Holocaust memorial projects clash in Munich

Respet and Remember Europe has the support of a number of leading public and academic figures in Germany.

CHARLOTTE KNOBLOCH. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
BERLIN – The city of Munich’s cultural department is under fire because of the lack of transparency regarding its search to award a contract for a Holocaust memorial in the Bavarian capital.
The newly founded association “Respect and Remember Europe” announced its formation on Friday in Munich, as well as its call for an open competition to select a“smart and dignified remembrance concept“ to commemorate the victims of the Shoah.
Respect and Remember Europe is the brainchild of the Munich-based photographer Gabriella Meros. The NGO seeks to also open the city award process to international artists.
Meros, a German Jew, is a sharp critic of the “stumbling block“ project for Holocaust memorial that has a widespread presence across German cities and towns. She is also an international photographer who works in Tel Aviv.
Meros secured the support for her project on Friday from Charlotte Knobloch, the head of Munichs’s Jewish community.
Knobloch and Meros reject the“stumbling block“ memorial because they view it as denigrating the victims.
The “Stolpersteine” (a brass plaque which names the Holocaust victim) is embedded into sidewalks and streets. In late July, the Munich city council voted to ban the so-called “stumbling block” memorials.
Charlotte Knobloch, the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said it is “intolerable” for passers-by to step on the names of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. There are efforts to implement the “stumbling block“ project in Munich.
There are nearly 50,000 stumbling blocks across 1,100 locations in Germany. Hamburg has more than 4,700 and Berlin has 6,000 blocks.
Munich‘s city’s cultural commissioner Hans-Georg Küppers, according to the NGO Respect and Remember Europe, has shrouded the contractual process to select an artist to commemorate the former homes of victims of the Holocaust with names in secrecy.
Küppers faced a storm of criticism for granting municipal space to a pro-boycott Israel lecture in November. In The Los Angeles Jewish Journal, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Dr. Harold Brackman, a consultant to the center, wrote an op-ed titled:“Munich marks this Kristallnacht by making room for boycotters of the Jewish state.”
The Wiesenthal Center included the city of Munich in the “dishonorable” category of its top 10 worst global anti-Semitic/ anti-Israel incidents for 2015. The center justified the inclusion, because the City of Munich allowed“an anti-Israel BDS event on the anniversary of Kristallnacht – the 1938 Nazi pogroms that torched German synagogues and left at least 91 Jews dead and tens of thousands in concentration camps.
Community leader Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor, protested: “The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement disguises the socially unacceptable [Holocaust era] ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’ as a modernized form of Nazi jargon by demanding, ‘Don’t buy from the Jewish state.’” Respect and Remember Europe stressed the need for a modernized form of Holocaust memory that will reach new generations.
“We are experiencing daily how radicalization, hate and contempt for humanity is possible, although we thought that after Auschwitz, anti-Semitism, racism and every form of group hatred no longer would be part of daily life,” the group said in its statement to the media.
Respet and Remember Europe has the support of a number of leading public and academic figures in Germany.
“For my 13 family members who died during the Holocaust, I will not accept stumbling blocks,” said Romani Rose, the head of the association for German Sinta and Roma. Rose supports Meros’s concept.
The former social democratic MP Gert Weisskirchen, an expert in European anti-Semitism, appeared with Meros at the press conference to express his advocacy of the project.
Religion professor Dr. Karl E. Grözinger is also a supporter of Respect and Remember Europe.