– Dedicated to a good friend –

“On March 22, 1933, the first prisoner transports arrive at the camp, which was set up on the site of a disused powder and ammunition factory,” I read. When I look inside, I don’t find much there. What I do remember, from the readings of the pupils at the ASAM grammar school, is that on November 9th, Jews who had been harassed and driven out of their synagogues, houses, apartments, stores and all places of social interaction were sent to Dachau. I can no longer say whether this affected all or at least most of them. I’m not good at memorizing numbers, and numbers tell me too little to feed them with enough interest. Especially when it came to the persecution and murder in the so-called Third Reich, I always found the figures unworthy and embarrassing. It’s so easy to hide behind the real or feigned horror of the figures – because: What do the numbers tell us? We should think about it. What tells us much more is what concrete people did or did not do, how they developed – I am now talking about my German ancestors, my uncle, aunt, father, mother, grandmother and grandfather – in the course of their lives, how they kept silent or spoke, whether they – to put it pathetically – found a language that involved their hearts, the hearts of their Jewish neighbors and their descendants. Whether they spoke to God and how.

Hundreds, thousands are currently leaving the Protestant church in Germany (the same had already going on in the Catholic one) a friend told me, because of the abuse scandals that have only just come to light. The children of abusive fathers and grandfathers were often seduced and abused as young and very young soldiers in both world wars. But they were, or are, the ancestors of our priests and pastors – is it any wonder that these people who had been violated and violated boundaries passed on their illness, often caused by military training, training, to those dependant on them because they did not know love without abuse themselves, perhaps because they thought it was normal? I will allow myself this simplified view. deeply in our subconsciousThis in no way means that we should not make any demands on leading clergy and turn a blind eye. No, we should confront ourselves, in excellently led self-awareness groups, with how traumas can hide and be activated. Regular intervision, supervision, whose providers come from outside the church system, should become a matter of course.

Dachau, the first German concentration camp: Why is it so pale in my mind? Did it have to disappear from the collective memory in other ways than Auschwitz, which was not on German soil? Was it somehow possible to ascribe Auschwitz wrongly to the Poles?

I rode the streetcar for longer than I had expected. It was good that I had three quarters of a day ahead of me in this rainy weather. Signs to Dachau were hard to find, I felt miserably ill-informed. How strange. I wanted to know whether I should take the bus or how far it was on foot. No sensible answer. Eventually I cross a small park and am sent down a street that looks middle-class, with nothing to indicate the nearby camp. The sun comes out, bright leaves still hanging from the stately trees. I need a travel guide, it can’t be that this whole area isn’t soaked in memories. Suddenly I find myself on a dead-straight road, with stately town houses lined up on the left-hand side. I learn that members of the SS and their families lived in these very houses and villas. I remember that I had seen a sign about death marches and I feel sick.
I am actually against entering such places alone. If you do it anyway, there is a great danger that you will close your heart. I don’t think enough thought is given to this, and this knowledge is not taken into account in order to enable sensible commemoration in such terrible places. A didactic, psychological and spiritual challenge!

But now I am alone and decide to consciously practice Tong-len*, which we practiced both involuntarily and consciously at places like Auschwitz through the skillful composition of the Zenpeacemaker-Bearing-Witness- Retreats (after Bernie Glassman Roshi).

From now on, I consciously realize, I am “in”: by that I mean: connected. Not theatened. I know this feeling of being grounded and at the same time relaxed and collected. Fearlessness and intuition have taken over. This long, dead straight stretch! It’s called the “Old Roman Road”. This is where they had walked, with their belongings, suitcases, bags, babies, toddlers who still had to be carried or driven. Older children, teenagers who carried themselves. The weak, the sick, the very healthy… there seemed to be no end to the journey. Later I read up on it: In the beginning it was only men who were sent here to work. Where had the women and children gone? Political prisoners were the first to be sent to Dachau for the “persecution and elimination of political opposition”. I see. This is how gradual fascization always begins.

I read a sign for an “Eicke” square, and I feel sick again. Where have I heard or read about an “Eicke”, in my family’s photo albums? In my childhood? We didn’t really have anything to do with Munich, more with Berlin, but who knows? My grandmother and my knowledgeable Aunt Nati were interested in the connections between the Nazi greats. As little as I know, but THAT I know for sure. As I also found out during my trip to Vietz and Landsberg – my mother’s birthplace and boarding school place- and to Baden-Baden to visit a contemporary witness of my grandparents, about the total of around 600 slave workers that my grandfather Alfred Strunk employed in three of his four factories. Perhaps camp commander Theodor Eicke impressed the old Nazis, who had killed Röhm by his own hand on Hitler’s orders and included “brutal punishment regulations and service regulations for the camp SS (Schutzstaffel)”. 21 political opponents were killed by the SS in the Dachau concentration camp. Eicke transferred this “Dachau model” of terror and arbitrariness to other concentration camps. As I would like to pay particular attention to artists, writers, poets and opposition activists on the upcoming Auschwitz pilgrimage, I am interested in the following sentence: “Even people who have repeatedly committed crimes or lead an inappropriate lifestyle are persecuted as ‘criminal’ and ‘antisocial’ and imprisoned in concentration camps”. It seems to me that this attitude towards people with ‘inappropriate lifestyles’, often found among artists and bon vivants of all kinds, was resurgent in both the 60s and 70s, and is now being seen again – since the pandemic, and to our horror. Even the ‘intelligentsia’ – and Germany was particularly hostile to intellectuals – is once again scrutinizing the non-conformists and occasionally defaming them, even threatening or punishing them with professional bans.

“In the course of the November pogroms in 1938, almost 11,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps. (And what about the OTHERS?) The SS mistreat and blackmail them in order to force them to give up their property and emigrate.

I can hardly read any further. After the war breaks out, things get worse and worse. For the prisoners too! Dachau is used for training purposes, for the Totenkopf division, while more and more prisoners from the countries occupied by the Wehrmacht are sent to this concentration camp from 1940 onwards. The living conditions for the prisoners – lack of supplies, terrible hygiene, murderous working conditions – led to a sharp rise in the death rate.

What I’m reading now, from 1941 onwards, is so horrific that I need a break. My fantasy that we Germans protected ourselves from the knowledge of the catastrophic conditions in the Dachau concentration camp, perhaps also so as not to jeopardize the shining face of the Bavarian city of Munich for tourists from all over the world, is confirmed. We would rather have people travel to Auschwitz in Poland, where the idea might arise that the Holocaust was not originally German, but perhaps Polish.

But school trips to Dachau… would put a lot of things right. Are such trips made? Questions would arise. How did the people of Munich feel? How did they react? I learned a little during the days with Terry and his friends. They are so industrious that they take on a whole district and research it. You have to imagine that this was initiated by a JUDE, not a German! I have to exhale. How much generosity and kindness is behind this!


[EXCURSUS: What do I actually mean by a day of pilgrimage, a pilgrimage, a “modern pilgrimage”, as I sometimes say? I will try to find a few words. Pilgrimages as I understand them, and as I offered for the first time in 2013 to Lampedusa, are dedicated to a theme that goes beyond us. A dedication is a strong intention. Just as I work with dedications when I initiate and/or accompany book projects/text collections for anthologies/doctoral theses, we “work” with dedications for our journey. These are as different as people are. If I want to renew my relationship with God or Mary, I dedicate the journey to this renewal. Is it about healing a loved one or an important relationship? Is it about finding my mission/calling in life or the courage to find my place in the world, in life, in a group? By now at the latest, you will realize what it can be about, but it doesn’t have to be. It may be a clearly religious, a spiritual concern, but it can be a very secular wish, which, however, gains a clear charge through the focus of my “commitment”, through the formulation of my intention, which we could call “spiritual” in German, and this spiritual is also contained in spirituality. Even if it were simply a desire to earn a higher income, we would still explore how they could achieve this and ask important questions about what you are willing to give and other important, ultimately existential questions.
Many would certainly put something like grief, shame, remorse, the desire to make amends, to bear witness at the forefront of such a challenging journey. Deeper layers of our family system are certainly touched. Relationship healing comes to mind. There is room for everything, nothing is excluded. Birkenau is excellently suited for all reconciliation projects.
(Although I have already experienced myself that reconciliation talks were rejected in that very place. A rejection that affected me and a relationship with a teacher, and the isolated situation of one of the spiritual teachers in Auschwitz, who was not given the space to defend himself. – I have learned from this. And offer myself forgiveness. It all serves as “mud for the lotus” that can blossom in Auschwitz. If not there: Where then? If not now: When?)

Digression: My first trip to Poland in 2002

When I found out more details about the drastic changes to the Dachau concentration camp via Google, I couldn’t read or write any more. Just like back then, before I decided to take my first trip to Poland with my then husband, I had brief, controlled anxiety attacks: would I come across my grandfather’s name on any lists? At the time, I was tormented by the idea that some of Strunk’s ovens had also been delivered to Auschwitz. That was probably not the case. Mr. Czarnuch, the historian and school teacher who lived in my mother’s hometown of Vietz and who actively and very creatively promoted understanding, rapprochement and reconciliation between Poles and Germans, answered some of my anxious questions. He not only took us to the houses that interested me most, the house where my mother was born (Villa Strunk), but also next door to Villa Fabian, which had belonged to my great-grandmother and had served as a well-visited local history museum in the village for some time. I know from several sources that there was an irreconcilable feud between the Strunks and the Fabians. The children were not allowed to go across the yard to play with their grandmother. I identified with her because she was a multi-talented artist. But not one who wrote, at least nothing has been handed down from her in this respect.

The Polish teacher, who had taught himself German (because Poles were taught to be hostile towards Germans, so of course they didn’t learn German), also took Reiner and me to the remains of the former Angora farm, at the very end of “Lange Straße”. The rabbits’ fur was used to keep bomber pilots warm during the war. I’ve since read how brutally Angora rabbits in particular were “treated” to get their pelts – perhaps that’s where my mother got her animal phobia (and human phobia) from.

We were able to enter the other house where my mother Christiane spent her childhood and teenage years, with the one brickworks in the courtyard. I was very excited to set foot in this house and climb the stairs. We didn’t ring the doorbell here, that would have been inappropriate. This trip took place after reunification, i.e. at a time when quite a few displaced Germans were visiting the places of their origin or their ancestors and sometimes making claims. Mr. Czarnuch understood everything, he was a great, generous soul from whom I learned a lot. For example, he pointed out that most of the Poles now living in Poznan had themselves been expelled from eastern Poland – happy to find habitable houses here. He also explained to us that the school books of the young Poles did not mention that Germans had lived and worked here and that they had contributed to the prosperity of the town like everyone else. That their expulsion had been a terrible tragedy, which many had not survived, and which quite a few had avoided by committing suicide. There had also been a married couple (names “Honey?”) in my family on an estate in the foreseeable future (?) who had committed suicide.

When I asked my mother something, she knew next to nothing, she was after all the youngest of the three sisters, and I don’t remember what Aunt Nati answered my question. I had learned from the eldest, Aunt Gila, that as a young girl she had always secretly gone to Aunt Minna (the lady who lived in the house next door) – but nobody was allowed to find out.

Incidentally, in front of Villa Hermann (I called it Villa Strunk earlier) there is a large memorial stone to the synagogue, which apparently also stood right at the crossroads. I always felt sick when I thought of it, and I would like to travel to Vietz again to sit there and bear witness. However, I don’t necessarily want to do it alone. Who could accompany me?
I read in a highly biased historical compendium that my grandfather used to hold Gauleiter meetings in the synagogue. This was probably nothing unusual, but over the years I have become increasingly sensitive to spaces, both internal and external, that people regarded as sacred and cultivated accordingly. I bow my head as I write and feel very sad.


After these two digressions, I return to the unfortunate subject of Dachau. The concentration camp measures were coordinated from the Wannsee Conference. In 1941, the issue of how to deal with the so-called mentally ill, which had not yet been fully recognized in Germany, received particular attention: 300 prisoners were transferred to the Hartheim killing centre in the so-called invalid transport, where they were killed. – I have painful memories of a Zenpeacemaker campaign in Bonn, during which our group visited the house and grounds of the “Rheinische Landesklinik Bonn” to bear witness. After the National Socialists came to power at the end of January 1933, the life and livelihood of the Jew Prof. Otto Löwenstein, director of the children’s home, was in danger. He has to flee abroad with his family.

From 14 July, the “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring” officially allows the forced sterilization of the mentally, mentally and physically ill.

1939-1944 (Wikipedia)

The “euthanasia campaign”, i.e. the planned mass extermination of mentally ill and physically disabled people carried out by the Nazis, is also carried out in Bonn. Hundreds of patients from Bonn are sent to killing centers and die there because they are judged by the Nazi authorities as so-called “ballast existences” and “racial evils”. The doctors in charge of the Bonn institution actively supported the “euthanasia” campaign.

On October 18, 1944, the children’s clinic in particular was severely damaged by a major attack on Bonn, rendered uninhabitable and the chapel of the children’s institution totally destroyed. The transfer of most of the children to other buildings is unavoidable.

1950 (Wikipedia)

In the euthanasia trials, all the accused doctors in Bonn are acquitted. The state treasury pays compensation to the doctors for the pre-trial detention they “suffered” and their removal from office in 1945. There are therefore no perpetrators, only victims. Relatives of “euthanasia” victims, forcibly sterilized patients and those persecuted by the racial laws, on the other hand, receive no compensation.


In November, a bronze bust of Prof. Otto Löwenstein is unveiled at the State Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Otto Löwenstein dies in New York on March 25, 1965.

In our Zenpeacemaker group, we share experiences of mental and physical impairment. Mental impairment is a particular issue in my family. I know from my sister Sabine how much she suffered from the strange and unnatural way people treated her mentally disabled and physically handicapped son. – We were glad that we had taken a whole day to deal with this difficult topic. Perhaps we were able to create some harmony in the tree circle in the clinic park and in the chapel, to sow an idea of how we could also deal with our abnormalities and those of our fellow human beings. What we wish them from the bottom of our hearts. What we are so grateful for.

I will report separately on my experience at the Grafeneck e.V. memorial, another killing site in Baden-Württemberg, which I visited last year. There too: a place that tears at your heart.
Here is an appeal for an artists’ project from Grafeneck. “In 11 months, 10654 people were murdered and burned in Grafeneck. In memory of the victims, 10654 figures were laid out in the documentation center. Let a figure speak to you. Give a victim a place, a voice again. Stand up for the peaceful coexistence of people with different lifestyles and backgrounds”. http://www.gedenkstaette-grafeneck.de/startseite

Back to Dachau:

Now I would like to copy a few paragraphs from the detailed and well-researched Wikipedia pages, because the content is particularly shocking to me:

On January 20, the Wannsee Conference took place, at which the Holocaust was coordinated. On January 2, the first transport, known in Nazi camouflage as the “invalid transport”, departed for the Nazi killing center in Hartheim. There, the Dachau prisoners were killed by gas as part of Operation 14f13. Within a year, the SS brought 32 transports[10] of concentration camp prisoners who were labeled mentally ill or unfit for work as well as unpleasant prisoners to Hartheim, a total of around 3,000 prisoners. These killings at Hartheim Castle were carried out as part of the Nazi murder of the sick.
On 22 February, the series of experiments involving the aviation physicians Georg Weltz, Siegfried Ruff, Hans-Wolfgang Romberg and SS-Hauptsturmführer Sigmund Rascher began in the concentration camp.[36] The doctors were tasked with determining the responsiveness and viability of people at high altitudes, during rapid ascents (to altitudes of 20 kilometers and more) and during sudden falls from great heights. A Luftwaffe hypobaric chamber was delivered and set up between Block 5 and the adjacent barracks.[37] The series of experiments ended in the second half of May and cost the lives of 70 to 80[10] of around 200 prisoners.
On February 23, 1942, Claus Schilling began his first experiments to research drugs against the tropical disease malaria. 1100[10] prisoners were infected and abused as test subjects. In the Dachau trials, ten of his deaths were clearly proven. Schilling carried out these experiments until April 5, 1945.[10] While the medical experiments on the effects of pressure were intended to benefit the pilots, this research was aimed at the Wehrmacht soldiers deployed in the African campaign.
In the first years of the war, the infirmary consisted of six barracks, and Josef Heiden was the Kapo in the infirmary. In June, a biochemical testing station was set up in Block I. The head was Heinrich Schütz. The phlegmon (inflammation) series of experiments began, carried out in Block 1, Room 3, which cost the lives of at least 17[10] prisoners by the time it was completed in the spring of 1943.
On August 15, hypothermia experiments began under the direction of doctors Holzlöhner, Finke and Rascher. Their purpose was to provide better help for airmen in distress at sea. The trials were officially completed in October 1942. Rascher extended the series of experiments on his own initiative until May 1943. The number of test subjects was between 220 and 240 people, of whom around 65 to 70 prisoners perished.
On September 1, Martin Weiß became the new commandant. He had been sharply[38] instructed by Pohl to pay more attention to the preservation of inmate labor. During his command, the punishment of hanging on stakes was therefore abolished, harassment, beatings and roll calls became less frequent, and prisoners were allowed into their barracks more often. Above all, the weight and number of food parcels were no longer restricted. More parcels arrived, some prisoners were now very well supplied and a lively barter trade developed. A differentiation developed among the prisoners:[39] Soviet prisoners could have no contact with their homeland and were not sent any parcels. Those who received enough parcels were now also able to ensure that prisoner functionaries were accepted into a good work detachment[40].
Following Himmler’s order of October 5, 1942, to make the concentration camps in Germany free of Jews, the SS deported all of Dachau’s Jewish prisoners to the Auschwitz concentration camp[41].


In the following copied section, I am interested in the names of the nursing and sanatoriums. I confess: I have never heard of them, nor of Hartheim and only last year of Grafeneck.

From Wikipedia:

Death toll

Memorial plaques at Hartheim Castle
As part of Aktion T4, Hartheim was the murder center for victims from the “Ostmark”, Bavaria and Lower Styria:[22]
– The first two transports of around 400 patients arrived at Hartheim in April and May 1940 from the “Am Feldhof” state sanatorium and nursing home for the mentally ill in Graz, which had 2,100 beds
– Between mid-June and mid-July 1940, around 600 patients were brought to Hartheim from the Mauer-Öhling sanatorium and nursing home with 2,000 beds.
– Transports from the Vienna City Sanatorium and Nursing Home in Ybbs an der Donau, with 1650 beds, began in the second half of August 1940.
– Patients were brought to Hartheim from the large Bavarian institutions, the Eglfing-Haar mental hospital near Munich, Kutzenberg and Regensburg, starting in the summer of 1940.
– The first transports from the Gugging State Mental Hospital in Lower Austria were brought to Hartheim in September 1940.
– More than 3,200 patients were brought to Hartheim from the Am Steinhof sanatorium and nursing home in Vienna, which had almost 4,000 beds, and murdered[23].
– The first transports from the sanatorium and nursing home in Hall in Tyrol and the St. Josef Institute in Mils near Hall came to Hartheim in early December 1940.
– Around 130 of 200 patients were transported from the Valduna State Sanatorium and Nursing Home in Rankweil in February 1941.
– The transports from the Salzburg-Lehen state sanatorium and nursing home began in April 1941.
– After the occupation of Yugoslavia in the Balkan campaign (1941), those destined for murder were transported from the institutions in Celje and Maribor via the Feldhof institution.

I think: What interests me about the following two lists is the number of clergymen:

Known casualties

– Richard Aspöck (1919-1941), Austrian gardener’s assistant
– Teodor Drapiewski (1880-1942), Polish Catholic priest
– Erwin Hanslik (1880-1940), Austrian-Polish cultural geographer, historian and publicist
– Bernhard Heinzmann (1903-1942), German Catholic priest
– Friedrich Karas (1895-1942), Austrian Catholic priest
– Jan Kowalski (1871-1942), Polish bishop of the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites
– Friederike (Friedl) Roth née Reichler (1900-1940), wife of the writer Joseph Roth[24]
– Ida Maly (1894-1941), Austrian painter
– Gottfried Neunhäuserer (1882-1941), Austrian Benedictine priest
– Werner Sylten (1893-1942), Protestant theologian
– Aloisia Veit (1891-1940), distant relative of Adolf Hitler[25]
– Maria Karoline of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1899-1941), Kohary line, murdered at Hartheim Castle in 1941.

About the clergy

A total of 310 Polish, seven German, six Czech, four Luxembourg, three Dutch and two Belgian priests were murdered. Many of them had been transported from the parish block of the Dachau camp.[26] The clergyman Hermann Scheipers had also been transferred to the invalids’ block to be taken to Hartheim. Scheipers’ sister – who was in correspondence with her brother – contacted a certain Dr. Bernsdorf, an employee of the RSHA Berlin-Oranienburg, who was responsible for the priests in the parish block. She allegedly confronted him, saying that it was an open secret in Münsterland that imprisoned priests were sent to the gas chambers. Bernsdorf allegedly became nervous during the conversation and phoned the Dachau commandant’s office. Scheipers reports that there was a reaction on the same day, August 13, 1942: He and three other German clergymen were transferred back from the Invalids’ Block (where the SS collected prisoners for transportation) to the Priests’ Block.[27]

I ask myself: can we understand people, many old people, with a panic fear of “homes”, hospitals, “institutions”? What a vast field still lies ahead of us, not only to unearth the knowledge that has sunk into obscurity like an immensely important treasure?

What follows are lists of doctors and nursing staff, administrative staff, so-called burners, an attempted list of trials, if there were any, as well as those who evaded taking responsibility by committing suicide.

I am providing information: I am now copying only two short paragraphs that show the possibility of commemoration. I must recognize that I was wrong. Quite a few places or institutions are located in Austria and we therefore have no connection to them.

Reappraisal and remembrance

There is a place of learning and remembrance at Schloss Hartheim. The new concept for this was decided in 1997 by the state of Upper Austria and the state charity association. The structural traces of the killing center were then uncovered and secured. A room of silence was created directly adjacent to the killing rooms. The learning and memorial site and the “Value of Life” exhibition were opened in 2003. Comprehensive historical information is provided in the former function rooms of the perpetrators.
From 2003 to 2023, around 500,000 people visited the Hartheim Castle learning and memorial site[73].
In 2001, a memorial stone was erected on the banks of the Danube between Brandstatt near Wörth (district of Pupping) and Wilhering near the village of Gstocket (municipality of Alkoven), where the ashes of the euthanasia victims from Hartheim were poured into the Danube, on the initiative of the Hartheim Castle Association. The inscription on the very large Danube pebble was written by the Upper Austrian writer Franz Rieger: “The water erased the traces that memory preserves.” An additional information board explains the historical context. The stone is located at river kilometer 2,148.5 m, turning point, on the south bank. The site can be reached via the access road to the Ottensheim/Wilhering Danube power station.

I ask myself: What was the purpose of Dachau?

Dachau was a training site for concentration camp guards and SS leaders, who were also deployed in extermination camps after the start of the Second World War. Dachau concentration camp was not an extermination camp; however, no other concentration camp committed so many political murders.

My text continues here:

At last I have reached the end of the “Alte Römerstraße”, to the left is the entrance known from photos. Too bad it’s starting to rain. The spacious room, which serves as a café and restaurant, is tastefully and modestly furnished. I can see that the last tour for the day has already started. I see information and photos on the walls and display boards. It’s all too much and too little for me.

I decide to remind myself of Bernie Glassmann Roshi’s “Three Principles”, the mission I have given myself and the minimal program that I like to use, especially in such “underserved places”: Sitting (I had in the lanes) – walking (I had in the long streets) and until I was here – sitting – chanting.

I continue walking in silence and concentration for the time being. I cross a seemingly huge square and slow down more and more. At the back are the denominationally separated memorial rooms, that’s where I’m drawn. Step by step, I walk along the numbered rows. It is dull and takes time. For everyone who was here, it was dull and took time. The beautiful things never lasted and were never a pleasure – eating, for example, sleeping, resting, a good conversation – while the ugly, boring, frightening, exhausting and painful things were meant to last. This corresponds roughly to our concept of “hell”. Actually, the tormentors were also in hell, it occurs to me, so they are both in hell, only one of them is in charge.

I don’t remember if I walk past graves, stop every now and then. Members of my friend’s family died…during forced labor? Killed? Taken from here to somewhere else? Maybe I wasn’t listening properly. I lacked the strength, the courage to ask. Just as I never asked about the name, which I had wondered about from the start.

When I reached the end of the rows, I saw signs for the denominational chapels. One thing was clear to me: I wanted to go to the synagogue.
This is where I stop. I chant, I am alone. I speak out loud, inside, walk downwards in trepidation. My heart beats noticeably, my breathing becomes slow. I am being led.
Lord. I say. I cry, but as I write now. I don’t remember if I cried down there. Mother. I think. “Kanzeon, na mu butsu …**” – Roses I had brought with me, some faded roses. I have reserved one for this place, for the loss of my friend. I sit down on the ground, leaning against the wall.

Sitting. A good place.


Two days ago, I found the inspiration to look for the photo album my mother left behind. Since I am the only one interested in these old testimonies, my sister Ulrike sent me a heavy, large package, much too big for my small apartment, with about five or six albums.
In the meantime, when I had started writing about Munich and Dachau, I tried to immerse myself in the atmosphere of my childhood memories, in my grandmother Katharina Strunk’s house in Schafstedt or in Aunt Nati’s apartment in Hamburg. “Eicke”…, I suddenly remembered that Eicke or Eike was the name of a dear family friend, a former domestic servant in my grandparents’ house. There was a lot of talk about her, because she had also moved to Hamburg, if I remember correctly. Relief. I don’t think Theodor Eicke was meant.

But what I have found is not really better or relieving, as I would have liked, against my better judgment. My young mother, 16 years old (?), standing by the side of a highly decorated general. The names are there, I just have to look them up. Another general shakes Hitler’s hand, everyone seems happy, including the person who left us these pictures. My mother. She had appreciated this certain attitude – “character” she might call it. Hard to bear. Of course, I didn’t fit into such a family that had learned nothing. I guess they prided themselves on sticking to their former beliefs. Maybe there was nothing else left. One of the generals, I had read, was considered a pioneer … for WHAT? How happy I am to have found access to the hard-to-tolerate aspects of my parents through the Buddhist exercises, e.g. imagining my parents as children and identifying with hundreds of writing group members and their written testimonies. I was able to accompany my mother as good as into death, our last meeting on a material level was deep, quiet and peaceful. I’ll write about my father another time. I was at his bedside during two of the serious partial amputations of his down leg and visited him several times in the senior’s asylum in Hannover. My Mother living only some few kilometers from him – after divorce and new marriage on both sides

According to an esteemed book on family secrets, group secrets, collective crimes (not to speak of the “collateral harm, which always go together with war and extinction (rape, addiciton, suicidal actions in high numbers, theft, fraud, self-mutilation…) that have been denied, are particularly toxic: they affect the system beyond death. I and a large part of a whole generation and their children would still be affected by this, and not only that. There was more. Enormous ethical damage was being done: The lies piled up, and addictions of all kinds were meant to cover up the monsters that were never buried. – So it is not true that there is nothing we can do. People who argue like this somehow prefer the status quo.
There is actually so much to do, more than for one lifetime. We just have to renounce any desire to see the changes as we envision them and in the lifespan we have. One must learn to rejoice in the wonder of simply doing what the dead, the situations ask us to do. We all live in relationships, so how we shape the relationships in our lives is of great interest. This has implications for our own deaths and for the lives and deaths of our children and loved ones. – The world could well be different,**** it already is, as I breathe it – grieving, praying, deeply connected and confident – into existence and write.


*Tong-len: A breathing practice from Tibetan Buddhism, which in short form means “taking (the pain of others) and giving (love, care).

**Kanzeon is the Buddha of Compassion

***The names of the three Generals: Karl Lorenz, Franz Sensfuß, Heiner Fricke

****Kind of an answer to the title of the book “The World Could Be Otherwise” by Norman Fischer Roshi