My dear Jewish friend 15: As German Federal Police #WeRemember

I held my breath as the young police cadet started reading the names of places that once have been places of horror and death.

Auschwitz

Buchenwald

Dachau

It was Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year January 27 was a cold, crisp day with old snow and icy edges giving roads and sidewalks a rough appearance. As I made a small remark about the weather, the Rebbetzin, who stood next to me, looked at me and nodded: „I’ve heard that the weather on the day of the liberation of Auschwitz must have been the same.“ A cold shiver ran like a lighting down my spine and made me shiver even more.

(All Pictures: Bundespolizei / Stabstelle Öffentlichkeitsarbeit / AFZ Bamberg)

Flossenbürg

Groß-Rosen

Hinzert

To commemorate the liberation and commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, we had organised a ceremony at the Training Facility of the Federal Police in Bamberg. As its chaplain it was important to me. Not only am I a German citizen, but a clergy working for the Federal Police. Both, police and churches have been hurtfully complicit during the Nazi regime. My commitment is therefore even more urgent and our friendship has sealed my personal responsibility in ways I can’t describe.

Majdanek

Mauthausen

Mittelbau

Six classes of police cadets with their teachers plus the leadership had gathered in neatly arranged rows. Over one hundred and fifty people in total filled the large space, which once was called „The Change of Command“ when the facility was an U.S. military base. Rabbi Dr. Yael Deusel, Rabbi Dr. Almekias-Siegel with Rebbetzin, and Mr. Rudolph, the chair of the Synagoge in Bamberg had followed my invitation to the commemoration ceremony. I was thankful that they joined us during this important remembrance to read a prayer. Many of my police cadets never have personally met Jews – and certainly haven’t had the honour to meet Rabbis.

Natzweiler-Struthof

Neuengamme

Riga-Kaiserwald

The grounds on which we stood on January 27 couldn’t have been more ambivalent and made a commemoration even more important. The land was used for military reasons for a long time. First built as the „Lagarde Kaserne“ for the Royal Bavarian Army as an infantry barracks, it was extensively used during World War I and World War II. It is said that almost every branch of the German Army was stationed here. The most elite group was the 35th Armor and the 17th Cavalry Regiments, which was composed of noblemen who were wealthy and had their own riding school. Claus von Stauffenberg was its most prominent member. He was known for an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. When both Rabbis presented their prayers I was filled with deep thankfulness. Hitlers evil plans hadn’t worked out – even if he did use this stretch of land centuries ago, it is now under the leadership of Leading Police Director Thomas Lehmann used to educate generations of police cadets to uphold democracy and human rights.

Sachsenhausen

Stutthof

Plaszow

As Leading Police Officer Thomas Lehmann lead the Rabbis to the flag masts, we were supported by rows of police cadets and their leadership. While making our way to the masts, it felt as if they were forming a protective back up for those, who were grieving in remembrance. It might have been the same cold day in 1945 and 2023, but what happened back then, will never happen again. I can assure you, that many together with me, will give their very best. May the memories of the victims never be forgotten, but for a blessing as we train young police cadets to protect and serve democracy.

My dear Jewish friend 8: Remembering and committing as Police

I carefully placed the large candles on both sides of the table, then arranged the white framed picture, book and the program in the center. As the candles burned I waited in the quietness of the morning for my colleagues for the briefing and the following holocaust remembrance. For me it was a tripple commitment as a German citizen, Christian pastor, and now working for the Federal Police since almost a year. The epaulet with a golden cross on my shoulder visiualized my double responsibility for the church and the Federal Police.

When I broke the news to you over a year ago that I would be leaving New York to be called to the Federal Police we shed tears. We instantly knew that something special would very soon be no longer part of our routine: the strolls in our neighbourhood chatting about our lives, working together in your food pantry for the poor, and sharing joy, laughter, and tears.

Even though I still can’t get used to be so far away – to be exact 3.923 miles – this January morning gave me the feeling that our pain of distance at least makes some sense as I remembered with other leading police officers the crimes of the Holocaust. When the Police director spoke of the responsibility remembering and committing to never forget what had happened to your people and so many others during the Nazi horrors, my heartbeat increased. I was proud to hear that the German Police, which was complicit like many other institutions including my Bavarian Lutheran Church, commits to securing human rights and the German constitution.

This commitment is central as I teach young police trainees in ethical decision making. But let me try to briefly recall what happened back then with policing making the Police force a significant element of the muderous Nazi-regime. (For further information follow the link to the German article about Policing during the Third Reich)

The rise of the Hitler movement began against the background of economic and
political crisis of the Weimar Republic. The brutal regime took advantage of the difficult situation of million Germans. Hitler and others in power legally created system of injustice that was aimed at installing a National Socialist-oriented community, which was „liberated“ from any „un-German spirit“.

Essential feature was the so-called „Verreichlichung“, in which the Police force was centralised by the Nazi rulers and became its outward appearance through the „Reichssicherheitshauptamtes“ (Reich Security Main Office) in 1939. From spring 1933 until the end of the war in 1945 the police apparatus received extensive new possibilities to intervene and monitor. In addition, the boundary between „law enforcement“ and „security police“ become blurred in favour of the SS, which ultimately held all powers. To make things worse, the population supported the daily terror of the Secret State Police by
willingly denunciating their fellow citizens.

Police battalions and task forces not only took part in the organisation of the Holocaust in the Germany and occupied areas, but were involved in mass shootings in East Europe and therefore directly took part in the Nazi genocide.

After celebrating six very meaningful Holocaust Remembrance Days in New York, it was this day that added an important mew layer to my commitment as a German citizen, and a pastor working in and for the German Federal Police. May we learn from the disaster of the Holocaust to never make it happen again to anyone, no matter what religion, nationality, or skin color the person might have.

Zu Gast bei Initiative 27. Januar

Am Abend des Epiphanienfestes war ich zu Gast bei Initiative 27. Januar. Im neuen, modernen Talkformat bei Instagram durfte ich mit Herrn Matthias Böhning meine biografischen und theologischen Zugänge zu Friedens- und Versöhnungsarbeit, Rassismus und Antisemitismus in Übersee und Deutschland sprechen. Es war eine spannende Unterhaltung, die mir sehr viel Spaß gemacht hat. Ich danke Herrn Böhning sehr für diese Einladung und lege die Initiative allen Leserinnen und Lesern ans Herz! Mitmachen könnt ihr bereits jetzt ganz konkret durch die Unterstützung des Projekts „Weiße Rosen und Briefe für Holocaustüberlebende“ (Link).

Hier ist der Zugang zum Video, der auf IGTV gepostet wurde:

Grief piece by piece

„YES!“ The small piece made a clicking sound as it found its place in the new jigsaw puzzle. It continuously took shape on the table of our sitting room leaving only a small space for other objects like a cup of milky tea. The fire was crackling in the back ground as I crouched over the mysterious picture slowly taking shape in front of me. The colorful and comic like drawing amused me as one piece after the other found its place. The displayed humor fit perfectly to the memories rising up from the depth of my soul like warm bubbles as every new puzzle piece clicked into its place.

Puzzling accompanies me and my family now almost a year. Presently, it is a sign of grief and remembrance as I feel drawn closer to one of the dearest people in my life, who I had lost too early and too quickly almost a year ago.

Just three weeks before his sudden passing away, we had spend a lovely holiday together. As we puzzled hours after hours, we talked a lot and just marveled at the gift of time, friendship and the deep connection we felt. Each time a puzzle piece found its place, he smiled accompanying it with a loud „YES!!!“. His voice still rings in my ears. As I repeated this gesture many times, yes thousands of times over the last year, it makes me feel closer to him. The memories give me strength. Life is different. It is lonely at times. His passing away has left a hole in my heart. But I have to honor his memories and his life as he is and will be an inspiration: No other person have I ever met was grounded so deeply in faith and loved so kindly beyond boundaries.

Grief is a difficult thing. I know that as a pastor as I have accompanied so many. I know it personally as I have lost numerous people dear to me. Grief needs different expressions. Mine is puzzling and evoking precious memories piece by piece.

If you out there are grieving, please be reminded that God loves you. May the memories of the loved one fill your heart and being with joy until you once meet again in God´s eternity.

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If you are curious about the puzzles, we use: The humorous puzzles are from Wasjig. They are a hilarious piece of art combined with a mystery to solve.