Speech by Dr. Jacob Gut­mark of the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty at the Lay­ing of the Foun­da­ti­on Stone, May 21, 2010.

Names are the link to the Almighty

Dr. Jacob Gutmark, Michelsberg Wiesbaden

Dr. Jacob Gut­mark at the Lay­ing of the Foun­da­ti­on Stone
(Pho­to­grapher: Oli­ver Hebel)

Hono­red attendees,

For each of us, names are more than just a tool for ever­y­day com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on. We use our names to express pri­de and, at times, resent­ment toward our heri­ta­ge. For Jews, it is no dif­fe­rent. Even the Jews in anci­ent Egypt, in bon­da­ge and dia­spo­ra, kept their Jewish names. It has been so up to the pre­sent. Her­eby the pos­si­bi­li­ty was given to remain a coher­ent peo­p­le and to be wort­hy of redemption.

The Jewish name is for us the con­nec­tion to the Almigh­ty. Sin­ce, accor­ding to the Kaba­lah, the name with its Hebrew let­ters sub­stan­ti­al­ly deter­mi­nes the desti­ny of a Jewish child, the par­ents giving the name expe­ri­ence a pro­phe­tic inspiration.

Jewish names reflect more cle­ar­ly than any­thing else, the chan­geful histo­ry of the Jewish peo­p­le through mil­len­nia of per­se­cu­ti­on and expul­si­on,. Each new envi­ron­ment with the new lan­guage and new cus­toms also had con­se­quen­ces for the choice of names. Despi­te new names, the old names of the foref­a­thers were held on to in par­al­lel out of a deep fee­ling for tradition.

A Jewish boy recei­ves his name at cir­cumcis­i­on on the eighth day after his birth, a girl at the first oppor­tu­ni­ty in the syn­ago­gue. Our name is the key, also for reli­gious mat­ters, to deco­di­fi­ca­ti­on of our social sta­tus and role; the name can also give infor­ma­ti­on about inner-com­­mu­­ni­­ty func­tions. It accom­pa­nies us Jews from the moment we are named and until our death.

The most important ele­ment then, men­tio­ned in every tomb­stone inscrip­ti­on, is the name of the decea­sed. After the name, the date of death is the essen­ti­al ele­ment of a Hebrew tomb­stone inscrip­ti­on. The date of birth, as well as the inclu­si­on of favorable attri­bu­tes of the per­son (so-cal­­led eulo­gy) are not man­da­to­ry. The intro­duc­to­ry for­mu­la “here is buried” and the final bles­sing: “His/her soul be bound in the bund­le of life”, are pla­ced, in initi­als, as a mat­ter of cour­se. The important func­tions of a per­son within the com­mu­ni­ty are often empha­si­zed. They are the basic con­di­ti­ons for remem­be­ring a cer­tain per­son, to com­me­mo­ra­te him/her.

On that night, almost 72 years ago, here and in the who­le of Ger­ma­ny, the cul­tu­ral and social des­truc­tion of Jewish life began in an unmist­aka­ble way, and, as we know, con­tin­ued in the fol­lo­wing years in a thousand times more cruel and inhu­man ways.

Our ances­tors, inclu­ding the Jewish peo­p­le from Wies­ba­den, took too many memo­ries with them to the exter­mi­na­ti­on or–if the­re was one–to the grave‒irrevocably. They were also denied the con­ti­nu­a­ton of their human line, to found fami­lies, to have child­ren. Depri­ved of their right to be human and Jewish, to live.

For tho­se who had been denied all this, the pro­phet Isai­ah (56/5) spo­ke long befo­re our time: “To them I give in my house, within my walls, a monu­ment and a memo­ri­al bet­ter than sons and daugh­ters; I give them ever­las­ting names that will never be blot­ted out.” This say­ing will always be on the infor­ma­ti­on board there.

With the com­me­mo­ra­ti­on and remem­brance work initia­ted here today, atta­ched to the names of the Nazi vic­tims, God wil­ling, a monu­ment and a memo­ri­al (Yad Vas­hem) will be estab­lished, which will not remain encoded only for an eli­te. Rather, it will remain acces­si­ble to a wider class of peo­p­le fore­ver. It will help to over­co­me thres­hold fears of peo­p­le in this coun­try, to sur­ren­der to the memo­ry of the hor­rors of that time, to learn from it.

The names of the group of decent Jewish peo­p­le torn out of the city­scape will bring the truth a litt­le clo­ser, give the vic­tims back a pie­ce of dignity.


Dr. Jacob Gutmark
Mem­ber of the Board of the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wiesbaden