Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts tagged ‘cemetery’

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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Ludwig Boltzmann, Wiener Zentralfriedhof, Vienna Central Cemetery, Vienna, Wien, Austria, fotoeins.com

My Vienna: finding Ludwig Boltzmann in spring

I’m neither tragic nor hip, but I know a little bit about Canadian icon and band, The Tragically Hip, and specifically, a song of theirs called “Springtime in Vienna.”

I can’t play a musical instrument, but I especially liked listening to a performance of Johann Strauss II’s “An der schönen blauen Donau” (The Blue Danube) on an intercity river catamaran between Vienna and Bratislava.

What I’m totally convinced is when spring comes calling, I’m allergic to nature. I’m a living example to irritation and inflammation, and living consequence to nature’s response to spring.

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Erwin Schroedinger, Annemarie Schroedinger, Alpbach Cemetery, Heiliger Oswald, Pfarrkirche Alpbach, Alpbach, Tirol, Tyrol, Austria, fotoeins.com

Alpbach, Austria: finding Erwin Schrödinger

Localizing his final wavefunction, at rest in Alpbach

It took a little effort: a train out from Innsbruck to Brixlegg, followed by a regional bus into another valley of countless valleys, accompanied by the illumination of sharp morning light, in a blanket of meadows and buttercups, under a deep ocean of impossibly blue skies. And on both sides of this river valley are an endless series of mountains, these peaks the smaller cousins to larger Austrian Alps nearby.

In Alpbach, the weekday morning is quiet, as the town begins to stir with people starting their work day. The bank has just opened, fresh baked bread and pastry and roasted coffee emanate from the cafe from around the corner, a couple of trucks rumble into town with deliveries. An older couple walks by, and there are mutual sunny greets of “Grüss Gott”. The church steeple glows yellow at this hour, and it’s easy to imagine with its bell the church is an aural and visual beacon for miles.

I’m drawn to the church because that was always the plan, to look for someone who’s buried in the church cemetery. Ordered rows of headstones lie as you would expect, but by the northwest gate, I find a single plaque on the bordering stone wall. The plaque reads: “Erwin Schrödinger, Nobelpreis für Physik, 1933”, and next to the plaque is Erwin and Annemarie Schrödinger’s final resting spot1. Another academic pilgrimage completed.

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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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Nobel-Rondell, Nobel Rondel, Nobel Prize, Stadtfriedhof, Göttingen, Niedersachsen, Lower Saxony, Germany, fotoeins.com

Göttingen: Physics & Chemistry Nobel-Prize Round-of-8

Göttingen is a university town in central Germany. Not only will I find a memorial to Nobel Prizes, I’m here also to acknowledge my academic training. I spent many years studying physics and astronomy, and while I’m no longer active in science research, I enjoy the search and discovery of the final resting spots for scientists whose work formed a significant part of my education. Visiting their graves provides direct historical connection to “academic predecessors”; to go beyond the abstraction of simply learning their names and contributions to science, the gravestones belong to real people with keen minds, family lives, and all too human imperfections.

To date, 45 Nobel Prize laureates have been or are connected with the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. That’s a phenomenal number, as this single institution accounts for 8 per cent of all Nobel Prizes (585 as of 2017).

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