The Location

The monument in memory of Echzell’s victims of the anti-Semitic persecutions was  erected on the church grounds adjacent to the monument for those who died in the World Wars.

On June 3, 2013, the members of the Municipal Council of Echzell voted unanimously in favor of this site, which was recommended by the Research Group.

Speaking for the Research Group, Dr. Jochen Degkwitz explained this choice with these words (slightly abridged):

“A monument naturally needs a location – and just as naturally, this needs to be discussed, because the question of location is anything but trivial: Location is always part of a monument’s message.

Recently my wife and I were in Berlin, not coincidentally on January 27, Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps of Auschwitz, and coincidentally three days before Hitler’s takeover, now 80 years ago.

On a free afternoon, we went to the Holocaust Memorial, which neither of us had experienced “live” and truly wanted to see. And when one is active in a research group that is considering a monument for our murdered Jews of Echzell, a bit of inspiration from the “commemorative culture” of our capital city is very welcome.

This Holocaust Memorial is very impressive and very moving, and with its underground “Place of Information” also very informative – even though it seems odd that only the fate of Jewish families from the occupied territories is portrayed, while German Jews are strangely absent. Thus, we had much to think about after having visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

Why, we asked ourselves, is there a memorial for the Jews of Europe, and why are the German Jews excluded? Why do we have other monuments for the Sinti and Roma, and still others for homosexuals, for the victims of euthanasia, for the “martyrs” of the churches, while the murdered Social Democrats and Communists are only remembered nonspecifically as “Victims of Fascism” or “those who were persecuted under the Nazi regime?”

And where are the monuments for the victims of the bomb attacks in Dresden, Hamburg and Cologne? Are they too not the victims of Nazi injustice, albeit indirectly? And why all over our country are the dead soldiers always neatly separated from all the other war victims, and these once again from the other victims of Nazi injustice, as if this war were not itself the largest crime that Germany committed under the Nazis – and that the Nazis also committed against Germany?

In the Ossenheim Forest stands the large gymnasts’ memorial, which was originally dedicated – completely neutral and free of exclusions, “To our victims 1914-1918, in remembrance.” Long after the end of World War Two a second plaque was added with the text, “To the victims of the World War 1939-1945 in grateful memory.”

Just the world war, not the Nazi regime! The sports clubs in particular, had many Jewish members. But no, not a word in memory of them; just for the dead soldiers, and at that, in gratitude, as if they had given their lives for a good cause.

In short, Berlin showed us that when we’re not careful, our well-meaning remembrance culture, of all things, is in the process of updating the ostracism and categorizing madness of the Nazis. The terror of the Nazi regime was rooted in multifarious, fastidious differentiation between “those” and “us:” Between Jews and Germans, Arians and subhuman people, good Germans and those unfit to live, just to mention a few.

If we aren’t careful, our remembrance culture will actually update elements of Nazi ideology with its own differentiating and categorizing madness. We can’t really want this!

No, we don’t want to perpetuate this kind of distinction, discrimination, and categorizing. Here in Echzell, we want to consciously break this vicious circle that lies at the root of every form of radicalism and extremism. We want to dispense with the humiliating distinction of “them” and “us”, between people who belong here and others who supposedly do not, between the good dead to whom we still must be grateful and those somehow bad dead who embarrass us and whose existence we have denied for the past 70 years.

There is a large memorial in front of the Protestant Church in the middle of town, containing the names of the men from Echzell who lost their lives as soldiers in the 1st and 2nd World Wars. The names of those who had to flee were added, with the rationale that their families would otherwise have no place where they could remember them – a noble gesture, a good gesture – and a gesture precisely in the spirit I am trying to address: Let’s stop distinguishing between “them” and “us,” between your dead and our dead, dead Echzellers and dead family members of those who had to flee – dead Jews and dead soldiers.

We want to erect the memorial for the many other citizens who fell victim to the Nazi regime on the vacant area to the left of this memorial, as a recognizable and intentional addition. This location and this type of addition is intended to emphasize our intent to stop differentiating, to stop discriminating and categorizing.

We also want to stop further discriminating against the Jews by timidly hiding a commemorative plaque somewhere near the Jewish cemetery on the edge of the forest – or somewhere else, as long as it is as far as possible from our warriors’ memorial. No, we also want to stop discriminating against the dead soldiers. In truth, we experience two reflexes: What are the Jews doing next to the memorial for our fallen soldiers? And – It would dishonor the Jews to have them so close to the soldiers.

Both are victims; dead soldiers and dead Jews are both victims of the same criminal, inhuman, murderous Nazi system. Even those who entered the war voluntarily and enthusiastically are victims – first of inhumane teaching and propaganda, and finally, of the war itself. But it would be a terribly unjust assumption to believe that all of them went willingly and gladly into this terrible war and to their terrible deaths. And so ultimately, they too are simply unfortunate, deplorable, lamentable victims.

And all our victims of this horrific time belong together. As children, they went to the same school, they danced and played cards together, they played soccer and ran relay races together. The belonged together in life; it was the Nazis who drove them apart. We cannot, we must not perpetuate their work! For that reason, all victims of the Nazis and the Nazi war also belong together in death – together under the one thought-provoking sentence that is written in large letters on the Echzell monument: We, the dead, admonish.

Here too, there is no difference between these and those victims – together they all admonish us to safeguard peace, to never categorize others, and never to elevate ourselves above other human beings.”