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With a reading against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia commemorated the town twinning Ganey Tikva – Bergisch Gladbach e.V. the victims of the Holocaust. In the process, speakers, reciters and musicians offered a wealth of deep and touching impressions – which resonated for a long time to come.
"It got under your skin," explained one guest after the event commemorating the victims of the Holocaust on 26.01.2022 in the Church of the Well of Salvation. Besides the speeches of Lutz Urbach, chairman of the association, and Frank Stein, mayor, Claudia Timpner, Heinz-D. Haun and Holger Faust-Peters the further organization of the evening with stirring texts, which let look back on the Holocaust, in addition, with stories from the present and with the suitable music on the Viola da gamba and the Cello.
How to describe this profound and touching experience? It is hardly possible to reproduce the variety and density of impressions. Whether it was the retrospective view of the Holocaust or the many other texts and poems from our present-day horizon of experience – they all spoke to the soul and occasionally held up a mirror to the listeners.
Not for nothing did pastor Achim Dehmel reflect at the end of the event that this wealth of ideas should occupy the individual and our society on a daily basis, not only on such an evening.
"Jews belong to us"
In his greeting states Lutz Urbach, Association Chairman, present various stereotypes of Jew-hatred that have developed throughout history:
"If I want to understand anti-Semitism today, I need to know the history of hostility towards Jews. Today’s anti-Semitism in fact picks up old cliches and updates them. Who among us has not encountered the cliche of the money-grubbing, dishonest Jew in his personal environment??"
Lutz Urbach refers to the photo exhibition "Cohesion in Diversity – Jewish Everyday Life in Germany," which opens the same evening. It sets a counterpoint against today’s anti-Semitism, he said, because the ten award-winning photos show scenes from Jewish life in contemporary Germany:
"We in Bergisch Gladbach want to declare publicly that Jews belong to us – here in Germany and there in Ganey Tikva. They are people like you and me. They live their everyday life, some also live their religion. They carry sorrows, they have joy. The Jews I know don’t want to be special, they don’t want to stand out from the crowd either positively or negatively. They are simply friends, neighbors, acquaintances, work colleagues. Jewish life is normal – in Germany and around the world! This is our message on the international day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust."
"Anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in the mask of the commoner"
Following a minute’s silence, mayor expresses thanks Frank Stein for the design of the commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust by the actors of the association, because this commemoration is an important concern of the urban society.
Frank Stein refers to a television play he saw recently; it was about the "Wannsee Conference" on 20.01.1942, where in a businesslike tone the deportation and mass extermination of Jews was discussed. As in a normal administrative meeting, experiences and opinions about the "elimination" of Jewish people had been shared in a completely unemotional way, as if one had only to talk about an insignificant matter. This depiction of the Wannsee Conference left him shaken, Frank Stein confesses. The abysmally ugly message of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, however, is still latent today and camouflages itself with the mask of civility.
Wolves in the midst of people
Wear afterwards Claudia Timpner and Heinz D. Haun her impressive selection of texts. There it concerns first the shepherd, who wants to protect the sheep against the wolves, but the wolves are already in the midst of humans (Brigitte Schar: The Shepherd 1 ).
Subsequently Holger Faust-Peters with the cello the 5. The first movement of Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Solo Cello is played. Each and everyone feels how the wolves are let loose.
The memory "The red ball" by Inge Deutschkron 2 now leads the thoughts directly to Auschwitz: A concentration camp warden takes a group of children to the gas chamber, asks them to undress for the "bath. A girl has a red ball, the children play with it. Then they have to hurry down the stairs to the "bath". A toddler is helped by an attendant, he feels comfortable on her arm. At the foot of the stairs she turns to the crematorium and comes back without the child. In front of the crematorium the children’s clothes and the red ball are left behind.
And also the second reading block is musically accompanied by Holger Faust-Peters with the "A solo (Tombeau)" from Paolo Pandolfo taken up. The notes on the viola da gamba sound bulky, but what has just been read out is also bulky on the soul.
"The dignity of man is inviolable"
With the following texts it goes more to the present time. Renan Demirkan demands in "Enough of denial and looking away!" 3 that our society rethinks its actions and learns to call racism by its name, because racism is in the midst of society.
Demirkan worries about the fight of the new Nazis against the open society. No one is born a racist, he is made one by the language and actions of other people. In contrast, she holds Article 1 of the Basic Law: "Human dignity is inviolable." This sentence had to be lived in everyday life. This is the only way that racism has no chance.
Carolin Emcke considers in the preface of her book "Against hatred" 4 the worst feeling of the human being, which is shown nowadays in Germany again openly. The Internet offers a platform for this, on which raw, blatant and under one’s own name agitation and hatred is carried out.
She elaborates that hatred always remains imprecise, because whoever looks precisely at other people and listens to them can no longer hate well. Hating can only be done by those who grind down the individual contours and reduce them to a collective. – This is reminiscent of some hate speech against "the Jews" in the Third Reich.
The circle closes when Holger Faust-Peters plays the cello "Worries" from "New Klezmer Tunes" by Joachim Johow reads. The borrowings from the melancholy and yet also hopeful klezmer music are unmistakable. A beautiful musical conclusion to the commemoration of the suffering of Jewish people.
Arrived at the end there is silence in the room, then follows hesitant clapping from the ranks of the guests. Is it allowed to clap at such a commemorative event?? Yes, one may, if one wants to show how much the event touched, if one wants to thank for this dramaturgy of texts and music, which just "got under the skin".
1 Brigitte Schar: The Shepherd; published in 1991 in the story collection "On the High Rope"
2 Inge Deutschkron: The red ball; published in 1992 in the volume "Aufbau nach dem Untergang" by A. Nachama and J.H. Schoeps
3 excerpts from the essay by Renan Demirkan: Schluss mit Leugnen und Wegsehen (An end to denial and looking away)!, published on 24.02.2020 in the Kolner Stadtanzeiger
4 Excerpts from the foreword by Carolin Emcke: Gegen den Hass; published in 2016; translated into over 10 languages worldwide.
Further contributions to the topic
Holocaust: Herkenrath high school sets an example against forgetting
"You are not to blame for what happened, but you are guilty if you don’t care about it." With this quote of the German-Jewish survivor of the concentration camp Ausschwitz-Birkenau Esther Bejanero the student council opened the day of remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust at the Gymnasium Herkenrath.
Holocaust remembrance: compositions above the abyss
On the occasion of the Holocaust memorial day on 27 September. January Roman Salyutov recalls German-Jewish musicians and intellectuals in a lecture. In the face of Nazi mass murders, many assimilated people found their way back to their Jewish roots. Like the composer Viktor Ullmann, who composed works to Jewish texts and music in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Before he was murdered in Auschwitz. Some of his works sounded..
Celebration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust
The town twinning Ganey Tikva – Bergisch Gladbach e.V. invites to the traditional commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust at the Church of the Fountain of Salvation. Heinz-D.Haun and Claudia Timpner read texts against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. At the same time, an exhibition of photos from Jewish life in Germany is opened.
On Holocaust Memorial Day: German-Jewish Sons of the Musical Occident
Roman Salyutov invites to an event commemorating the Holocaust at the adult education center. In a lecture, he recalls the events and talks about the anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel that still exist in modern times. Afterwards, soloists of the Bergisch Gladbach Symphony Orchestra will play works by the composer Viktor Ullmann.
Cohesion in Diversity: Jewish Everyday Life in Germany
As part of a memorial service for the victims of the Holocaust, the Ganey Tikva – Bergisch Gladbach partnership association opens the photo exhibition "Cohesion in Diversity – Jewish Everyday Life in Germany" in the Church of the Fountain of Salvation.
Pogrom Night: Remembrance through Creation
With a special exhibition students of the Bergische Kunstschule remember the synagogues that were destroyed in the pogrom night of 1938. After the presentation, Roman Salyutov discusses the topic of "Anti-Semitism in schools" with an expert.