Dust to light  Press Reports

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- Press release of the Friedensmal Wendepunkt Association -
This article was published in Darmstaedter Echo on September, 27, 2014

Where dust is turned to light

Artist Thomas Zieringer introduces his work at the Martin Buber House in Heppenheim on September 25th, 2014.

Heppenheim/Bensheim  The Friedensmal in Bensheim-Hochstädten will be completed this year, after 16 years of development and construction. The plot measures 3,200 sqm with a design by artist Thomas Zieringer. Together with likeminded people, he founded the Association „Friedensmal Wendepunkt“ in 2001. Heppenheim/Bensheim  

The unusual private initiative has been cause for polarization since its conception; all the same, it seems to resonate positively internationally. The Martin Buber House, seat of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) invited the artist for its September series of lectures. 

The event was reported to have a surprising start. The lecture was given in Heppenheim, in the very house where Jewish religious philosopher Martin Buber lived from 1916 onwards. He fled to Jerusalem with his wife Paula and granddaughter Judith to escape Nazi persecution in 1938. 

Guest Karl Netzer stood up, asked for permission to speak, and the lecturer immediately halted the speech he began only a few moments earlier.

The guest elucidated that his good friend Judith Buber Agassi was born in this very house, after which he walked to the front of the room. Professor Buber Agassi (90) has been an honorary citizen of the City of Heppenheim since 2004, and she felt compelled to support the association Friedensmal Wendepunkt e. V. (Association "Peace Memorial as a turning point"), Netzer continued. 

A joyous message

He continued to hand over his friend’s declaration of membership to the speaker. He introduced the project to her, and she was moved to such an extent that she wanted to join the association. 

Buber Agassi has worked at the Sociology departments of several renowned universities, including which the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt on Main; the same university where her grandfather conducted researched and taught students. The lecturer was incredibly delighted before his address finally commenced. 

What followed was an exciting event on the history of the development and motivation for this project
, that spanned over two-and-a-half hours. The idea was first conceived in 1998. The construction of this peace memorial was initially planned for Berlin; however, it turned out that it could be realized in the Catholic stronghold of the city of Fulda. The Hohmann scandal turned this into an impossibility, continued Thomas Zieringer. The authorities of the Southern-Hessian city of Bensheim ultimately approved the project. 

The speaker continued to explain that the project almost failed at various times; it faced a lot of resistance as well as enthusiastic support.
A campaign for the project even made it to the title pages of internationally renowned Israeli newspapers with the quote “The opposite of the Holocaust is in a sense the idea of Jerusalem”. 

The project was confronted with vandalism and anti-Semitism. Recently, a fully loaded trailer used during construction – too heavy for less than five men to move – was knocked over and rolled down the mountainside, resulting in great material damage. The speaker explained that a German Facebook campaign was sabotaged by anti-Semites and subsequently halted. The same campaign was successfully repeated on Facebook in Israel and the US. More than 10,000 people participated in various discussions within two weeks.

The speaker continued to explain the name "
Yerushalayim" (Jerusalem) on the memorial stone of the Friedensmal at the walking trail. It was deliberatly chosen to highlight an also Jewish root of the European culture. In a similar fashion, the symbolism of the Tree of Life – the central element of the Friedensmal (monument) on the site – reached the German culture through Judaism. The symbolism of the monument represents life and a recognition of the Jewish cultural influences fits this representation seamlessly, as Judaism is in its very nature a religion of life. Not even the German atrocities of the past century managed to change this. 

The connection to Judaism

If Germans were aware of the intrinsic connection between the German culture and Judaism, they would experience a different and more personal sense of cultural loss caused by the Nazi regime, according to Thomas Zieringer. 

memorial stone features the inscription “Yerushalayim” (Hebrew for Jerusalem). The name’s use is metaphorical. The “heavenly Jerusalem” expresses a hope for peace. It does not refer to the world in its current state, but rather encourages people to aspire to it in the way they live, an aspiration that can only come from the heart. As such, the entire monument has been designed to tug at the heartstrings of visitors. 

The claim that “Only remembering doesn’t suffice” draws attention to the interconnectedness of remembering a dark past and signs of hope and new life. Remembering shouldn’t become an end in itself.

The inscription "Where dust turns to light" below the
Jerusalem memorial stone comes from a poem by the Jewish Nobel laureate in literature Nelly Sachs. She survived the Shoah and afterwards expressed herself in the poem “Ihr Zuschauenden” (You Who Watched) as follows: “You who raised no hand in murder, but who did not shake the dust from your yearning. You who halted there, where dust is changed to light.”

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