it it was a sculpture that anti-sematic in the extreme and had it’s origins centuries before. It was a statement of how the Jewish people were sucking the best from the German people. When I learned that, I could half imagine Hitler or one of his cronies standing on the same spot I’d stood on, looking at it and using it’s message as a justification for what they were doing. In a sick and twisted way, the artist had created something that caught the anger and bigotry of people and put it forever into stone.
I wonder if the artist ever thought the magnificent cathedral the work was mounted on would be destroyed some day. Or that the hate he lavished onto the work would help inspire people to commit some of the most horrible crimes this world has ever known. And that hate would lead to the destruction of this particular temple.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 that Love never ends. It would seem the same is true of Hate.
The attitudes that leveled that magnificent church and that the statue proclaimed are alive and well today. We may have retitled them, changed them to make it appear we learned the lessons from the wars we fought, but have we really?
God is Love.
But Hate leveled a house of worship and killed millions.
There’s a lesson in this.
Question is, are we listening?