Even the beginnings of the German-Jewish history need acknowledgement and peace. If you look from the Peace Memorial Circle to the west between the two hills in the Rhine valley, you will see the silhouette of the city of Worms with its large cathedral on the horizon. It is the city in the middle of the three Rhine cities Speyer, Worms, and Mainz that lie in a line and were called “Jerusalem on the Rhine” or ShUM. Because of its centrality for the Jewish communities in Central Europe, they are considered to be the birthplace of the European Judaism. With the persecution of the Jews and the destruction of their communities in the High Middle Ages – soldiers went through “Jerusalem on the Rhine” on the crusade to Jerusalem – this advanced Jewish civilization perished. In modern Jewish historiography, this is often presented as the first instance of anti-Semitism. It created events that would henceforth never be forgotten, and its climax was the Shoah.
The blank side of the Commemorative Stone points west to the valley of Hochstädten, where there are numerous underground tunnels from mining since 1865. Towards the end of the Second World War, there was still a plan to establish an arms production site in this area that would protect against air attacks. Deported Greeks and concentration camp detainees were used as forced laborers. It is about war and tyranny as well as dealing with our German past. This camp was run as the subcamp of the concentration camp Natzweiler-Struthof in Alsace. Thus, another topic is also the one system of main camps and subcamps prevalent all over Europe during the Nazi reign of terror. In the context of a breach of civilization, the Jerusalem Commemorative Stone admonishes us not to become enslaved by ideologies and to remember the values that let us speak of the heavenly Jerusalem.
We know that we can never be happy in a world overshadowed by ignorance and hatred. A world that should actually be filled with beauty, truth, and goodness. Only where there is light, the darkness can go away, and so it is the positive side "Yerushalayim" that gives its name to the Commemorative Stone. “You spectators, who did not life the hand of a murderer, but who did not shake off the dust from your yearning, who paused, there, where the dust is transformed into light” – was written by Nelly Sachs after the Shoah in a poem.
Memorials can be an encouragement to commit oneself to peace and freedom and, thus, to learn from the past. Where are we experiencing war instead of peace in our own lives? How can we take responsibility in the world in the sense of Yerushalayim – the heavenly Jerusalem? Where does our responsibility start? “Where dust is transformed into light” – this inscription on the floor in front of the Commemorative Stone points to the Tree of Life in the Peace Memorial. It shows the way into your own center: Peace and freedom begin inside of us.
"Be the change you want to see in the world." (Gandhi)
Go to chapter 2: A Tree of Life