History in stone

His tomb is by far the largest and most magnificent in Paderborn Cathedral: Dietrich von Furstenberg, prince bishop in Paderborn from 1586 to 1618. It shows the bishop wrapped in choir robes, kneeling in front of a cross. Behind him are shown the buildings he had erected, including his secondary residence: Wewelsburg Castle. 400 years ago, on 8. September 1609, he completed the construction with the consecration of the castle chapel.

Those were the days. Back then, when the bishops were princes at the same time and built themselves magnificent hunting castles. When they were able to remove unpleasant, i.e. Protestant, mayors from office – using rude methods such as the four-way split. And when they created monuments for themselves in their lifetime in the form of meter-high, figure-rich tombs. The castle served Dietrich as a courtly dwelling for hunting and fishing. For it he had connected three existing buildings. Because the nature of the rock dictated it, Germany's only triangular castle was thus built. The 400th anniversary is being celebrated this year with a program entitled "Cultural awakening to the present". The highlight on Sunday will be a museum festival in the style of the time when the monastery was built. Between construction and the anniversary lie four centuries that contain just about everything Westphalia's history has to offer in terms of highlights and tragedies: The 30-year war, looting, occupations, fire, reconstruction, secularization. At the beginning of the 20th century. In the 19th century, the castle came into the possession of the district of Buren, which set up a youth hostel there. For several years, the Wewelsburg became a meeting place for Catholic youth associations.

Cult site of the Naz Then the Nazis took a liking to it. The imposing castle, perched on the rocky promontory and visible from afar in the Paderborn countryside, was a fitting place for the SS, its chief Heinrich Himmler found. The National Socialists used the building as a place of worship and training. Himmler wanted to turn the castle into the representative and ideological headquarters of the SS order. The Wewelsburg and its immediate surroundings also became a concentration camp. At least 1.285 people died from the cruel living and working conditions as well as from mistreatment. In 1982, the district of Paderborn reappraised this part of the past in the form of a contemporary history documentation. When the millennial empire approached the abyss, Himmler had the castle blown up. Reconstruction lasted until the 1970s, and the debate about how to deal with the SS past lasted even longer. For decades, many people in Wewelsburg did not want to be reminded any more than was absolutely necessary that their village was the site of an SS cult and a concentration camp. Since 1982 there has been a documentation about the time from 1933 to 1945 in the former guardhouse of the SS. It is currently being remodeled and redesigned. German President Horst Kohler has registered to attend the reopening next year. The program offered at the castle especially for children includes the "Hingucker" project, in which elementary school students can practice moral courage.

Youth hostel and museum Today the Wewelsburg is again a meeting place for young people. There is a youth hostel where young folk dancers from all over Europe, Israel and Africa meet every two years for the "International Youth Festival Week". Since 1996, the opposite wing has been home to the Historical Museum of the High Diocese of Paderborn. Among other things, at the end of a corridor, at the back of the tower above the moat, there is a tiny chamber with unambiguous furnishings: this is also where the prince bishop came on foot. And here the viewer learns that the splendor of the Renaissance certainly had its limits.

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