P R E S S I N F O R M A T I O N
Speech at the 27.1.2019/Opening Jenny Ries Square
Ladies and Gentlemen, friends of Blumenthal, dear guests!
January 27 is a day which took a long time to enter the official canon of
memorial days and holidays.
Only in 1996 it was introduced as a national Memorial Day and, in 2005, proclaimed International Day of Remembrance for all Holocaust Victims.
On this day-so the official formula-we remember the disenfranchised, tortured and murdered by the Nazi regime:
They were the European Jews, Sinti and Roma, Prisoners of war and forced labourers, opponents of military service, homosexuals, political prisoners, sick and disabled people, people of other skin colours and people who gave protection and help to persecuted people and paid for it with their lives.
The horrors the Red Army soldiers encountered in Auschwitz-Birkenau on
27 January 1945 are beyond imagination.
The term ‘liberation’ still makes one very uneasy in the face of smoking chimneys and emaciated prisoners.
Most prisoners and their guards had already vanished.
They were -like many inmates of other concentration camps- on so-called death marches, to deny the approaching allies access to them and to kill them.
January 27th, Ladies and Gentlemen, was only the beginning of the end of horrible tortures.
Jenny Ries, who to remember we gathered here today, had not experienced the last days of war anymore.
In the summer of 1942, she received-like all other Jews still alive in the Hanseatic town and the administrative district of Stade-the request to be ready with the most necessary luggage for transport to Theresienstadt.
None of those written to were allowed to speak about the so-called ‘migration’ or to arouse sympathy in any way.
The Blumenthal woman Jenny Ries was taken out of her Jewish
old people’s home on July 23th and, like most of the other deported, murdered some weeks later in the extermination camp Treblinka.
Jenny Ries was since 1920 the sole owner of the textile store Ries on Lüssumer Street 1, which she and her husband David had opened in 1900.
She was an independent, modern businesswoman, a non-orthodox Jewess, a generous employer, widow and adoptive mother, who had lost two children of their own.
This was perhaps what distinguished her from other Jewish residents in Blumenthal.
Her husband David Ries came from a large Jewish family in Schwanewede, from where the merchant and diplomat Alfred Ries also originated,
the longtime president of Werder Bremen.
After him, who survived the Holocaust, was last year named a square near the Weser Stadium.
The senator for the environment, Lohse, called the new bus terminal a ‘stroke of luck‘ for Blumenthal at its opening in autumn 2017.
The linking of bus and train and a safe transfer from bus to bus have been implemented for the first time.
But the stop ‚Bahnhof Blumenthal‘is far more than just a technical or functional place.
In Blumenthal ‘s history, the space before the Aue bridge had always played an important part, because all important transport links meet and branch there.
A properly designed square had never existed at this location.
Most recently, a tree-covered green space without a name sprawled here, with ‘Sir Charles’ peeking out from the undergrowth.
The popular term ‘Ständer’ merely covered everything that had to do with the old pub ‘Deutsches Haus’, the bus stop and other shops in the immediate vicinity.
The Jenny Ries Square, however, includes today the entire area of the new station forecourt.
This, my ladies and gentlemen, is also a stroke of luck for Blumenthal.
Because which location could be more appropriate to make displaced history visible again and to question fusty old myths?
For many of those persecuted, the memory of the houses around ‘Ständer’ was, after all, the last thing they took with them from Blumenthal.
And among them were not only Jews.
The courageous and liberating vote of the advisory board to concentrate the events of this time in a place name cleared the way for an remembrance project:
Today, we are looking at a newly designed area that shines beyond Blumenthal with its name ‘Jenny Ries-Platz’. (Jenny Ries Square).
The fact that the square signs were smeared with paint makes it clear how important and appropriate this initiative has been and how much work is to be done to counter the current political propaganda from the right.
The memorial culture stays an essential building block that permanently substantiates our democratic constitution.
People who spray the slogan ‚Stop the guilt cult, ‘revile civic engagement for refugees and migrants and always engage in historical revisionism, do not think ahead, but stoke fear and make the hearts narrow. The answer to the question how and with whom we want to live in the future, hopefully remains reserved to a civil society that stands up resolutely for freedom and equality.
In this sense, may Jenny Ries and all other victims of fascist dictatorship always be honoured with memory.
And may this square become a vibrant, safe and happy place, where people of all kinds and origins be able to go their way–without fear.