We will remember the last exhibition, which took place during the commemoration week for victims of National Socialism in April 2018. Six months have past since then; nevertheless, we would like to take a moment and review as well as preview. It might draw your interest, as the next exhibition is already approaching. It will open on November 10th at the Benedictus & Antonius parish in Düsseldorf Oberkassel.
From the 23rd to the 27th of April the HEIMATSUCHER travelling exhibition to commemorate the victims of National Socialism was guest in Hildesheim.
Educational science students at the University of Hildesheim had brought the exhibition to the student run venue &Büro at the heart of the city. As their lecturer I supervised their efforts for month. The students developed a concept, scouted a suitable venue, organized the advertisement, contacted local schools and youth groups and arranged an exceptional and exciting program to accompany the exhibition. It is due to their work that we could reach many different people in a short time and invite them into dialogue. We will talk about this later.
In October 2017 nine students started out with the idea to organize an event in Hildesheim to commemorate the crimes of National Socialism. Sarah Hüttenberend came to see the lecture and present the work of HEIMATSUCHER e.V. The group was impressed by HEIMATSUCHERs history, as HEIMATSUCHER itself had started out as a student project. Therefore the students decided to bring the HEIMATSUCHER exhibition to Hildesheim and to frame it with their own ideas. As their lecturer is was my motivation to show the students engagement and to encourage them to participate and give them the opportunity to experiment. – The work of HEIMATSUCHER e.V. represents all of this to me. – And my class did the same in an exceptional way.
With the &Büro the class chose an intimate space and gave the exhibition a new look with their curation. Question that could be read upon entering encouraged the visitors to reflect: „What drew my interest in this exhibition?“ „What kind of questions would I ask the survivors?“ The letter cloud, displayed above the fireplace, represented the thoughts children and teens have about the stories. The main exhibition itself was accessed by staircase. The portraits were displayed in front of open brick walls and spoke for themselves. The interview magazines invited the guests to take their time and get to know the life stories. The exhibition took place in the city centre and was observable form the outside due to a large window. Therefore not only other students, but citizens – children from the neighbourhood, teachers with their classes and even a contemporary witness living in Hildesheim attended. The students had created a room for dialog between a diverse audience.
The exhibition opened on Monday with lyrical thoughts of two generations; Poems written by concentration camp inmates at Bergen-Belsen as well as lyrical contributions by youngsters who disputed questions of remembrance today. With a lecture by Maren Droldner about the prosecution and deprivation of rights of Jews in Hildesheim , we fulfilled the request for local and historical referencing. During the fireplace talk on Thursday Sarah Hüttenberend, Wiebke Siemsglüß and Dietmar Sedlaczek, director of the memorial Moringen, debated secondary witnesses, narrative and biographical methodologies in education and the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Throughout the week the exhibition was visited by a diverse audience. Most impressive to me: the visitors returned. We did see most of them at the evening events as well as guided tours in the exhibition. During the time I advised the students with their planning it was delightful to witness how they discovered, amazed and curious, that their plans would and could actually be realized. Therefore it was my pleasure to visit the venue daily to hear about the encounters the students had had throughout the day and to follow the evening program.
Special thanks to Sarah Hüttenberend. Ours was the last exhibition Sarah conducted before she handed the running of the team over to Wenke Stegemann. Sarah shared her expertise with the students and motivated them in her very own way. And for her it felt like coming full circle, at least that is what I feel to have understood during our talks; a circle starting with the student she was all those years ago, driven by the desire to make the present situation of Shoah survivors in Israel known and closing with the encounter with my students, who in working together with HEIMATSUCHER e.V., passed the life stories on and therefore contributed to an active commemoration in Hildesheim.
This week of events was made possible through the sponsorship of the department for general educational science at the University Hildesheim and the VGH foundation.
In the meantime the HEIMATSUCHER exhibition has moved on and will be on display in Düsseldorf at the St. Benedictus & Antonius parish in Düsseldorf Oberkassel. We are already looking forward to the opening event on November 10th, starting at 7pm at the parish. Since our team has grown in the last six month, got a new team leader and gained many new volunteers, we are excited about the exhibition in Düsseldorf. We will realize new approaches: visitors will find a magazine of letters written by students to the contemporary witnesses. In addition there will be a new HEIMATSUCHER letter box in which guests can post their own messages to our witnesses. We will pass the letters and postcards on. On the last day of the exhibition, the 18th of November, we will show the HEIMATSUCHER film „Auf gute Nachbarschaft“. The filmmaker Simone Hüttenberend is looking forward to tantalizing talks with the audience.