The "Sixteen Objects" Exhibition now displayed in the Bundestag
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25 January 2023
This week, in advance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday (27 January), Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan traveled to Germany for the first time ever to open a new Yad Vashem exhibition in the Bundestag entitled "Sixteen Objects." Initiated by the German Society for Yad Vashem (Freundeskreis) to mark Yad Vashem's seventieth anniversary, the exhibition features unique Holocaust-era items, one from each of the Federal States of Germany, whose stories are intertwined with individual Jews hailing from across Germany.
“These objects testify to a human and cultural wealth that Germans systematically destroyed," said President Bas at the opening event. "They symbolize the irretrievable loss that the Holocaust, a crime against humanity, means for all of us. They stand for gaps that can never be closed – for millions of Jewish children, women and men who are missing from our society."
Dayan presented a replica of the Diary of Ester Goldstein to Bundestag President Bas, and thanked her as well as Yad Vashem's supporters and friends, who made the display of the unique exhibition possible.
"In a reality of rising antisemitism and Holocaust distortion, with fewer Shoah survivors alive every day, these outstanding items have a vital story to tell – around the world, and especially in Germany, where alarming and hateful expressions of antisemitism have increased in recent years… that German leaders are trying to address," said Dayan. "They are themselves witnesses to the annals of the Shoah and its aftermath. These artifacts' messages resonate in the hearts and minds of anyone, of any nationality or faith, who cares about truth and morality."
During his historic visit, Dayan met several high-ranking German officials, including Federal President H.E. Mr. Frank Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor H.E. Mr. Olaf Scholz, Federal Minister of Finance Christian Lindner, Federal Minister of the Interior and Community Nancy Faeser Leader of the Opposition Joachim-Friedrich Martin Josef Merz and Minister of State in the Foreign Office Tobias Lindner, as well as German-Jewish community leaders. During their meeting, the Yad Vashem Chairman presented Chancellor Scholz with a replica of Felix Nussbaum's painting "Camp Synagogue, 1941" and to the other ministers he gave a copy of the new catalogue of the artifacts rescued from Jewish houses of prayer across Europe now displayed in the Yad Vashem Synagogue.
As Chairman of Yad Vashem, Dayan commented that while he had previously avoided visiting Germany out of respect to the victims of German's Nazi past, today he stood on German soil, because remembrance matters. And Holocaust remembrance matters very much, in particular to my nation and – in a vastly different way – to your nation as well." Also present at the exhibition's opening were German lawmakers, German-Jewish community leaders, and Israel's Ambassador to Germany H.E. Mr. Ron Prosor.
“For the first time in the history of Yad Vashem, a large selection of items from its Artifacts Collection is being shown in Germany," said Ambassador Prosor. "The sixteen objects on display symbolize the countless Jewish lives and communities destroyed in the Shoah.”
The exhibition features archival items from Yad Vashem's Collections juxtaposed with contemporary photos of the places from where they originally came. Holocaust survivor Lore Mayerfeld (Stern), whose doll appears in the exhibition, came from Israel especially for the opening. She explained how important it was for her and her family that she embarked on this journey with her doll, Inge.
Chairman of the German Friends of Yad Vashem Kai Diekmann spoke about the need to find new ways of remembering:
"At a time when fewer and fewer firsthand witnesses can tell of their horrific experiences, the memorabilia and documents kept at Yad Vashem today become the contemporary witnesses."
"We hope that the objects will spark interest and a new way of grappling with Holocaust remembrance as they bridge time and space between the events of the past and society today," said Director of Yad Vashem's Artifacts Department Michael Tal, who curated the exhibition together with German Society Executive Director Ruth Ur.
"The exhibition symbolizes what is particularly important to us: promoting a lively culture of remembrance and communicating the Holocaust in contemporary language."
The exhibition will be on display in the Paul-Löbe-Haus of the Bundestag for four weeks, and then travel to Essen to be exhibited at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Zollverein before returning home to Israel.
During his short time in Germany, Dayan also paid his respects to the victims of the Holocaust by visiting Germany's central Holocaust monument, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. There, he toured the exhibition pavilion and laid a wreath in memory of the Holocaust victims. In addition, Dayan visited the Jewish Museum Berlin.
From Germany, Dayan flew into New York to unveil the new "Book of Names of Holocaust Victims" at the UN Headquarters.