“Jüdische Gemeinde Wittlich” (Jewish Community Wittlich)At the beginning there was the irritation: “Why is there such a large Synagogue in this town and hardly anybody tells anything about the history of the Jews?” There was, it is true, the annual vigil on 9 November, but almost nothing was known about the actual people who were being commemorated. Various occasions – among them the commemoration of the Pogrom night 50 years ago – led to a group of people founding the working group “Jewish Community of Wittlich” in 1988.
Above all three basic lines characterise the group's work:
Research into the fate of Jews from Wittlich during the Nazi periodA first result from this work was an exhibition in 1990. The main focus here was to give people their faces and their names back. The fate of the deported and murdered persons, but also of those who had survived became personal. This had consequences. Here room was provided for the people of Wittlich to speak frankly about the events of that time, to find a piece of their own history by photos and names. This was a public stimulus for a process which in the meantime has led to the history of the Jews being understood as part of the town's history. Today, evidence of this is given by the permanent exhibition in the former Synagogue as well as some publications.
Contacts to members of the former Jewish community still aliveAt the commemorative event on 9 November 1988, an open letter was read out to those Jews still alive which was signed by numerous persons. This letter was published during the “development” phase, many former residents of Wittlich answered and contacted the working group. Gradually it was possible to compile an almost complete address list. The efforts by the working group to make a visit possible, were finally successful. In 1991, a visitors' week took place at the invitation of the Town Council. For many people this was the first encounter with the town of their birth for over 50 years, and also the rare opportunity to meet family members and friends from far away. For the working group this week was a highlight of their entire work.
Regular letters from the working group and many personal letter contacts and even visits to some of them in Israel, North America and England contributed to keeping these meetings alive, even among members of the second generation.
Information and educational workThe history of the Jews in Wittlich is nowadays for the most part well known and published today. The task of working “against forgetting” again and again remains. Various events within the framework of adult educational work serve this purpose, dealing with Jews, with their history and also today's Antisemitism. The silent vigil on 9 November on the market place has become a fixed point in the year. Important are guided tours in the former Synagogue, in the Jewish cemetery and in the town itself, above all for children and young people.