26.3.2021, Erkelenz- Keyenberg, North Rhine Westphalia, Germany.
Germany based energy provider RWE plans destruction of a unique Jewish-friendly Catholic church. At the same time, it celebrates the reburial of the remains of a Waffen-SS corporal and careful relocation of his tombstone.
The windows of the neo-gothic Catholic Holy-Cross-Church of Keyenberg narrate the history of Jews in a friendly and affectionate manner – much like John Paul II‘s story of the “elder siblings” and their contribution to salvation. At the time of the church’s consecration on the eve of World War I, this was highly unusual.
Nevertheless, the church’s location has been a sacred place for Christians for more than 1,300 years. The tolerant and peaceful coexistence of Christian farming families and Jews trading in livestock and agricultural goods might have been the base of the uncommon acceptance and appreciation for the often persecuted Jews. The Star of David often appears in church ornaments as well as in a chapel close by.
This exceptional church is in danger of being demolished by the largest European power company, RWE AG, who already bought the church. However, climate change and new developments in energy production are making the use of the coal below the church highly improbable.
Deconsecration as an act of preemptive obedience towards the corporate giant by a local vicar was stopped in January by the Catholic Bishop of Aachen only at the very last moment.
Villagers will have to leave their hometown before the coal company destroys Keyenberg for opencast mining - even though the use of its lignite coal for energy production will probably violate the Paris Climate Agreement. Ironically, the grave of an SS-Corporal will be treated with much more kindness: The grave of the NAZI fighter who was not even a local will be transferred with RWE's financial and technical support to a new cemetery in a new settlement.
Locals are horrified and citizens’ movements against the coal mine are gaining momentum. Local civil engineer Christian Wiltsch holds a PhD in Heritage Buildings in and around Keyenberg and expresses deep concern about RWE‘s behaviour: “It is unbearable that RWE wants to eliminate Jewish symbols - symbols even the Nazis couldn't abolish. And just a few steps away from the church, an SS-memorial will be transferred to a safe place under protection of the law."
Prime-minister of the federal state of North Rhine Westphalia is Armin Laschet. He is also the new chairman of the German Christian Democrats Party and prospective candidate for the succession of chancellor Angela Merkel. Yesterday, the state government of North Rhine Westphalia adopted a guiding decision in favour of the destruction of the church and the protection of the SS-tombstone. The decision makes no mention of five villages, cruelly keeping them in the dark about their future. The - unnecessary - destruction of a further two villages will go ahead as planned.
Recently, Armin Laschet had spoken in favour of carbon reduction, at the same time favouring an extended period of the use of lignite coal for RWE. A spokesperson for the initiative “Die Kirchen im Dorf Lassen” calls Laschet’s political position, “political rhetoric in favour of a coalition with the Green Party, and political action in favour of safeguarding dirty energy profits of multinational corporations.” This stance casts doubt on the ambitious politician's sensitivity for the historical significance of the church and his respect for the Paris Climate Agreement.
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see also https://www.kirchen-im-dorf-lassen.de/
Photographs of the interior of the church, for example of the philosemitic windows - in particular one with a Menorah - can be made available on request.
Scientific and popular documentation about the church in German can also be made available on request.