Actually, there is only one goal in this project: Peace and Shalom. This refers to a comprehensive peace that is anchored in one's own soul. Peace is understood as one's own inner attitude that works from the inside out into the world. This is what the Rose of Shalom at the centre of the Garden of Freedom represents. This comprehensive peace includes everyone. All humans have their own suffering and joy. Everyone can visit this site and find Shalom as peace in their own hearts. As such, this location carries a piece of the heavenly Jerusalem. Thus, it is not a "monument to the Jews" or a "monument to the Germans", but a shalom for humans.
In addition to the good words for the mind, I would also like to give you a feeling with a piece of music, what this is about: Return of my soul (by Shlomo Carlebach, born in 1925 in Berlin).
- The Garden of Freedom – with its symbolism of the Border Stone and the Peace Memorial – represents the reconciliation between people and the reconciliation inside ourselves, with our own inner being. It shows us that it is important to face the past and have a relationship to this past, even if it hurts. But its scope extends beyond merely this: We must be willing to make an effort and transform the burden of our past into a blessing for the future. Only then may we speak of true responsibility. This is what this location of Shalom represents.
- This work addresses the fundament of our culture that has developed in over a thousand years. The spirituality that is created and contained in culture must become visible in the material world – in the language of art, symbols, and monuments. Only then is its sustainability guaranteed. This project serves this purpose.
- Peace on Earth is impossible if humans do not carry the idea of peace inside themselves. This location wants to create awareness of this.
- Human dignity is inviolable, according to the 1st article of the German Constitution, drafted with the memories of war, persecution, and dehumanisation fresh in mind. Humans who are aware of their own dignity, can walk upright on their way in this world und pursue their own destinies. Where does this process of dehumanization begin? This process that incapacitates people, rendering them powerless to veraciously follow their own ways or allow others to? This project “of the Garden of Freedom wants to be a voice that straightens the backs of humans, instead of being another burden to bear.
In noise and fight
survive and win
shall any wisdom lie therein
to bend the inner truth within?
In stillness inner beings hold,
richer as a shimmering of gold,
pure words remember to unfold
That our souls shall be raised
(T. Zieringer, 2014)
As a place for the
Through the choice of the place of the Garden of Freedom these historical topics are indirectly integrated. The Monument to Peace and Freedom transcends the status of an attractive idea located in a pretty, verdant area. It is situated in a spot deemed appropriate to herald in a new stage of commemorative culture.
As a place for theGarden of Freedom, a plot of land was chosen on a hill of the Odenwald (low mountain range). Below in the valley in the last year of the 3rd Reich an external camp of the larger Concentration Camp Natzweiler-Struthof was located. As such, the themes of war, persecution and the system of concentration camps (main camps and external camps) that “spanned” the width of Europe during the 3rd Reich are addressed here. The Peace Memorial offers views of the Rhine Plain. Here, “Jerusalem on the Rhine” used to be located. Its the area where the Jewish Ashkenazi culture formed and blossomed in the early Middle Ages. This culture was destroyed during the Crusades by Crusaders and many of the German-speaking Jews fled to Eastern Europe (—> Yiddish as the language of Ashkenazi Jews).
Continue to the Turning Point here
“Only remembering (a dark past) does not suffice!” – is the driving idea behind the project of the Garden of Freedom and the changes it wants to effect in our society. It needs today's responsibility for life. The statement that can be found on location – “Where dust is turned to light” – describes a process that has the capacity to be positively continued in future, time and again. This contradicts the idea of having "finally mastered" a past, because where should a positively perceived responsibility end? This does not describe action-taking from a sense of guilt, but rather real awareness. As such, it also offers the chance to reach out to younger generations. Here, it is not the peace of a calm churchyard that is meant, but new life; peace that is lived out every day anew, peace that turns into the way.
“That we succeed in overcoming the inner fences in our dealings with one another and do not seek to find our inner stability behind fences of ideology” – reads the inscription on the Border Stone in the Garden of Freedom. Societies such as living beings are always in a state of change. This garden serves as a reminder, as well as an encouragement and sign of positive change, for freedom and light, for life.
Life is beautiful. Today’s newspapers detail enough on the darkness on our Earth. It is part of our own life and touches our history, perceptions, and experiences. However, we still realize that we will never be satisfied living in a world that struggles in the shadows of ignorance and hate, knowing that life should be filled with beauty, truth, and good.
A symbol that generates identity
The central element in the Garden of Freedom is the Peace Memorial with a diameter of 26 meters. It represents a different way of dealing with the past. The language of art is well capable of providing this type of impulse, and the impact of such an impulse on society can be quite significant. The Peace Memorial symbolizes a movement from conflict and interaction with the past to integration. In that, “the learned lessons from the past” lies the responsibility for active societal efforts to promote peace and freedom, which requires moral courage and civic engagement. In this way, the Garden of Freedom becomes a positive identity-forming symbol of our country.
A remembrance that reaches into the futureThis place tries to raise awareness that a monument can equally appeal to the past, present and future, connecting them with each other. No past is "mastered" here. The past is always an allegory for the present, from which the future is born. Past repeats itself – in different shapes and forms each time – if it is not understood properly. In the Peace Memorial this mechanism is broken open by the Tree of Life, what stands for the inner clear cognition. This "tree" is surrounded by a dance floor that represents social interaction, for humans can only get to know themselves in their interaction with the “You” (Philosophy of Martin Buber).
The dance floor also symbolizes a different way of dealing with each other. Instead of seeking out opposites and classifications, such as “Opponents and Enemies” or “Supporters and Friends”, we see each other as dance partners. This opens up a new freedom in interaction, where we learn from each other while trying out different dance figures.
The Garden of Freedom provides an impulse to develop a German culture of remembrance, which is appreciative, life-affirming, and future-oriented. This will appeal to younger generations and convey a sense of understanding beyond feelings of (carried) guilt. The Garden of Freedom might even help to better understand the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. One of the problems present in the German culture of remembrance is the false impression that there is only room to speak of the suffering of others and that confronting one’s own suffering would be the first step in denying the German crimes against the Jews. Psychologically speaking, it is clear that a relationship to one’s own suffering is a prerequisite for a true understanding of the suffering of another.
To assume responsibility is
taking a further step -
It is not concerned with forgetting suffering; it wants to transform it
To assume responsibility is
taking a further step -
Love asks for the appreciation of life and human dignity
To assume responsibility is
taking a further step -
A sign of Jewish-Christian reconciliation
The Garden of Freedom should also liberate us to understand our own cultural roots more profoundly. Its design is composed of symbols and the metaphors associated with them that are fundamental to our Christian culture. The root "Jerusalem" reaches beyond Christianity into Judaism. It is the deepest root of our European culture; a root that has been wounded and is still wounded today.
This idea, of healing the cultural roots, also helped inspire the selection of the symbols: Jewish in the design is the word "Yerushalayim" on the Border Stone, that is to remember this root and the associated values of freedom (Torah). The star on the Rose of Shalom can also considered Jewish; however, this "rose" with star is just as Christian as the Tree of Life in the Peace Memorial in which it is located. The Jewish culture and the idea of Jerusalem are honored through the relation to Jerusalem as a root. The city of Jerusalem is the most important location in Christianity.
At the same time, both Christianity and Judaism employ the metaphor of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a vision of a world in peace and freedom. Human efforts are directed towards the alignment of the earthly Jerusalem with the heavenly Jerusalem, an act of reconciliation with God. The Border Stone references these two aspects, the root "Jerusalem” and the “heavenly Jerusalem”. The root and the vision are equally necessary! A tree also unites both elements, as it cannot extend its branches towards the heavens without the roots supporting it.
Geopark Bergstraße-OdenwaldA part of the characteristic cultural landscape of the Odenwald is preserved with the Garden of Freedom in the Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald. The large memorial stones are from Borstein, a mine located around 2.4 km away. There are only two quarries left, where this characteristic quartz of the Odenwald is extracted.
Peace and Shalom. Rabbi Mordechai Mendelson and the artist Thomas Zieringer visited the Garden of Freedom together.
Next chapter: Root "Jerusalem" Start page: Garden of Freedom
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