Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lessons Round The Heilandskirche

I first visited the Heilandskirche in the village of Sakrow right outside Berlin around fifteen years ago. The church is a lovely little Italian style brick building right on the water and was built a little over a hundred years ago. Besides it's beautiful location, however, what makes this church special is that for almost thirty years no one could ever visit it: From 1961 to 1989 it was in the Todesstreife; the death strip; between West and East Germany. The only living creatures that passed by this church during these 18 long years were birds, insects, bunnies and (probably) the occasional border guard from the GDR.

Although you can't see it from a distance, the outer walls of the church are actually covered in graffiti. Tasteful, pencil scrawled graffiti stating things like Heinrich was here in 1925. There are all sorts of dates there and different styles of script (the German writing style was slightly different before the war.): 1919, 1927, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1961....and then nothing until the 90s. The walls and floor are also partially puckered with artillery fire.

I always feel strange when I see old bullet holes in the city (they are all over the place). A solider could have died right here, I often think. From our side or from theirs. Now, over 60 years later, what is really the difference. The soldiers in the German Wehrmacht were not necessarily (often probably weren't) Nazis, just scared eighteen to twenty-five year olds like all the rest.....

Although there are some tourists at the Heilandskirche and the nearby chateau, it is never overrun. The place is just too off the beaten path: you can only get there by car or by a bus that doesn't run very often. But it's worth a visit for the peace, the beauty and, above all, for the history.


JanetS said...

love this one-i love history especially the painful stuff...i find it important to remember!

Schaufensterbabe said...

Thanks Janet! You are so right.


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