Rev. Bert Buby's Visit to Augsburg, Germany

May-June, 2001

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At the request of Prof. Dennis Doyle, Ph.D. of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton, I was able to visit the University of Augsburg from May 1- June 30th.

I taught two courses to University of Augsburg students, using my basic German; fortunately, my German improved as time went along. The first course was Marian Theology; it was based on the passages in the New Testament that involve Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The second course was team taught with Prof. Dr. Anton Ziegenaus, Head of the Theology Dept. at Augsburg. This course was on the Sacraments, and it covered the Scriptural foundations for the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation. In the course on Marian Theology, which I taught alone, there were only four students--two priests and two seminarians. Prof. Ziegenaus sat in on one of the sessions dealing with Mary in St. Matthew's Gospel. In the course on the Sacraments, there were nine graduate students, some of whom were doctoral candidates. This course was more of a seminar.

My meeting with the Dialogue Group in Augsburg (Gesellschaft fuer Christlich-Juedische Zusammenarbeit, Augsburg und Schwaben) took place at the Executive Secretary's home (Felicitas Samtleben-Spleiss) one evening. About seven or eight members were present--mostly professional people, and only one clergyman, a Roman Catholic priest who is a chief administrator at the university. Those present shared their personal backgrounds, and Mietek Pemper, the survivor from Schindler's List, gave us a chronology of his time in the Holocaust concentration camp. He was the one who kept the records for Schindler. Mr. Pemper said that he was correctly portrayed in the film, and Bert said that the actor, Ben Kingsley, had a resemblance to Mietek. The University of Augsburg honored Mietek a week later along with the former Polish Foreign Minister who also was in prison and did a lot for the survivors. Both men were quite impressive in what they shared and how they never lost hope. Both had a great zest for life and still do in their 80's. They also had a great sense of humor and a simplicity and humility that confirmed their authenticity as most wholesome persons.

The number of committed members of the Augsburg dialogue (Gesellschaft) is small, but they are very dedicated to their organization and appreciate receiving the Dayton Dialogue’s news notes (minutes). Their newsletter is named Ma Nishmah? (What's New) and it records their activities and news. They do not have the diversity of membership that we have, nor the size. However, they are the group that gets the larger assembly of Jews and Christians together for cultural and civic talks or gatherings. It is very difficult for the Augsburg group to talk about matters other than the Holocaust.

During my visit, I was immersed in the culture in Augsburg and had excellent accommodations at the Provincial House of the Sisters of Charity (founded by St. Vincent de Paul). Since I was in a Catholic part of Germany, I was very much at home with the celebrations of the Mass. I also was able to visit the Augsburg Synagogue with a priest who lived his whole life in Augsburg. Its walls were preserved despite the bombing during World War II; this is especially surprising since it is only a few hundred yards from the train station, an obvious military target. The synagogue was restored to its former architecture and style with funds from the German government. From the outside, it looks like the famous Hagia Sophia Church in Turkey. On the inside, it is a magnificent place of worship with a museum attached to it on the second floor. The windows depict the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Bemah and Sanctuary are beautiful. The synagogue has about 900 members; about 600 Jewish people from the formerly communist-ruled areas of Europe also live in Augsburg but do not attend the Synagogue. I also got to see two other reconstructed synagogues and a fantastic museum on Judaism in some of the smaller towns north and west of Augsburg.

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