Walk I : Zionskirchestraße

August 10, 2016 § 2 Comments

My father and stepmother visited us last year, staying at an Airbnb just off Zionskirchestraße. Before long I was receiving Whatsapp photos of a stunning Romanesque church, just ten minutes from our apartment. Like many remarkable sights in Berlin, my wife and I hadn’t yet had time nor the emotional energy to get on our feet, leave our apartment and see it.

Today, on my walk, I sought it out. I’m still in suspense, due to the presence of my dog preventing me from entering the church. However, the exterior of the building is enough to satisfy.

DSC_0131.jpgIt got me thinking about the Jews in Germany at the time of Hitler (actually the name of the church has nothing to do with Jews, beyond the mutual use of the word ‘Zion’, defined as the place where god dwells. 

During the second world war, stories abound about Jews hiding from the Nazis inside the church. The thought inspired in me a question: what would I have done? Would I have been brave enough to house Jews, risking my family’s life and my own?

I’d like to assume I would have. But, as with anything related to such heightened circumstances, we truly can’t know how we’d behave until we find ourselves in such a moment. And then?

What I can say is that I have sold myself and others out under far less duress. Who hasn’t committed minor (or major) betrayals to save face, build one’s identity, save a job, or any other ultimately trivial reason? Yet we can be so confident that we would protect others and risk imminent death? There is a break in the logic chain somewhere here.

Conversely, sometimes it is when everything has tumbled that we discover our values. And maybe, like the lone surviving oak tree in a storm-ravaged forest, our deepest principles remain when we’re presented with the most fundamental choices.

Then I think about a lone woman, hiding behind an organ in a church, hearing the footsteps of those bent on her destruction. Whether it’s me or someone else, she needs someone willing to risk anything to save her.

 

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