Salzburg: The Checkered Sound of Music

Julie Andrews had one of the most beautiful voices in her generation.  Her voice captivated millions in movies such as Mary Poppins, and wowed others with her acting.  The charisma that followed her wherever she went was undeniable; she was a star.  Where she got her start though was in the beautiful Austrian Alps singing the story of Maria Von Trap in “The Sound of Music.”  It was filmed in Salzburg and was an instant hit and classic.  Many still watch it today and are still captivated by the story and history of the area.  Austria uses this to help bolster it’s economy despite it’s checkered past.

Austria is a strange country that accounts for 10% of it’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with tourism, in a large part to the filming of the sound of music.  Many American tourists come to see where the iconic movie was filmed.  It was based on a true story out of the city of Salzburg, and the director wanted to film in Salzburg to capture the history and culture.  Many of the sites in the movie are still standing and can be seen today.

There is a dark side to Austria as well though; Austria was the home to the evil Hitler.  He fondly remember Austria during his conquests, as well as built many cultural buildings there.  The largest art museum ever designed was to be built in Austria to hold Hitler’s art collection, but in the end he decided against it due to Allied bombings and lack of funds.  Still, he called Austria home, and Austria has been slow to apologize for the atrocities of World War Two.

Even with the slightly whimsical yet dark past, Austria continues on.  Salzburg is a popular wedding destination, and the Winter Olympics have been hosted twice in Austria.  While they press through their checkered past, they celebrate the history and fortitude of the people.  A brighter tomorrow has arrived for the Austrians as they create a new history to be proud of.


Mainz and Heidelberg: German Knowledge

Many arguments can be made for what is the greatest invention of all time.  Some would say that is was the telegraph or the telephone.  Maybe it could have been the steam engine or the train that followed suit.  The plane opened up transportation, while the internet opened the world to communication, but these all pale in comparison to one single invention that came out of Germany: the moveable type printing press.  Invented by Johannes Gutenberg, the printing press helped to change the face of the world and his legacy lives on today.

Located on the Rhine Rive, Mainz houses the Gutenberg Museum and was also the home of Gutenberg when he built his printing press.  While he originally started out as a businessman selling relics, he eventually joined a printing shop and learned the trade.  While working in the shop, he came up with a brilliant way to quickly produce print and books with moveable type.  Until this point, all molds had to be carved by hand and only the very wealthy could own books.  Now, even the common man could own books.  In the mid 1400s he invented the press and changed the world forever.

It is easy to argue that without him the Reformation would have never happened.  Gutenberg’s printing press allowed for Luther’s work to be distributed quickly.  It also boosted literacy at the time.  The most important contribution though was that the Bible was now printed in the common language.  Religion became personal and accessible.

Down the road is the beautiful city of Heidelberg, one of the most picturesque cities in all of Europe.  It also houses the famous University of Heidelberg, which also helped facilitate the growth of the Reformation.  Famous for it’s wine, the city is romantic in scenery and history.

With the closing of the German tour, I realized the blessing of education.  Gutenberg gave us a gift so that we are able to now communicate and read in our own language.  Now we are able to think independently, and take advantage of the books and opportunities that are presented to us.  This is why I am able to study abroad and am blessed to realize the importance of education, and not take it for granted.

Bach: The Music of the Reformation

While many credit Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli for the Reformation, they often forget the arts.  For instance, the paintings of Lucas Cranach captured the features of Luther and his wife Katie, as well as others such as Philip Melanchthon.  Other painters such as as Rembrandt used their art to further their ideas of Protestantism and the Reformed Church.  While we count these among the great artists the world has ever seen, as well as purveyors of the Reform and the Gospel, there is one who stands out among the rest.  Johann Bach epitomized the Reformation and the theology behind it through his music and hymns he wrote over his lifetime.

Bach was born in Eisenach in the province of Thuringa.  His family was extremely musical, and his father was actually the director of music in the town.  Their home now hosts the Bach museum, and honors his composition.  The interesting part about this is that Bach was not recognized for his compositions until later on in his lifetime.  During his life he was famous for being an organ player.  He was paid handsomely to play in Weimar for a time, as well as other major cities around Germany.  It was not until after his death that his compositions became known as the masterpieces they are today.  Mozart called Bach “the master of harmony” and many of the great composers that came after Bach were inspired by his work.

The contribution that Bach had that is often overlooked is his contribution to the spread of the work of Luther.  A Lutheran, Bach wrote Sola Dei Gloria, or “To God Alone be the Glory,” on all of his compositions.  He wanted the world to know that he ultimately served Christ, not the principalities of the world.  In fact, much of his work was based off of Lutheran hymn’s he was taught in school.  He wrote many hymns and pieces that honored figures of the Bible and Christendom.

Bach personified Luther’s idea of honoring God in all that you do.  He showed that one did not have to be a preacher to honor God and preach the gospel.  Paul said in Colossians 3:17 that Christians should use their gifts to the glory of God: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Bach preached through music, and in doing so expanded the kingdom of God.  Hopefully we can all be used in such a manner as this in our gifts and talents.

Following the Footsteps of Luther: Wittenberg, Erfurt, Wartburg, and Worms

Everyone has surreal moments in their lives.  Maybe it is a trip to the coast where you see the ocean for the first time.  For some, it is traveling to Washington D.C. and embracing the American history.  Many of these places are created by larger than life figures; Washington D.C. is famous for figures such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln.  My surreal moment came while following the footsteps of Martin Luther through Germany.

Martin Luther is obviously famous for setting the wheels into motion for the Reformation and leading the German Reformation during his lifetime.  Wittenberg is famous for hosting the church that he nailed his famous “Ninety-Five Theses” to the door on October 31, 1517, the date that many consider the start of the Reformation.  Luther spent most of his life in Wittenberg, but it all started for him in Erfurt.  Luther originally studied law at the University of Erfurt, but after becoming terrified in a storm, he cried out to St. Anne, the patron saint of miners.  He promised his life to God if only He would spare him from the terrible storm.  Once escaping he walked straight to the nearest monastery.  So he then became a monk at the Augustine monastery located in Erfurt.  Here he realized how sinful he was, and was famous for spending hours in confession.  The buildings still stand and show the everyday life of Luther vividly.  It was a simple life, but was a hard one.  Becoming a monk was no simple task, they dedicated their lives to God in manner, practice, and study.

After spending much time at the monastery in Erfurt, the monks realized that Luther was depressed and needed a change of scenery.  They decided to send him to Wittenberg.  At Wittenberg he embraced pastoral duties, as well as taught at the local university.  He was a popular professor for his light hearted spirit, as well as his brilliance in dialogue and thinking outside of the box.  During his time there he was continually plagued by the fact that he was sinful; he would never be able to reach salvation on his own.

This is where he had his “Tower Experience” and realized the message of grace.  One night while studying the Bible, Luther stumbled upon Romans 1:17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  Luther then realized that grace through faith redeems, not works. The tower still stands, as well as the two churches he preached in.  While he preached in St. Mary’s Church, he nailed his Theses to the Castle Church, another church in the city.  Both still stand today and bear witness to the life and legacy of Luther.

Wittenberg also hosts the home of Luther and his wife Katie, whom he loved dearly.  Originally he married Katie, a runaway nun, so that his parents would have grandchildren and most importantly to spite the Pope.  He was often heard calling her “his rib,” after the creation story of Adam and Eve.  We often forget that these figures were normal human beings, and Luther was quite a funny one.  A lover of beer, Katie brewed beer for Luther in his basement, and Luther often had friends over to discuss politics and theology over a beer.  In the museum honoring his life and works, their is a comical letter in which he starts, “Katie my boss has commanded that I write to you.”  Luther was an everyday man, and we must never forget that.  Not only does the home capture the work and lessons of Luther, but it also depicts his everyday life extremely well.  It is funny to see the toilet that Luther often said “my best revelations are found while on the pot.”  He boldly stood up to the Pope, but was no more than a mere man.

The most important part of the city though is the door of the church; this is where I had my surreal moment.  While the door no longer stands after the many wars that plagued Germany, the replacement is magnificent.  The monument consists of two iron doors that have his Ninety-Five Theses engraved into them.  It was amazing to stand in the place where Luther set the world ablaze with a mallet and a few nails.  The church also houses the graves of Philip Melanchthon and Martin Luther.

While this raised all kinds of controversy, he was immediately raised to the status of a celebrity.  No one dared to defy the Pope at the time, and a monk from Wittenberg had decided to do so.  Luther was taken to Worms where he was asked to recant his statements about the practices of the church, namely indulgences.  Luther answered their question with one of the most famous statements in history: “Since then your serene majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, plan and unvarnished: Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they often err and contradict themselves, I am bound to the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and I will not retract anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.  I cannot do otherwise.  Here I stand.  May God help me, Amen.”

While the building in which this confession took place no longer stands, the largest memorial to the Reformation stands in Worms.  It depicts Luther standing and holding his Bible, preaching the Word of God.  At his feet are pre-Reformers, such as Jan Huss and William Tyndale.  The memorial honors the men often forgotten that were willing to stand up to the Pope in the face of danger.  Their example is still important to us today. The Biblical history is also interesting; the oldest Jewish graveyard in Germany is in Worms.  Many of the Jewish customs are observed here, such as placing a rock on top of the grave to participate int the burial.  The “Old Jewish Cemetery” brings Worms into a full circle from the Old Testament to the revival of the New Testament.  Both the cemetery and the Reformation memorial hold true to the faithfulness of God.  He protected his people in the Old Testament, just as well as he protected and used the Reformers.

After Worms, Luther was sent away.  While he was promised a safe return home by the Holy Roman Emperor, a price was immediately put on his head; danger lurked around every corner for Luther.  While he was a bold and fearless man, he was no match for the onslaught he would have had to have faced.  Luckily, Frederick the Wise realized the brilliance and treasure he had in his province, and had him kidnapped.  He took Luther to Wartburg Castle, where he hid him away.  During this time Luther went by the name Knight George to disguise his identity from those who were searching for him.  He also translated his famous Luther Bible from the original languages into German.  Finally, the lay person would be able to read the scripture in their native language.

While Luther eventually moved back to Wittenberg, where he taught, wrote, and preached until his death, his impact has been global.  Hundreds of denominations have arisen from his split with the Catholic Church, and his legacy is carried on through the theology both current and past.  We have been so blessed by his work and his life, and I was blessed to walk in his footsteps.  I will never forget what it was like to step into Luther’s shoes, if only for a brief moment.

Berlin: The German Capitol

While here in Germany, I spent two days in the small town of Meissenheim.  A small town that many think unimportant, it is where my family, the Schlenkers, originally migrated from.  The time I spent there was spent conversing with distant family, Cristof and Irene Schlenker, and their son Yan.  We laughed, talked about our families, and talked about the political landscape.  Eventually they started to ask me about my trip in Germany.  How did I like it?  What was my favorite city?  When I mentioned the two days I spent in Berlin, Cristof grew very serious.  “I never thought the Berlin Wall would fall.  We never dreamed that the German Democratic Republic would go away.”

As he started to talk, I probed the Schlenkers about the Berlin Wall, he began to tell me stories from the days of Communism.  “I remember that you could pay to go to East Germany, but their was not always a guarantee of getting back,” Cristof explained, “But goods and books were cheaper there.  When I was in school we would smuggle money in our shoes, and then go across and buy books.  I was always terrified we would get caught and be forced to stay in the GDR.”  Yan, while only 18, has studied the Berlin Wall his entire life.  He recounted the horror stories of people jumping from building so that they could escape the terrors of the Communist regime.

This conversation helped reinforce a thought I had while in Berlin; Berlin is a beautiful city attempting to escape its past.  Now the German capitol, the past has haunted Berlin throughout the ages.  Some of the greatest museums, sites, and art in the world are located in the beautiful city, including some of the saddest and sobering places.  It is an enigma; attempting to forget it’s past and move towards a better tomorrow.  While famous for the Wall that was set up in Germany in 1961 to deter people from leaving the Communist sector of East Berlin to the Allied sector in West Berlin.  Not only did this highten the Cold War tensions, but it left Berlin with a fractured identity that is still in the process of being rebuilt.

To understand Berlin, one must first understand the history surrounding it.  Berlin was originally a city devastated by the 30 Years War; the city lost half of its population during this period.  Fredrick the Great changed all of this; he opened up the city to refugees, musicians, and other great thinkers.  For instance, during this time more than 16,000 French Huguenots expelled from France were welcomed to Berlin; their massive church still stands to this day in downtown Berlin.  Berlin became a hub for the Enlightenment and helped to unify Germany.

Berlin remained in relative peace until World War Two.  Adolf Hitler and his followers tore the city apart by decimating the Jewish population, setting fire to the Bundestag (German congressional building), and set Berlin as his capitol.  During this time though, the city was laid to waste.  The Battle of Berlin and the numerous air raids that took place from 1943-1945 killed hundreds of thousands, most of which were civilians.  After the war it was divided into two sections; East and West Berlin.  Most know the rest of the history from this point on; the Berlin Wall was set up and drove a wedge in between the people and country of Germany.  It finally fell in 1989, and Germany was finally reunited.

Now Berlin not only hosts the German capitol, but it also homes beautiful museums and memorials.  While you can visit preserved portions of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, my two favorites were the Holocaust memorial and the East Side Gallery; both represent the hardships faced and hope Germany has for the future.  In my opinion, the best Holocaust memorial in Germany is housed in downtown.  It built to symbolize a Jewish graveyard, using flat rectangular stones that look like gravestones.  As one moves into the memorial, the ground drops and one becomes encircled by giant stones that disorient and confuse as you walk through it.  The reminder of the atrocities and the confusion of the German identity after the Holocaust ring true; it is a beautiful memorial that honors the memories of the Holocaust well.

The East Side Gallery is a bit lighter in spirit and just as haunting.  After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the largest part of the wall left standing was to be left as a memorial.  Street artists from around the world were invited to take this dismal structure and turn it into something beautiful.  Now the wall is an art masterpiece, decorated by beautiful and powerful work.  Tolerance, peace, unity, and images from the reunification are painted along the wall.  It shows the rebirth of Germany and its hope for the future.

With these hopeful works come other signs of the future.  Museum Island in Berlin hosts some of the most beautiful museums in the world, including the Berlin History Museum and the Pergamon Museum.  The Berlin History Museum examines the entire history of the German people, and hosts famous art, Bibles, and other important German artifacts.  The Pergamon Museum is one of the most important and spectacular archaeological museums in the world; it hosts the Pergamon Altar, an old Greek Altar, and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.  Both massive artifacts have much historical importance and give us a glimpse into the past.

As my conversation with Cristof came to a close, and my reminiscing of Berlin wound down, I realized the importance of examining our history.  When we move forward, we must use our history to guide our future.  Cristof spoke of Berlin as a city that is moving forward with a new identity guided by its old one; the identity is hopeful and progressive.  I hope that I can use this lesson when I am in the United States, and use my past to guide to my future as I move forward in life and future endeavors.

Dresden: Out of the Ashes

Stepping into East Germany is one of the most sobering feelings in the world.  Seeing the first had destruction and cold architecture of the former Communist rule, as well as the graffiti and cold feeling around the cities.  Many of these cities were completely rebuilt after massive destruction wreaked upon these cities during World War Two.  Most were left in ruin and have taken years upon years to even bring to a semblance of modernity.  Sometimes there is a diamond in the rough, a city that has overcome the hardships and thrown off the oppression and instead decided to shine.  Such is the city of Dresden, the Venice of Germany.

Dresden is a gorgeous city famous for its beautiful Cathedrals, beautiful art, and fine porcelain.  While all of it seems hundreds of years old, much of it is fairly new.  In February of 1945, the Allied Forces, mainly the Royal Air Force, fire bombed the city of Dresden.  The city was leveled to the ground, and somewhere between 25,000 and 200,000 people were killed.  The number has never been exact due to the varying sources and propaganda at the time; either way, it was a terrible tragedy where thousands of civilians were killed.  Along with the deaths came the destruction of the beauty; the entire downtown area was either leveled or burned to the ground.  This bombing was seen as a retaliation for the bombing of London, but the English distanced themselves from the attack after the results.  Maybe the most famous portrayal of this horrible time is Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  He was a prisoner of war during this time in Dresden and was one of the lucky few to survive the attack.  The first glimpses of the city were described by Vonnegut as a horrible attack: “We had never seen anything like it before, and had no idea that our side was capable of such indiscriminate destruction… The results were just a total calamity of civilization.”  The three days of bombing was one of the most horrific attacks during World War Two.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of the oppression.  Dresden became apart of the German Democratic Republic, the puppet government of the United Socialist Soviet Republic, and fell under the East German poverty.  While much of the city and important building were rebuilt, most of the buildings were now constructed in a “socialist modern” style.  This way they no longer had their identity as Germans, but were instead the people.  The GDR ran Dresden until the fall of East Germany in 1990.  When they regained their freedom and Germany was reunified, Dresden was able to expand and show it’s beauty in ways that are near impossible to put into words.

Dresden hosts many beautiful buildings and museums, but none are as magnificent as the Zwinger.  A museum complex that hosts numerous exhibits is famous for the Old Masters Gallery, which homes great Italian artists such as Caravaggio, Bernardo Bellotto, Titian, Raphael, master Flemish painters like P.P. Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, Anthony van Dyck and Jan van Eyck, and beautiful pieces by the Dutch masters and artists of the Reformation Jan Vermeer  and Rembrandt van Rijn.  It also homes the largest collection of Cranach paintings in Europe, by both Lucas Cranach the Older and Lucas Cranach the Older.  These are only a few of the artists featured in the massive and beautiful art museum.  The paintings speak into the soul of the onlooker, and many have spiritual significance.  Especially the Dutch masters capture the movement of the Reformation.  Possibly the best art collection in all of Germany, the gallery is truly a masterpiece.

The other two beautiful buildings are the two gorgeous churches: the Catholic Hofkirche and the Lutheran Frauenkirche.  The Hofkirche was built by Augustus the Great during a time when kings had to be Catholic.  This was a turn off to the mostly Protestant city of Dresden, and they only allowed him to build the church if the tower was lower than the Protestant church.  As most churches from that time, it is exquisitely beautiful.  Not as beautiful as the Frauenkirche though; with a towering statue of Martin Luther the church is the centerpiece of Dresden.  The church was rebuilt after the firebombing of Dresden, and many of the original stones were used to rebuild the church.  The checkered stones show the perseverance of Dresden; out of the ashes it has risen to again become a city of power and beauty.

The lesson of Dresden is one of perseverance.  Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only so, but we rejoice in our hardships.  Hardships produce perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.  And hope does not disappoint us.”  Christ always has a plan for the hardships that we face.  The city of Dresden has become a testament to Reformation painters and beautiful buildings that represent the beauty of God in his creation.  As we persevere through everyday toils and troubles, may we become conduits of his love and hope.

Nuremberg: Tough Questions

They marched onward at his beckoning.  Tanks moved by, the masses cheered, and millions of Germans held onto his every word.  He enticed crowds with his promises of power, wealth, and prestige.  His followers were willing to die for him and saw him as the Messiah of Germany.  Under him, Germany was going to be restored to it’s former glory.  People whispered among themselves about a Thousand Year Reich that was coming.  Hitler was a demigod during his rise to power.  While he is now known for his atrocities committed against the Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals, Hitler was a larger than life figure during his rise to power.  We know ask why were so many enticed?  Why did people by into his power?  What allowed Hitler to rise to power?  After visiting the city of Nuremberg it is easy to see the appeal of Hitler, and confronts one with a terrifying question: Would I have abstained or supported Hitler and his mantra?

Nuremberg is famous for the Nuremberg trials, where many of the higher ups that were captured during the Third Reich in relation to the Holocaust were executed.  While this in itself deserves the notoriety Nuremberg has, it also is home to the Nazi document center, as well as other prominent Nazi buildings.  When Hitler was building his Third Reich, he centered his political power around Nuremberg.  Many of the rallies that are now seen on old film were held in Nuremberg.  You are still able to view many of these films at the Nazi document center.  The center is modeled after the Roman Colosseum.  Walking into the center and observing the massive size of the building is a sobering moment; all of the sudden the magnitude of Hitler’s power settles in.

He was not a simple man to the people.  In possibly the most effective propaganda film of all time, “Triumph of the Will,” Hitler’s plane is seen descending from the clouds.  As he descends, the mass crowds gather to greet their leader, creating a scene of God descending from the heavens to be greeted by his followers.  After landing we see the parades held in his honor, the military showing their power, and the people ogling the man that was Hitler.  The photos, paintings, films, and all other depictions of Hitler by his followers show him as a god.  To them, he was their Savior coming to liberate the people from the shackles of oppression.

After watching the films, one has to confront himself.  When thinking about history, most would answer heartily, “I would have never embraced the Nazi ideals!  I would have stood up to Hitler!”  Are they honest though?  It is hard to imagine viewing these demonstrations and not being slightly taken by the power of Hitler.  How often is man enticed by power and popularity?  In Acts 13 Paul encounters a magician that is called “powerful”  and “intelligent.”  He wanted to convince Paul to give him more power, but Paul saw through his ruse.  Paul realized that when we encounter the majesty of man, we must interpret it through the lens of Christ.  Hitler has fallen, but we are constantly surrounded by those in power.  May we as Christians be able to seek first the Kingdom and through that vote for our leaders.  If we do that, then we avoid the allure of human power and live lives honoring to our King.

Goethe, Schiller, and Nietzche: The German Mind

Since the beginning of modern history Germany has produced some of the best minds to ever grace the planet earth.  Thinkers such as Martin Luther, Karl Marx, and Albert Einstein have all come from this country around the size of Montana.  Many of these great minds met and lived in Weimar for parts of their lives.  Some of the famous names that are heard in the same sentence as Weimar are Johann Bach, Franz Liszt, Carl Augustus, Hans Christian Anderson, Lucas Cranach, Albert Schweitzer, Johann Herder, and Luther.  Some of these spent their entire lives here, while others briefly stopped in for a few years or consistent visits.  Either way one thing is evident about Weimar, there was always an influx of ideas.  People came here to share ideas and Weimar became an intellectual capital of Germany.  This is why Hitler wanted one of his capitals of the Third Reich to be in Weimar; he realized that the history and thought of Weimar elevated the German mind.  Maybe most important of the Weimar thinkers were Goethe, Schiller, and Nietzsche.

Lets start at the beginning with maybe the highest revered German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Now if you mention Goethe in America, most won’t know who he is.  If you mention him in Germany?  Everyone knows all there is to about his works and thinking.  More composers have set poems and works of Goethe to music than anyone else to ever write, even Shakespeare.  Goethe was one of the leaders of the Enlightenment in Germany, and brought about the intellectual and art culture that Germany had been lacking.  His fame started with the writing of his book The Sorrows of Young Werther.  Carl Augustus, the duke of Weimar at the time, was intrigued by Goethe and brought him to his city.  He gifted Goethe with two homes, where he wrote and thought for the rest of his life.  He built a massive art collection of over 26,000 pieces and his house resembled a museum.  Other thinkers such as Schiller and Herder were brought to Weimar by Goethe’s prodding.  Faust became his most famous work and masterpiece, and is still a classic today.  Most German schools require the reading of many of Goethe’s works, including Faust.  Goethe lived a life full of stories, and a paragraph cannot do him justice.  One thing that must be said about Goethe was that he was opposed to the idea of God; he was a skeptic more than anything.  This could be seen in his view of life and especially when it came to romance; he was in love with two women, eventually marrying Christiane, the woman that he lived and dated for 18 years before marriage.

Friedrich Schiller on the other hand was a completely different person when it came to beliefs, but similar when it came to brilliance.  Schiller was at least a deist, if not a Christian that often used the illusion of God in his works.  Goethe recognized his brilliance and convinced Carl Augustus to bring Schiller to Weimar.  This was ironic because they were not friends, nor did they have much of a connection to speak of; Schiller and Goethe actually had quite opposite views of life.  Family was central in Schiller’s life, while Goethe was a bit looser with his morals.  Either way, the two developed into friends and colleagues, and Schiller wrote his fair share of classics.  While he wrote much in the realm of science and philosophy (as did Goethe) due to his respect of Kant, his true brilliance came in poetry.  The Robbers, Don Carlos, and William Tell are his most famous works.  Like Goethe, his contributions are still revered among the finest in the world, and he is a German hero.

The dark side of Weimar comes with the thoughts of Friedrich Nietzsche.  Characterized by brilliance, Nietzsche was offered associate professorship in classical philology at the University of Basel when still an undergraduate at the age of 24, and became a full professor only a year later.  He was forced to step down only 11 years later though due to poor health; this is when he wrote most of the works he is now famous for.  He wrote on music, literature, and philosophy.  His most famous statement was “God is dead.”  According to Nietzsche the world had no God or ultimate reality.  Nihilism ultimately comes from Nietzsche’s thoughts; he believed that there was ultimately nothing that could be proven real.  Frustrated, he moved onto becoming a moral relativist, and in doing so laid the foundations for the postmodern movement.  Unfortunately, in his philosophical declarations he unintentionally trivialized human life.  Hitler famously used Nietzsche philosophy to formulate his ideas of the “Aryan Race”.

While all these men contributed to society, what kind of legacy did they leave?  With Goethe and Nietzsche, they left behind volumes of brilliant works.  They left behind philosophy, theology, poetry, writings on science, and other works of art.  Unfortunately both of these men also left behind skewed legacies.  Goethe had scandal in his love life, and often elevated his work above others.  He declared that he was atheistic, and did it all to pleasure himself.  Nietzsche’s legacy is similar; he left behind futile and hopeless knowledge.  Knowledge and the pursuit of pleasure governed Nietzsche’s life.  Both of their existences ended futilely and were all they had.  Schiller seemed to have something different though.  He strove to use his talents to better man’s understanding of God.  For instance, in physical science he proved that working out and physical health can relate to the mind and spiritual aspect.  He used his talents to further the Kingdom of God.  This is where legacy becomes a major question.  What kind of legacy will we leave?  Will it be futile or will it be for Christ?  The words of Paul in Romans 12 come to mind for the Christian intellectual, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  May all our works be pleasing to him and honor the kingdom.  Amen.

Flossenburg and Buchenwald: The Horrors of Sin

There is no horror like stepping into a concentration camp.  A severe shroud of darkness covers each of these landmarks to human sinfulness.  The two camps of Flossenburg and Buchenwald are not exception to the darkness.  Both are full of fear and evil, and prove to be a place of self-examination.  Self-examination through history is a practice that all should observe.  Germans are much better at examining their history as a means towards a better tomorrow.  Americans should do the same to ensure that these atrocities never happen again.

Flossenburg is the town that housed one of the work camps during World War II.  The camp was not necessarily an extermination camp, but it was geared towards sadism.  The camp ran from May 1938 until its liberation in April of 1945.  Most of the prisoners were from the Eastern European area of the 100,000 prisoners registered at the camp.  Out of these prisoners, 30,000 of the prisoners died.  So many prisoners died that the crematorium had a slide built onto it so the dead bodies could be slid down to the furnace instead of carried.  Many of the people who survived the camp talk about feeling subhuman and like dogs; they were spit upon, beaten, and cursed daily for years until liberation.  The camp is famous for being the place that Dietrich Bonheoffer was finally killed at in April of 1945, days before liberation.  The verse 2 Timothy 1:7 sits over his grave. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  Bonheoffer certainly did not stand down during the war, and fought for equality and freedom.  He followed suit of his colleague Paul Schneider.

Paul Schneider was a preacher from Germany who was the pastor of the small congregations in Dickenschied and Womrath.  Heroics followed him wherever he went; Schneider almost gave his life for Germany during World War I after being shot in the stomach. After he recovered he asked to be put back in the field and went back to war.  These heroics earned him the Iron Cross and accolades.  Even so, he did not want anything to do with the Nazis, and adamantly opposed Hitler.  The Nazi party imprisoned him in 1935 until 1937 when he we briefly released.  After visiting his family shortly, he was taken again to Buchenwald concentration camp.  While there he never stopped living for Christ; he would preach to the prisoners and fast on Fridays so that others could have his food.  He was moved to solitary confinement after refusing to bow to the Swastika on Hitler’s birthday.  The final breaking point for the Nazis came in the form of a sermon.  During role call on Easter 1938 Schneider shouted from his window, “Comrades, hear me. Here speaks Pastor Schneider. Here is tortured and murdered. So speaks the Lord: I am the resurrection and the life!”  He was severely beaten for this, and eventually was executed in 1939.

All of these horrors happened in the terrible camp of Buchenwald.  The former recreational spot hosted 250,000 prisoners during its period from 1937-1945.  The first SS head to run the camp said, “In this camp there are only healthy persons or dead persons.”  Over 56,000 people died in Buchenwald due to overwork and poor health conditions.  It was a camp designed for extermination by work.  Jews, the Romany and Sinti gypsies, and the Soviets were treated the worst.  This camp was a place of horror for the nearly 10 years it was open.

How terrible is the fallen human heart?  Many philosophers have asserted over time that there is goodness about man; obviously they had never set foot in a concentration camp.  Neitzche is famous for proclaiming, “God is dead” and in that creating his own truth.  Postmodern ideas are what landed the Nazis in power and allowed them to kill millions of people.  Instead, man must acknowledge his sinfulness. Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  This is why figures such as Bonheoffer and Schneider were so affective; they realized that the only cure for their sinfulness was God, not a government or a person.  Martin Luther wrote that man was “sinful in fact and righteous in hope.”  In realizing that Christ was the answer, not Hitler, both Bonheoffer and Schneider were able to use their influence to affect the Kingdom of God.  Their message must be heeded by all modern day Christians; man will not save us, only God.  So often Christians pours his powers, efforts, and hope into a man or government, and forget where their loyalty lies.  Mark 12:17 states, “Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”  The purpose of this passage was to show that our loyalty belongs to Christ.  While it is our civil duty to be involved and engaged in government, our ultimate hope does not belong to Barrack Obama or Mit Romney, rather it belongs to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Neuschwanstein: The Disney Castle

When the name Bill Gates is spoken, the first thought on everyone’s mind is, “That guy is unbelievably rich.”  Other figures such as Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and the Sam Walton are other names that evoke jaw-dropping amounts of wealth, but what if you had the money to build your own castle?  What if that very castle you built was used as inspiration for Walt Disney?  This is the story of King Ludwig the II of Bavaria, also known as crazy King Ludwig.  He lived from 1845-1886 and was the King of Bavaria from 1864 to shortly before his death.  Known as the Swan king, he is famous for his obsession with extravagant buildings and spending his nations money.

Before Ludwig became king of Bavaria, he used to spend the summer as a young boy in Neuschwanstein.  Neuschwanstein is a secluded mountain town located in the Alps and along side a lake.  This made this the perfect spot to spend summers, and Ludwig adored the area.  The home includes lavish personal quarters filled with paintings from famous operas, and equipped with running water and plumbing.  It also contained areas such as a literal “man cave”, a fake cave built for him to read and drink wine in.  When he became king in 1864, he had already started to work on plans for his two palaces and his castle.  Herrenchiemsee and Schloss Linderhof were both completed, but Nordschwanstein was never finished; he was ousted from power before he was able to finish his work.  King Ludwig’s ousting and death is surrounded by controversy; he was conspired against because of the debt his palaces left the country in.  The ministers of Bavaria at the time had Ludwig’s doctor declare him crazy, and removed him from power.  Soon after, he was found dead at his palace, drowned in the shallows, along with his doctor.  It was declared a suicide by drowning, but no water was ever found in his lungs.  Many conspiracy theories have arisen over time, and most think he was murdered.

The word legacy is tossed around quite a bit in American culture.  Questions are often asked about the legacy one will leave, and the words one will speak, but we forget about the impact our lives have on the minority.  As one walks through up the mountain to look at the glory of Neuschwanstein, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer power and glory of the building.  Many are amazed at the creativity and vision, such as Walt Disney.  At the same time, it also becomes apparent the abuse of power that occurred, and becomes a warning to all of us.  God commands one to be responsible with what he has given.  Unfortunately, along with power comes pride, and pride brings about a desire to glorify oneself.  This was the struggle of Hitler, just as it was the struggle of King Ludwig, who did not murder millions.  Pride can overtake quite easily, and one must be careful to focus upon Christ.  Only then will they be able to embrace the beauty of the world truly, and die to themselves.