By Bar­ba­ra Wille­cke Dipl.-Ing. Land­scape Archi­tect BDLA, Firm pla­nung freiraum

A clear sign

Com­me­mo­ra­ti­on in urban space — con­cern and mission

(Pho­to­grapher: [Fran­zX­a­ver] Süß)

The memo­ri­al we desi­gned does not cla­im to inter­pret histo­ry in a cer­tain way. It invi­tes us to seek a per­so­nal inter­pre­ta­ti­on as well as to find a con­tem­po­ra­ry form for coll­ec­ti­ve remem­brance. The design approach is to crea­te a place in the city that pro­vi­des an oppor­tu­ni­ty for pre­sent as well as future gene­ra­ti­ons to face the pro­cess of coming to terms with the Holocaust.

Remem­brance in the urban landscape

A city­scape is always the pre­cise reflec­tion of its histo­ry, the image of social decis­i­ons and his­to­ri­cal deve­lo­p­ments. The citi­zens of the sta­te capi­tal Wies­ba­den have deci­ded to set a clear sign in their city land­scape that bears wit­ness to the Holo­caust and the mur­der of the peo­p­le of Wiesbaden–and thus of the Euro­pean Jews‒and that depicts the histo­ry of the place and the Nazi ter­ror in their city. In memo­ry of the mur­de­red Jews, the names of 1,507 mur­de­red Jewish citi­zens known so far are pre­ser­ved at the site of the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg, which was des­troy­ed during the Reichs­po­grom­nacht. Tho­se who do not even have a gra­ve are thus given a place whe­re their name is cle­ar­ly visi­ble and per­ma­nent. The high wall panels of the memo­ri­al bea­ring the name rib­bon bear wit­ness to the gap–the loss of the syn­ago­gue. The memo­ri­al space thus crea­ted gives the vic­tims and the des­troy­ed syn­ago­gue a place in the urban space as well as in Wiesbaden’s ever­y­day life. Remem­be­ring stands here for taking into the future and for the remin­der that some­thing like this must never hap­pen again.

Detail Namenband Michelsberg Wiesbaden - Abbildung: Jüdische Gemeinde Wiesbaden, Fotograf: Igor Eisenschtat

Detail of name ribbon
(Illus­tra­ti­on: Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty Wies­ba­den. Pho­to­grapher: Igor Eisenschtat)

Approa­ches and overlaps

The memo­ri­al stands in the field of ten­si­on bet­ween memo­ri­al space and urban space, bet­ween visi­tors and the names of the vic­tims, bet­ween the indi­vi­du­al and socie­ty. It intert­wi­nes insi­de and out­side, com­me­mo­ra­ti­on and ever­y­day life. One can enter, lin­ger or pass by. One can come to remem­ber. Rela­ti­ves can com­me­mo­ra­te their dead. An indi­vi­du­al name stone is dedi­ca­ted to each vic­tim. Emp­ty name stones refer to the gaps in the lists of vic­tims and stand for tho­se who­se fate is still unknown today.

The rai­sed let­ters of the name stones reach into the vibrant urban space, can lite­ral­ly be gras­ped, and in their pla­s­tic pre­sence address the pre­sent, the living. Their rai­sed form allows for a tac­ti­le approach, thus making it pos­si­ble to estab­lish a con­nec­tion, a cont­act with the vic­tims. The visi­tor should enter the memo­ri­al free of fami­li­ar asso­cia­ti­ons. It gives space to form one’s own impres­si­on, to deve­lop an indi­vi­du­al, not pre­de­ter­mi­ned, commemoration.

The syn­ago­gue and the place today

The syn­ago­gue ori­gi­nal­ly stood at the ent­rance to the Old Town. Today, the Coulin­stras­se runs through its for­mer site. Until the con­s­truc­tion of the memo­ri­al, memo­ri­al plaques and a memo­ri­al stone on the landing of the stairs, as well as a mar­ker with blue paint on the asphalt, testi­fied to the histo­ry of the site. After the des­truc­tion of the syn­ago­gue and the con­s­truc­tion and demo­li­ti­on of the High Bridge, all remains of the Jewish place of wor­ship were final­ly lost. No struc­tu­ral remains were found even during excava­tions as part of the con­s­truc­tion work for the memo­ri­al. The only evi­dence of the syn­ago­gue are old plans and pic­tures and the vir­tu­al recon­s­truc­tion of the buil­ding deve­lo­ped from them, as well as the exten­si­ve rese­arch and com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve work car­ri­ed out in recent years and decades.

The pre­vious forms of remem­brance were taken up and con­tin­ued. They were not repla­ced, but given a place and frame­work in the memo­ri­al. The results of the rese­arch can also be view­ed in the form of the com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve sheets on a screen on the out­side of the memo­ri­al area. The syn­ago­gue flo­or plan beco­mes visi­ble at the authen­tic loca­ti­on. The Michels­berg city ent­rance beco­mes a squa­re. Coulin­stras­se, which runs across it today, reflects the pre­sent. The site of the syn­ago­gue was car­ved out of the hills­i­de and made visi­ble. The pre­sent and the past are now reflec­ted in each other.

From all this, a new place has grown in the urban land­scape, a frame­work against for­get­ting, for memo­ries and com­mon remem­brance. In accordance with its dedi­ca­to­ry pur­po­se, this space is inten­ded to con­tri­bu­te to con­tin­ued civic, poli­ti­cal and social enga­ge­ment in the memo­ry of the city and its people.

The memo­ri­al is ancho­red in the urban land­scape as a wit­ness to histo­ry: as a per­ma­nent remin­der and as a man­da­te for future posi­ti­ve social developments.

Based on the buil­ding histo­ry: ground plan of the memo­ri­al for the mur­de­red Wies­ba­den Jews
(Illus­tra­ti­on: pla­nung . freiraum)

Mar­king the flo­or plan of the syn­ago­gue in the urban space
(Illus­tra­ti­on: pla­nung . freiraum)

(Pho­to­grapher: [Fran­zX­a­ver] Süß)

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The way to the memorial
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Wolf­gang Nickel at the lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone
The way to the memorial
Wolf­gang Nickel at the lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone