Transcript video Verden – Interview about the history and contemporary use of the Sachsenhain built by the Nazis

Interview with Dirk Grieger, Evangelical Youth Education Center Sachsenhain in Verden, 2014 about the history of the “Saxon Grove” as a “Thingstätte” built by the Nazis in 1935.

Hello, my name is Dirk Grieger, I am the director of the building behind me. We are here in the evangelical youth education center Sachsenhain in Verden, in beautiful Lower Saxony. I look after the groups that come to stay with us. The evangelical youth center has existed since 1950 and has been owned by the evangelical church ever since. We mainly do youth work, youth education work and we are there for guests who do their seminars here.

We know about the history since the Nazi era. The National Socialists put together these buildings here that you see behind and to the left and the right of me. These are old Lower Saxon houses.

Interesting and original is our stone circuit. On our site, 12 hectares, we have a 1.2 kilometer long circular path that has been created with erratic blocks from the area here. There are supposed to be 4500 pieces (I haven’t counted them yet). And the 4500 are exactly the number of Saxons that Charlemagne is said to have executed here. It is known today that this was not the historic site, but it was assumed so. And this site, with the 4500 stones, holds a large open space, which at that time was intended by the National Socialist youth and the National Socialists as a meeting place. On this stone path, we speak today of the meditation path, we have rededicated the stones. We changed some stones with inscriptions from the Bible, and we also rededicated our house. On the house behind me, you can still see a wooden inscription on the beam, which refers to the fact that we should build ourselves up as living stones to the house of God, and that theme resonates with us. When I walk around the path with guests, we try to let these stones come alive and let them speak to us. The stones remind us to be attentive – and it has something. Once you walk around the path, maybe alone, and get a little meditative, you’re in a very unusual place here.

No one, I think, wants to follow in the footsteps of the Nazi past. Above all, we in the church are trying to live with history and to come to terms with history, especially with young people. And that’s why there’s a lot of interest here in exploring and feeling out the historical roots and talking critically about them, and also allowing the groups to ask us questions. The questions came very often and that’s why we dealt with the history quite offensively, also on the boards here on the site. We say: this has happened and we are now responsible for ensuring that it does not happen again. We also do a lot of educational work that also wants history not to repeat itself. A minority thought “no, let’s not publish this, we want to keep it a bit more undercover”, but the vast majority was on our side: to say we live in, with, and through history.

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