in der KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Evangelische Versöhngskirche has provided the following description of the memorial. Reproduced with permission.]
Welcome to the Versöhngskirche (Church of Reconciliation). At first sight, maybe this church seems to be very cold, grey, and dark. Many visitors have this first impression. However, when you take a closer look, its destinctive architecture begins to speak.
There are two special design characteristics which can be distinguished in this building. One is the absence of right angles. This, in an area which is determined by right angled things. The camp, the inspection place, the flogging table, all foundations, everything is right angled. Professor Helmut Striffler (Mannheim, Federal Republic of Germany), the architect, thought the fact that everything had right angles, to be a sheer symbol of the National Socialist murder system. Heinrich Mann once spoke about "the exactness within the loathsome." The architectural design of the Church of Reconciliation is meant to be a contrast to all right-angled things of terror.
The second characteristic is that the church is built like a path, leading slowly into the depths. Depth - a symbol for suffering and death, but also of contradiction and resistance. Also, a symbol of shame, as if you wished the ground would swallow you up. Depth can be something that frightens and threatens but also something that shelters and protects you. What is important, is that an awareness of depth does not destroy. From the depths, a man can moan, cry, shout, or pray. "Out if the depths I cry to you, O God...", these first words of Psalm 130 of the Hebrew Bible, are engraved on the wall.
In the courtyard connecting the service room with the conversation room, where the path has its lowest point, you can suddenly see a right angle. This meant to remind us of a place not far away. In Hebertshausen, just two miles from here, the SS built a concrete target butt. Thousands of Soviet prisoners of war were murdered here. They should not be forgotten.
Signs of overcoming this terror are indicated only very rarely. There should be nothing that palliates or minimizes, only very rare hints that there are such things as liberation, reconciliation, and redemption. Maybe you meditate on the cross, quasi coming out of the wall. You recognize a figure crushed by the surrounding weight. But you can also detect a different movement, a figure breaking up this weight from the inside. Resistance and resignation. Good Friday and Easter.
Those surviving, wish this part of the concentration camp to be an "area for mediation." No more photos, documents, and no more dread, but rather, a place for relaxation, breathing out, and finding silence. For this reason, the Catholic church, "Christ's Fear of Death," was built in 1960. In 1967, the Jewish prayer site and the Church of Reconciliation were consecrated. These are stony witnesses to how precious and endangered our being is.
Evangelische Versöhngskirche KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau
Alte Römerstrasse 89 D-85221 Dachau
FON 08131/13644 - FAX 08131/53036
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.