Speech of the for­mer head of the city coun­cil Wolf­gang Nickel at the lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone, May 21, 2010

Brought out of anony­mi­ty into the light

Dr. Jacob Gutmark, Michelsberg Wiesbaden

Wolf­gang Nickel at the lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone.
(Pho­to­grapher: Oli­ver Hebel)

Dear Lord Mayor, dear col­le­agues from the City Coun­cil and Magis­tra­te, dear Dr. Gut­mark, dear Ms. Wille­cke, ladies and gentlemen,

An idea is begin­ning to beco­me rea­li­ty. Today we are taking the first step. Today we lay the foun­da­ti­on stone for a memo­ri­al that reminds us of the dar­kest chap­ter of the Ger­man past. A memo­ri­al that makes us awa­re that under the rule of the Natio­nal Socialists–in our city as well‒people of Jewish faith were depor­ted to con­cen­tra­ti­on camps and even­tual­ly murdered.

The memo­ri­al on the Michels­berg is inten­ded to rai­se awa­re­ness that the Sho­ah is also a part of our own city’s histo­ry, and did not just hap­pen some­whe­re in fara­way Ber­lin or Nurem­berg. As in many other Ger­man cities, Wiesbaden’s syn­ago­gues bur­ned. In our city, too, peo­p­le of the Jewish faith were not pro­tec­ted from the rava­ges of the Natio­nal Socia­list demon.

The memo­ri­al is inten­ded to remind us of this. The names of all Wies­ba­den citi­zens of whom we know that they fell vic­tim to the Sho­ah will be inde­li­bly lis­ted here. An illu­mi­na­ted inscrip­ti­on band at eye level lists the names of the vic­tims. They are thus brought out of anony­mi­ty into the light and given their iden­ti­ty in the public space.
In this way, remem­brance beco­mes per­so­nal, and the memo­ri­al sets an unmist­aka­ble sign in our city.

Ever­yo­ne should know and feel: Tho­se who are named here –they were our fel­low citi­zens. We in Wies­ba­den also want to and must deal with the events of that time. I think this is very important, becau­se a city’s socie­ty needs to deal honest­ly with its own past in order to main­tain its self-respect.

The wound that was inflic­ted on the city­scape back then with the des­truc­tion of the syn­ago­gue will not be clo­sed today. For we are not rebuil­ding the syn­ago­gue; its out­line is mere­ly hin­ted at on the flo­or of the memo­ri­al and on the road­way. But it is also not the essen­ti­al goal of the con­s­truc­tion to copy the old or even to heal what can­not be hea­led. What is being crea­ted here is ulti­m­ate­ly respon­si­bi­li­ty tur­ned to stone.

A respon­si­bi­li­ty that has been impo­sed on us by our city’s histo­ry. A respon­si­bi­li­ty that obli­ga­tes us in the future: Never again may hou­ses of wor­ship burn in Wies­ba­den, no mat­ter what deno­mi­na­ti­on. Never again should the­re be room in our city for hat­red and vio­lence against our fel­low citi­zens. Never again must peo­p­le who live here with us beco­me vic­tims of ter­ror, per­se­cu­ti­on and extermination.

We all‒every citi­zen, every poli­ti­ci­an, ever­yo­ne who has his or her home here, bears a share of respon­si­bi­li­ty for this. Ever­yo­ne in his or her place must do his or her part to ensu­re that a cli­ma­te of inner peace and mutu­al tole­rance pre­vails in Wies­ba­den. No one can ste­al away from this. Like all lar­ge pro­jects, our memo­ri­al has had a long lead time. Many peo­p­le work­ed on it, from the first visi­ons, ide­as and con­cepts to the incre­asing­ly con­cre­te plan­ning and con­s­truc­tion, the begin­ning of which we are offi­ci­al­ly cele­bra­ting with today’s lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone. Under the pro­fes­sio­nal direc­tion of SEG, count­less working-group mee­tings took place. The archi­tect, Ms. Wille­cke, and her team did an excel­lent job of desig­ning the buil­ding. Many employees of the city admi­nis­tra­ti­on, espe­ci­al­ly the city archi­ves and the city plan­ning office, have work­ed with gre­at com­mit­ment. The memo­ri­al would be unthinkable wit­hout the extre­me­ly valuable con­tri­bu­ti­ons of the Jewish Com­mu­ni­ty and the Acti­ve Muse­um Spie­gel­gas­se. They have play­ed a decisi­ve role in the state­ment, objec­ti­ve and mea­ning of the memo­ri­al. I would like to express my sin­ce­re thanks to all tho­se who have con­tri­bu­ted and will con­ti­nue to do so.

I would like to men­ti­on one name in par­ti­cu­lar. For Ange­li­ka Thiels, my pre­de­ces­sor in the office of head of the city coun­cil, the memo­ri­al was an affair of the heart. She dro­ve this pro­ject for­ward with all her strength, with gre­at pas­si­on and with her own irre­pres­si­ble ener­gy. Unfort­u­na­te­ly, she will not be able to expe­ri­ence today’s lay­ing of the foun­da­ti­on stone. Ange­li­ka Thiels always empha­si­zed how glad she was that the pro­ject was being rea­li­zed with gre­at bipar­ti­san con­sen­sus and was not the sub­ject of pet­ty par­ty squab­bles. She belie­ved that this con­sen­sus was due to respect for the vic­tims. The fact that such a con­sen­sus has emer­ged per­ma­nent­ly in our city par­lia­ment is due to the per­sua­si­ve­ness and per­so­nal inte­gri­ty of Ange­li­ka Thiels. This buil­ding will be inse­pa­ra­b­ly lin­ked with her name.

Wolf­gang Nickel
For­mer chair­man of the city council
Dr. Jacob Gutmark, Michelsberg Wiesbaden
Dr. Jacob Gutmark, Michelsberg Wiesbaden
Dr. Jacob Gutmark, Michelsberg Wiesbaden

Pho­to­grapher: Oli­ver Hebel