I have reached the river Rhine. The part that goes from Köningswinter to Mainz and the part that has been named by UNESCO to be the summum of culturromantic landscape. In the summery green and the summer sun it certainly all looks idyllic, the Rhine flowing gently between the mountains. All is pristine. Neatly groomed. Angehärkt auf Deutsch?
I also walk through Remagen. I remember this city from reading popularised war documentaries for children that I borrowed at the village library. “The Bridge at Remagen” told of the brave and clever act of warfare the Americans deployed to conquer this bridge. It is a story told by the victor. I believed them, all the stories were victors’ stories anyway. Too seldom we heard the stories of the losers. Too little they told us about the horror and the fear, the sorrow and the sadness. When you don’t know, it doesn’t exist for real and yet there are things to be learned. Of grandfathers and fathers who couldn’t be heroes to their children because they were part of the ‘bad guys’ and who gave their children the impossible assignment to see them that way. That is why we can still see the world in ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. That may be why we still not know that no war has a victor.
The bridge head at Remagen is now a museum. A ‘friede
nsmuseum’. A peace museum. Is this the place where we think of peace? A bridge that was destroyed and never rebuild? Peace is about building bridges. We need bridges as much as musea. Let us build bridges across our pristine, mutilated lands.