A panel discussion entitled Images of Remembrance. (Family) History and Art was held in the Podbielski Contemporary gallery at Koppenplatz 5 in the Mitte district of Berlin on 19th July 2017, with artist Gesche Würfel (Chapel Hill/North Carolina), gallery owner Pierre André Podbielski (Milan/Berlin) and historian and family researcher Dr. Marc Jarzebowski (Berlin). The discussion ascertained the following conclusions:
1. With the passing away of the generations who experienced the Nazi era, and as the period itself recedes into history, the more the role of art comes to the fore in commemorative culture.
2. Analysis of the past needs to take place at the family level as well as at the socio-political level because – as Raul Hilberg put it – “in Germany the history of the Holocaust is family history.”
3. Unlike academic history – ever obliged to remain faithful to its sources – art may concern itself with the past in creative, associative, or provocative ways, employing multi-layered and emotional means to reach its recipients.
4. The increasing historical distance to the National Socialist period provides considerable opportunity for recent art by the third and fourth generations to explore new forms of creative expression.
5. The historical record and eyewitness accounts should nonetheless serve as a corrective, lest the Nazi era become simply a set of motifs to be mined for artistic inspiration, rendering art whose subject is this legacy merely casual.
6. The discussion established that the silence kept on the subject by first and second generations remains a crucial issue in both dealing with the past and in commemorative culture. Neither as judgment, nor as accusation, but rather to better understand the mechanisms that made both Nazi dictatorship and subsequent life possible, along with coping with its trauma.
A 14-minute compilation of the event can be watched here (partly German, partly English; subtitles not yet available):