By Diet­rich Schwarz, for­mer Mana­ging Direc­tor of SEG Stadt­ent­wick­lungs­ge­sell­schaft Wies­ba­den mbH

The way to the memorial

Memo­ri­al for the mur­de­red Jews of Wiesbaden
(Pho­to­grapher [Fran­zX­a­ver] Süß)

The loca­ti­on of the syn­ago­gue: Drai­na­ge plan for the site of the syn­ago­gue from 1889.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: StadtA WI WI/2 Nr. 4902)

The way to the memorial

The­re on the Michels­berg, whe­re the Memo­ri­al to the Mur­de­red Jews of Wies­ba­den is loca­ted today, the new syn­ago­gue had stood sin­ce 1869: a magni­fi­cent buil­ding by the archi­tect Phil­ipp Hoff­mann in Byzan­ti­ne style. In the Reichs­po­grom­nacht of Novem­ber 9, 1938, it fell vic­tim to arson and com­ple­te des­truc­tion. After the end of the 2nd World War not­hing was left of it. Only a ste­le from 1953 recal­led its old loca­ti­on. Alre­a­dy in the 1950s, the Coulin­stra­ße led through the midd­le of the old ground plan of the des­troy­ed synagogue.

Pietätlose Straßenführung: die Hochbrücke am Michelsberg Wiesbaden 1994.

Irrever­ent street design: the high bridge at Michels­berg in 1994.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Archi­tect Hein­rich Lessing)

At the begin­ning of the 1970s, the syn­ago­gue see­med to have been for­got­ten when the city of Wies­ba­den — fol­lo­wing the zeit­geist of the car-fri­en­d­­ly city — had an ele­va­ted bridge built for auto­mo­bi­le traf­fic from the neigh­bor­ing Schwal­ba­cher Stras­se to the Coulin­stras­se, which ran across the for­mer syn­ago­gue pro­per­ty. It was only 30 years later, when atti­tu­des to urban plan­ning had chan­ged and, as a result, the ele­va­ted bridge was demo­lished, that the way was cle­ared to deal with the rede­sign of the syn­ago­gue squa­re on the Michelsberg.

Com­me­mo­ra­ting the Jewish vic­tims of the Holo­caust from Wies­ba­den by name at the site of the for­mer syn­ago­gue had long been a spe­cial con­cern of the Acti­ve Muse­um of Ger­­man-Jewish Histo­ry asso­cia­ti­on. In 2003, the asso­cia­ti­on had begun to pre­sent “memo­ri­al sheets” with the bio­gra­phies of mur­de­red Jewish citi­zens in a dis­play case at the Michelsberg.

Fol­lo­wing the buil­ding histo­ry: flo­or plan of the memo­ri­al for the mur­de­red Wies­ba­den Jews.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: pla­nung . freiraum)

Form of coll­ec­ti­ve memo­ry sought: The archi­tec­tu­ral competition

The various initia­ti­ves to estab­lish a memo­ri­al on the Michels­berg — pro­mo­ted espe­ci­al­ly by then city coun­cil pre­si­dent Ange­li­ka Thiels (1941 — 2009) — final­ly cul­mi­na­ted in June 2005 in a reso­lu­ti­on of the Wies­ba­den city coun­cil to invi­te ten­ders for a com­pe­ti­ti­on of urban plan­ning ide­as “for the com­me­mo­ra­ti­on by name of the Wies­ba­den Jews mur­de­red by the Nazi regime” for the area of the for­mer syn­ago­gue. The task of the invi­ted archi­tec­tu­ral firms was to sub­mit pro­po­sals for a rede­sign of the area around the for­mer syn­ago­gue. The traf­fic func­tion of the busy Coulin­stras­se, which today cuts through the for­mer site of the old syn­ago­gue, was to be main­tai­ned. The land­scape archi­tect Bar­ba­ra Wille­cke from Ber­lin and her firm “pla­nung frei­raum” emer­ged as the win­ner of this archi­tec­tu­ral com­pe­ti­ti­on. Her design for the con­s­truc­tion of the memo­ri­al, which was com­ple­ted in 2011, was to be realized.

Lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone in May 2010: Mayor Dr. Hel­mut Mül­ler, com­mu­ni­ty board mem­ber Jacob Gut­mark and city coun­cil chair­man Wolf­gang Nickel
(Pho­to­grapher: Oli­ver Hebel)

The­re were still a num­ber of plan­ning issues to be resol­ved, such as in par­ti­cu­lar the struc­tu­ral ancho­ring of the seven-meter-high rein­forced con­cre­te walls on the slo­pe facing the Schul­berg and the use of a resistant natu­ral stone mate­ri­al in the area of the Coulin­stras­se road­way. Con­s­truc­tion work was final­ly able to begin in April 2010. The cere­mo­ni­al lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone took place on May 21, 2010. On Janu­ary 27, 2011, the natio­nal day of remem­brance for the vic­tims of the Nazi regime, the com­ple­ted memo­ri­al was cere­mo­nious­ly han­ded over to the Wies­ba­den public.

Sand­blas­ted glass pane with his­to­ri­cal inte­ri­or photograph
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)

With memo­ri­al area and name rib­bon: The buil­ding in its details

The name rib­bon naming the Jewish vic­tims of the Holo­caust from Wies­ba­den repres­ents the cen­tral com­po­nent of the memo­ri­al. Other main ele­ments are the wall panels that show the over­all space of the memo­ri­al in the city and the mar­king of the ground plan and base of the des­troy­ed syn­ago­gue. The wes­tern wall sec­tion is divi­ded by a glass pane about 80 cen­ti­me­ters wide, engra­ved with the recon­s­truc­ted inte­ri­or of the syn­ago­gue, a work by Wies­ba­den artist Nabo Gaß based on a design by Hein­rich Lessing.

In alpha­be­ti­cal order the rib­bon with the names of the murdered
(Foto­graf: [Fran­zX­a­ver] Süß)

On the insi­de of the wall panels, at eye level, a rib­bon about 1.20 meters high is embedded, bea­ring the names of the 1507 Jewish vic­tims known until 2011, arran­ged in alpha­be­ti­cal order by fami­ly name. The name of each vic­tim is men­tio­ned on its own natu­ral stone slab with first name, fami­ly name, mai­den name in the case of mar­ried women, year of birth and death, and place of death.

Mar­king of the synagogue’s ground plan in the urban space.
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)

The let­ters are made with a reli­ef of about five mil­li­me­ters, so that they can be “gras­ped” hap­ti­cal­ly. The five-cen­­­ti­­me­­ter-high and 50 to 120-cen­­­ti­­me­­ter-long natu­ral stone slabs made of Viet­na­me­se basalt are simi­lar in color and mate­ri­al to tho­se of the wall panels, but dif­fer in their finer sur­face tex­tu­re. Blank stones are added to enable the inte­gra­ti­on of addi­tio­nal names that may be rese­ar­ched later. The rib­bon is reces­sed into the wall. “Stones of remem­brance” can be pla­ced on the edge of the recess thus crea­ted. As dark­ness falls, the name band is illuminated.

On the outer lines of the synagogue’s base, seven-meter-high wall panels mark the “emp­ty space” and the loca­ti­on of the des­troy­ed syn­ago­gue over a total length of 62 meters. The nar­row, mason­ry natu­ral stone bands are made of Arme­ni­an basalt lava.

The enti­re area of the memo­ri­al site is laid out in gray slabs of Chi­ne­se basalt. In order to per­cei­ve the place as a who­le unit, the mate­ri­al of the pave­ment is color-matched to the wall panels. On the flo­or of the memo­ri­al space as well as on the road­way, the foot­print of the syn­ago­gue is repro­du­ced. For this pur­po­se, a stone sur­face con­tras­ting with the sur­roun­ding pave­ment is used. The upper edge of the base of the for­mer syn­ago­gue is repro­du­ced on the wall panels by a pro­tru­ding lay­er of natu­ral stone. This mar­king gives an impres­si­on of the size of the for­mer syn­ago­gue and at the same time rhyth­mi­zes the wall surfaces.

(Pho­to­grapher: [Fran­zX­a­ver] Süß)

The new urban space: coun­ter­point to the lack of history

The open inte­ri­or space of the memo­ri­al is func­tion­al­ly divi­ded into the acces­si­ble memo­ri­al space in the incis­ed slo­pe and the adja­cent area with the road­way of the Coulin­st­a­ße crossing the complex.

The squa­re on the Michels­berg forms the coun­ter­part to the memo­ri­al site and blends into the adja­cent pede­stri­an zone. Here, an infor­ma­ti­on board with an inte­gra­ted touch­screen moni­tor pro­vi­des infor­ma­ti­on about the memo­ri­al and the for­mer syn­ago­gue. Visi­tors can also access the “memo­ri­al sheets” of the Acti­ve Muse­um of Ger­­man-Jewish Histo­ry the­re, which pro­vi­de infor­ma­ti­on about the fate of indi­vi­du­al Jewish vic­tims of Wiesbaden.

Even if the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg was not rebuilt, the city of Wies­ba­den, by rea­li­zing the con­cept of the memo­ri­al, has set a coun­ter­point to the face­l­ess­ness of histo­ry in which the high bridge, demo­lished years ago, used to cut through this part of the city.

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In search of the lost names
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A clear sign
In search of the lost names
A clear sign