Comparative theologian and historian Ruth Lapide was born in a jewish family of Middle Frank in Germany and has her own memories of the Nazi times. She studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She and her husband, the jewish theologian Pinchas Lapide, who died in 1997, have been a byword for the reconciliation between Jews and Christians, and for greater understanding between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel. Here her reactions to some basic questions regarding the memory of the holocaust here in Germany and elsewhere in the world, put to her by Nandini Jaoli of the Hindi Service of the Deutsche Welle.
Holocaust memorial in Berlin
Are the Germans getting weary of the holocaust and its memories? Ruth Lapide will be speaking on this subject in Hennef on January 26, 2006. But she remains cautious:
“I’ll tell you, in my experience I never use the expression ‘the Germans’, or ‘the Indians’ or ‘the Jews’ – never a collective title… There’s in Germany a number of people, especially one author called Martin Walser, who started a number of years ago here a Frankfurter movement ‘enough is enough’… But there’s a great majority of people… who are very keen and eager to educate the future generation in memory so that it (the Holocaust) could not and should not happen again.”
As regards the much-debated holocaust memorial in Berlin, Ruth Lapide has found her own personal meaning:
“In the beginning I thought the museum… of huge stones in the center of Berlin… too vast… I myself and many of my family are victims… In the meantime I mulled it over and I found… the crime at the time was so vast that it is almost impossible to find an expression in… art. I came to appreciate the work of the men who designed this monument… If you go into the monument of the many stones, you just feel – when I was there, it was raining – you feel lost, completely lost, like the people felt in the holocaust, absolutely lost in a vast area of rain and darkness and stones, nobody to speak to only hearts of stone. So now, after a while, you need to think of it, you need to walk there. Then you get a feeling of this monument.”
What about the Iranian president trying to organize a conference about the holocaust? Another provocation, naturally, to which Ruth Lapide replied:
“I’m a historian, I’m teaching history. And this matter is no joke, the holocaust unfortunately has (taken place) and has left its signs… in every family. In my own family some thirty people have been killed and I’m a very lonely person. Unfortunately, this is no question of debating for those who have suffered… And I’ll tell you again, decent people in (this) country and in the world would not discuss such a question.”