Dear Friends of Padre Steve’s World
As most of you know I serve as a chaplain in the Navy and spent 17 1/2 years in the Army, much of it in the Medical department before entering the Navy in 1999. Since most of you know my story regarding Iraq and PTSD I won’t bore you with it here. If you don’t you can look on the site and find lots about my struggle. That being said, as an Iraq veteran that sees both the futility of the war that American servicemen and women were placed by the Bush administration as well as the gross illegality of the 2003 invasion, I am attracted to the stories of men who served in hopeless causes, and sometimes those who served under leaders who can be best described as war criminals, or if nothing else profoundly stupid in their policy decisions and malevolent in their intentions. Unfortunately, too often decent, honorable people get caught up in the service of such leaders, even men who serve as physicians and priests treating and caring for those abandoned by their country. Whether that is the Germans at Stalingrad, or the French at Dien Bien Phu, I understand and feel a kinship with such men.
This story is about a German physician who was also an artist and a pastor who produced a work which survived Stalingrad and today is a symbol of peace and reconciliation, the Madonna of Stalingrad.
Kurt Rueber was a theologian, pastor and medical doctor. A friend of Albert Schweitzer he was conscripted to serve as a physician in the Germany Army at the beginning of the war. By November 1942 he was a seasoned military physician serving with the 16th Panzer Division, part of the German 6th Army, which had been fighting in the hell of Stlaingrad. When that division along with most of 6th Army was surrounded by the Soviets, cut of from most supply and without real hope of relief he continued to serve the soldiers committed to his care.
A Self Portrait
However that care also included spiritual matters. Rueber was also an artist and pastor and as such he reflected on the desparation of the German soldiers in the Stalingrad pocket. He wrote to his family.
“I wondered for a long while what I should paint, and in the end I…
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