Since 1988 the project group ‚Jewish cemetery‘ had a membership figure of ca. 350 active students from all classes. While some took part for a short time only, others were committed for several years.
The question may emerge what motivates young people to commit themselves voluntarily to a project group that feels responsible to maintain an old Jewish cemetery and dedicates itself to correspond with emigrated Jews from Solingen – tasks which are time-consuming and require a high commitment. Some participants of the project gave the following answers:
Sarah G. (7th grade): I was always interested in the history of Jews and already read a lot of books about it. In the project group I hope to learn more. The other reason is that I like working in the garden and being outdoor.
Tordis M. (7th grade): I’m active in the project group because I want to learn something about the history of Jews. What happened in the past must never happen again.
Daniel C. (10th grade): I am participating in the project because I want to learn about the history and the culture of Jews. Apart from that we are a generation that is obliged to prevent the terrible things that happened to the Jewish people from repeating themselves. Through the exchange program with Israel I learned a lot about the Jewish history.
Henning N. (10th grade): Jewish cemetery: More than dead stones! I was wised up about the Holocaust by my parents when I was a child. I especially remember the book „Rosa Weiss“ and its depressing images. My sister Natascha often told me about the project group which she joined since 8th grade. After a few visits of the cemetery my interest in the history of the Holocaust in Solingen rose, as well as in the history of the people who are buried in the cemetery and whose relatives and friends emigrated to countries all over the world.
The correspondance with former Jewis citizens of Solingen was impressing. From the stories I developed a picture of Solingen that I never knew, an insight in the fate of Jews from Solingen.
The correspondence became vivid through the visit of the correspondents and the journeys to Brussels to Mrs. Schlussel and to London to Mrs. Shindel.
The most terrific experience to me was the exchange program with Israel. From this encounter a friendship with many youths from Ness Ziona arose, so that half a year later I went back to Israel again. That’s why the cemetery is not only a place with grave stones for me, but a place that reminds me of friendship, stories, fates, hard work (especially in the fall when the leaves come down!) and responsibility. I hope that the project group ‚Jewish cemetery‘ will have many supporters and friends in future and will hopefully survive.
Miriam R. (10th grade): I’m very interested in history and I got to know about the project group through reports and my teachers. One saturday when I visited my uncle who lives on Vereins Street, I thought maybe I can take a look at the cemetery. I didn’t know exactly where it was, so I asked some people who passed by and they showed me the way. I do not remember what came to my mind or which expectations I had, but one thing I can say for sure: What I saw was amazing and surprising to me. I stood infront of the gate of the old Jewish cemetery. It was closed. I looked through the bars and saw beautiful old trees and underneath the trees there were these artfully caved gravestones to honor the Jewish people who once lived in Solingen. It was a very special moment for me.
I picked up a stone that lay on the wayside and put it on the star of David that was applied to the cemetery gate. I went home deeply touched and the next day I went to the leader of the project group, Mr. Sandmöller, and told him that I wish to join in.
Meanwhile I am already a member for a year and I love to take care of the old gravestones. One gravestone especially deared to my heart. I don’t know whom it belongs to because it’s weathered and you can’t read the name anymore. Nevertheless I keep on freeing it from moss – now the date of birth of the person is visible again.
Thomas M. (12th grade): The participation in the project group ‚Jewish cemetery‘ shows that I’m interested in the history of German Jewry. When I contribute to maintain the cemetery, I know I am doing something good. Above that I appreciate working with the group.
Simon S. (12th grade): My committment in the project group ‚Jewish cemetery‘ expresses my interest in the history of German Jews and maybe I have an inner feeling of redemption. My correspondence with an expelled Jewish lady and the work at the cemetery helps me to show that we may never forget the Holocaust and have to fight back Anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
Susanne R. (12th grade): End of 1996 I became a member of the project group ‚Jewish cemetery‘. My older sisters already had taken part for some time. Their reports made me curious but I didn’t have a clue when I decided to learn more about the project group. What finally tipped the scales to join was a visit at the Jewish cemetery on Estherweg. Up to then I only knew Christian cemeteries and connected them with unrest and colorful, almost kitschy variety of flowers. I expected Jewish cemeteries to be the same and was amazed to find such a quiet cemetery filled with outstanding sobriety. Deeply touched I stood in the middle of the cemetery and watched a little squirrel climbing up a tree. In this moment I thought this is the most beautiful and peaceful place on earth. I felt a kind of peace like never before and never since. Even when I continued my political and historical studies and learned more about the Holocaust, I never forgot this picture of a peaceful unification of nature and man at the cemetery at Estherweg.
Primarily I connect other images with the project group: my correspondence with Mrs. Shindel from England, the walk of remembrance at the 60th anniversary of the pogrom night, the exchange program with Israel and many more. All these images remind me that ‚Forgetting‘ is the biggest tragedy of mankind.
David K. (7th grade): I am joining the project group ‚Jewish cemetery‘ because I heard a lot about the persecution of Jews and want to learn more. I also enjoy working at the cemetery and it helps to maintain the site.
Sven H. (6th grade): I am member of the project group, because I want to learn more about the life and the history of the Jewish people.
Kassandra W. (6th grade): I like joining the project group because I love gardening and I am fascinated by the cemetery site.
Roger S. (11th grade): I am busy in the project group because I am interested in the life stories of the Jewish community and want to learn more about the history of the Holocaust. I think I can make up for something by maintaining the cemetery and protecting its heritage. Above that I appreciate finding new friends in the project group and gaining experiences in landscape gardening.
Max S. (9th grade): I have tried several project groups with my friend and now I join this group for the second time because I enjoy working outdoor. Besides I learn more about the history of the Jews from Solingen.
Kevin G. (9th grade): I can meet nice people in the project group and learn more about the history of the Jews from Solingen. Furthermore I like working outdoor.
Pascal W. (11th grade): I become involved in the project group ‚Jewish cemetery‘, because I watched the movie ‚The diary of Anne Frank‘ when I was 12 and this experience changed me. Since that moment I am interested in the history of the Jewish people in Germany even more. Although I don’t belong to the generation responsible for the brutal, inexpressibly terrible and diabolic deeds of the Nazis, this deeds happened in the name of Germans. This gives me the motivation to commit myself to the project group and the cemetery, so what happened in Germany may not be forgotten.
Most of all cooperation in the project group does not only mean working at the cemetery, but also getting in touch with survivors and their families. Especially through the school exchange programm of Ness Ziona and Solingen in 2008 I got to know survivors of the Holocaust. Their experiences shocked me, although I read a lot about the topic before and already visited some concentration camps.
I think the project group is very important not to forget what horrible and inhumane things happened in Germany and not let anyone deny that the Holocaust took place.
Annemarie K. (12th grade): My interest in National socialism in Germany aroused rather late. I never dealt with this topic, it was really difficult for me. Maybe I was to immature to deal with the atrocities. Sure you hear a lot about Nazi Germany and all the develish actions, but it was only at the age of 13 or 14 that I really faced up to all of this.
I remember very well when we started a project in the history class of my former school to shed light upon the Nazi time. This project contained several stages, from Hitler’s seizure of power up to the deportations of Jews and their ruthless and horrible annihilation. Never before something touched me so deeply like having to look at these photos of people emaciated or already killed. After I was able to talk to a Holocaust survivor and visited Auschwitz last year, I decided that I want to go on dealing with National socialism.
I already knew that there was a Jewish cemetery in Solingen, but I didn’t know about the possibility for youths to take care of it. After me and my friend learned more about the aims of the project group of the Comprehensive school I wanted to join in. I think it’s great, that the project group maintains the cemetery and does not admit the past to be forgotten.
I also feel much better when I can engage and contribute to something positive.
Tobias L. (7th grade): I am member of the project group because I enjoy it. And I also want the cemetery not to decay but being preserved.
It’s still amazing how it always succeeds to win young students for this exotic project group which demands time and commitment from ist members on top of regular school obligations – an encouraging sign in times when youths are blamed of disinterest and indifference.
The self-chosen slogan of the group goes:
„We will advocate to never again let incomprehension and hate rule our behavior towards our fellow human beings, but understanding and love.“
All former and active students are dued to appreciation and a heartfelt Thank You for their voluntary and in examplary manner accomplished work.