An evening of commemoration & opening of the HEIMATSUCHER travelling exhibition in the St. Antonius parish Düsseldorf Oberkassel. On November 9, 1938, the day of the November pogroms, terrible scenes of violence and hatred against Jewish people took place on the streets of Germany. Synagogues and Jewish shops burned, people of Jewish faith were humiliated, beaten and killed. 80 years later we have these images of destruction in our minds and remember each one silently for ourselves the victims as we display the life stories and portraits of our contemporary witnesses Sister Johanna, Djordje Alpar and Chava Wolf in the Catholic parish of St. Antonius and Benedictus in Düsseldorf on November 9, 2018.
One day later, on 10 November, our travelling exhibition »HEIMATSUCHER – an exhibition with stories of Shoa survival for a world without racism« opened. As one of the hosts of the vernissage, Msgr. Wilhelm Terboven emphasized in his speech the importance of such young projects dedicated to remembering. This is particularly now important, as the world isonce again on a sloping plane and human values had started to slip. Sarah Hüttenberend also addressed current world events in her opening speech. 80 years, that is not long ago, after all, and when we see today that hatred is once again publicly expressed and turns back into violence, the question arises: What can we do?
Sarah’s response was to encourage the visitors to the vernissage to look into the eyes of those who unsettle them and take the time to get to know each other. Because that creates closeness. Then she asked all the guests to stand up, look for a partner and look them silently in the eyes for half a minute. It was partly awkward to make eye contact with strangers for thirty seconds. Many felt the need to say something or to look the other way. It requires overcoming to endure closeness and tension. And it is precisely this overcoming that we wish many people would endure, so that we as a society can act strong and open and loving.
Wencke Stegemann, who took over the management of the team Exhibition & Events this year, reacted very personally to the topic of remembering. For her grandfather, who was a soldier in the war, had one principle above all: telling stories helps to heal. She said that even as a child he had told her about the horrors of war. That had helped him, but also her. Through the personal impressions of her grandfather, Wencke herself was able to understand the past better. Listening also heals. And that is exactly what HEIMATSUCHER is for her: telling and listening – and both have the power to heal. As a team leader she also addressed internal issues in her speech. This exhibition was planned and organized by a completely new team.
A wonderful memory was created by listening to the organ music, by reading the pupils’ letters to our contemporary witnesses, which were written during HEIMATSUCHER school workshops and read aloud by Nefeli Kavouras that evening, by listening to the speeches and during the following guided tour through the exhibition by Vanessa Eisenhardt (Head of Team Education).
For us as a new team, the exhibition was a challenge in which we all grew. Many of us organized an exhibition for the first time. We are still learning. It was therefore particularly pleasing that each and every one of us was able to play a part in creating something as a team. Apart from the fact that the exhibition itself was a premiere for the team members, there were also premieres within the exhibition: There is, for example, a beautiful wooden mailbox, which visitors can use to send messages to contemporary witnesses, which we then forward to them. And there is now also a magazine with the pupils’ letters that they wrote to the contemporary witnesses. The visitors of the exhibition are warmly invited to read it.
We noticed during the construction process that organizing an exhibition requires a number of small steps, including many we were unaware of before. But an exhibition works mainly through helping hands. That is why we have to express our gratitude. On the one hand to Michael Dederichs and Msgr. Wilhelm Terboven, our contacts for the St. Antonius and St. Benediktus Church, who trusted and welcomed us. Even though we couldn’t knock nails on the walls in the church, we felt very free to set up the exhibition, and that’s not a matter of course. On the other hand we would like to thank Dr. Prof. Brigitte Mandt, Chairwoman of the Board of the Israelstiftung Deutschland, who is taking over the patronage of the exhibition, which is a great honour for us.
For us, the next step is to plan ahead. The next exhibition in Oldenburg will open on January 13, 2019, and we are looking forward to presenting the stories and portraits of our contemporary witnesses in many other places.
If you don’t want to miss the exhibition: it will take place until November 18, 2018 in the parish of St. Antonius and St. Benediktus in Düsseldorf Oberkassel and can be visited every day from 9 am to 6 pm. We are also looking forward to welcoming you at the finissage on November 18, 2018 at 7 pm. Our HEIMATSUCHER film “Auf gute Nachbarschaft” will be shown there. The maker of the film Simone Hüttenberend is looking forward to an inspiring conversation with the audience.