• Jewish memorial in Frankfurt

    The year 1995 was the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and also the 30th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. In that same year, the City Councillors of Frankfurt decided to erect a Jewish memorial.

    For centuries, Frankfurt had been a multi-religious city and a long-standing centre of Jewish tradition. By 1932 it had become home to around 30,000 Jews, but in 1945 there were only 140 left.

    The centre of Jewish life in the city had been the Börneplatz. During 'Kristallnacht' on 9/10 November 1938, the synagogue had been burned to the ground and some of the gravestones in the neighbouring Jewish cemetery had been removed or destroyed. By the end of the war, the Jewish market and the main thoroughfare of the Judengasse had all been destroyed. Only some of the Old Jewish Cemetery remained.

    For many years, as Frankfurt was reconstructed, the continuity and history of the area were ignored, even as diplomatic ties - such as the city partnership between Frankfurt and Tel Aviv from 1980 - were rebuilt.

    When the decision was made to create a memorial to the Jews of Frankfurt, the architects decided to make the cemetery its centrepiece. The cemetery wall would be a documentation of Jewish suffering.

    More than 11,000 individual blocks bearing the names of Frankfurt Jews murdered or driven to death between 1933 and 1945 are integrated into the outside of the cemetery wall. Arranged alphabetically, the blocks show name, date of birth and death, as well as place of deportation. Running in five rows around the circumference of the cemetery wall, the blocks protrude from the surface, thus allowing the placing of a stone of remembrance, according to Jewish custom.

    The cemetery wall is a boundary between those who are laid to rest inside, and those who have no grave. The deported are symbolically 'brought home' – yet are sorrowfully still shut out. The bands of nameblocks are interrupted at the redesigned cemetery gate.The inscription on the gate is 'Bejh Ha'chajim' – 'Place of Life'.

    (photo: part of the Jewish memorial at the Old Cemetery in Frankfurt)

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