Priests plan jumble sales to help save Nazi-era church for posterity
The Martin Luther Memorial Church in Berlin has embarrassed the authorities for six decades.
The image of a Nazi storm trooper side by side with Jesus Christ has been carved into the pulpit, the entrance is lit by a chandelier in the shape of an iron cross and the organ was used to stir the spirits at a torch-lit Nuremberg rally.
Throughout the church, consecrated in 1933, there are bare patches where swastikas, illegal since the end of the war, have been ripped out.
“There was a bust of Adolf Hitler in the nave,” Isolde Boehm, dean of the church, said. “A carved face of Hitler has been replaced by one of Martin Luther. There is even a rumour that the church was supposed to be called the Adolf Hitler Church.”
The Protestant church — smelling of damp and spine-chillingly cold — has been closed for the past year because tiles were falling off the tower.
The priests — Frau Boehm and the Reverend Malte Jungnickel — have applied to have the church declared a listed building and are lobbying the Government to come up with €3 million (£2 million) to fund the restoration.
“There is no other church in Germany that is so obviously fascist-designed,” said Ilse Klein, a parish councillor and local historian. Fundraising activities to preserve this fascist monument are likely to include bring-and-buy sales and sponsored runs.
“Look at the face of Christ on the cross,” Herr Jungnickel said. “It is the face of a victorious Aryan, with a bodybuilder’s frame, not the suffering Jesus.”
The exterior of the church was designed in the Bauhaus style in 1929, before the Nazis came to power. The problem, however, lies with the interior: the big fascist-style sweep of the nave and the Nazi iconography carved into every niche.
“So far, thank God, the neo-Nazis have not discovered the church as a place of pilgrimage,” Frau Boehm said.
The ethical dilemma of preserving Nazi iconography has been gripping German art critics. Debate has also been raging as to how much from the Nazi era should be cleared away or allowed to stay.
The World Cup final this summer will be played in the Berlin stadium designed for the 1936 Olympics. Part of the German Foreign Ministry used to be the Nazi central bank, while the Finance Ministry served as Hermann Goering’s air force headquarters with a roof so broad that he could land aircraft on it.
A Nazi church, however, is even more politically sensitive: it highlights how clearly the Protestant Church aligned itself to Hitler.
In 1932 Nazis were encouraged to become “German Christians” and joined their local parishes to undermine the Church’s power to resist the dictatorship.
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