Remembering the Holocaust: the 'Shalekhet' Memorial and Viv Fogel's 'Imperfect Beginnings'
The Holocaust is a dark chapter in history that continues to have a profound impact on the Jewish people and the world as a whole. One way in which the memory of the Holocaust is preserved is through memorial installations such as the "Shalekhet" or "Fallen Leaves" exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which was unveiled in 2014.
This installation, created by artist Menashe Kadishman, consists of over 10,000 steel faces etched with the names of Holocaust victims, arranged on the ground in a seemingly endless field. The faces, which are all identical, are meant to represent the anonymity and loss of individual identity that was suffered by the victims of the Holocaust.
The installation has been praised for its powerful and evocative message, and has become a popular destination for visitors to the Jewish Museum in Berlin. However, it has also been the subject of some criticism, with some arguing that the anonymity of the faces detracts from the individual humanity of the victims.
In contrast to the anonymity of the faces in the "Shalekhet" exhibit, Viv Fogel's poem "And I Cannot Walk Over You" from her collection "Imperfect Beginnings" brings a personal and intimate perspective to the Holocaust. The installation allows visitors to walk over it, but the speaker was unable to. Instead, she watched and listened, and poem describes the clattering sound of steel plates beneath the feet of those who did, (these leaves/ clank like steel plates in a breaker’s yard) which is juxtaposed with the image of fallen leaves that should be crisp and rustling underfoot. The steel plates represent the broken and discarded chattels and goods of the Holocaust, while the fallen leaves symbolize the natural cycle of life and death.
The speaker's body remembers the Holocaust, and it is a personal and intimate memory for the speaker. The poem also highlights the other holocausts, other stories, other memories that have been erased and forgotten. The poem is a powerful reminder of the importance of remembering and honouring the individual humanity of the victims of the Holocaust.
It feels important that Viv Fogel's collection ‘Imperfect Beginnings’ exists to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about how to remember and honour the victims of the Holocaust. It is a reminder that there are other stories and memories that have been erased and forgotten.
The collection can be purchased from Fly on the Wall Press here and all good bookshops now.
This blog post was part of the Kenyon Author Services Blog Tour for Imperfect Beginnings.