13/11/2022: Early today at Glencree, Co. Wicklow, nearly a hundred people turned out to join with the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ireland and the Lutheran Church in Ireland to mark German Remembrance Day – or Volkstrauertag as it is known in Germany – and remember those of all nations who have lost their lives in wars. For those of us born during peacetime, war seemed – until recently – far removed from our daily lives. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, our views have shifted: War is no longer a phenomenon in distant parts of the world, it is happening on Europe’s doorstep. Often we might take for granted what Europe offers us and at times we can forget the ultimate price paid by so many who fought for our freedom, human rights and democracy. Each year on German Remembrance Day, we pause to acknowledge and remember their courage and sacrifice.
Glencree CEO Naoimh McNamee, Chair Ciarán Ó Cuinn and the German Ambassador to Ireland H.E. Mr Cord Meier-Klodt welcomed Heinz Kampes one of the 500+ children who were fostered by Irish families after World War II as part of Operation Shamrock, as well as veterans, members of the diplomatic corps, staff, friends and neighbours to the Glencree Centre to mark the occasion. All gathered first in the Bridge Building for a Listening Circle Discussion on personal experiences with past and present conflicts. Former Glencree Chair Barbara Walshe hosted the dialogue and engaged with people’s thoughts, insights and experiences on the theme of ‘The Possibilities of Peace in the Midst of Violence. What matters to us now?’ Participants including the German, Ukrainian, Croatian, Bulgarian, French, Polish and Georgian Ambassadors spoke from the heart, sharing their own experiences of conflicts and peacebuilding.
Pastor Martin Sauter offered some hope and solace to the Ukrainian Ambassador Gerasko Larysa: “There is the story of the rock and the stone. Rock is hard, water is fluid, yet overtime water seeps in to the tiniest of cracks in the rock. This is science and physics and how the world works. When someone sees the crack, they will seize the momentum to widen things further and find the way forward.”
Following the circle discussion, the assembled made their way across to St Kevin’s Church, a Gothic-style church built around 1860. The congregation took part in an Ecumenical prayer for peace with Interfaith elements led by Father Bernard Kennedy, Parish Priest of Enniskerry and Pastor Florian von Issendorff of the Lutheran Church in Ireland. Michael O'Sullivan, Director of Columban Missions and former Chair of Dublin City Interfaith Forum (DCIF) read a reflection during the prayer for peace ceremony from the current Chair, Michael Jackson. . They were joined by members of the Lutheran, Catholic and Jewish communities.
“In view of the war in Ukraine and the many other wars and conflicts around the world, we do not want to give up, but to set a sign for peace and reconciliation with this prayer”, said Florian von Issendorff. “Especially now we need the biblical message of hope and peace and the prayer that connects us with so many people who are suffering from war at this moment," the Lutheran pastor emphasised in his sermon.
The trilingual service in English, Irish and German included a recital by the Goethe Choir, and a reflection by the Dublin City Interfaith Forum.
Glencree Chair Ciarán Ó Cuinn gave the closing address saying: “This is particularly poignant and important Volkstrauertag. Europe once again faces dark forces of war, annexation and narrow nationalism. In opposing these forces, we recall the first line of the first article of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany: ‘Human Dignity Shall be Inviolable.’ As simple and powerful when adopted in 1949, in the aftermath of war, in those same months as German children sheltered in Glencree, as it is today. Those who make war, those who seek power in the name of narrow nationalism do so on the basis of a supposed hierarchy of humanity based on race or nation or tribe. For us there is but one tribe, humanity. Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine - We live in each other’s shadows. There can be no hierarchy. All equally entitled to human dignity. Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Human dignity shall be inviolable. That is the Glencree approach. We must never accept less – in Ireland, in Ukraine, in Europe.”
Following prayers by the children from St Patrick’s National School, Curtlestown, the children then lit a lantern at the altar symbolising the light of hope for the world.
Their faces glowing from the light of hope lantern, the children along with piper Joseph Meade and drummer Robert Matthews then led the procession down the hill to the German Military Cemetery. As attendees filed in, the piper played a solemn lament standing at the foot of the Celtic Cross. Ambassador Meier-Klodt and representatives of veteran organisations laid wreaths in remembrance of the 134 German military servicemen and civilians laid to rest here and of all those who have died in war across the world.
The German Ambassador H.E. Mr Cord Meier-Klodt said at the wreath-laying: “As every year, we mourn the soldiers killed while serving with peace missions abroad and the victims of current wars and civil conflicts. Yet, this year, one new facet must be added to the many sufferings we pay tribute to on this occasion. One that we would not have thought possible even one year ago: War is back again in the middle of Europe! In such times, unity among partners and solidarity with our friends and allies must be our first priority, as we demonstrate it daily in our unwavering support for Ukraine. At the same time, and particularly on a day like this, it is important to remind ourselves that we must not look away from the many sufferings in other parts of the world.”
The Ambassador then called for a minute’s silence for reflection and remembrance.
Thereafter guests returned to Glencree’s Armoury Café, where they enjoyed a warm welcome and a hearty lunch, including mulled wine.
“I am so grateful and feel so lucky to have lived to this time. I look at what is happening to the Ukrainians today and feel that could have been me. I am heartbroken for them,” said Heinz Kampes from Dundalk who was one of more than 500 German children, fostered by Irish families in Operation Shamrock organised by the Irish Red Cross in the aftermath of the Second World War. Accompanied today by eleven members of his family and friends, Heinz added: “Ireland has done more than their share in helping Ukrainians coming over here, and if they have half the luck I had, which I truly hope they will have, they will do very well.”
The Glencree Centre, German Embassy and Lutheran Church in Ireland wish to thank everyone who took part in this year’s commemoration, in particular the musicians Joseph Meade, Robert Matthews, Aoife Garry and Wolfgang Marx, the Goethe choir and children, parents and teachers of St Patrick National School, Curtlestown, as well as Heinz Kampes of Operation Shamrock and all family, friends and neighbours who came along this morning.
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Photography: Val Kiernan
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