2 February 2013, 12:16

Wartime icon with reconciliation message

Wartime icon with reconciliation message

Kurt Reuber was a German army surgeon who died in Soviet custody at the age of 38 a couple of years after being taken prisoner in Stalingrad. He was also a graphic artist of no mean parts, and his artistic legacy of some 150 pictures resonates today.

The best known picture is an icon-style coal drawing of the Madonna. Reuber made it on Christmas Eve 1942, shortly before the German surrender in Stalingrad. Mailed home and brought into the public domain by Rueber’s children in 1983, the icon is now on public display in Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. A replica of it is in the Anglican Cathedral of Coventry, another replica, in the Orthodox Cathedral of Volgograd, and a wooden relief based on it, in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Volgograd.

The picture is now a potent peace and reconciliation symbol.

The Reverend Kornelia Kulawik is a priest at the Berlin church:

"There is an inscription on the picture’s margin, reading ‘Light, Life, Love’. These words from St John’s mean that the birth of Christ brought an opportunity to build a different and a more humane world. Reuber probably hoped his picture would help his comrades realize that they had not lived their lives in vain and that there was some comfort at the end."

The Right Reverend Martin Kruse is a Lutheran Bishop:

"Stalingrad remains in living memory and is etched in many family memories. Accordingly, Reuber’s icon attracts great attention in Germany and many foreign countries. Everywhere, it is perceived as containing a powerful reconciliation message. I’m happy that many in Russia are now aware of the fact that the Germany that brought war was not the only Germany that existed at the time. Many Germans retained humanism and dignity and even gained an insight into the Russian psyche. This is a priceless gift of God."

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