Canon David Porter on building links with Germany

In a recent interview with the Reverend Canon Dr Sarah Hills, he shared this experience with her about building links with Germany and presenting a Cross of Nails at the former concentration camp at Dachau.

Canon David Porter was the Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry until 12 months ago when he moved to lead the reconciliation team for the Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.  

“I think the stories that I carry most with me about my time here are from Germany; when people ask me about my time in Coventry Cathedral I say that I define it as my love affair with Germany. I fell in love with Germany by 2012 and in the 2012, the anniversary year, I probably made 13/14 visits to Germany.

“Being invited to speak and presenting Crosses of Nails the stories that have most affected me have been about how Germany has dealt with its past and its pain. In Germany in the ‘Olympics of how to deal with the past’ they have the gold medal. It doesn’t mean to say they are perfect but they’ve done amazing things in dealing with their past and the president, by constitutional right, makes a speech each year about the past and how they continue to deal with it. Two stories have deeply touched me from that.

“One is about presenting the Cross of Nails to the chaplaincy at the Dachau Concentration Camp. I once stayed at the convent at the border of the camp overnight for two nights and I was in the guest house on my own for one of them. It was really quite a deeply, deeply profound experience; ‘scary’ is too silly a word to use, it was just haunting to be at the edge of that place.

“I heard the story of a Catholic priest who was in the camp for being a Catholic priest; he was ill-treated and tortured like others in solitary confinement. When they were liberated he chose to stay on to be the priest to the SS guards who were kept there in prison and when the camp was used to house refugees from Eastern Germany and what is now Poland who were coming to the West, he stayed on to be their priest and was the main advocate for the opening of the camp as a heritage site - a place of memorial - which was opposed and it took a lot of lobbying and advocacy to achieve.”