Sunday, 19 April 2009

In 1800 the Remuh Cemetery, which was first established in 1535 beside the Remuh Synagogue in the historic Kazimierz district of Krakow, was closed and the New Jewish Cemetery was built on Miodowa. During the Second World War both cemeteries were desecrated by the German National Socialists. As was common in these instances, the cemetery's gravestones were either sold or used as building material. Many tombstones were used to make pavements, either as broken fragments or simply lain whole upon compacted earth.

Throughout Poland, following the Second World War, the origins of headstones discovered in use as paving slabs were traced and the stones returned to the cemetery from which they were taken. Both The New Jewish Cemetery and Remuh also have fragments of shattered headstones which, unable to be restored, were placed into their boundary walls.

A dominating feature of the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal in Berlin is its iconic granite narrative stones, set around the memorial in lines, each depicting scenes from the Battle of Berlin. The granite used to make these ten foot wide tablets was taken directly from the German Chancellery following the Nazi surrender.

Reclamation, it appears, is the hallmark of cultural grief.

Nazi Germany removed material from graveyards in a deconstruction both symbolic and practical, before the entire process was then reversed following the war. To write of a history repeated - why must this be done? Through coincidence, we bring things to bear, the aperture of writing becomes a causal link between two locative instances. We, unwittingly, force these places into an interdependent co-existence, ridiculing known geographies, as if we were a child with a scalpel and an atlas, gently outlining dislocated towns with our blade before lifting them and placing them alongside each other on a new, white sheet of paper.

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