Opening of the Tanya Josefowitz exhibition at Norden

Opening of the Tanya Josefowitz exhibition at Norden

On Wednesday, 8th May 2019, the 74th anniversary of VE Day as well as the 70th anniversary of the vote taken by the "Parliamentary Council" that allowed the German Basic Law to be signed on 23rd May 1949, about 35 people attended the opening ceremony of the exhibition "Tanya Josefowitz and Anne Frank at 90. A Life of Resistance" in room F0 of the arts building of Ulrichsgymnasium Norden. The headmaster, Mr. Wolfgang Grätz, spoke briefly on the impossibility of finding words to sum up the horrors committed before and during World War Two. Then Frau Elke Scheiner read three passages chosen from "I Remember" in the translation originally made for the laying of stepping-stones in front of the house in Worms where the Kagan family had lived until February 1938.

Now part of the bilingual book issued by Elsinor Verlag in early May, the three passages were read several times over the next few days in the presence of about 100 students and their teachers. Encouraged by the translator, Frau Scheiner eventually also felt free to add local language colour to the text by using some dialect phrases that Tanya Josefowitz might have heard and used herself when a child in Worms and environs.

It is, of course, impossible to preserve such a tone in English, unless the German word itself is integrated into the English text. Sometimes, you can be assured, this is done by Tanya Josefowitz herself. Basically, however, her memoir has an English text which needs to be turned into a more or less neutral German in the first place. Yet in a public reading or one intended to be recorded for an audio book, things might turn out differently.

After some more short speeches made by teacher Petra Drüke about the association that is going to profit from the sale of the books as well as on the Relais de la Mémoire working party at Ulrichsgymnasium Norden and the recently appointed Anne Frank ambassadors who are preparing an app in German, English and French to guide people through town centre of Norden tracing the Jewish life there, there was another first:

Tanya Josefowitz' video message done in Geneva in April 2019 and based on questions originally asked by students from classes 9b and 10b at Ulrichsgymnasium was first screened in public. It is a moving video lasting about 15 minutes in which the spontaneity and liveliness of Tanya's speech when talking to the camera while holding and stroking her dog made people ponder the scenes of survival drawn in prose in her book yet once more.

In fact, the very same day the idea was born to produce a video with class 9b to respond to Tanya's message. This was done on Friday, 10th May 2019. I don't want to say too much but you can be assured that all people present who had just watched Tanya's video quickly became part of a set with every single speaker making sure that his or her sentence chosen from "I Remember" was said clearly and distinctly - whether in the classroom or in the exhibition or outside in "Fräuleinshof" where three events had taken place in the 1930s that still make it the right place to remember that period: in January 1933, the Norden Nationalsocialists had "celebrated" Hitler's rise to power with a torch-light procession on Fräuleinshof before "burning the books" in early May the same year. And in November 1938, there was another torch-light procession to "celebrate" the burning of the Norden Synagogue.

So you can see that the exhibition "Tanya Josefowitz and Anne Frank at 90. A Life of Resistance" is held in a place where protest against discriminating against minorities is still the order of the day and where young people are now preparing for the return of the Anne Frank travelling exhibition to be opened on 22nd April 2020.

Before "ringing off" for today, let me add not just as an afterthought in line with an Oscar Wilde blog that having watched Tanya's video at least five times now that while we do not have Oscar Wilde's voice to remind us of his presence, we still have his words - either in print or in his own hand - that allow us to think back to the days when he still spoke and used gestures to underline what he said and felt. And the very act of copying out his words, reading them out loud may help us to understand why what he underwent in 1895 is still very much part of our present, just as we realize from the words of the survivors of World War Two how they must suffer every day from the fact only that the memory is still part of their lives.

Have a good week,

I'll be back soon, and you can now find this blog on the net when typing "Jörg W. Rademacher / Tanya Josefowitz"

Jörg W. Rademacher, 14th May 2019

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