I’m looking for a “thousand-year history” in the city of Worms located in southwest Germany. This has nothing to do helminthology or nematology, as the town’s name is derived from “Warmaisa”, the former Jewish name of the city. This is about an important part of Jewish-German history and peaceful coexistence of the Judeo-Christian communities within Europe. The town’s fame and reputation is also partly derived from Martin Luther; I’ve already visited the site where Luther was on trial to answer charges of heresy, as well as the world’s largest Reformation monument.
This part of the Rhein river area is considered the “cradle of European Jewry”, known also as “little Jerusalem on the Rhine.” In medieval times, flourishing Jewish communities in the cathedral cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz facilitated the creation of a common Jewish league with the name ShUM (SchUM), spelled out by the first letters of the Hebrew names for the three cities. To emphasize the influence of Jewish heritage in Europe and to continue the ongoing process of preservation and education, the recent application by Germany for the ShUM cities to be inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site is at present in the Tentative list (2019).
On a breezy late-autumn afternoon, light fades quick, casting solemn shadows on this ground. In the town’s old Jewish cemetery, I’m the only person present, and I’ve placed a small stone on top of a number of gravestones. I’m surrounded by apparitions over an millennium’s age and by the remaining physical traces in various shapes, stones, and size.
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Above: West view to Deutsches Eck from Ehrenbreitstein. 2015 photo by Taxiarchos228 (Wladyslaw Sojka). I’ve added the following labels: (1) Seilbahn/Gondola, (2) St. Kastor Basilica, (3) Deutschherrenhaus, (4) first Deutsches Eck, (5) Memorial to German Unity (Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial), (6) reclamation in the late 19th-century, (7) second Deutsches Eck.
Many will know, have seen, or have read about the Deutsches Eck (German Corner) in the German city of Koblenz. The river city has plenty to provide: visitors wander into the vineyards to sip on crisp white wine from local grapes, vacation on long cabin-boats to enjoy the river scenery, or explore the surrounding Upper Rhine River Valley.
But Koblenz is also well known by virtue of its name after the junction where the rivers Moselle and Rhine meet. By the first-century AD/CE, the Romans had built for strategic protection a fort1 called “Castellum apud Confluentes“, Latin for “the castle at the confluence”. What most commonly acknowledge as the Deutsches Eck (German corner) is not the original location. Half concealed among the trees some 200 metres back near the Deutschherrenhaus is the first location of the Deutsches Eck.
- a map to the area and my photos from the present-day,
- a short history of the “Deutsches Eck,” and
- archival images from the mid-16th century to early 20th century.
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Arriving by German rail or on Rhine river cruises, visitors to the city of Worms (pronounced ‘VOHRmz’) will likely sample the crisp wine from the surrounding Rheinhessen region; learn about the 5th-century Nibelung saga; see important religious symbols including the “crown” that is St. Peter’s Cathedral, and remaining structures from the once-thriving Jewish community which along with Speyer and Mainz formed a medieval league of Jewish communities. Many will retrace Martin Luther’s steps in the city.
In April 1521, Luther was ordered to appear at the Diet (Imperial Parliament) convening in Worms. In the presence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth, Luther held firm against charges of heresy and refused to recant. What’s amazing is that Luther survived the triumphant journey from Wittenberg to Worms and, with his subsequent status as “outlaw” from the imperial edict following the Diet, Luther survived departure from Worms because his benefactor, Friedrich III, secretly arranged for Luther to be “kidnapped” and brought to safety at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.
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