We are staying in Nuremberg this month to visit people we came to love when we served and English speaking church in 2012 to serve an English speaking church. Most of them are young adults just starting their careers. They came from such places as Cameroon, India, China, England, Ireland, Austria, Brazil, Poland, Ukraine, U.S. and, of course, Germany. Nuremberg has become a cosmopolitan crossroads. It is, as we remembered it, a beautiful city with beautiful people and a welcoming country.
Of course, Nuremberg hasn’t always been that way. It is difficult to be here and not reflect on that dark period when Hitler led this nation and the world to the brink of the abyss. During those days, Nuremberg became the site where the 1935 laws were passed that launched the deadly persecution of the Jews. It was also the site of the annual Nazi rallies where up to a million people assembled to cheer Hitler and his programs. And it was here that the Nuremberg trials were conducted in 1945 to hold the Nazi leaders accountable to International law. So chilling was the Hitler regime that the world seemed to forget that Germany gave us Luther, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms and Bonhoeffer.
The Nazi rally grounds have been turned into parks where couples stroll beneath shade trees and families play with their children beside a tranquil lake. Near by, the Document Center (Doku Zentrum) “documents” what happened in the Second World War, an attempt to understand how a nation could be led to commit the atrocities unleashed by Hitler’s regime. It is a sobering place that looms over the peaceful park that surrounds it. Today the Nuremberg Symphonic Orchestra performs open air concerts in the same place where thousands once hailed Hitler and cheered his speeches.
Nuremberg, the largest city in Franconia and gateway to Bavaria, is impressive as an idyllic and tranquil place. But always, underneath the surface, there lurks the memory of the Second World War and the questions it raises.
Nuremberg is a constant reminder of our potential for good and evil, our infinite capacity for the divine and the demonic. The evil that raised its head in Nuremberg more than half a century ago, continues to raise its head among us today. We witness that evil in Nigeria where 200 girls were recently kidnapped by a radical Islamic group, in Iraq where tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslim factions threaten to rip apart its fragile government. In Syria where civil war has raged for the past three years and threatens to spread into Lebanon. We witness it in almost every city where domestic quarrels often end in violence. We see it in the continued global fear of terrorism. Nuremberg is a reminder that each of us, every people and nation of every generation, need to be delivered from our worst passions. It is the reason God sent His Son who died for us so that we might learn to love as He loved, to forgive as He forgave and to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect.