Yet another moral equivalenceJust in case any of you thought that President Obumbler didn't draw a moral equivalence between the Holocaust victims and 'ordinary Germans' when he was in Dresden last Friday, he did. It just wasn't spoken.
Dresden is, as Angela Merkel put it in her joint press conference with Obama on Friday morning, a “highly symbolic city.” And within this highly symbolic city, there is no more symbolic monument than the historic Frauenkirche or “Church of our Lady.” The Frauenkirche was destroyed in the fires provoked by the Allied bombing and it was left in ruins for decades. The renovated church was first reopened to the public in 2005. The symbolic significance of Obama’s visit to Dresden could hardly be made complete without a visit to the Frauenkirche. But as late as Friday morning, there were still doubts about whether Obama would go to the church. Seemingly cognizant of the controversy that his Dresden visit had sparked back home, the president and his handlers were reportedly resisting the entreaties of his German hosts.Outrageous. Simply outrageous.
A big screen had been set up in Dresden’s Altmarkt or Old Town Square to watch the stages of the Obama visit. Reporting from the Altmarkt, Natalie Steger of Germany’s ZDF public television noted that when Obama finally did cross the threshold of the church, the images set off “downright jubilation” among the assembled Dresden residents. “That was definitively the highlight,” Steger added.
Inside the Frauenkirche, Obama lit a candle under the battered “old cross” that formerly stood atop the church’s dome. It is said that the Frauenkirche is a symbol of “reconciliation.” But, as noted in the Saturday edition of Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the “old cross” obviously symbolizes something else. The cross “used to be the highest point of the church,” the FAZ writes:[I]t was rediscovered under the rubble. In its twisted metal, one can still perceive what the cross went through in the firestorm, and with it the church and with it the people.A symbol of the suffering of Christ reinvested with the significance of German suffering. It was before such a cross that Obama placed a candle in Dresden.
Obama did not say much about the significance of his visit. During his press conference in Dresden, he merely alluded vaguely to the “tragedies” that the city had undergone. It is interesting to note that Angela Merkel did not even go that far. She merely noted matter-of-factly that the city was “destroyed during the Second World War” and “then rebuilt.”
But as the ZDF’s Guido Knopp would note later in the day, Obama did not have to say anything. The heavily loaded symbolism of the Frauenkirche visit did the talking for him. By virtue of his visits to Buchenwald and the Frauenkirche, as Knopp put it, Obama had paid tribute to “all the victims,” i.e., both the victims of Nazi persecution and the German “victims” of the Allies.
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