A congress of German and Latin American Hispanicists have allowed me to visit for the first time the city of Weimar and the hours I spent walking through its now peaceful streets. Contemplating its buildings and going to museums and prodigious libraries have left in my retina and my mind, like few times in my stays in other parts of the world, the tenacious aftertaste of having been in History.
Because throughout the 1,000 years of existence of this still small city of the German province of Thuringia, German, and in some way, European and universal history have crossed through this place leaving indelible imprints of the greatness of men and also of some of their great tragedies and miseries.
A small Weimar hotel, with a discreet balcony facing Market Square, an eternal centre of confluence of the city, surprised me with the presence in it of a life-size sculpture of Martin Luther, the generator of one of the great religious reforms of the western world, so important that it moulded to a great extent the German character and that of several of the current countries of central and northern Europe.
On that balcony of the Elephant Hotel, where Luther reigns today, an important concept of that becoming we have called History is summed up. For some years, every year an image of a man of German culture is placed in that space and, very especially, of some of the important figures linked to the large cultural and political chronicle of that city, so small but where so many memorable events have occurred. Thomas Mann, the great writer, has been there, but so have the images of founders Goethe and Schiller passed through there, the two poets considered the fathers of the German nation and who for some time lived in that city. Statesmen, philosophers, scientists, musicians have also occupied that privileged site to remind us of the best of History, to not forget History, because the incarnation of the worst humankind can generate was there, also there. And the citizens of Weimar have decided to live with History instead of forgetting it or making it up.
Because it was Weimar, the cultured and romantic Weimar, where Adolf Hitler won his first electoral victory on his road to the Reich and horror, and it was from that discreet balcony where the great ideologist of Nazism gave some of his speeches, with his arm held high, to a crowd frenzied by his verb, magnetised by his political philosophy, convinced that that short Austrian would give back to Germany its greatness and would lift it from the humiliation of a lost war and would lead them through the best of roads. One of the springs that would nurture the river of terror and the Holocaust is there, one of the most unfortunate episodes of History, which also had one of its scenarios in Buchenwald, the concentration camp built near that same city of Weimar….
Precisely in Weimar. The city of public and peaceful forests designed by Minister Goethe and clean rivers where the poet Goethe and his friend Schiller wrote some of the most significant pages of the history of universal literature and created – or at least strengthened – the best of the romantic spirit. The Weimar of painter Cranach the Old and which welcomed Litz, Bach and Wagner, which is saying a lot. The Weimar in which Friedrich Nietzsche established himself and where the major part of the writings of one of the most influential philosophers of modernity is conserved…. The Weimar where the movement that revived the concepts of universal design and architecture was founded, the Bauhaus that, for being revolutionary, irreverent and creative, was expelled from the city when the Nazi spirit started batting its wings and launched its protagonists on a pilgrimage that disseminated them through the world!
The city of Weimar is also one of the places through which Napoleon Bonaparte went by since, in its proximities, his imperial army waged several battles. In that city, as if it were not enough, what was called – it could not be otherwise – the Republic of Weimar was founded in 1923 and three years later the Hitlerian Youth, aggressive, obedient, spirited defenders of an ideology….
Visiting, walking through Weimar, has the power of making us feel how we all are part of History, like History is part of our lives. And also to remind us that History can be past, the subject of museums and books, but at the same time present; because through those lessons of greatness and pain we human beings should be able to learn. And, then, be capable of putting into practice that wisdom; knowing that the greatness of the ideas and miseries of thinking, good and evil can have an influence in our personal and collective lives. And then, based on that conviction, recover the certainty, so many times forgotten, that we are never safe from the worse the human species can engender: hate, xenophobia, the manipulation of the wounded and impoverished masses, managed by messianic and charismatic leaders, who promise better futures…or by the very demon that tempted Luther. Though History can give us back the assurance that we are capable of creating so much beauty like the one that, throughout a millennium, has given us this beautiful and today peaceful city of Weimar, where, fortunately, an image of Martin Luther now reigns in the Elephant Hotel and, from where decades ago, two enormous bronze statues of Goethe and Schiller, the poets, presided over the city’s biggest square. (2016)
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