These questions occupy post-war German society with regard to the Nazi crimes in different ways since the year 1945. Taking the case of the town of Dachau, one can follow and understand the development of public remembrance since the liberation of the concentration camp.
The changes in dealing with the legacy of the "criminal state" at its own front door can be divided into individual periods. They ran, on one hand parallel to the entire development of public confrontation with the Nazi crimes in the Federal Republic of Germany, on the other hand they were quite influenced by local features. The construction of the memorial to the ideas of the international community of the surviving prisoners, by the Free State of Bavaria in 1965 was a milestone that did not find a strong echo neither in the town of Dachau nor beyond. For the survivors, it was scandalous that 20 years must elapse after the liberation before the former prison camp became a memorial. Seen in retrospect, it was the first major concentration camp memorial in the old Federal Republic, that after nearly two decades led to a broad public discussion around places of remembrance of the years 1933-1945.
We gather today at this memorial, which has its origin in a relatively late memorial project, that however, over the years developed an extremely large effect force. 40 years after the liberation of the concentration camp, the skilled work of a student from Gautinger was the reason for the initiative of the establishment of a memorial for the victims of the Dachau death march in the spring of 1945. Then in 1989 the first of now 22 Gauting identical memorials of the sculptor Hubertus von Pilgrim arose along the route of the Dachau prisoners. In addition, the artist created a monument for the Jerusalem Yad Vashem memorial complex, and he left the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, a sculpture on loan for the permanent exhibition, where the silhouettes of the hunted prisoners were differently Arranged. Unfortunately, this plastic, which made an impressive completion of the permanent exhibition, disappeared last year. The announced compensation in the form of a copy of the first Gautinger monument has not yet been installed.
When in 1988, the mayor of Gauting Mr. Ekkehard Knobloch invited all municipalities located along the route of the death march from Dachau to participate in an art competition for a monument, the echo was in many cases reserved or openly negative. If you read today, 25 years later, the various, sometimes appalling rejection reasons of individual communities, it becomes clear how much the public image of this memorial project has changed during the 1990s and in the first decade after 2000. Thanks to a varied civic engagement, private donors and public financial support, the project was carried on continuously and new memorials were established. Of utmost importance for the further development was the tireless support of the survivors of the Kaufering outdoor camp in Israel, and I would like to mention representative Aba Naor, who also helped inaugurate the monument here at Dachau in 2001 and since has borne the annual commemorative events.
In addition to the establishment of additional memorials in these years also the knowledge of the historical facts grew. Historians researched the history of the evacuation of the concentration camps in the contexts of the crimes in the final phase of the Nazi terror regime. In addition recollections of surviving victims , could reveal the terrible experiences of these days to posterity. Days which were dominated by exhaustion, cold, hunger, and fear of death. Here I would like to mention Solly Ganors representative testimony, “Another Life ", which was published in 1997 in paperback and has since found countless readers. Here in Bavaria also for years several action groups organize commemorative marches at various stretches of the march and thus setting an another public sign of remembrance. One can therefore say without false modesty that from the idea to create a memorial for the victims of the Dachau death march a successful, sustainable project has developed
Nevertheless, I'm afraid there is no reason for complacency. When Nazi barbarism ended 68 years ago, the world hoped that the ideology and practice of the Nazi dictatorship would disappear.
After decades of repression and silence, Germany itself became a model country for Vergangenheitsbewältigung However, any explanation and analysis of crimes and any education for tolerance and democratic ideas could not prevent that a sizeable part of society has not been affected and is not affected until today. 80 years after the opening of the concentration camp of Dachau, we live in a country where violence of right-wing extremist background is increasing. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, there are now 225 different extreme right-wing organizations in Germany, in Berlin alone live 5,000 to 6,000 violent right-wing extremists. In November 2011, Germany was startled by the news of a right-wing extremist terrorist cell called NSU National Socialist Underground, which had between 2000 and 2006 in seven German cities killed nine immigrants and a German policeman in cold blood. The public debate about political consequences that might be drawn in particular with regard to the previous failure of judicial and police authorities are now bogged down in wrangling and recriminations. The initially unanimous demand for banning the NPD today is followed and supported only by parts of the political world.
But also a look beyond the borders of our country can not calm down. Anti-Semitism, xenophobia, open violence against Sinti and Roma in many European countries are on the rise. The "That, Never Again, " of the international community of survivors in 1945, seems, given the political reality of 2013, a far cry from the past.
In this context, it should be noted that it is only when remembering and the transmission of the history in memorials have also affected people who are indifferent to the story , they can still exert political influence.
The South African human rights activist Sydney Kentridge recently stated in Munich : ,,of course, there must be certain places and at these places Memorials. The landscape itself eventually swallows all traces of history. On the other hand the Memorials are the representation of all our memories. Memorials are like shopping lists. Once you have the list, you do not have to remember yourself. "1
To prevent this it requires more than a statue and memorial. It needs people who continue to struggle with competence and empathy for the preservation of memory, so that they can contribute and today's barbarism is stopped.
Thank you for your coming and your listening.
Barbara DISTEL Dachau Mai 4 2013.
1 Alex Rühle, Zeugen der Anklage, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 99, 20. April 2013, S. 9.