Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Göttingen Synagogue Monument

Göttingen: monument on the site of the destroyed synagogue
The monument to the murdered and deported Jews of Göttingen stands on the site of the synagogue, which was destroyed in 1938. The monument, built in 1973, is now neglected. Weeds and dandelions grow on what I assume should be neatly planted beds of grass or flowers. Grass and plants also grow between the paving stones in the below-ground level of the monument which displays the names of the members of the community as it then existed.

Looking upward into the monument
The steel bars of the monument form a 6-pointed star if you look up from the lower area. Conceptually, it's nice, but in its current state, it's sad. As I read the names and birthdates recorded on glossy stones in the monument, I thought about 1938 and the fire that no doubt destroyed the building that was on the site. There's no photo of the building onsite.

I thought about the families who once lived in the neighborhood. A knock at the door, the news that a you must leave. And perhaps for a very small number of them, a return 8 years afterwards to find one's apartment, occupied by people who said, "I heard you were dead."

I didn't want to think about it that way. Göttingen now is a very pleasant and welcoming town -- though there's not a lot to do and see here if you aren't a researcher. The quality and quantity of research at the Max Planck Institute is outstanding; Germany today is a completely different place, a completely different people.

I felt very sad to see how seemingly the synagogue and its monument were so thoroughly forgotten, or at least ignored. A dried-up wreath lay under the main inscription about the community. I went to a flower shop and bought a tiny bouquet to place in the wreath.

            gotting-synagogue6 gotting-synagogue5
Two graffitti not far from the monument suggest that someone is aware of the past, but I have no idea who posted them, and only know that the words in German on the graffiti about not forgiving or forgetting are used in a song with a strong political context. The song appears to have a complicated cultural meaning that I can't understand and might feel even worse if I did. I'm totally over my head in this. Everything I can see about the song is in German. I can't tell if the song is far to the left or far to the right, but I'm pretty sure it's extreme. I also can't read what's written in Hebrew in the other graffiti.

UPDATE: The context of the song is that it's from the anti-fascist left wing politicos in Germany. Our friends who explained it say that a right-wing graffiti in Gottingen would be removed quickly.

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