Nearly twenty residents have publicly left the Catholic church in Wiesbaden, Germany this month, i.e. in the wake of Pope Benedict’s inability to apologize (and admit the fallibility of a Pope) after the blunder of his Papacy recognizing a holocaust denier (named Williams) amongst the members of the Pius Brotherhood. That is--that questionable group of Catholic separatists who were recently allowed to rejoin join the church last month.
Meanwhile, during these last weeks in Wiesbaden in January and February 2009, there has been a series of reflective remembrances on both the 76th anniversary of the Nazis' seizure of power (Jan. 30) and on the 65th anniversary of the freeing of Soviet Army’s capture of Auschwitz (Jan.27) and the subsequent freeing of Polish, Jewish and other surviving inmates. (See the Appendix 1 below for further German history memories and commemorations being recognized this year.)
For example, in mid-January 2009, the Aktives Museum in Wiesbaden opened with an exhibition that recognized the stories of the few German Luftwaffe members, like the Israeli recognized righteous gentiles. This exposition focused on a German named Karl Flagge. Flagge was working for the Nazi Luftwaffe (Air Force) during WWII in Lithuania. at the time he took the advantage of his position to save at least one-hundred Jews, who would have otherwise been the victims of pogroms and Nazi-inspired massacres.
In January, there was a presentation on the Warsaw Ghetto at the Wiesbaden Courthouse as well as a whole set of presentations, discussions, and films on how a society like Germany ought to continue to go about remembering the past. For example, there were numerous showings of a famous documentary on the Stolpersteine Project.
“Stolpersteine” means “stumbling block in Germany," and Wiesbaden has been participating in this national art and commemoration project to recall and remember the victims of the Nazi-era in each community in Germany (as well as—so far—in Austria, the Netherlands, and Hungary).
The names of victims are researched by local residents and bricks are (stolpersteine) paid for by individuals in each city. Then the names, birth and death location of these victims are placed on walkways in different parts of each city. In Hamburg, Germany alone as of April 2007, “there were in Berlin along 1,800 Stolpersteine in front of former residences, or in the case of the homeless homosexuals in front of the shelter (Pik As), which were initiated by district‘s and victim’s initiatives. There’s another stumbling block in commemoration of a former senator, 15 paces to the right of the entrance of Hamburg’s town hall. Many papers report about the project and expand the investigations. Between 1941 and 1945, 10.000 Jews were deported from Hamburg.”
The first Stolpersteine were placed in Cologne in the early 1990s by the artist, Gunter Demnig. The Antoniter Church was the first church community to support Demnig. Soon the project moved to Kreuzberg in Berlin.
Soon local communities all over Germany, Austria and elsewhere were investigating the names of local victims of the Third Reich and commemorating them by their name under foot throughout their cities and communities.
On the 2nd of February, I went again to the Wiesbaden City Courthouse to hear a presentation on the “Motives and Practices of the Members of the White Rose.”According to the Spartacus website, “The White Rose, was formed by students at the University of Munich in 1941. It is believed that the group was formed after the Archbishop of Munster, spoke out in a sermon against the Nazi practice of euthanasia (the killing of those considered by the Nazis as genetically unsuitable).” The group sent letters out all over Germany indicating that overthrowing Hitler and standing up for what was right was in the German people’s hands. “[I]n 1943 the group explained the reasons why they had formed the White Rose group: "We want to try and show them that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people - people who are agreed as to the means they must use. We have no great number of choices as to the means. The meaning and goal of passive resistance is to topple National Socialism, and in this struggle we must not recoil from our course, any action, whatever its nature. A victory of fascist Germany in this war would have immeasurable, frightful consequences."
Naturally, most of The White Rose group was tracked down and executed by the Nazis and their followers within the next month, i.e. February 20, 1943. This talk on the “Motives and Practices of the Members of the White Rose” was sponsored by Martin Niemoller’s Gegen Vergessen Fuer Demokratie (Against Forgetting—For Democracy).