Würzburg, DE (Apr 21)
This last weekend, I finally began the route in Germany called the “Romantic Road” which runs from Würzburg to Neuschwanstein for 354 kilometers. Pre-COVID travelers would take 3-4 days and stay in beautiful little Guesthouses (small hotels with food and drink). I decided to take the route in sections until I complete it because right now we are not allowed to stay overnight in any lodging.
Friday I began in Würzburg, which I have been to a few times. But I had never been to the famous Residenz there. As usual, I stumbled upon something else–a multi-layered German memorial to those who fell in WW1 and WW2. The whole experience was strange to me. Trust me, I am glad we gave the Germans then good ass-whuppuns in WW1 and especially WW2. Hitler and his goons needed to be exterminated with extreme prejudice–no argument there.
However, if you have been to Germany, there are almost no “memorials” to those wars or the “boys” who fought in those wars. The Germans have rightly erased symbols and signifiers to Nazism, fascism–Hitler.
Here, though, was a memorial still standing. I think, “think,” that it is left standing because this is a memorial to the “sons” of Würzburg and includes WW1. You can see the “signs” below. The memorial–the main sculpture–moved me emotionally. I don’t know why–maybe you can tell me. I felt embarrassed that a war “memorial,” a war memorial of our mortal enemies, moved me–but it did. This part of the large sculpture is a memorial to those Germans who fell in WW1. Their names are inscribed on the wall behind. The sculpture also strangely reminded me of the innumerable renderings of Station 13–taking Christ’s body down from the cross.
Why do we do this? As humans? Why do we inscribe murder, death, erasure, hatred, senseless killing, out into the open(ing)? Why do we make killing other human beings grand and baroque? Six soldiers, old and young, carry their fallen comrade with sorrow, symmetry, and gallantry. The fallen comrade still sidles his rifle as if all this were nobility, bravery, loyalty.
You will see that, of course, this memorial reminded me of the Vietnam war wall in Wash DC. Names, names, and more names. Boys, boys, and more boys. Women too, but we have left them out until the Vietnam memorial. I lived the Vietnam war through a lens, every night, listening to the dead count. How many Americans died today? How many VC? I remember as a young boy, feeling proud and hopeful when more VC died than American men and women. But I also remember viewing that image of Americans leaving Saigon and the Vietnamese making a human chain holding onto that helicopter out of desperation.
Some of my dear friends didn’t live that war through a lens; they lived and died the war. I know–I have no right to say anything about this part of it so I won’t except this: thank you for your service. I still disagree mightily with the Vietnam war. History will probably tell us that this was the beginning of the end of America. And then George W and Cheney sealed our fated direction. Where is the wall of names for the more than 600,000 Iraqi’s we murdered since 2003? How long would that wall be?
But the names. The boys. The women. All the “sons” of Würzburg around the world and throughout history. The names of real humans. Their faces. They were not, are not anonymous. I still don’t know what to do with this memorial. Were they, are we, victims or perpetrators? Or both?
And for what? For God’s sake, for what?
I know, this was my beginning of the “Romantic Road.” Welcome to Hudson’s world.