Olsberg-Elleringhausen (51.340862 | 8.538253)
Suddenly something flows through you, joyful, electrifying, overwhelming, and you realize what a gift you have been given. Through another person, through a stroke of luck or simply through the joy of being alive. It becomes especially intense when gratitude is not only felt but also expressed.
It is this intensity that I feel as I stand in the small chapel on the Ruthenberg near Elleringhausen. It only exists because its builders, all men from the village, sought their own way to communicate something to the world. Of the suffering they experienced, of the gratitude to have escaped with their lives. They returned home from the war. Some had been captured in the village itself by American soldiers; white flags, hung from the houses, prevented more people from dying. Others came out of captivity years later, some as late as the late fifties. What atrocities they had witnessed and committed themselves silenced the men. Later they were called the "silent generation". They withdrew into themselves, brooded, despaired, tried to repress. Words were not their thing. They preferred to act. The chapel, which they built stone by stone, high above the village: that was their language.
On the walls I see small clay tablets. On them are place names that are deeply etched in the collective memory of the Germans: Verdun, Stalingrad, Narvik, Sedan, Ysselstein, el-Amain. They stand for battlefields, cannon fodder, cadaver obedience, mass graves. On each tablet a number of crosses: the number of the fallen. Even then, Elleringhausen had only a few hundred inhabitants, 41 of whom died in the Second World War, an unusually high number. One family lost four of six sons; this is written on one of the two death tablets to the left and right of the altar.
While still in the prison camp, one of the men, Josef Isenberg, vowed that if he survived all this, he would build a chapel to the Mother of God. He found returnees who shared his feelings and wanted to join in. However, it took them years to recover from the shock of the battles and get to work. One contributed the architectural plan, another building materials, some raised money for a bell, the community donated the square. Sorrow and consolation seem to be equally the inner foundations of the chapel. In 1967 was the consecration. Since then, the statue of the Virgin Mary stands in the center of the dim room. It radiates silence. Peace of heart, kindness of heart. A couple from the village provides fresh flowers up here; they too lost relatives in the war.
Mary was the "Queen of Peace" for the grieving and grateful men; they painted this title for her on the wall above the altar. Feminine softness as healing for hardships suffered. This touches me as a visitor, even today, in very different times. How often I am hard on myself, with negative self-judgments, with relentless demands on myself. The silent hour in the small chapel dissolves something in me, softens something, lets me also be grateful.
The men found a few words after all. In the rough idiom of the region is written at the entrance: "Väy Heimkehrer und ne Masse Guttwilliger buggern der Mutter Guades vam gurren Friän tatum Danke dütt Kapelleken im Sumer 1967." This expression of gratitude and good will I understand even as an ignorant of Low German. Between the lines I think I read another message: the wish never to have to go to war again.
Author: Michael Gleich
Elleringhausen village center "Alten Kirchplatz" parking lot.
The path starts at the "Alter Kirchplatz" and leads from there along the Gierskoppbach, to a pedestrian bridge up to the Ruthenberg. It goes past the Friedenskappelle chapel in the direction of Bruchhausen and back through the commercial area there to the Elleringhausen cemetery.
For more information, please contact the Tourist-InformationBrilon-Olsberg: Tel: 0 29 62 - 97 37 0, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org