The Peace Memorial shows theTree of Life with its roots pointing towards Jerusalem, breaking through the “dark ring of violence” with eleven Memorial Stones, which symbolize projection surfaces of an estranged and traumatized mind. They are made from Odenwald quartz, which is typical of the region. The ring is also broken open from the outside with a bright and friendly area; a dance floor. It is representing the dance of life and a spiritual and emotional growth through the encounter.
A Tree of Life
In Judaism, theTree of Life represents the Torah (=Teaching, the 5 books of Moses). Rabbi Hillel spoke of these: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.” If man would just adhere to this principle, peace on earth would be nigh. In the Peace Memorial, the Tree of Life can be recognized as a relief, from a bird’s-eye perspective. It means looking at yourself in an inner experience. In its symbolism, it helps visitors reflect on their own lives and encourages them to create space for one’s own good developments and those of others. The battle against the evil in the world might never end; however, how forceful is the recognition of the beautiful and the good inside oneself and others in repelling evil?
The roots of this Tree of Life point towards Jerusalem. It is a call for a “better world” as symbolized by Yerushalayim – the “heavenly Jerusalem”. This call is more than a location, Jerusalem is a state of beauty. This is how peace begins within, from which it affects the small in the world and from there into the big contexts. - Yerushalayim is written on the 12th memorial stone, the Border Stone. The theme is here: healthy boundaries. The Stone is located outside the Peace Memorial at the border to the the hiking trail “facing towards the world”.
The inscription at the entry to the Tree of Life reads: “Recognize the Holy in your midst”. It is applied on the gray Threshold of Humility, which demarcates the Peace Memorial outwards. To reach the middle, the visitor embarks on a “journey inwards”, overcoming this threshold. Humans carry a holiness inside that is sacrosanct. Therefore: Human dignity is inviolable (1st article of the German constitution). May we go the inner path of self-knowledge towards peace and freedom, instead of projecting our inner turmoil onto the environment and other people and events.
Healing deep woundsIn 1998, when the debate on the construction of a central memorial in Berlin to commemorate the murdered Jews of Europe was ongoing, I conceived of the idea for this project. I believe that the German culture of remembrance, focussed on admonishing memorials without a hope and light for the future, needs a positive approach that represents new life. This is the only way to gain access to this theme without the feelings of guilt, feelings that often put people in a defensive position.
Admonishing and remembering alone is not enough. The painful memory of past events must be accompanied by life and hope. Above all, the deep wounds must heal. The integration necessary to proclaim that the lessons from the past have truly been learned only takes place after embarking on the journey towards healing. This would also prevent repeating the mistakes of the past in another form.The idea of the Peace Memorial shows Germany another way of dealing with its past, a way which would be a blessing for the country. It is not an admonishing memorial for the past (Mahnmal), but a monument for awakening, change and peace in the present. Nelly Sachs expressed it as follows in one of her poems: “But to you, who did not shake the dust from your yearning, who stopped right there, where dust is turned to light.”
Dganit Daddo and students from Israel sing during the Celebration of Encounters in the Peace Memorial in Germany.
From the inside out
The Peace Memorial has 24 edges. Visitors can spend 24 hours and many days circling it only to realize that they circle around themselves. Only after pausing and reflecting, to subsequently take the two steps – the Threshold of Humility – with its inscription “Recognize the Holy in your midst” and stepping into the Peace Memorial – only after letting go from oneself and turning inwards, can the visitor achieve inner realization. A part of the ring surrounding the Tree of Life is filled with dark gravel. Resting in the gravel stand 11 stone blocks from Odenwald quartz. They symbolize the projection surfaces of the mind; our limited understanding all too often tends to categorize and takes projections as a truth, held by many to be absolute. This causes friction in our interactions. Are we prisoners of our projections and fears, or do we recognize the abundance of life? We wander through the dark ring and explore the “stones” in our soul that restrict our capacity to love.
A Christian elucidation of the symbolism: In Christian mysticism, the number 11 is considered the number of sin. More precisely put: “A human is estranged from the core of being (God), from other beings, and from the self” (Tillisch, Lexikon der Theologie). 1 is the will of God, 0 is the receiving principle, the creation. As such, 10 symbolizes the will of God in the creation as well as the 10 instructions (commandments). With 11, another will is added, the will of mankind, that has fallen out of order. 11 bears the task to align this will with the “Core of Being” again. Therefore, the number 11 is also a number of liberation.
After leaving the Peace Memorial – where inner peace can be found – visitors find themselves "outside the circle" again, in "the world", where the aim is peace and freedom for the world. Here, the 12th Stone (Border Stone) with the inscription “Yerushalayim” is located. (Regarding the number 12: Imagine a triangle. The upper point (spirit) in the middle integrates the line – duality of the world – underneath it. The 12 represents finding unity with God, the core of being; therefore, it represents serving God. The Torah paints a similar picture: The Israelites found their freedom (the exodus from Egypt) to serve God, or because they wanted to serve God.
The Tree of Life concerns the relationship to one’s own soul. The tree breaks through the dark ring from the inside. Just as a healthy tree connects heaven and earth, man also has life in it. Also to the outside above the "tree crown" the dark ring is already broken open - by a beige dance floor. It stands for the true relationship to the other human being, which may be like a dance. The religious philosopher Martin Buber – who lived in the neighboring town of Heppenheim up to 1938 – expressed it as follows: “Through the Thou a person becomes I". We recognize our own blind spots only when to us another person in his / her essence becomes a mirror. The “dance floor” is located in the inner space, as we cannot veraciously see others without seeing ourselves first.
The salutary answer is therefore the silent turn inwards – it is a space for meditation and prayer – which also provides as well a cheerful connection to the dance of life. A 26-metre-long rainbow in all seven colors made from glass mosaic will be placed around the “crown”. The rainbow is the sign of the covenant of God with men. The diameter of the crown from the Tree of Life (around which there is the rainbow) is 16.60 m. This is a reference to the only biblical verse with this number, namely Ezekiel 16:60: “Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.”
Shalom JerusalemThe Rose of Shalom is located in the middle of the Peace Memorial. It is a sign for Shalom, which means harmony, salvation, wealth, and peace. The Jewish poet Nelly Sachs described Shalom as a "butterfly zone of dreams" (source). The white "Rose" made from marble, granite and Odenwald quartz is also a reminder of the resistance group called "The White Rose". Those young people found their values and their strength for their resistance in their lived christian faith.
Shalom (peace, salvation) begins in one’s own soul. The Peace Memorial is a space for encounters and healing. It shows the walk to the inside, where we have the power to effect real change. Then, peace can radiate outwards, into our society. The individual is also part of a cultural society with its own characteristics and history. Therefore, in the Garden of Freedom, reference is made to "Jerusalem" as the deepest root of European culture and to the profound violation in this relationship.
This might provide an important societal impulse for our country to find itself again in a new way through an understanding of "Jerusalem" and it becomesan idea of Jerusalem in German-Jewish relations.
The Rose of Shalom consists of the flower of a “White Rose” with a star resting on it: A living heart! This star also represents the connection between “Heaven” and “Earth”, between Spirit and Matter. The Rose is located in the middle of the Tree of Life in the Peace Memorial: a human being can connect heaven and earth inside himself, similar to a tree. From a Christian perspective, this is a man or a woman that is filled with the Holy Spirit. There are two triangles in the star. The triangle with the brown spot in the top points towards the Rhine Plain and what used to be “Jerusalem on the Rhine” (Earth). The other triangle with the brown spot in the base points towards Jerusalem in Israel (Heaven). The Turning Point to Life is embedded at the centre of the star, with the inscription “Chai” (Life). The entire peace and freedom monument was constructed in relation to this one point in the centre. There is no ideology in this one point that is connecting everything. Here is Shalom - harmony, salvation, wealth, and peace. This point at the centre is located exactly 72 cm above the plane (outside) in front of the 1st step of the Threshold of Humility. This is a reference to the 72 names of God; it all revolves around experiencing.
People took off their shoes as they entered the Tree of Life. This signifies the surrender of habits and prejudices, opening oneself for experiences that emanate from the heart. Shalom can be found here in this soul's center. The Peace Memorial can resensitize people to their internal yearning for holiness. We need signs of hope that touch the good inside of us. The greatest calamities in a society are made possible not by “evil people” but by the lack of recognition of the potential for good in it! Taking responsibility for life is a positive expression. It strives to express itself in the involvement of freedom-loving and responsible citizens. In this sense, this project has been realized on a private estate after many years of voluntary work. Peace in freedom may prevail over Earth; light, love, and life.
A view from the Peace Memorial unto the Rhine Plain and the SchUM city of Worms.