I love wandering around towns and cities, looking for the unusual, soaking up the atmosphere and discovering something of the history of the place. What I don’t always do is take the normal tourist trail – I’d rather remain incognito and ‘go native’. But with a short time to enjoy a visit to Nuremberg, a group of us took the two-hour walk around the old part of the city. I say ‘old’ but in fact 90% of this medieval city was destroyed by allied bombing in the 2nd World War.
Our guide, born and raised in Nuremberg handled the pain
of the past with great sensitivity, mentioning in passing the tragedy
of Coventry, which was the first UK city to suffer a similar fate through
Post war, the city fathers lovingly rebuilt the most important of the medieval buildings and recreated their history for future generations to appreciate. A new city, built with due regard for the past, has grown up alongside the old. It was and still is a beautiful place.
One abiding memory of our tour took place in the parish Church of St Sebaldus. Attached to a column was a small cross made out of 3 nails, a gift from Coventry and one of a set of crosses sent to other towns and cities where religious buildings had suffered similar destruction. Each week, this gift is the centre of a simple service of reconciliation; remembering the anger and hatred that divides nation from nation and race from race; indifference to the plight of homeless and refugees; envy of the welfare and happiness of others and the pride that leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God. The liturgy displayed nearby asks both for forgiveness and also the capacity to forgive.
It struck me that it is a beautiful thing to look not just to the terrors and errors of the past but to appreciate that the danger is always there. That such a conflagration could happen in the future is always a possibility because we are just as human and those who gathered on the parade grounds at Nuremberg, or those who ordered the firebombing of Dresden. We are all subject to the same emotions and prejudices.
The gift of that small cross as a symbol of hope, and the way it has been embraced with such enthusiasm reminds me that we often carry around hatred and prejudice as a burden, when we should in fact be seeking a release through reconciliation, between ourselves and others, and between ourselves and God.
That cross also reminds me that all are created equal in the eyes of God. It is only mankind that makes distinctions.