A large gate leads to the premises of the former estate. Two bronze fencers stood on pillars there before the Second World War. What once used to be a knights’ manor house was gradually expanded and underwent many alterations. In the past, the courtyard was obviously not just a vast empty square with neatly cut grass, but served various utility purposes.
BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES
The quadrangular layout of the buildings is characteristic of the whole area; other typical features include a driveway with no additional structures, leading to the courtyard, and a cowshed that stands sideways to the road. In similar estates, the actual manor house (or, as in the case of Krzyżowa, the palace) would always stand separately. Dormers such as this one in Krzyżowa are also typical of the area. The rounded shape of the windows used in Krzyżowa is a remnant from the times when roofs were covered with reeds, as the semi-circular shape was easier to obtain.
It was not until the 19th century that the half-timbered structures were replaced by the brick and stone buildings which still stand there today. Individually, these houses have no value as historical monuments, but as a whole they form one of the few architectural systems of this type east of the Elbe which have been preserved to this day.
The functions of the individual buildings have obviously changed after general renovation and alteration for the Foundation’s purposes. Only some names that have been kept still reveal their former intended use:
The Gatehouse (Stróżówka)
Currently houses offices of the Krzyżowa Foundation’s and of the International Conference Centre’s programme departments.
The Laundry (Pralnia)
Converted into a space for art workshops. The items kept inside include a printing press, a ceramic firing kiln, and exhibition stands. Fine arts workshops are held there very often. The attic is often used to organise movement and music activities for groups.
The Carriage House (Wozownia)
Referring to the tradition of the school run in the estate in the past, the Krzyżowa Foundation established a kindergarten in the early 1990s in the building where carriages used to be kept. The converted Carriage House also serves as accommodation for the Foundation’s volunteers and trainees.
The Gardener’s Lodge (Dom Ogrodnika)
Since late 2012, the Gardener’s Lodge Environmental Education Centre has been operating here. It is a residential building with identically fitted and furnished rooms, and ordinary bathrooms that do not differ from one another in any way, also made available to guests. However, it is divided into two levels, given the working names of the „standard” module and the „green” module. They are fitted, respectively, with standard and environmentally-friendly heating, electricity, and water supply systems. The two systems are compared for the purposes of environmental education programmes.
The Stable (Stajnia)
The first structure to be rebuilt, handed over for operation in 1994. Since then, activities defined in the Foundation’s charter have been going on, initially right next to the huge construction site outside. For the first four years, this building housed meeting rooms, guest rooms, and even the kitchen and canteen. The new kitchen was handed over for use in 2007, with a „student kitchen” established for various projects involving food.
The building was renovated in 2014–2015 with funds from the Monument Conservator and with the support of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A.
The Granary (Spichlerz)
The Foundation uses this structure as a hotel and a guest house. The single and double rooms are furnished in a rustic style and meet three-star standards.
The Barn (Stodoła)
Currently, a multifunctional space with a capacity of up to 350. The available equipment includes a simultaneous interpretation system, multimedia projectors, a professional PA system, and stages. Next to it, there is a sports hall with a sauna and a gym available to individual guests and groups.
The Cowshed (Obora)
Today, it houses the canteen and „U Hrabiegio” restaurant. There are also some guest rooms in the attic.
The Courtyard (Dziedziniec)
The courtyard in front of the Palace, between the well and the Stable, was the place where one of the key events in the most recent history of Krzyżowa took place on 12 November 1989. A podium with an altar was erected there to celebrate the Reconciliation Mass. It was attended by the first non-communist Prime Minister of the Polish People’s Republic, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The service was celebrated by Bishop Alfons Nossol. The historic mass, whose most famous moment was the two politicians’ embrace, has become one of the symbols of the turnaround in Polish–German relations.
Today, the courtyard is the space around which the Foundation’s life revolves. Sporting events, meetings and concerts are held here.
The Palace building
The Palace is an austere Baroque building, erected in the years 1712–1726. It was probably built by Sigismund von Zedlitz und Leipe, the owner of Krzyżowa at that time. Initially, there was only a raised ground floor and a first floor, as well as a habitable attic. It was not until the end of the 19th century that expansion of the attic forced the owners to add two lateral wings with stairs. The most beautiful part of this simple structure is the staircase leading to the richly decorated main entrance. Above it hang the coats of arms of the Burt and von Moltke families. The latter, depicting three black grouse, can also be found in the lower hall next to the staircase. At the mezzanine level, from the balcony, you can admire the moat (former Piława river bed) and the meadows.
The Entrance Hall
To the right in the hall, in a niche protected by a glass pane, stands the Coventry Cross of Nails. It is a reminder of the atrocities of World War II and a symbol of reconciliation. Coventry Cathedral has been awarding nail crosses for nearly 60 years now to organisations from all over the world involved in work contributing to reconciliation. The Krzyżowa Foundation is the first institution in Poland to have had this honour. On 11 November 2000, the cross was given by a representative of the British Community of the Cross of Nails, Reverend Joachim von Kölichen, in the presence of guests from other countries, friends and employees of the Krzyżowa Foundation.
Permanent exhibition: „Rejecting the Lie. From the History of Resistance and Anti-Totalitarian Opposition in the 20th Century”
To the left of the staircase, in the former study and bedroom of Field Marshal von Moltke, the Krzyżowa Foundation displays its permanent exhibition. Together with the House on the Hill, where meetings of the opposition group gathered around Helmuth James von Moltke actually took place, the exhibition constitutes an important part of the Krzyżowa Memorial Site. It tells the story of the opposition, citing examples of specific figures, groups, and events.
The exhibition „Rejecting the Lie. From the History of Resistance and Anti-Totalitarian Opposition in the 20th Century” presents the history of the German anti-Nazi movement and of the Central and Eastern European anti-communist opposition. The exhibition offers an introduction to the theme of opposition against Nazism and communism by presenting the dissent and the underground activities of citizens against their own states and their unjust, law-breaking governments.
The aim of the exhibition is to show selected individuals and groups who, in defiance of the prevailing political and ideological systems, decided to „live in truth”, and to save humanity in a totalitarian reality. For this reason, the exhibition focuses mainly not on institutions or organisations, but on people who had the courage to say „no” in the name of the values they followed, often risking their lives. Activists of the German resistance to Nazism are represented in the narrative mainly by the Kreisau Circle, while the opposition in Central and Eastern European countries is presented through a fragmentary selection of individuals. This subjective approach was driven by the need to show the diversity of the opposition, not by the wish to marginalise the importance of other activists. By presenting individual attitudes and the actions of selected milieus, the exhibition encourages one to ask questions about the possibility of expressing individual opposition against violence and injustice of political regimes.
The exhibition „Rejecting the Lie” was made available to the general public in June 1998. It was prepared by Kreisau-Initiative e. V. based in Berlin and by the KARTA centre from Warsaw. The authors of the exhibition are Ludwig Mehlhorn and Katarzyna Madoń-Mitzner, in collaboration with Fritz Delp.
The only room in the Palace whose fit-out and character after renovation are supposed to evoke the appearance of the building at the time when the von Moltke family lived there. Actually, the Ballroom was used as a dining room in the past, so today’s name does not reflect the original function. The room was preserved in a relatively good condition until 1990, so it was decided to use this part of the Palace to give the visitors an idea of what its interiors looked like in the past. Some of the ceiling decorations and a tiled stove have been restored, among other things. Unfortunately, no other elements of the original interior decoration have been preserved. A glass showcase in the Ballroom contains 19th-century books and manuscripts by Field Marshal von Moltke. They are the few memorabilia of the former residents of the estate that have been left.
The library and the bookshop
To the right of the hall is the entrance to the library, which allows visitors to learn more about German and Polish history, German–Polish relations, and the resistance movement. In the bookshop, you can buy publications about Krzyżowa, the Kreisau Circle, as well as German and Polish history.
The huge, conspicuous frescoes in the staircase were painted in 1900 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Field Marshal’s birth. They illustrate the historical consciousness of Germany in the 1890–1918 period. Their creation can probably be linked to the Foundation for the promotion of frescoes (Stiftung zur Hebung der Freskomalerei), established in 1875 by Baron Thomson von Biel, a Mecklenburg aristocrat and the builder of Kalkhorst Castle. His intention was to make art a public good and to finance large-scale wall paintings in public spaces. From 1875 onwards, his foundation would commission one fresco every year from a German Academy of Fine Arts. In 1900, the academic University of Arts from Berlin was to paint one. The Field Marshal’s nephew, Wilhelm von Moltke, applied for the job and was given consent to paint in the palace in Krzyżowa.
The frescoes are entitled Shame and Retaliation. Shame by Sigmund Lipinski shows the capture of Lübeck by Napoleon’s French army on 6 November 1806. The boy in the bottom right-hand corner is allegedly Helmuth von Moltke, the later Field Marshal, shocked by the sight of French marauders plundering the city. Retaliation by Walter von Looz Corswarem shows the victorious German army in Paris on 1 March 1871. The Field Marshal, already bent with age, arrives on a grey horse and receives the report.
Helmuth von Moltke was not actually present in Lübeck when the city was captured by the French, as he was probably staying at the court of Augustus in Holstein. He was certainly not present during the entry into Paris either, as he was attending a parade outside the city at the time.
When talking about the history of the paintings, it should be added that they are the only frescoes of this type preserved in Lower Silesia. During their reconstruction, a heated discussion started in Krzyżowa about what should be done with them. Questions arose as to whether the biased portrayal of the German–French antagonism should be highlighted in today’s Krzyżowa. Finally, the monument conservator’s opinion prevailed, namely that the paintings should be preserved and restored because of their direct association with the history of the estate. An additional argument was the role Krzyżowa played in Polish–German reconciliation, which also requires clarification of that aspect of German history.
THE HOUSE ON THE HILL
Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke purchased the House on the Hill in 1873, two years after the death of his brother, Adolf. From then on, the house belonged to the estate, and widows from the family lived there.
in the years 1928–1945, the last owner of Krzyżowa, Helmuth James von Moltke, lived with his family in the House on the Hill, not in the palace. Living in the latter, in fact, would have been too expensive for the family, which fell into debt due to the rather poor management of the estate by the father and general economic conditions. Helmuth James had to postpone his legal training to save the estate from bankruptcy. He succeeded thanks to many years of hard work. In the summer, life in the house concentrated on the veranda, where the family liked to spend most of their time.
The House on the Hill was the family home for Helmuth James von Moltke (1907–1945), his wife Freya (1911–2010) and his sons Caspar (*1937) and Konrad ( 1941–2005).
Road to the House on the Hill – Avenue of Oaks
To reach the House on the Hill, you have to exit the courtyard through the gate between the palace and the Gardener’s Lodge. Along the way, there is a bridge over a canal with standing water, which used to be a canal of the River Piława, and then the river itself flows. In the 1930s, the river bed was moved because the high water of Piława would often flood the yard. The work was carried out by penal prisoners, and later, during World War II, first by French, then by Russian prisoners of war from the nearby camp, and by Jewish forced labourers from the camp in Grodziszcze.
The Avenue of Oaks is surprising already at first glance. In similar cases, such avenues would usually lead to the main manor house entrance. The one, however, does not connect the estate with the road, but rather the beautiful garden of Helmuth von Moltke’s estate to another part of the latter in Grodziszcze Dolne (today, this part of the village belongs to Krzyżowa). Alongside the oak trees, remnants of another avenue can be seen, leading to the main road. Back in the Field Marshal’s day, there were probably gardens and a park to the right and left of today’s avenue, where farmland stretches now up to Cemetery Hill.
The Avenue of Oaks ends at the intersection with the road leading to the House on the Hill (turn right). If you take the road going left, after about 150 metres you will see a house by the road with an unusual platform, with a height of around one metre. There was once an inn there, and the platform was used as a dance floor. During the war, the Nazis surrounded the house with a fence and set up a POW camp, first for French soldiers, then for Russian soldiers who came here to transform the Piława river bed. The prisoners would sleep in the space where dances used to be held. Around 1989, the inn was demolished.
Meetings of the Kreisau Circle in the House on the Hill
In 1942–1943, under the pretext of weekend gatherings of friends, three main meetings of the Kreisau Circle were held in the House on the Hill. The group’s aim was to create a „new order”, i.e. a spiritual, political and social rebirth of Europe after the disgraceful end of the Third Reich envisaged by the circle’s members. During the meetings, propositions were discussed previously developed in small thematic groups. The discussions concerned the legal system, foreign policy, the economy, social affairs and law, but also war crimes, problems in the sphere of church, culture, and education, as well as agriculture in the future democratic Germany. Other aspects that were addressed involved the filling of individual positions, offering the prospect of continuity of the German state.
The House on the Hill after 1945
After World War II and Helmuth James von Moltke’s death, his wife Freya lived in the House on the Hill until September 1945. Thanks to her friends in Great Britain, she was able to move to Berlin without major difficulties.
Although the house was not restructured after the war, the Polish families who arrived later found only empty rooms (in 1945–1946, Soviet Army soldiers lived there). Even the water pipes were missing, with only old fixtures and fittings remaining. The Poles had to draw water from the well next to the house. Nothing was left to recall either the previous owners or the Kreisau Circle.
After the Krzyżowa Foundation took over the house, its inhabitants, just like the people living in other buildings within the complex, moved to other houses in the neighbourhood that had been renovated or restructured by the Foundation.
The Hall of Remembrance
Today, the House on the Hill houses a Hall of Remembrance dedicated to the Kreisau Circle, a part of the Foundation’s library, a staff flat, as well as three rooms in the attic for the Foundation’s volunteers and trainees.
In 1997, an international competition was held for the fit-out of the room. The winners were Beata Gryt-Tomaszewska and Tomasz Tomaszewski, an architect couple from Wrocław. As envisaged by the awarded design, a table was placed in the centre of the Hall of Remembrance, composed of four separate quarters, illustrating the political, social and religious diversity of the Circle members’ origins. The single whole assembled from the individual parts symbolises the willingness to work together in pursuit of a shared goal, despite the differences.
The division of the round table into four parts recalls the emblem of the Kreisau Circle: a black cross symbolising Christianity in a red circle, a symbol of a fraternal and social attitude, and a sign of unity of all those striving for renewal. The circle can be seen again on the floor, marked by a fine line on the parquet. The cross also appears yet another time – in the windows, as a crack running from the bottom left-hand part of the window to the top of the right-hand part. If you imagine that the line is extended, it will form a circle.
The Hall of Remembrance, former dining room of the von Moltke family, was where Jerzy Buzek, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the three widows of the Circle members: Freya von Moltke, Rosemarie Reichwein, and Clarita von Trott zu Solz, on 11 June 1998, the day when the centre officially opened. Representatives of the then Board of the Foundation: Ewa Unger and Adam Żak were also present.
The library and the veranda
Next to the corridor leading to the veranda is the former drawing room, now used as a library. This is where the members of the Kreisau Circle held their meetings.
The transition room between the Hall of Remembrance and the library leads to the veranda. It can be seen in many old photographs of the von Moltke family. These historical photos inspired one of the scholarship holders to create an exhibition in the transition room. It combines old and current photographs of the residents and visitors of the House on the Hill.
Marked by history, and at the same time sunlit and surrounded by vegetation, the veranda was the scene of major events from Krzyżowa’s recent history. This is where the official ceremony started when the Polish Prime Minister and the German Chancellor were opening the centre in June 1998, and where a Coventry Cross of Nails was presented to the Foundation.
Workcamps at the House on the Hill
The meadow next to the House on the Hill was where the first international youth meetings in the form of workcamps were held, taking place annually since 1990. They referred to the tradition of the „Löwenberg integration camps” from the Weimar era, which, initiated in part by Helmuth James von Moltke, brought together young and old people, workers and intellectuals, and city and country dwellers for joint projects.
In the 1990s, attendees of the meetings helped to rebuild the international meeting house. After completion, the workcamps moved to the youth rooms in the Stable and in the Cowshed.
Until 1945, the hill was a park of sorts, also used as a cemetery. After the war, some of the gravestones and crosses disappeared and the whole area fell into decline, overgrown by wild trees and bushes.
The hill can be divided into three parts:
1. To the right of the road, there is an old Lutheran cemetery, where people from the village would be buried until 1945. Two blocks of stone lie at the entrance to the grounds, drawing the visitor’s attention. These are the remains of a pre-war memorial to soldiers killed in the First World War. Previously, the monument stood in the main street, close to the path leading to Cemetery Hill. It was transported to the Hill in 1996 as part of the renovation of the whole complex. The remains of gravestones scattered throughout the cemetery were used to form the nearby semi-circular wall, and an iron cross, also found in the cemetery, was placed in the centre of the space thus created.
2. A straight path leads to another part of the cemetery, located slightly higher up. It was here that members of the von Moltke family who died between 1867 and 1945 were buried, with only few exceptions. The grave of Helmuth James will not be found here, however, as his body was burnt after his execution on 23 January 1945, and the ashes scattered. In 1998, a stone was placed in this section of the cemetery to commemorate Helmuth James and his brother Carl Bernhard (1913–1941), killed on the front in Africa. In 2010, another stone was added dedicated to Freya von Moltke, who died on 1 January 2010 in Norwich, Vermont (USA).
3. The mausoleum was once the resting place of Field Marshal Helmuth Karl von Moltke. It was built in 1868 for the Field Marshal’s wife, who died suddenly and unexpectedly, as she was much younger than her husband. His sister and his wife’s stepmother, Augusta Burt, also died before her brother and was buried in the mausoleum. Finally, in 1891, the coffin of the Field Marshal himself was laid to rest there, in a niche that is now empty, under the statue of Christ now placed in the outer part of the apse of Saint Michael’s Church.
The coffins with the remains of the Field Marshal, his wife Mary and sister Augusta were lost towards the end of World War Two. According to one version, Augusta’s coffin was initially said to have remained there, only to be destroyed in a fire later on. Today, the structure is empty, but symbolic tombstones have been embedded in the floor, bearing the names of the three deceased, with the dates of their birth and death.
THE MEMORIAL STONE
In front of the centre’s gate there was an oak on which, in August 1946, on the order of the Head of the County of Świdnica a list of the Germans still living in Krzyżowa was nailed. They were supposed to leave the village in three days and to go to Gracowice, just like their compatriots living in the neighbourhood, and from there they were transported to various occupied zones within the then borders of Germany.
The stone commemorating the meetings of the Krzyżowa Circle has been standing here since 1989, even though already in the 1970s attempts had been made to have a commemorative plaque installed on one of the buildings or on the House on the Hill to record the Kreisau Circle.
SAINT MICHAEL’S CHURCH
A small, single-aisle Gothic church, only slightly larger than a chapel, stands next to the driveway leading to the courtyard. Architectural ornaments can be found only in the sacristy and in the small choir gallery. The church looks very inconspicuous: built of grey stone, with no tower, only a superstructure in which a bell hangs.
The eastern niche of the church houses a copy of Thorvaldsen’s famous Christus sculpture. Initially, the figure was placed in Helmuth von Moltke’s chapel on Cemetery Hill. To prevent further damage, it was transferred to the church, but only after the war.
Since 2001, the church has also housed an 18th-century figure of Our Lady of Krzyżowa, donated to the parish by a Marian youth movement from Germany.
Ecumenical services and solemn masses are often celebrated at the Catholic church. Thus, the modest structure has become a symbol of building bridges between periods and nations.
Next to the church entrance stands a wooden „ladder to heaven”, a monument erected to the late Rev. Bolesław Kałuża, parish priest of the villages of Krzyżowa and Grodziszcze for many years . The monument bears an inscription from his „spiritual testament”: „Love life and all living things”. Near the church, there is also a cross commemorating Freya von Moltke, as well as a Christ sculpture which used to stand in the Foundation’s premises. The small space surrounding the place of worship is adorned by sculptures made during art workshops with Academy of Fine Arts students from Vilnius and Minsk.
A thorough renovation of the church was initiated in 2007 as part of a project by the Remembrance, Responsibility and Future Foundation: „Memoria – volunteers for European cultural heritage”. For one year, 15–20 young people from Poland, Germany, Czech Republic and Ukraine worked on the project.