Spurensuche Menschen im Krieg
SpurensucheMenschen im Krieg

People’s Day of Mourning 2008 

Thoughts about Grief and Peace  

Text  by Elmar Wiedeking 

Translated by Bill & Barbara Mabbett                               Wellington New Zealand, 2009


Elmar Wiedeking reads:


Even today, 63 years after the end of the Second World War, the people’s Day of Mourning is characterised for most of us by memories of people we loved and of tragic events at the time. It is a day to look back, a day for reflections and for faith.


When we look back, we experience again our personal pain; we are again subject to the feelings we experience at the loss of beloved people.  The painful memory of what happened then is what enables us to connect the events of that time with our experience of life today. 


But along with all the grief and care that we feel as we remember, these last 63 years also offer us a heartening sign of confidence. This past period marks our way to democracy and peace.  We hope that this democratic peace process will remain stable in our country in the future and that nothing will interrupt it.


In the First World War, 9,737,000 people were killed.   In the Second World War, this number rose more than six times, to 55,293,500 people.  And so in the Federal Republic we observe this day with thoughts of all these people of all nations who became the victims of wars and of political violence.

Wars and political violence came about through men’s deliberate disregard of the divine image of Man, through creating the concepts of enemies, of lives without value, and of burdensome existences, and by translating these concepts into actual laws, regulations and orders.


The demonic spirit which created these concepts entered our country in scientific and nationalistic forms, well before the twenties of the lat century.  Its destructive thought and action settled firmly in the minds of many people.


As a consequence, war and political violence characterised the mental world of the demonic spirit and his assistants.  During the thirties he deprived parliament of its power and had himself named leader – Führer.  Peace and humanity had no place in his thinking and governing. Millions of people had to suffer for this.


In the last two years, I have referred in addresses on the People’s Day of Mourning to the distress and suffering of people who lost their health or their life through military violence in actions of war.  Today I want to lay the emphasis on the area of political violence. I would like to tell you about people whose life was in the greatest danger from racist thinking, murderous laws, and the merciless actions of individuals within the domain of the demonic spirit.

Concealed behind the drumbeats of the war, and covered over by ceaseless propaganda, a tragedy of incredible extent was taking place among the people. The spiritual and social sphere of communal life was being changed by violence exercised within the country on a massive and inclusive scale, even in our village.


Making people fearful for their lives, and families fearful that they would be parted, was the means of pressure exerted by the demonic spirit and spread his political fanaticism.  Denunciations with frequently life-threatening consequences for those affected were part of everyday life.


Keeping silent became more and more common.  To protect your own life, it became important to hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing.


Life was now characterised by distrust, reserve and fear towards your neighbour, your fellow man and the authorities.


Many people in our country and even in our village were not so conscious that this inhuman racist thinking, these murderous laws and regulations threatened after all even those who served the system of the demonic spirit, or thought they could come to an arrangement with this system.

Even in Sipplingen people were afraid of this fearsome political violence which practised compulsory sterilisation and euthanasia in a planned and organised form as well as many other existential threats.  The people in our village suspected something of this frightening disaster without knowing exactly what lay behind it.


When somebody had simply disappeared from the village community, everybody remained silent.  At most there would be a whispered rumour: he ‘went up the chimney.’  Families and people with a good philosophy protected their invalids and handicapped members, of whom there were some in the village, so that they did not fall into the hands of the demonic spirit.


And yet people did fall victim to compulsory sterilisation and euthanasia in our village too.  Those affected either simply did not reappear in the village at the end of the war or they kept silent from shame about the harm they had suffered.  The relatives of these victims were often forced into silence by the assistants of the demonic spirit.  It was also common not to inform relatives of the fate of the victims, so that they still do not know what happened to their loved ones.


At a narrative evening on the occasion of the 850th anniversary of our village, it was reported in an impressive lecture how the

influence of the demonic spirit influenced personal, social and church life in Sipplingen.  I quote only some central statements from this lecture.


I was born in 1927, into that period of which the youth of today know only a little…. When I started school in 1934 a different age started for us children. Instead of the prayer at the beginning of class, it was now Heil Hitler…..


But the older you got, the more plain and apparent was the system.  Even my grandmother came to feel the arm of the Party reaching inside the family.  My grandmother had brought ten children into the world.  One can understand that one day such a woman broke down.  For a lengthy period she had to go into psychiatric care.  According to the brown (Nazi) race laws that was a defect…. that law could mean the end for many.


But what really lay behind the fear of such alleged defects that tormented people at that time?  What lay behind the suspicion that something did not add up?


It was the inclusive web which the demonic spirit had woven to liberate those whom he presumptuously called ‘his people’ from ‘weaklings, racially inferior people, and useless eaters’ as was said at that time.

His ‘Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Disease’ was issued as early as 1933.  It prescribed the sterilisation of people suffering from allegedly hereditary disease or those who were considered ‘racially inferior’.


400,000 people were compulsorily sterilised between 1933 and 1945 on the basis of this law.  This was done by doctors in hospitals, including those run by religious bodies.  But that was not enough.  On the command of the demonic spirit, sick people and those who did not match his ideas soon had to lose their lives.


The demonic spirit had created the conditions by secret regulations to include people in care and hospital institutions, including those run by churches.  The doctors dependent upon the demonic spirit had previously admitted as many people as possible into such institutions, knowing that they would be delivered to the killing organisations.


Within the day-to-day experience of every individual, there were nurses, doctors, and others involved in patient care who were under oath to the demonic spirit, and who saw to the reporting and inclusion of these (allegedly) worthless people so that they would be killed.

A working party to organise the operation of these killing establishments, the organisation and transport of those destined to die, and the selection of these unfortunates was organised as early as 1939 on the orders of the demonic spirit.  This working party continued its murderous activity until the end of the war.


There were at least six killing institutions within the domain of the demonic spirit.  70,000 people fell victim to his murderous scheme within them.  One of those institutes was in Grafeneck, near Münsingen on the Schwäbisch Alb. 10824 people were murdered in that place alone. 


People in our region picked out to be killed were probably first taken to the curative centre of Emmendingen.  About 800 people passed on from Emmendingen were killed in Grafeneck in the years 1940-41.  The records of the Grafeneck memorial show at least 4 murdered people from the Überlingen district.


In 1939 in many hospitals so-called children’s divisions were set up to kill especially sick or handicapped children.  Doctors serving the demonic spirit and the staff of these divisions had no scruples about murdering children between three and eighteen year old who did not meet the ideas of the demonic spirit.  5000 children were victims of this child-euthanasia.

In many clinics the management and staff, mainly church sisters, tried to protect their children and adults from the grasp of the murderers.  They concealed their patients and tried to get them back to their families secretly.  In this way a few lives could be saved.


There were public protests by brave men, from private society, and from the churches.  The atrocities of the demonic spirit could no longer be concealed.  They led to political unrest in the population and were claimed to have been stopped in 1941.


In reality, however, these murders were continued in strict secrecy with even worse methods.  The servants of the demonic spirit had people consigned on trains to distant hospitals, often in the east of his domain.  Many of these people were killed there with overdoses of sleeping pills, the injection of instantaneous poisons, or in the simplest case, by not providing food.  In this way they were allowed to die in their beds so that everyone would believe in their natural death.


The victims included men and women from the concentration camps, severely injured victims of the bombing, newborn babies of women doing slave labour, and very sick people from the public hospitals.   German soldiers who had broken down under the demands of active service, or who had been so severely

wounded that they would not be able to serve again within a short time, were also killed.


Killing documents of this second phase of euthanasia have survived from 800 places in the domain of the demonic spirit.  There are among them at least 29 places in the Baden-Württenberg of today.  Some 130,000 people lost their lives in these murders.


This gigantic network of the demonic spirit and his servants has not been known in its full extent until today.  It lay hidden beneath the fear for their lives and the silence of the people of that time.  Nobody will dispute that this fear was well founded.


About 605,000 people, citizens of nearly every city and village in Germany, fell victim to the demonic spirit and his servants, as well as the millions of the Holocaust.  Reminding people of the victims of this immense political violence is an essential component of the People’s Day of Mourning.


Today, thank God, we often witness social expenditure on handicapped children and adults, and the weak and sick.  We witness their loving care by parents, families, caregivers, and doctors.

Isn’t it reassuring to see how these children, and the adults too, are loved?  How they develop, in spite of their handicaps, limitations, and sickness?  How they show us their love and affection in return?


There must never be a return to the world of the contempt for life, even if, in our society and political life, there are still some individuals who lean to the concept of sterilisation and euthanasia for young and old.


Let us pay no heed to the voices of those who want to make themselves lords over life and death.  The times that were truly contemptuous of people, when the servants of the demonic spirit trod on the basic rights of people, are not yet long past.


‘The power of love is stronger than evil,’ said Pope Benedict in September, on the occasion of his journey to the sick at Lourdes.  Let us simply believe his words.





There are many among our 130 dead from the two World Wars from Sipplingen   who were attracted by the demonic spirit in their early youth even as children, and were then betrayed and

abused. They include men who did not have to serve the demonic spirit until later.


Our dead soldiers are not just these 130 men who are known to us by name, but also the dead soldiers from the families of our fellow-citizens who have joined us more recently.


Pictures are standing today on the altars.  We see the faces of the war dead.  Young faces look at us.  We make an image of them for ourselves. Pictures of war-dead of our one-time opponents stand among the pictures of our dead from the village.  In death all are united near God.  


Young and incomplete lives stand behind these pictures and these lives.  How would their lives, and ours, have run if they had not been victims of this war?


We sense that all those seen here in picture, and those whose names are read out, suffered the same fate.  They suffered the same lonely death, somewhere on a battlefield, at a first aid post, in a hospital, or in a prisoner-or-war camp.  Somewhere in the hugeness of the sea.


We sense that all of them felt the same fear of death which even the Son of God was not spared on the Cross.

They will have prayed as He did: Father, let this cup pass me by.


Many of our dead do not rest in cemeteries.  Their bones are being sought.  When they are found they are interred again with dignity in collective cemeteries.


Our dead from Sipplingen used to sit in this church, like us.  They were baptised in this house of God and went to communion here.  The Requiem was read for them, and the rosary was recited. Let us not lose them from our remembrance.  They belong to us and our congregation for ever.


In the knowledge of the Lord’s creation, of His goodness, of His and our power to forgive, we want to remember today the names of our war victims from Sipplingen.  Their names shall live for evermore.


Hannes Schuldt reads the names of 42 war victims from the years 1914-1921


We light this candle for you in the light of the Resurrection.  May its light shine for you and a future in peace.


The candle is taken by Jolande Schirrmeister to the left side altar and placed by the pictures, accompanied by soft organ music,’ 

The Comrade’s Song.’  Arrangement by organist Helmut Widenhorn.


Jolande Schirrmeister reads the names of 74 war victims killed and 17 missing from the years 1939-1948


We light this candle for you in the light of the Resurrection.  May its light shine for you and a future in peace.


The candle is taken by Jolande Schirrmeister to the right side altar and placed by the pictures, accompanied by soft organ music, ‘The Last Rose.’  Arrangement by organist Helmut Widenhorn.  




Elmar Wiedeking reads:


Reflecting on the suffering of our war dead from Sipplingen frees our vision to see the millionfold suffering of the people of all nations who have become victims of military and political violence in the past and in the present.


And so we remember the people of all nations who lost their lives or their bodily integrity in actions of war, in

bombardments, in shelling from naval guns, or by the use of revenge weapons.


We remember the people of all nations who were victims of flight and expulsion.


We remember the people of all nations who have been humiliated, tortured or murdered because of their ethnic, political or religious adherence.


We remember the people of all nations who resisted a system of injustice and as a consequence suffered torture and were killed.


We remember the people of all nations who were used as slave labour or in experiments with humans and died in camps or killing facilities.


We remember the people of all nations who because of political violence took their own life since there was no way out.


We remember the people who were murdered because they were severely wounded, psychologically weakened or simply regarded as ‘useless.’

We remember the children, women and men in the whole world who were not participants but lost their lives through war and violence or could never again lead a normal life.


We remember the countless individuals in the whole world whose lives and futures were destroyed by the loss of loved ones.


I should like especially to recall a few events where people lost their lives or were harmed, since they took place near us.


I am thinking of the dead, the wounded and the traumatised from the bombing attacks on Ludwigshafen and Überlingen on 22 February 1945. About 30 people died in Überlingen and six in Ludwigshafen.   The dead in Überlingen included Ruth Steinhauser whose life ended at the age of 6.


I am thinking of the overworked and the dead of the outside detail from Dachau Concentration Camp who were building the earthworks by the railway station in Überlingen.


I am thinking of the residents of the nursing homes in Reichenau, Liebenau, Weissenau and Emmendingen  and the murder of many of them by euthanasia.

I am thinking of Councillor Hermann Levinger and his daughter Barbara from Überlingen who took their own lives after years of political persecution so as not to fall into the hands of their murderers.


I am thinking of Thaddäus Wronka and Bronislav Szafranico from Poland and Georg Stocker from Austria who lost their lives near us while they were still young and are buried in the cemetery at Bonndorf.


In memory of these people from all nations who were victims of wars and political violence we light the third candle in the light of the resurrection.


Sheltered in our hands we bring this light to you in the congregation.  Let everyone spread the light of hope for peace and humanity in the future.


The candle is taken by Jolande Schirrmeister over the central nave to the congregation and then to the main altar, accompanied by soft organ music, ‘The Last Post.’ Arrangement by organist Helmut Widenhorn.




Judith Regenscheit reads:

Thirteen-year-old boys and girls of the Dannewerk School in Schleswig wrote about peace.


Peace is a gift from God but it doesn’t come from heaven nicely packed.


Peace is a gift in us.  We need to find it in ourselves, release it, overcome our egoism and spread peace.


Peace is like a flower.  Its seed lies in the soil but it can only grow if the soil is good, the sun provides a warm climate, rain keeps the soil moist, no overstrong wind breaks it off.  The flower can only multiply if it is surrounded by many thriving flowers.


Peace is like a flower.  Its seed lies in the human being but peace can only grow if we interact peacefully with others, help others and let others help us.


There can be peace in the world; we want to make a start.


Elmar Wiedeking reads:


Today less than ever can we lay our memories in the lap of history and hope that what did happen will not happen again.

Because of undemocratic forces in our country as well as in the countries of Europe and other states it does not seem advisable to reduce the intensity of our remembering.


If we accept today that ‘memory’, which commits us, should be change into ‘history’, which does not, we are opening the way for the operation of undemocratic forces. These forces are less interested in keeping memories and working through them than in the installation of a retrograde system which is linked with dreadful experiences for many of us.


Today, youth in particular is addressed by these undemocratic forces.  Leaflets with antidemocratic slogans are being distributed at schools and on other occasions to anchor once again the thoughts of the demonic spirit among young people.


Our democracy, the virtues of its citizens as well as those of our young people have made the Federal Republic of Germany a recognised member of the world community. Our young people acknowledge their responsibilities from the past.  These young people are largely responsible for our high standing in the world.


The challenge to our generations, young and old, is to recognise that antidemocratic nationalism and violence, now as then, is destructive of our fundamental principles.  Let us reject by

democratic means all slandering of people who resisted the system of the demonic spirit in the dark years of the past and lost their lives.  To try to turn the Protestant theologian and resistance fighter Dietrich Bonhoeffer into a traitor to his country, which happened recently, is quite absurd.


Finally our thoughts turn once again to the victims of all wars and political violence.  We pray for them and for a peaceful future.


God, You have taken into Your hands the people of all nations who were victims of wars and political violence.  May they find peace in Your Kingdom.


Grant these people their dignified place in our hearts and in the hearts of succeeding generations.  Grant us, especially our young people, the spirit of good and the power of love, in order to have peace for all our futures.

E. Wiedeking


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