Chapter: Project details / Project goal

Peace and Shalom

Actually, there is only one goal in this project: Peace and Shalom. This refers to a comprehensive peace that is anchored in one's own soul. Peace is understood as one's own inner attitude that works from the inside out into the world. This is what the Blossom of Shalom at the center of the Friedensmal (monument) represents. This comprehensive peace includes everyone. All humans have their own suffering and joy. Everyone can visit this site and find Shalom as peace in their own hearts. As such, this location carries a piece of the heavenly Jerusalem. Thus, it is not a "monument to the Jews" or a "monument to the Germans", but a shalom for humans.

The world today conveys an exhausting confusion and a feeling of powerlessness. The dispute about the Shalom in the world actually takes place on a completely different level than in the observed political conflicts. They are external consequences, the cause can be found inside. It is an inner and spiritual work on the collective consciousness. Here it becomes bound and here it can be solved. This work must be done so that the necessary resonances for a Shalom in the external world are found at all.

In addition to the good words for the mind, I would also like to give you a feeling with a piece of music, what this work is about: "My captivity - my soul returns to me"  (by Shlomo Carlebach, born in 1925 in Berlin).

Goals in the project

  • The Jerusalem Peace Memorial represents in its symbolism the reconciliation between people and the reconciliation with ourselves, in our own inner being. It originated in Germany and therefore addresses in its symbolism the here acting traumas in the collective consciousness. It shows us that it is important to face the past and have a relationship to this past, even if it hurts. But its scope extends beyond merely this: We must be willing to make an effort and transform the burden of our past into a blessing for the future. Only then may we speak of true responsibility. This is what this location of Shalom represents.

  • This work addresses the fundament of our culture that has developed in over a thousand years. The spirituality that is created and contained in culture must become visible in the material world – in the language of art, symbols, and monuments. Only then is its sustainability guaranteed. This project serves this purpose.

  • Peace on Earth is impossible if humans do not carry the idea of peace inside themselves. This location wants to create awareness of this.

  • Human dignity is inviolable, according to the 1st article of the German Constitution, drafted with the memories of war, persecution, and dehumanisation fresh in mind. Humans who are aware of their own dignity, can walk upright on their way in this world und pursue their own destinies. Where does this process of dehumanization begin? This process that incapacitates people, rendering them powerless to veraciously follow their own ways or allow others to? The Jerusalem Peace Memorial wants to be a voice that straightens the backs of humans, instead of being another burden to bear.

Be Upright

In noise and fight
survive and win
shall any wisdom lie therein
to bend the inner truth within?

In stillness inner beings hold,
richer as a shimmering of gold,
pure words remember to unfold
That our souls shall be raised

(T. Zieringer, 2014)

The past

As a Place for the Jerusalem Peace Memorial, a plot of land was chosen on a hill of the Odenwald (low mountain range). Below in the valley in the last year of the 3rd Reich an external camp of the larger Concentration Camp Natzweiler-Struthof was located. As such, the themes of war, persecution and the system of concentration camps (main camps and external camps) that “spanned” the width of Europe during the 3rd Reich are addressed here.

From this place one can look into the Rhine plain. There, the Jerusalem on the Rhine used to be located. Its the area where the Jewish Ashkenazi culture formed and blossomed in the early Middle Ages. This culture was destroyed during the Crusades by Crusaders and many of the German-speaking Jews fled to Eastern Europe (—> Yiddish as the language of Ashkenazi Jews).

Through the choice of the place
these historical topics are indirectly integrated. The Monument to Peace and Freedom transcends the status of an attractive idea located in a pretty, verdant area. It is situated in a spot deemed appropriate to herald in a new stage of commemorative culture.

Turning Point

The Turning Point in the Garden of Freedom

Continue to the Turning Point here

“Remembering (of the dark past) does not suffice!” – is the driving idea behind this project and the changes it wants to effect in our society. It needs today's responsibility for life. The statement that can be found on location – “Where dust is turned to light” – describes a process that has the capacity to be positively continued in future, time and again. This contradicts the idea of having "finally mastered" a past, because where should a positively perceived responsibility end? This does not describe action-taking from a sense of guilt, but rather real awareness. As such, it also offers the chance to reach out to younger generations. Here, it is not the peace of a calm churchyard that is meant, but new life; peace that is lived out every day anew, peace that turns into the way.

„That we recognize the fences in our dealings with one another and do not seek our life in the past" - reads the inscription on the Stone of Encounter at the outer border of the Peace Memorial site. Societies such as living beings are always in a state of change. With the Jerusalem Peace Memorial, memory, but also encouragement to life shall be possible. It shall be a sign of positive change towards freedom and light; towards life.

Life is beautiful. Today’s newspapers detail enough on the darkness on our Earth. It is part of our own life and touches our history, perceptions, and experiences. However, we still realize that we will never be satisfied living in a world that struggles in the shadows of ignorance and hate, knowing that life should be filled with beauty, truth, and good.

A symbol that generates identity

Rose of Love

If our country fails to confront its own past, to recognize its own weakness honestly – in other words, assume responsibility – then it will not have the strength that is necessary for a culture to master the challenges of time. This project strives to be an impulse as well as projection surface for this Turning Point for Life (at the middle of the Blossom of Shalom). So this is not about showing the Germans yet another time again and again their guilt. Self-recognition should lead to the conditions necessary for the German nation to find its inner strength and conviction again, to design its own further development in a positive and life-affirming manner.

The Friedensmal (monument) with a diameter of 26 meters is the central element of the monument site. It represents a different way of dealing with the past. The language of art is well capable of providing this type of impulse, and the impact of such an impulse on society can be quite significant. The Friedensmal symbolizes a movement from conflict and interaction with the past to integration. In that, “the learned lessons from the past” lies the responsibility for active societal efforts to promote peace and freedom, which requires moral courage and civic engagement. In this way, the monument becomes a positive identity-forming symbol of our country.

A remembrance that reaches into the future

This place tries to raise awareness that a monument can equally appeal to the past, present and future, connecting them with each other. No past is "mastered" here. The past is always an allegory for the present, from which the future is born. Past repeats itself – in different shapes and forms each time – if it is not understood properly. In the Friedensmal this mechanism is broken open by the Tree of Life, what stands for the inner clear cognition. This "tree" is surrounded by a "dance floor"; a space of encounter with the other in oneself. This space of encounter represents a honest social interaction, for humans can only get to know themselves in their interaction with the “Thou”  (Philosophy of Martin Buber).

The "dance floor" also symbolizes a different way of dealing with each other. Instead of seeking out opposites and classifications, such as “Opponents and Enemies” or “Supporters and Friends”, we see each other as dance partners. This opens up a new freedom in interaction, where we learn from each other while trying out different dance figures.

The Jerusalem Peace Memorial provides an impulse to develop a German culture of remembrance, which is appreciative, life-affirming, and future-oriented. This will appeal to younger generations and convey a sense of understanding beyond feelings of (carried) guilt. The Jerusalem Peace Memorial might even help to better understand the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. One of the problems present in the German culture of remembrance is the false impression that there is only room to speak of the suffering of others and that confronting one’s own suffering would be the first step in denying the German crimes against the Jews. Psychologically speaking, it is clear that a relationship to one’s own suffering is a prerequisite for a true understanding of the suffering of another.

To assume responsibility is
taking a further step -

towards life

It is not concerned with forgetting suffering; it wants to transform it

To assume responsibility is
taking a further step -

towards love

Love asks for the appreciation of life and human dignity

To assume responsibility is
taking a further step -
towards freedom

A sign of Jewish-Christian reconciliation

Jesus was a Jew and he had never left his faith. He had interpreted the Torah, but founded no new religion. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

With the Jerusalem Peace Memorial, a deeper understanding of our cultural roots can be found. The design consists essentially of symbols anchored in the Christian cultural space. The root "Jerusalem" reaches beyond Christianity into Judaism. It is the deepest root of European culture.

Jerusalem as the root of Jewish and Christian culture
This picture shows the Austrian Hospice in Jerusalem's old city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the most important place for both Judaism and Christianity.

In my texts "Jerusalem" is a metaphor for the common foundation of Judaism and Christianity. The root "Jerusalem" was deeply violated by discrimination, persecution and murder of the Jews in Europe. The injuries to this root have a long and paradoxical story: In connection with the Crusades to liberate Jerusalem from Islam, the Christian crusaders also destroyed at home the Jewish "Jerusalem on the Rhine". This event can be considered as the first precursor of the Shoah. An acknowledgement of this past never took place.

With the erosion of the Christian faith, West European societies broke away from the
root "Jerusalem". The following quote from 1908 still sounds like the realistic description of our current situation in Europe: "When a religious scheme is shattered (…), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone." (Gilbert Keith Chesteron: »Orthodoxie«, 1908) - What could make it even clearer that healing is needed at the root, as suggested by this project?

A culture of uprooted people is not viable. It's like with a tree: only a tree that has roots can stretch to the sky.

This idea, of healing the cultural roots, also helped inspire the selection of the symbols: Jewish in the design is the word "Yerushalayim" on the Stone of Encounter, that is to remember this root and the associated values of freedom (Torah). The star of the Blossom of Shalom can also considered Jewish; however, this blossom with a star is just as Christian (Christmas star) as the Tree of Life in the Friedensmal in which it is located. The Jewish culture is honored through the relation to Jerusalem as a root. The city of Jerusalem is the most important location in Christianity.


Light of love

At the same time, both Christianity and Judaism employ the metaphor of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is a vision of a world in peace and freedom. Human efforts are directed towards the alignment of the earthly Jerusalem with the heavenly Jerusalem, an act of reconciliation with God. The Stone of Encounter references these two aspects, the root "Jerusalem” and the “heavenly Jerusalem”. The root and the vision are equally necessary! A tree also unites both elements, as it cannot extend its branches towards the heavens without the roots supporting it.

Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald

„He appeared to Moshe not at the Pharaoh's palace, but in the countryside, by the side of the trail." This Peace Memorial is situated at a hiking trail in the great outdoors. This has a symbolic meaning that does well also to the German-Jewish relations. There is grandiosity in the collective shadow of German culture. Far away from the political capital Berlin in the southern Hessian province, it is a good place to become simple. Letting go of the complicated and dishonest game that surrounds the simple truths of life brings peace. This can be felt at this place with the monument circle between "angel wings".  Zu zayn a Mentsh / to be a decent and simple person, a mensh.

Shalom and peace

Peace and Shalom. Rabbi Mordechai Mendelson and artist Thomas Zieringer visited the Jerusalem Peace Memorial together.

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