So here I am, sitting in a cafe located in the Old Town of Lübeck, watching the people pass by, overhearing a language I have no knowledge of. Thinking. It is the result of a spontaneous act. Lübeck is not an island associated with fabulous sunset scenes, the deep sound of waves, and the wind that blows gently on the beaches in half-darkness. It is not like that.
The waiters are handsome and attentive. I am not hungry, just thirsty after a few hours’ wandering in the town. The warm sunlight caresses my pale skin. Not as pale as it was supposed to be. The heat waves hit Norway early in May this year. It seems to have settled down since then. The climate change it says. Must be.
“A cup of tea.”
“Fruit tea, green tea?” He wonders, smiling.
“No, English breakfast tea, with a little soy milk.” Would the word “English” create some kind of associations? Unpleasant ones?
“Sure.” He gives me a nod, smiling again.
What brought me here? The mind starts to wander.
- Lübeck is listed as a World Heritage Site because of its extensive gothic architecture.
- During WW2, Lübeck was the first German city to be attacked by British Royal Air Force (RAF) on the night of 28 March 1942 after towns and cities in Britain were devastatingly bombed by the German Luftwaffe. London had been systematically bombed by Luftwaffe for 56 days. Numerous buildings in the city of Coventry were in ruins, and the symbolic Coventry Cathedral was destroyed.
All my sympathy has been with the British, but is it biased? The German people suffered too, the people in Lübeck.
The words from a pastor I encountered during a church visit are returning:
- Lübeck was under air attack that night, people were killed, churches and cathedrals were severely damaged. You see the gaps between the buildings, those with a more modern look were built in 1950’s. It was all very sad, the war.
From behind his glasses, he looked at me gently. His voice was soft, no hatred to be traced.
Then my mind is turning to another direction. A different event.
I passed by the Herz-Jesu Kirche (Sacred Heart Church) when I was having my first jog in Lübeck. There was a picture featuring four men hanging on the front door. Who were they and why? I turned back, it read “Memorial to the four Lübeck Martyrs murdered by the Nazi Regime on 10 November 1943”.
Entering the church, I was surrounded by emptiness and silence. No, not completely silent. Someone was praying. A woman in the corner, with her head bent over and her hands folded.
Could I hear the mourning? The church, together with the people of Lübeck, witnessed the brutality nearly 75 years ago.
On 10 November 1943, the Roman Catholic priests Johannes Prassek, Eduard Müller, Hermann Lange, and the Evangelical-Lutheran Pastor Karl Frederich Stellbrink were brutally executed at Hamburg’s Holstenglacis Prison, with three minutes between them.
They lived and worked in Sacred Heart Church, and were later found guilty by the Nazi Regime of “defeatism, malice, favouring the enemy and listening to enemy broadcasts.”
On Palmarum (Palme Sunday), right after the bombing raid on Lübeck, Pastor Stellbrink delivered his sermon “God has spoken in a loud voice and the people of Lübeck will once again learn to pray.” This sermon led to his arrest and later execution.
People suffered and sacrificed their lives during WW2 independent of their nationalities.
I have noticed that my tea cup, a mug, is now empty. How long has the mind been wandering? It carries on running into another scene.
That morning, I spotted two flags hanging on a window when jogging alone the seaside. An English flag and a German flag hanging on the window of a cafe which was closed at that time.
A cafe that offers English and German cuisines? Or is it a symbol of reconciliation?
Pushing open the door, my hair flutters in the light breeze. The town is covered with a glorious sunshine. It all looks so peaceful and harmonious. In Lübeck.
(This post was drafted on 10 July 2018 and completed on 31 July 2018. Photos taken in Lübeck, July 2018)
St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck was severely damaged by the British air raids in 1942. The bells fell from a height of 60 metres into the Tower Chapel.
As a symbol of reconciliation, the church received a cross of nails in 1971 – a monument to the cross that was created in 1940 from nails of the roof structure of Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed by German bombs. (Source: St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck – http://www.st-marien-luebeck.de)