The mass murder of Jewish fellow citizens and the extinction of Jewish culture during the Holocaust has caused huge gaps both in a literal and in a broader sense. One such gap is the site of the former synagogue of the city of Marburg.

The Zettelkasten project by the artists Oliver Gather and Christian Ahlborn is an attempt to infuse this gap with new life by creating a place of remembrance and communication. The art project consists of ten glass cases with quotations, embedded in the ground at the spot where the synagogue’s prayer room used to located.

When we started to think about what the new memorial should look and be like, the first question we asked ourselves was which functions such places could assume and who exactly the people were for whom they should be created in the first place. Is it adequate to deposit some stones or sculptures amid some more or less well-tended greenery? Will yet another “Never again!“ graven in the rock really suffice?

We quickly decided that, especially now that we are fast approaching the point in time when there will be no more contemporary witnesses and all the horrors and crimes of the Shoah will finally turn into “history“, it was necessary and sensible to develop a concept based on the continuation of communcation.

Any culture of remembrance will escape the fate of degenerating into a mere gesture of mourning and dismay only if we will persist in exchanging our views and experiences of what has happened, of how these events have shaped our lives and in what manner they continue to influence our present and future actions and attitudes. The Zettelkästen are one attempt to initiate and to document such a discourse.

The First Group of Quotations in the Zettelkästen

The Zettelkasten project starts out with ten quotations from interviews conducted with surviving former members of the Jewish community of Marburg and their children, i.e. those who have a close biographical association with the synagogue site. In January 2012 we visited them in Israel in order to learn about what it is that links them with Marburg and the former synagogue , what this place means to them today, and what they think important to communicate or convey at this site.

We came away deeply impressed by their hospitality, their cordiality and the personal interest they took in the development of the memorial site at Marburg. Another circumstance which made a lasting impression on us – in view of the suffering they had to pass through, and the harrowing loss of their loved ones and their homes – was to see the tenacity of the ties linking even the second generation to Marburg and to Germany – a bond which consists of a complex blend of mourning, doubts and the awareness that despite their hard-won Israeli identity quite a few roots of their lives are still to be found at Marburg.

The dialogue thus begun will be continued in the years to come. Other people will communicate their views and experiences linked to this place, and the Zettelkästen will then continually be filled with other quotations from new interviews.

The following quotations are displayed in the Zettelkästen in the garden of remembrance.

That was why he would have liked to go back to Marburg. At one time he thought perhaps we could live in Marburg in summer sometime, there the climate is more pleasant, because he suffered very much from the heat here in Israel. But it all turned out different.

There is one word in Hebrew you should put in, and that’s the word: Shalom. Shalom! You spell it in English: S-h-a-l-o-m.
You have one word, you don’t have different kinds of peace. Because peace is peace. Like truth is truth.

In Marburg, what I remember quite clearly: walking down the street… passing the town hall and then the steps, down to the Universitätsstrasse. And then I remember quite well, down the street to the left there used to be the synagogue.

But if you ask me about what I gained for my father was that the behaviour of people who surround you can change. And they can change promptly, and they can change 180 degrees promptly. And then the next conclusion is: you should very carefully try to be strong enough and independent so that it will not happen.

I don’t belong to Germany. In this sense it is not home to me, but still I come from there. Not only do I know Germany well, I know the German language… I know how it works. l. And every day I felt that, that is this ambivalence, those.  On the one hand I feel very close to it, know it, belong, am a part of it. On the other hand I cannot stand it.

In the morning I go out into the street, I intended to go to the police station. I thought the police could help us, but … I’m coming into the street when I am encountering  a Jewish woman and she says to me: Ilse, why are you out at this time? Didn’t you hear that the synagogue’s on fire?  Don’t go anywhere! Go home! So, back home we went, crying, weighed down…

Forgetting should be remembered. Forgetting should be remembered…
When someone forgets something, you can remind him of it.
People have suffered much, and it is hard to forget. People have witnessed terrible things but try to forget them. And some are lucky because their memories are like erased. I know people who say: I don’t remember any more. I ask them: How can you forget that? It probably is a therapeutic device. But not everyone can do that.

I have lived through it, that is why I do not talk about it much.

Now we ask more questions but we don’t have someone to answer us.
Not me for my father not him for his father.

Why did I never learn how to swim? Jews defile a public bath.
I would have liked to learn how to swim. My grandchildren, they are living in Haifa, they go to the beach all the time. I can go into the water only some few steps, getting my feet wet, but not in too deep.

One of the ten


Ilse Feibel

Sarah Gabriely

Eli Gimmon

Zvi Gimmon

Gabriel Goldschmidt

Yoram Jacobson