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This is what I read from an email that I received from the present German military Deacon inviting me to attend worship for the commemoration of the fallen in Stalingrad; German fallen I might add, in the Chapel of the Ernst-von-Bergmann-Kaserne:
Soldiers and civil servants of the German Defence Force:
Seventy years ago the German 6th Army surrendered in Stalingrad. Only ninety thousand survived the battle from one hundred and fifty, and from these only six thousand were able to return home. Today, in the eyes of the German Army, Stalingrad represents a monument for a senseless sacrifice of an abused generation."
The Ernst-von-Bergmann-Kaserne, now a German Military Medical Barracks in Munich, was built 1934 – 1938 by Architect Oswald Bieber using slave labour from nearby Dachau concentration camp. Until the end of WW II this barracks was known as the München-Freimann Kasrne, and was occupied by the SS. At the end of the war, UNESCO took over the barracks for the immediate need for housing of the many refugees and Displace Persons.
Eventually the US Army took over the barracks in 1950 and renamed the barracks the Warner-Kaserne. Its giant main building, after the Pentagon, is the largest facilities occupied by the US Army. The barracks was eventually returned to the German Ministry of Defence in 1968 where they re-christened it under its present name after a famous German surgeon, Ernst-von-Bergmann-Kaserne
With all this history, I had to accept the invitation and rang the given military telephone number. I left a message explaining who I was and gave my military contact number. Nobody rang me back.
On the first of February 2013, I set out for the military barracks from my nearby office in the hope to arrive there on time, a normal 10 – 15 minutes drive away. It is often in my research into the Displaced Persons that I feel a guidance of an unknown spirit, Christian belief or not, this is a fact I cannot personally deny.
The morning of the 1st of Feb, 2013 however it was the voice of my navigation system which was directing me. In four hundred meters turn left. I turned left -- low and behold I found myself in a housing area that I should not have been in.
I was now in the middle of the housing area unseen from the main roads of the city bypasses, but right in the centre of the housing area that was pre World War II and where once our people, the people of the Diaspora and Displaced persons were housed.
A feeling of awe came over me and I could not help but to slow down and take in spiritually the sense of an almost extinguished historical generation. Historical in the sense of an almost forgotten war. The Berlin wall has disappeared, and with it the Soviet Union and the long Cold War that created so many exiles.
Driving through this ‘old’ housing area made the hairs of neck stand and I was taken back into the past and I felt the anguish these DP families must have once felt and their pain of feeling not wanted. The pain of the leprous.
Driving into the barracks, 20 minutes late I asked the guard for the Chapel. He pointed me the tower. Instead of the usual Chapel building I had expected, this chapel was very small, basic and located on the 3rd floor of a tower.
It was an ecumenical worship between the Catholic and Protestant Chaplains. No Orthodox Priest was present and only a handful of people.
Arriving late I did not hear all the sermons but what I heard, there was no mention of the Russian soldiers even though Russia and Germany were commemorating together in Stalingrad, or Volgograd as it retrieved its original name.
After the worship and blessing, before leaving, I was able to take a photo of a copy of the famous drawing by Dr of Med, Father, and artist, Dr. Kurt Reuber, The Stalingrad Madonna which he drew using coal on the reverse side of a map whilst being surrounded in Stalingrad, in 1942. The original being hung in the Emperor Wilhelm Remembrance Church in Berlin and a true copies presented to the Coventry and Volgograd Cathedrals and a third copy was presented to the German Medical Corps Academy here in the Chapel in Munich.