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For themes of conflict, present in any country, see Studying War.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Luneberg - When your Steeple is Crooked. St. Johannes, and Hermann Dahl.

Luneburg.  Had been famous for its salt, first mention of that trade in 956 AD - see ://  Twenty-thousand tons a year at its peak (when was that?) and Luneberg supplied half of Europe with its salt, says the Niedersachsen site.  Learn Germany by reading. Nieder = lower. Sachsen = Saxony.

Bach was born in 1685, and orphaned in 1694.  He moved here in 1700 as a student, was a chorister here, continuing his education, and practising.   Himmler killed himself here in 1945, before he could be brought to trial.

This was a quiet, wettish Sunday afternoon, look up the street:

Buildings do seem to tilt.  This site says there are salt mines beneath, and things settled. See ://

Go into a cafe there, enjoy a bite, go to the Ladies in the unisex door to the separate rooms; and one attendant for both with all doors open.  Don't look surprised. Just say hello.

Stair-step facades.

Then look back down the street, where you came from:

A crooked steeple?  Off center! Run back to check: what if heaven is over that way and we are aiming this way.

Is that maybe two degrees off?  We see several spellings - Johannes and Johannis as well as St. Johns. 

The lightpole and the building on the other side are where they should be, perspective-wise.  But the umbrella looks off.

Or was it crooked also? Use the umbrella as a level - missed it in the first one.  The umbrella looks as though I tilted the camera to make the steeple straight, but that made the umbrella crooked.  Try again.

Umbrella level, and the steeple, not the brick part when you see it, but the top tiled pointy part (witches' hats) is definitely off.  The Ledger site that we found after we got back says that the steeple builder got so despondent that the steeple is crooked, that he flung himself off it in a suicide attempt.  But he landed in a hay wagon, unharmed.  So he headed to a pub, got himself well tanked, and there died of alcohol poisoning.  Ironies, says the site.

So am I.

Tilted steeples.  Slants imposed on basic foundations of religious founders. We recall, again, contemporary (now deceased) Hermann Dahl of Odessa DE, artist, who also treasured the concept of the tilted steeple, but intentionally:  Did he have it right? Religious steeples tilt away from their foundations, and that's the way it is. This is our painting, and offered continually to his son, Tim, who has been in touch with us. 

Back to Luneburg: Tilted, slanted steeples, the the step-architecture, recalling the ancient Maya, does it not?

Have to check that one.  I seem to remember another use, perhaps as council chambers.  This is not the town hall.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sachsenhain: Saxons' Grove. Charlemagne's Slaughter of 4,500 Saxon Prisoners. Stories.

Saxon's Woods
Year 782 CE. Charlemagne's massacre at Verden of 4,500 Saxon prisoners of war.
What his history done to that travesty?
1.  Summary.  A walk in the woods. The old Saxony.  Standing stones set at Verden. A long story. The year:  780-82 AD.  Saxons, defending home territory, refusing to accept Christianity, opposing the great Charlemagne. Charlemagne's response after some 30 years of back and forth:  slaughter 4,500 Saxon prisoners of war, at Sachsenhain, Saxon's Woods, the Massacre of Verden.  
  • Ask first, however, where are the bones.  For such a mass decapitation event, heads severed, the remains could not easily have been identified and returned home, and by whom?  Where is the actual killing field, the skulls, the tibia, the femurs. Even if burned, there would be remains.  Research continues, several explanations possible.
So the Saxons rose up again and again, over some 30 years.  Charlemagne would think he had won, then the insurgency popped up somewhere else. Whack-a-Saxon as they popped up was not working.  The Saxons were not responding they way "normal" defeated groups reacted.  They refused to quit.

2.  The setting: 

 Charlemagne was pushing to take over Saxon lands and to force the Saxons to convert to his version of Christianity (the institutional Pope's version, the more contemplative forms having been targeted and removed as a threat to the institution).  Pope Adrian at the time had had his own troubles with the Lombards, and Charlemagne had come to attack them, so the relationship with the Pope was a good one.  

At Verden and Saxony, however, he had been thwarted for decades. These people wanted nothing to do with his religion or his invasion. Sometimes Charlemagne won, sometimes he did not. He became infuriated that the Saxons would not stay defeated. Read a 1902 account of that, and history of the time: Medieval and Modern History, Part I, The Middle Ages by Philip Van Ness Myers at p. 122 ff.

3.  Issues of proof.  

Where are the bones?  I recall no mass grave indication, or account of identifications of the dead made and relatives returning home with them.  That would not have happened. Without an ossuary-find, even chars, how to explain where the bodies went? The story of the Massacre of Verden is told and retold, even at children's level, see but without the proofs. Research continues.

3.1.  Is the absence of bones related to a rewrite of history, to downplay this vicious side of Charlemagne?

 Read versions written after Charlemagne was in process of beatification -- apparently never concluded.  He was "sainted" by Paschal III, an "anti-pope".  See  He has never been recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint, see site.  Nonetheless, supporters would stress Charlemagne's goodness, as would be needed for a saint. Rewrite history, downplay Verden, and so it was done. See accounts at Internet History Sourcebook,

 If he was to be a saint,

a) All his sins had to be forgiven for that status.

b) So forget about the massacre at Pamplona, where it is said that 30,000 were killed in his leveling of the city, see this view of Charlemagne from the Evil side, ://; and

c) So forget about the massacre here at Sachsenhain, Massacre at Verden, and excise it from the written histories.  Or, ameliorate them:  Charlemagne had asked for the Saxons only to identify their leaders, and the rest could go; but they all stood up, is one version (looking for the cite).

The victor Charlemagne supporters had the written language.  And they wrote what they wanted, is one explanation for official scribes, biographers to omit details of Verden.  You will not find a negative account of Charlemagne there. So what did happen?  Smart:  rewrite history. Who is to say what is right? Repetition gives even falsehood credibility.

3.2  Or did the massacre never happen?
  • Others say that a Latin word from the early texts was mistranslated, so that a concept for "exiled" or "relocated" became "beheaded". See ://  That site also notes, however, that a 681 AD edict by Bishops in Toledo called for beheading nonbelievers, so the policy was in place.  
  • And Charlemagne himself issued laws known as capitularies for the killing of those Saxons who still refused to convert, and this was several years after Verden, and even those who conspired with the Saxons, see History of the Christian Church,
The oral tradition of the Saxons, however, whether tied to a mistranslation, or an example of history's rewrite to purge it, held. Either way, the story of a massive massacre was passed on, and on. And fit with other acts of Charlemagne, as at Pamplona.

4   Origin of the stones themselves.  The Third Reich.

The stones around the long road-walk were set in place by German Nazis to promote nationalism, as a gesture that they were serving the public good.  Enter the Third Reich.

They erected a walkway.  Issue: How many stones ring the walkway?  This site says only 1000. See ://

It may be more.  Heinrich Himmler put together a public works project in 1934-35, a memorial at Sachsenhain, ostensibly to honor the Saxon dead -- all 4,500 with 4,500 standing stones.  Who has counted? The stones line a broad smooth dirt road around a rural pastureland, through woods, around.  Wide enough for vehicles.  Handy because, once the community was thankful to the Reich for their memorial, the Reich took it over for the Hitler Youth and the SS.  See next post.

5.  More variations on the story.

The slaughter -- out came the swords, and down the lines, around the circle, went Charlemagne's executioners.  Whack, Whack.  Other stories tell of fathers and sons clinging together, or brothers, or friends, as the sword descended nearer and nearer.  It was a travesty, if it happened that way. The Saxons never forgot. This was their Wood.  Their Grove. Sachsenhain. Saxon's Grove.  I am looking back for the cite offering these possible details.

6.  Cultural, heritage distinctions underlying the refusal to submit.

What made the Saxons so different from more southern European Germanic tribes, that these should be such holdouts.  See overview at
  •  The Saxons were not inclined toward the Roman organization, with its institutionalized hierarchies. They were a decentralized group: many within the larger tribe over a large area, with a common culture; and leaders arising as needed, then blending back into the community to carry on with an ordinary life. 
  •  Thought Charlemagne, perhaps, the only way to ensure subjugation is kill them all.  This is part of Western tradition.
    • See Stonewall Jackson debating with Colonel Patton on whether to kill brave men:  “I should have spared them because they were men who had gotten into a desperate situation,” replied Patton.    Jackson replied, “No, Colonel, shoot them all, I don’t want them to be brave.” Fair use, see, at The Death of Turner Ashby May 6
    • See Cistercian monk Amalric, ordering the massacre at Beziers, by Simon de Montfort, : Albigensian Crusade, Cathar Christians, in essence  Kill them all. The Lord will know his 
    • See also Crusaders sacking Jerusalem and Constantinople, etc.
So the Saxons continued to fight, melt away, feign conversion, and Charlemagne had had enough.

As a memorial, however, it remains moving, with stones seemingly tilting toward each other, some sheltering lesser sized stones, others defiantly to themselves.

 Individualized standing stones, Sachsenhain, Germany

7.  Now, diminution.

The current owners and operators, an evangelical group, unfortunately has defaced some of them.  They etched in the stones their own religious motivational slogan words, but ignore those.

The area is now owned and operated by an Evangelical group, with slogans and words on the stones difficult to translate.  We think this is Menschen Wie Vele Leben or men will live, something like that. Some stones as we recall had one word, or perhaps two.  Looking for others' accounts of the translations.  We simply prefer historic stones kept as they are, free of any agenda.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Verden and Sachsenhain: Memorial Appropriated by Himmler for Hitler Youth, SS

Hitler Youth and SS appropriate Sachsenhain: Saxons' Woods.
Watch propaganda's tactics:  Appear to sympathize, represent a group's interest. Then highjack their most treasured symbol.  Himmler first built a public-works memorial here, to nurture the old Saxon patriotism of a population.  The Nazis then used it for Hitler Youth, SS when the population was off guard. The area still is used for other than the Saxon Memorial, but less offensively so -- youth oriented.

Sachsenhain in 782 CE.  Saxon Grove, near Verden.  The area moves from a memorial to a massacre of 4,500 Saxon prisoners of war by Charlemagne, to 20th Century facility for Hitler Youth; SS.  The park area and its standing stones still merit a long study.

Origins.  This nature park was built as a public works project, supposedly as a memorial to the Saxon Slaughter of 782 CE by Charlemagne, at that place, known as Saxon Grove.

In 1934-35, the National Socialist Party, pursuant to orders of Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler, set it up as a memorial to the slaughter of 4,500 Saxon prisoners by Charlemagne, in 782 ACE.

Strategy.  The community was thrilled:  at last, they were receiving official recognition of the great sacrifice of the Saxons of more than a thousand years ago;  the area where the murders happened (defenseless prisoners, retribution); and the great injustice of Charlemagne and his forced conversions, invasion of their lands, bringing the Papal religion in tow and down their throats.

Not long after the memorial was built however, with a several miles long perimeter smooth path wide enough for vehicles, and 4,500 memorial standing stones representing the deaths, once the local population was in sync with Himmler's plan for the area and surely Himmler was their friend; it all changed.

The memorial area was appropriated as a training ground for the Hitler Youth, see Hitler Youth at ://; and also provided housing for the SS.  Himmler softened the population by pretending to act in their interest, then substituted his own.

Go back to that era, to see the unrelenting focus on reinstating "Germany" as rightful rulers of others, then see how effective the manipulations were even here, at Verden.  After World War I and its humiliating and devastating defeats, Adolf Hitler analyzed brilliantly how to use propaganda to get at the heart of the masses, see Natural Pragmatism, Unser Kampf, Mein Kampf, Hitler as Propagandist  Use their emotions, and let nothing distract.

The Loss of Place.  There would be so much history to learn at this place, if it had remained a memorial to slaughtered Saxons.  A main point could be a study of the nature of history itself:  that proofs from that 782 AD era are difficult, and conflicting. See this site, not friendly to Charlemagne, but with a somewhat different version of the killings. See ://  Nonetheless, a population's memory of injustice does not require exactitude or agreement on all the facts.  The grip of an injustice is still there, and ongoing with this new use.  

Reality says parks cost money, and if an evangelical center can pay the rent, fine. Still, we wish they had kept their chisels off the stones, and kept their motivational sound bites to somewhere else.

This Himmler-inspired public works project then was taken over by Himmler for the Hitler Youth and SS.

 Hitler Youth:  Hitler addresses the Hitler Youth, see and hear, watch videos, and read at the History Place:

"We do not want this nation to become soft. Instead, it should be hard and you will have to harden yourselves while you are young. You must learn to accept deprivations without ever giving in. Regardless of whatever we create and do, we shall pass away, but in you, Germany will live on. And when nothing is left of us you will have to hold up the banner which some time ago we raised from nothing. (Applause) And I know it cannot be otherwise, because you are flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood, and your young minds are filled with the same will that dominates us. (Applause) You cannot be but united with us. And when the great columns of our movement march victoriously through Germany today I know that you will join these columns. And we know (Applause) that Germany is before us, within us, and behind us."

The area is now a Youth Camp for an Evangelical group.

The nineteenth century fostered great interest in the idea that there was a special connection between nature and the German people, and those carried over into design in the 20th Century, see Nature and Ideology, Natural Garden Design in the 20th Century, by Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn at://

See also Pseudo-Archeology and Nationalism at ://  Participation in a fictitious past, or partially fictitious: human nature to associate and appear greater than one is?  

But is Sachsenhain fictitious?  How much of what we think we know now, came from the National Socialists seeking to purify Germany, bring it back to its pre-Christian glorious roots.  Or was the story already there, ready to be taken to new levels with the SS and Hitler Youth.  Some German-speaker:  the sites are online.

Revisit Charlemagne at ://  Some accounts say that fathers and sons were among the Saxons, and that they clung together as the swords whack, whack, whacked down the line.  Is this a motivation for so many placements, stones protecting each other.  Workmen: Tell us. What were you thinking?  

And would the current owners, the Evangelicals, please keep their personal philosophies off these stones. 

Chiseled graffiti.  Take it off.