12 July 2012
"Here we see that what is terrifying and inconceivable is not the infinite void, but existence." (Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium)
It's difficult to avoid the dead in Prague.
Every place remembers: Slaves were sold at the Týn Courtyard.
There are people who cannot recall their origins.
The Nazis closed the Prague Jewish Museum (established in 1906 to preserve holy objects from Synagogues demolished during Josefov' slum clearances of the turn of the century) on March 15, 1939. Their plan: Create a Central Jewish Museum for the documentation of an extinct race. Their method: Collect objects from Jewish communities from Bohemia and Moravia, catalogue and store them. Exterminate the people. What they accomplished: The world's largest collection of sacred Jewish objects, simultaneously serving as a memorial to seven centuries of oppression.
Every place remembers: Yad Vashem is a memorial for the anti-Jewish Holocaust in Jerusalem.
There are people who cannot recognize their relations.
Yad Vashem memorial has a library (with an online searchable database) that catalogues the names of the more than six million victims from the Shoah period. The library keeps the names of these people, and information about where they lived, where they were born, anything that could be known or remembered about them. The point is to state definitively that they existed, they had lives and they mattered. Those who died were not without names or bodies. They were not a mass to be buried; they were human beings.
Every place remembers: Hwééldih: (Bosque Redondo Reservation) Place created at Fort Sumner, New Mexico to incarcerate the Navajo and Mescalero Apache from 1864-1868.
They say those bought and sold on the Long Walk to Hwééldih leave no trace. Their survival transformed them into shapes left outside of documents and collections. When baptized they were truly born again, outside k'éí. They ceased to be relevant as they lost their name, their origin, and their means of locating themselves among their relations. They exist only in the space between enslavement and extermination, a vestigial organ, a biological degenerate, something or someone that once was but has disappeared, passed away, without a mark or sign. A creature that functioned, once, at an earlier stage in the development of this, our species.