GERMANY, Maria Fischer •
To this day, it is “incomprehensible to me how such crimes were possible in a Christian-influenced country like Germany,” said Archbishop Reinhard Cardinal Marx, when he visited the Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel on the grounds of the memorial site of the former Dachau concentration camp in connection with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp and the end of the war. A short film was recorded there for the online offer of the archbishopric of Munich and Freising.—
The fact that such crimes were committed, he said, follows “a mandate for us today to be careful and attentive to one another. Every human life is precious, Marx clarifies: “Independent of religion, denomination and gender. We are one human family!”
According to Marx, Dachau became the site of a “monstrous, incomparable breach of civilization” during the reign of terror by the National Socialists. From March 22, 1933, the Nazi regime had deported about 206,000 people from 34 nations to the Dachau concentration camp and to the subcamps that were built later. The camp was one of the first in Hitler’s Germany and became a model for the later sites of SS terror.
Due to the Corona crisis, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial is closed; the planned celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation and the end of the war on May 8th only took place virtually.
What people can do to people
Dachau is a memory of what people can do to people. “There is no point in imagining an X for a U,” says Father Kentenich, who was imprisoned there for three years. “The great, great misery of the concentration camp was: breadlessness, lawlessness, homelessness, dishonor, defenselessness.” (Fr. Kentenich, 1948)
“It is valuable to have experienced these things for years, then you can understand the simple people today in the post-war period, who have now fallen into similar misery. One must say to oneself: How can such a people remain spiritually awake and alive if they are not fed up with food? How can a people in this distress still live in a reasonably humane way? I have not been spared these things, constantly seeing this screaming need, these abuses. “A prisoner falls down, and there is nothing I can do.” (P. Kentenich, 1948)
The Corona pandemic is causing people to starve. Right under our noses. We can learn about it in the testimonies from Paraguay, from Argentina, from Chile. We can see it. And for all the need… yes, we can help. And we can understand what Father Kentenich understood. Before the Covenant of Love, self-education and the Shrine, many people simply need to eat something.
“The people among themselves did not support each other much in the camp, they did not find each other much. On the whole, there was not as much true community as one might expect. It was a great sense of homelessness. People who by nature are not supernaturally attuned, how can they lead a dignified life in such cesspools, in such a hell, in such situations full of screaming abuse! The human being should become as inwardly raw as possible. You could hardly see anything green in the camp, just a few rows of trees; there was no flower.” (Fr. Kentenich, 1948)
We are all together in this boat, said Pope Francis in the deserted and so humane St. Peter’s Square with the extraordinary blessing Urbi et Orbi. People who were socially well-integrated before the pandemic become “wild animals in front of the toilet paper shelf in the supermarket”, a saleswoman from Germany told me. And there are the others. Others who, in the midst of this crisis, are helping to support others. With a phone call, with financial support, with a flower for the cashier in the supermarket.
Lawlessness, Infamy, Defencelessness
“Once I had been able to make an effort to have so and so many priests removed from the list (for the death transport). They were prisoners who had made the lists. Before they came into the hands of the SS, all sorts of things could be changed. If they were not on the list, the matter was settled. So it was possible to get some priests off the list. I would have liked to get rid of more, but I couldn’t. A few Jesuits were also on the list. One of them had been a writer, he was quite old, De Kuning, professor of Belgium. By an accident his name did not get off the list. They had looked up “Kuning” and the name was “De Kuning”. So they left the name on it. I can still see that picture today when they rounded up the prisoners for transport. There they were… These are tearful situations. Powerful figures, who once achieved great things in life, were mercilessly and cruelly delivered to death here. How the sense of justice was violated.” (P. Kentenich, 1948)
Powerful figures who have achieved great things in their lives for once, for weeks without a visit to a nursing home, at home. Powerful figures who have achieved great things in their lives for once, without work, without income, because the company is closed, insolvent. Powerful figures who have achieved great things in their lives, left alone to die because not even relatives are allowed to go to hospital.
The corona crisis is not Dachau. But Dachau and the breach of civilisation that Cardinal Marx talks about can be a stimulus and a question of conscience in the middle of the Corona crisis.
Original: German 06.05.2020. Translation: Lindsay Burger, Ohio, USA