Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts from the ‘Jewish-German History’ category

Past and present histories of Jewish communities and culture in Germany

Worms’ Holy Sand: Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery

I’m looking for a “thousand-year history” in the city of Worms located in southwest Germany. This has nothing to do helminthology or nematology, as the town’s name is derived from “Warmaisa”, the former Jewish name of the city. This is about an important part of Jewish-German history and peaceful coexistence of the Judeo-Christian communities within Europe. The town’s fame and reputation is also partly derived from Martin Luther; I’ve already visited the site where Luther was on trial to answer charges of heresy, as well as the world’s largest Reformation monument.

This part of the Rhein river area is considered the “cradle of European Jewry”, known also as “little Jerusalem on the Rhine.” In medieval times, flourishing Jewish communities in the cathedral cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz facilitated the creation of a common Jewish league with the name ShUM (SchUM), spelled out by the first letters of the Hebrew names for the three cities. To emphasize the influence of Jewish heritage in Europe and to continue the ongoing process of preservation and education, the recent application by Germany for the ShUM cities to be inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site is at present in the Tentative list (2019).

On a breezy late-autumn afternoon, light fades quick, casting solemn shadows on this ground. In the town’s old Jewish cemetery, I’m the only person present, and I’ve placed a small stone on top of a number of gravestones. I’m surrounded by apparitions over an millennium’s age and by the remaining physical traces in various shapes, stones, and size.

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Hanns-Braun-Brücke, Olympiapark, Olympiaturm, Muenchen, Munich, Bavaria, Bayern, Germany, fotoeins.com

Munich: Memorials to the 1972 Olympics Massacre

Above/featured: Munich’s Olympic Park: Olympic Tower and the tent roof structure.

In my hockey-mad nation of birth, September 1972 is defined by the epic hockey Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union; the games and individual stories are stuff of legends. But high on my mind since childhood have been the tragic events that same month in Munich: the worst terrorist act in modern Olympics history.

The 20th Summer Olympics were under way in Munich, Germany, and “The Carefree Games” as they were called were the first summer games held in Germany since Berlin in 1936. Both Munich and Germany wanted to show a different peaceful and prosperous side to the world with the generation born after the Second World War.

However, the 1972 Games will also carry the stain of the “Munich Massacre” on 5-6 September. By crisis’ end, the 17 dead included eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team, one German police officer, and five Palestinian kidnappers. Many questions remained about pre-Game preparations and warnings about a possible attack, security measures, crisis management, and the failed attempt to liberate the hostages. Complete details of events remain murky even after 40 years. The disaster would damage the reputations of city, state, and country as well as international relations for years to come.

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Europe, May 2018: final 14 days (of 27)

Above: “Monocle”, on ÖBB regional train near Kitzbühel, Austria – 13 May 2018.

From 8 May to 4 June 2018, I travelled through Austria and Germany for 27 consecutive days by train with a two-country Eurail rail pass. I obtained over 10-thousand frames over the four-week span: the mirrorless Fujifilm X70 with fixed-lens prime accounted for 8020 images (77%), and the full-frame Canon 6D with changeable zoom-glass accounted for 2449 images (23%). From this giant haul of pictures, the following provides glimpses and visuals to the final 14 of 27 days, including stays in Salzburg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, München, and Köln.

(The first 13 days here)

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Europe, May 2018: first 13 days (of 27)

Above: “Monocle”, on ÖBB regional train near Kitzbühel, Austria – 13 May 2018.

From 8 May to 4 June 2018, I travelled through Austria and Germany for 27 consecutive days by train with a two-country Eurail rail pass. I obtained over 10-thousand frames over the four-week span: the mirrorless Fujifilm X70 with fixed-lens prime accounted for 8020 images (77%), and the full-frame Canon 6D with changeable zoom-glass accounted for 2449 images (23%). From this giant haul of pictures, the following provides glimpses and visuals to the first 13 of 27 days, including stays in Innsbruck and Vienna.

(The final 14 days here)

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IHolocaustdenkmal, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: observations from Germany

Primo Levi, Italian-Jewish author, chemist, and Auschwitz survivor, delivered a set of essays about life and survival in Nazi extermination camps in his 1986 book “The Drowned and the Saved”. Levi wrote:

… For us to speak with the young becomes even more difficult. We see it as a duty and, at the same time, as a risk: the risk of appearing anachronistic, of not being listened to. We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experiences, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental, unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It took place in the teeth of all forecasts; it happened in Europe; incredibly, it happened that an entire civilized people, just issued from the fervid cultural flowering of Weimar, followed a buffoon whose figure today inspires laughter, and yet Adolf Hitler was obeyed and his praises were sung right up to the catastrophe. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.

On 27 January 1945, Soviet Red Army troops liberated the Nazi concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in south-central Poland. Over 1 million men, women, and children were murdered.

The United Nations declared January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day; the designation came during the 42nd plenary session of the United Stations when resolution 60/7 was passed on 1 November 2005.

Accepting and openly stating responsibility are critical first steps, but spending time, money, and effort to ensure the simple motto of “never again” is also an ongoing reality that isn’t solely up to the citizens of Germany. It’s a collective responsibility that we all should have to remain vigilant; that we all have to recognize and bolster actions which encourage and strengthen the universality of human rights, and reject the erosion and withdrawal of those rights.

I also believe responsible tourism includes paying appropriate respect at a memorial, especially the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. It’s my view this important memorial is not (supposed to be) a playground.

And yet, there’s something to be said about freedom in the early 21st-century which allows people to laugh and frolic in the public space, an undulating sculpture of featureless massive grey cement blocks, a testimonial to the systematic murder of millions of people.

Naturally, you have the freedom to take selfies and play here. But it doesn’t mean I’m gonna laugh with you.

•   Yolocaust art project, DW 2017.

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