Year 782 CE. Charlemagne's massacre at Verden of 4,500 Saxon prisoners of war.
What his history done to that travesty?
- 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.
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 http://reliquarian.com/2013/05/02/charlemagne-saint-of-the-holy-roman-empire/. 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, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/stgall-charlemagne.asp/
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, ://one-evil.org/people/people_08c_charlemagne.htm/; 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 ://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Bloody_Verdict_of_Verden/. 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, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc4.i.ii.xxii.html
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.
What made the Saxons so different from more southern European Germanic tribes, that these should be such holdouts. See overview at http://richard-hooker.com/sites/worldcultures/MA/ANGLO.HTM
- 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 http://www.13thmass.org/1862/front_royal.html, 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 own.at http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2011/07/kill-them-all-and-let-god-sort-them-out.html
- See also Crusaders sacking Jerusalem and Constantinople, etc.
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.