Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wurzeln 2

It is a Jewish tradition to place a small stone on someone's grave when visiting it. This tradition may have arisen from the fact that graves were once marked with mounds of stones, so leaving a stone continuously maintained the monument of the deceased. It is a way of saying "Here lie the remains of a person worth remembering." It also lets others know that someone came and remembered.

Symbolically, it also suggests The Rock of Israel-- whose love is stronger than death.

In keeping with this tradition, I created a special installation for this exhibit. I laid down 68 tiles – one for each of the Jews from Limburg, my father-in-law's hometown, who perished during the Holocaust. I also put a container with small stones next to the tiles. A chart associating each tile with the name of one of these people was given to each visitor to the exhibit. Visitors were invited to choose a name and leave a stone on that person's tile to honor and remember them.

This simple act proved to be very powerful. By providing a physicalized and highly personalized way for visitors to connect with the grim reality of the Holocaust, the installation transformed vague knowledge about a historical event into an immediate, visceral reality. There were a lot of tears. I think this installation was especially important for Gentile visitors, who may have never had an opportunity to relate to the Holocaust on such an individual level.


  1. Dear Gerda,

    This is a beautiful post. I wish I could see the installation. While it touches me deeply, it also touches me rather personally tonight as I prepare to bury my Father on Thursday. Thank you for this post and the redeeming and revealing art that you create.

    In Shalom,

  2. I lost my father two years ago. No matter how old we are our fathers are still our daddies. Peace.