September 26, 2004

Speech of Bishop Dr. Wolfgang Huber, Chairman of the EKD

Speech for the inauguration of the Commemorative Mural Replica of the Buenos Aires Cathedral in the Vaterunser Church of Berlin, September 26, 2004

The dialogue between God and Abraham in Genesis 18 is one of the most famous Biblical traditions. The sins of men in Sodom and Gomorrah went too far. The screams of the victims rouse God to judge the guilty acts. Abraham learns God’s plans. Worried, Abraham begs for the city of Sodom.

Abraham said: ”Will You destroy the innocent as well the guilty? Maybe there are fifty innocent people in the city; will You destroy everything and not forgive the place in spite of the fifty ones in it? Far from you to do that: make the innocent die with the guilty and the innocent treat as the guilty. Far from You! The Judge of all Earth have not to do the right?”

So Jehovah answered: ”If I find fifty innocent people in Sodom I will forgive all the place considering them.”

Abraham is negotiating with the Lord of the World and asks God what would happen if there were only 45, 40, 30 or 20, or at least, no more than 10 innocent people in Sodom. God promised Abraham not to destroy the city if there, there were only 10 innocent people.

”Please, do not get angry, My Lord, if I speak only once again: Maybe there were there ten…”

And God answered: ”I will not destroy it considering the ten ones.” [Gen. 18,16-33]

In Sodom there were not even ten innocent people. The angels of the Lord looked for Lot and his family to get them out of the city before God made rain sulphide and fire from sky. Only four people saved: Lot, his wife and the two daughters.

The Bible shows us in a very impressive way Abraham claiming justice from God. The Judge of the Earth, have not to do the right? We know God let no innocent die. The angels saved Lot’s family.

In 1997 a Commemorative Mural was inaugurated in the Buenos Aires Cathedral by Cardinal Antonio Quarracino. This Mural is the first memorial dedicated to the victims of the Shoah placed inside a Christian Church. What Cardinal Quarracino and Mr. Baruch Tenembaum from the Wallenberg Foundation did, deserve our admiration and worldwide repercussion.

It’s hard to describe the symbolic force of this Mural with words. Between two glasses there are sheets of prayer books which were recovered from the ruins of the Treblinka and Auschwitz concentration camps and Warsaw ghetto as well.

There was no angel to protect and save people from the calamity and the harm of the Nazi dead camps. There was no Grace. There was no guardian angel to warn men in Buenos Aires on July 18th, 1994. At 9:53 a bomb exploded before the Jewish Cultural and Community Center and killed 85 innocent men and women. More than 300 people were hurt seriously.

The Mural contains the covers of two books: one of iddish stories, founded in the AMIA ruins. The other belongs to a book saved by the rescue team that was looking for survivors of the attack perpretated against the Israeli Embassy, in Buenos Aires, in 1992. Another piece, a Hagadá, comes from a concentration camp near Toulouse, the zone which was under the Vichy government’s administration.

Martin Niemöller, the founder of the Confessional Church in Germany during Nazism didn’t claim justice from God as Abraham had done. But he said with sorrow before God:

”When the Nazis detained the communists, I remained silent, as I was not a communist.

When the democrat socialists were arrested, I remained silent, as I was not a socialist.

When the union leaders were detained, I remained silent, as I was not a union leader.

When the Jews were detained, I remained silent, as I was not a Jew.

When I was detained, there was nobody left to help me.”

In the morning of March 8th, 2001, the idea of placing a replica of the Mural in a Berlin Church was taking shape. The founder of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, Baruch Tenembaum, visited the Plenipotentiary’s office of the EKD Counsel in Berlin. The day before, Mr. Tenembaum had paid a memorable visit to the then President of Germany, Johannes Rau. The Foundation’s activities were discussed intensively as the organization was a non governmental one and it devotes to the investigation and memory of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the nazi in the Second World War.

At the Plenipotentiary’s office of the EKD Counsel, when Mr. Tenembaum informed us about his meeting with the Federal President and the many activities of the Foundation, the idea of placing a replica of the Buenos Aires Mural in a Berlin Church came out, building a bridge between the two cities and underlining the common cause in the fight against the intolerance and in favour of the reconciliation and the understanding among the great Monotheistic Religions. Besides, the project was going to be included in the Berlin and Buenos Aires Cooperation Program which is celebrating its tenth anniversary today.

And today, finally, we inaugurate the replica of the Mural in the Vaterunser Church. I’m very moved because it is here in Berlin that such an initiative takes place. It is a sign of the memory of the criminal unjustice and, also, of our union with the Jewish people, in the same city where the Holocaust was conceived and made true.

I had the chance of meditating on the deep dimension of today’s act when I was talking to the Cardinal Walter Kasper who told me about his recent visit to Buenos Aires and the special distinction he received from the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. He asked me to give his regards to those present here today and, specially to you, dear Mr. Tenembaum.

Besides we inaugurate the Mural in a church of the neighbourhood of the Swedish Community and the Birger Forell School. So, in this way, the memory of the Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg is united to the memory of the Pastor Birger Forell, who was the Pastor of the Swedish Community for many years. During the Nazi Regime Pastor Forell saved Jews who were persecuted and, for many years after the War, he took care of the refugees tirelessly.

Two Great Swedes whose acts we will never forget!

The Raoul Wallenberg’s example shows us in a positive way the possibilities of any individual who decides to do the good. Wallenberg saved tens of thousands people. Also, many Berlirners, more than anyone would think, attempted to help people. They wanted to save and protect their neighbour too.

In the Father’s proverbs it’s asked in what the world is based on. The Talmud’s answer says: ”The world is based on three pillars: on the Torá, on the prayer and on the dedication to the neighbour.”

We Christians have four criteria which arise from the New Testament. They are described by four greek words: Liturgia, Martyria, Diakonia and Koinonia; the praise of God, the testimony in the world, the service to the neighbour and the living community.

Before this Mural we remember that the Christians had denied our ideals. Placing this Mural in an Evangelical Church, we confess our guilty before those who Dietrich Bonhöffer named ”the weaker and helpless brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ”. Remember Peter who in the night of the betrayal, renounced three times of his Lord and Master. But remember also that this Lord and Master didn’t go away from the one who had become separated from Him.

Because of this we accept this Mural with humility and gratefully as a sign of a new beginning.

Placing it inside an Evangelical Church we want to prove that we’re aware of the responsibility entrusted by us.

God gives us the strength of making justice.

Translation: Marcela Marino