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

The lost beco­mes recognizable

The Jewish com­mu­ni­ty pre­ser­ves its tra­di­tio­nal identity

Michelsberg Wiesbaden

Dr. Jacob Gutmark

My memo­ry of the ori­g­ins of the Michels­berg Memo­ri­al of Names goes back to the mid-1980s. From the very begin­ning, the pro­ject of com­me­mo­ra­ting the Sho­ah was influen­ced by an his­to­ri­cal par­ti­cu­la­ri­ty in the rela­ti­ons bet­ween the city and its Jewish citi­zens. It was inspi­red by the mutu­al desi­re to pro­mo­te and streng­then the fri­end­ship bet­ween the sta­te capi­tal Wies­ba­den and its Jewish com­mu­ni­ty. In line with the results, and some­what proud of what has been achie­ved, I the­r­e­fo­re look back on a long pro­cess of reflec­tion, dis­cus­sion and argu­men­ta­ti­on, which for me began on Novem­ber 9, 1984: It was a cold after­noon and a not par­ti­cu­lar­ly digni­fied memo­ri­al hour at the Michels­berg. The street noi­se pre­ven­ted any attempt to speak. After the event, we, i.e. the then Lord Mayor Dr. Hans-Joa­­chim Jentsch and I, tal­ked about the pos­si­bi­li­ty of making the names of the Wies­ba­den vic­tims of the Sho­ah acces­si­ble to the public, pos­si­bly even at this place. A few weeks ear­lier, Dr. Jentsch had brought a spe­ci­al­ly pre­pared memo­ri­al book to Yad Vas­hem in Jerusalem.

Sub­se­quent­ly, the pro­ject was pushed forward—sometimes more, some­ti­mes less—and always with the invol­vement and par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty. At the sug­ges­ti­on of then city coun­cil­or Jörg Bour­gett, we—my wife Danie­la and I—some time later twice pho­to­gra­phed the lar­ge book in Yad Vas­hem con­tai­ning the pre­vious­ly known names of the Wies­ba­den Jews mur­de­red during the Sho­ah and brought the copies with us.

The idea of the Michels­berg as a place of remem­brance remain­ed. Lord Mayor Achim Exner, for exam­p­le, even con­side­red rebuil­ding the syn­ago­gue at the site during his time in office. The Jewish com­mu­ni­ty was cri­ti­cal of the plan, poin­ting out that while a des­troy­ed buil­ding could be repla­ced by a new magni­fi­cent one, the Jewish peo­p­le who were mur­de­red at that time could not. The crea­ti­on of a memo­ri­al of names see­med the more appro­pria­te course.

Lothar Bem­be­nek, a foun­ding mem­ber of the Acti­ve Muse­um Spie­gel­gas­se in 1988, was alre­a­dy inten­si­ve­ly invol­ved with the histo­ry of the Jews in Wies­ba­den. In Novem­ber 1988 I recei­ved from him an exten­ded list of names of Jewish Nazi vic­tims from our city.

In 2000/2001, the topic “Name-Com­­me­­mo­ra­­ti­on on the Michels­berg” was taken up again in con­nec­tion with the immi­nent demo­li­ti­on of the high bridge the­re. Rita Thies, then head of the Depart­ment of Cul­tu­re, invi­ted the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty to a dis­cus­sion. The then chair­wo­man of the Acti­ve Muse­um Spie­gel­gas­se Doro­thee Lot­t­­mann-Kae­­se­­ler was also present.

The first ide­as were deve­lo­ped, which, based espe­ci­al­ly on the ide­as of the repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty pre­sent, alre­a­dy bore a resem­blan­ce to the memo­ri­al rea­li­zed in 2011.

In 2006, the con­s­truc­tion of the new memo­ri­al at the site of the syn­ago­gue on the Michels­berg was initia­ted. From that point on, the then head of the city coun­cil, Ange­li­ka Thiels, of bles­sed memo­ry, ener­ge­ti­cal­ly dro­ve the pro­ject for­ward at the head of a working group. She—as well as Diet­rich Schwarz, then mana­ging direc­tor of the Urban Deve­lo­p­ment Com­pa­ny (SEG)— ear­ned las­ting merit as an ener­ge­tic mana­ger of the sen­si­ti­ve project,.

During all this time, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know and app­re­cia­te peo­p­le from the muni­ci­pal coun­cil, the city coun­cil, the poli­ti­cal par­ties, the administration—especially the city archives—as well as many other com­mit­ted citi­zens. I am gra­teful for this, all the more so becau­se the pro­ject to crea­te a memo­ri­al on the Michels­berg was hand­led for the most part with care.

Spi­ri­tual­ly and archi­tec­tu­ral­ly, the memo­ri­al was suc­cessful­ly crea­ted. The com­me­mo­ra­ti­on of names at the Michels­berg thus makes what was lost reco­gnizable again.

The names of the mur­de­red Jews remain the visi­ble and thus supe­ri­or his­to­ri­cal evi­dence com­pared to the rhe­to­ri­cal con­fes­si­ons in the past and present.

With full jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­on, we, the mem­bers of our Jewish com­mu­ni­ty, see it as our duty to be pre­ser­vers of the tra­di­tio­nal iden­ti­ty of Ger­man Jewry and at the same time citi­zens of our city and of this state.

The histo­ry of the Jews in Wies­ba­den con­ti­nues in a lively, tra­di­tio­nal and inno­va­ti­ve way.

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