When the project group was founded three focus areas were set:
- Maintainance work at the cemetery
- Correspondence with emigrated Solingen Jews resp. their descendants
- Examination of the topic ‚Jews and Germany‘
A further focus was added later:
- School partnership and exchange with Junior High School „Menachem Begin” in Ness Ziona, Israel.
The perpetual care still is one of the main tasks of the project group. From March to November the members of the group visit the cemetery week by week to take care of the last resting places of the former Jewish citizens. „By this maintainance work the Jewish cemetery is preserved concretely and visibly for those it belonged to and those it would belong to today if there would have been a German-Jewish continuity”, Prof. Michael Brocke states in his preface to a book about the history of Jewish life in Solingen published in 2000 by the Solinger history workshop.
The consideration not only to establish a relationship to the dead but also to the living, settled another focus of the project group and started an extensive correspondence with emigrated Jews of Solingen and their descendants, „ … so the past did not remain silent at all, but the stones started talking and even made other people start a conversation today.“ (Prof. Brocke)
Members of the project group were or still are in contact with correspondents from New York and Florida (USA), Lisbon (Portugal), Brussels (Belgium), Stockholm (Sweden), London (England), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Kingston (Australia), Rehovot and Ness Ziona (Israel), Munich and Hilden (a neighboring city of Solingen).
In the summer of 1988 everything started with a letter to Mrs. Ilse Shindel née Leven. Numerous letters were to follow. Here are only two quotations from the wide range of letters which meanwhile are filling three document files:
„You gave me back the faith in mankind by these lines.“ (Ilse Shindel, London)
„You are preserving the memory of your late fellow citizens in honour and there is nothing more noble to imagine.“ (Hanna Feist-Wechselblatt, Stockholm)
The first personal contact was established in October 1990: The city of Solingen had invited former Jewish citizens to a week of encounters in Solingen. Further encounters were to follow–in Solingen (Family Reiche, Family Feist-Wechselblatt, Family Feist, Karola Schlussel) as well as in London (Ilse Shindel), in Brussels (Karola Schlussel) and in Israel (Elly Parran).
Jews and Germany
In a third focus the project group is dealing with is the topic of ‚Jews and Germany‘. They are especially looking after the fate of Jews from Solingen.
So they identified the formerly unknown burial plot of the editor Max Leven, who was shot by the Nazis in the course of the pogrom night of 1938. The city of Solingen responded to this discovery by errecting a grave stone. On the graves of those whose relatives were deported and murdered the cemetery office attached little metal plates upon request of the project group to remember and document the fate of the perished ones.
Their names do not remain anonymous, the fact of their violent death is brought round to consciousness again to the visitors – both reminder and remembrance! Hence the Jewish cemetery became an extra-school learning site of Solingen history which leads us to numerous traces of the times of terror during the Holocaust.
This focus of activity becomes more and more important since anti-Semitism and homophobia are growing again.