Gestures of reconciliation

There are symbols and stories which can be discovered when visiting the Frauenkirche. They speak about people who work as peacemakers and places that are abassadors of reconciliation. The new tower cross, the urn of fire from Gostyn, the memorial tablet for Hugo Hahn or the many, many written entries in the prayer books of the Frauenkirche - they all pass on their individual messages of the power of a reconciled life. The Frauenkirche aims at collecting and spreading such stories.

Traces, signs and memories

Cross of Peace

On 13 February 2000 HRH the Duke of Kent presented the Frauenkirche’s new cross, financed by British donations. Alan Russell and the Dresden Trust collected some ?600,000 for the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche from more than two thousand British donors. The new cross was made by Alan Smith:

“I spent up to ten hours a day working in the sweltering heat of my workshop, eight months long. I hammered out the steel and copper of the cross using old smithing techniques from the eighteenth century. At the end I covered it with three layers of gold leaf, to protect it for eternity. Old drawings were the only source I could draw upon for my work: the new cross on an orb. It was to crown the Dresden Frauenkirche once again. On the day that the cross was finally attached to the dome, I looked down from the tower upon the crowds gathered below. Everyone was cheering and clapping. It was like in a dream. 

That day, a long-awaited dream came true for me. There is only one thing that I deeply regret: that my father was not there that day. Fifty-nine years ago he looked down on Dresden from a similar viewpoint, but a few metres higher up: from the cockpit of his Royal Air Force bomber. After the attacks on Dresden, the knowledge of what had really happened in the war never left him. All his life, he was haunted by the memories; he became a pacifist. That is the way we were brought up in my family.

When I heard about the bid invitation to make the Dresden church cross, I just had to get the job. I did everything I could to get it; convinced my company that we could manage it. At first I didn’t tell anyone what was motivating me. When it became known that I, the son of a bomber pilot, was crafting the cross for the church, there was a big rush for the story. Initial amazement gave way to a very positive reaction. Even the war veterans from my country who had served alongside my father gave me a slap on the back and told me a lot about the past, about the war. They had kept silent about it for so many years.

I have worked with gold, diamonds and gemstones, created jewellery for royal households and Arab rulers, gifts of state for the highest dignitaries in the world. But this seven-metre-tall gilded steel cross is the pinnacle of my career. It was like putting together an extremely complicated puzzle in which the past and the future neatly fit into one another.”

Alan Smith in Cicero (excerpts, translated from German into English)

Flame of reconciliation

Stone urns of fire decorate the stair towers of the Frauenkirche. One of these urns of fire comes from the small Polish town of Gostyn. It has been given a place on stair tower C as a powerful symbol of international reconciliation work.

Gostyn and Dresden are twin cities. After the Wehrmacht invasion, in October 1939 thirty residents of Gostyn were shot arbitrarily on the market square. In consequence, an armed resistance group, the “Black Legion” was formed, prepared to fight the German occupying forces. The group was betrayed and its members – most under age 20 – were brought to Dresden, where they were executed on the inner courtyard of the regional court at Münchner Platz. Three members escaped the death penalty as they were minors, and were sent to a concentration camp.

After the war was over, the executed men's families visited Dresden wanting to see where their relatives had been put to death and know the site of their final resting place. Over the years, a lively dialogue developed between Dresden and Gostyn. This was managed by, among others, Marian Sobkowiak, who in April 2010 received a medal of honour from the City of Dresden for his reconciliation work. The survivors of the “Black Legion”, the victims’ descendants and the people of Dresden who have become involved have a shared vision of keeping memories alive so that the present and future will remain peaceful.

When the Appeal from Dresden was launched for the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, the people of Gostyn spontaneously collected money and commissioned the Polish sculptor Henryk Skudlarski to make an urn of fire. The “Flame of Reconciliation” was presented in Dresden in 1999.

A reluctant fighter

He was an unwilling, reluctant fighter. During his time as superintendent at Dresden Frauenkirche (1930–1937), Hugo Hahn, later to become the Bishop of the Saxon Regional Lutheran Church, fought to ensure that the “German Christians” (Deutsche Christen) did not bring National Socialist policies into the church with them. As a result, he was relieved of his office and later expelled from Saxony, and dismissed from the Saxon Regional Church.

As a symbol of his work as an unbending Christian, in 2007 a plaque was unveiled in honour of Hugo Hahn. The relief of Hahn by the Brandenburg artist Frank Dornseif hangs by Entrance C to the prayer chamber galleries. Black round steel shows the contours of Hahn’s face; light falling upon it makes his countenance appear in shadow. Expressive and bold, the plaque is a fitting reminder of Hugo Hahn’s courageous outlook.