Permanent, Albeit ‘Disappearing’ Artwork of Holocaust Survivors

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This article was adapted and translated from German.

DRESDEN, GERMANY – November 9, 2021 — In Dresden, an art installation recalls the pogrom that began on November 9, 1938, when Nazis burned synagogues and killed Jews.

During the night of November 9-10, 1938, Nazi thugs set fire to Jewish stores and synagogues. In Reichspogromnacht, translated and referred to in English as the November P`ogrom and which was euphemistically called “Kristallnacht” (“Night of Broken Glass”) by the Nazis, apartments and shops were looted and numerous people arrested, beaten and killed. The pogrom marked the prelude to the largest genocide in Europe. Now an interactive work of art in Dresden (my uncle’s birthplace) is to commemorate it.

The Disappearing Wall contains 6,000 memories of holocaust survivors encased in rectangular cylinders that may be opened and read.  It is also a memoriam to those who did not survive and as a testimony to those yet to be born.

The installation “Disappearing Wall” depicts on 6,000 wooden blocks quotes from survivors of the concentration camps Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora and their satellite camps.

Its opening on the morning of November 9 is intended to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and the Reichspogromnacht (November Pogrom).

The City of Dresden, the Goethe Institute cultural organization as well as the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation are hosting the interactive exhibition at Dresden City Hall encased with messages from Holocaust survivors

 Photo of Disappearing Wall

The “Disappearing Wall” is based on an idea by Russian student Maria Jablonina. The installation was first realized by the Goethe Institute in Moscow in 2013 on the anniversary of the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Subsequently, it has been shown on different occasions in a variety of places, including four Israeli cities.

In 2020, the installation was on display in 16 European cities, including Vilnius, Belfast, Thessaloniki and Madrid, as part of the German government’s official cultural program for the German presidency of the European Council.

In an adapted form, the “Disappearing Wall” was exhibited in Weimar in April 2021 as part of the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps.

Likewise in adapted form, the installation in Dresden invites visitors to pull out the quotation blocks from the “wall,” read them and then take them home. In the process, the wall empties and eventually disappears altogether, but the messages of nearly 100 Holocaust survivors are carried on.

Among them are well-known personalities such as Imre Kertesz, Stephane Hessel and Eugen Kogon — as well as many others. Their quotes are partly personal experiences, partly reflections on what the ‘Shoah’ means for the future coexistence of people.

Collective Memory

Johannes Ebert, Secretary General of the Goethe Institute, said in the run-up to the opening: “There are fewer and fewer contemporary witnesses and survivors of the Holocaust who can talk about their experiences. (…) The ‘Disappearing Wall’ helps to pass on the survivors’ messages to future generations.”

According to Ebert, the new centers for international cultural education, which are being opened at five Goethe Institutes in Germany, will play a central role in this endeavor.

Commenting on the commemorative events in Dresden, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “Remembering together is also a prerequisite for living well together in Germany, today and in the future.”

Dresden’s Lord Mayor Dirk Hilbert opened the commemoration on the morning of November 9, followed by speeches by Nora Goldenbogen, Chairwoman of the Saxony Association of Jewish Communities, Johannes Ebert and Jens-Christian Wagner, Director of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation.

On November 29, the installation will be shown again — at a ceremony celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Goethe Institute.

eHeziPermanent, Albeit ‘Disappearing’ Artwork of Holocaust Survivors

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