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Comics for remembrance

The project called “We will call out your name” lets Holocaust victims live on.

© Tobias Dahmen/Avitall - We will call out your name

A short interview with Avitall Gerstetter, initiator of the project and cantor of the Jewish Community of Berlin.

In your remembrance project young people continue the life stories of Holocaust victims in comic-book form. How did you come upon this idea?
Through Shimon Peres, who delivered an address to the Bundestag on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010. He spoke about his grandfather, a rabbi, who was burned to death in the synagogue with his whole community. Peres asked the questions: what would these people want to say to us, and what would they want from us? His answer was that they would ask us to tell their story. How would their lives have run if not for the Shoah? That touched me very deeply and naturally made me very aware of my own family history again: how would the future of my murdered relatives have looked without the Holocaust, where would they have lived, what jobs would they have done?

Why in the form of a comic?
The young generation has hardly any opportunity to meet and talk with survivors. I therefore consider it important to create a bridge to young people. The comic as a medium, these short, clear sentences – that is the language of our time. That’s how the idea came about to develop the graphic novel “Rozsika” together with illustrator Tobi Dahmen and screenwriter Jens R. Nielsen. It begins with an episode about the friendship between Hannah and Rozsika, my great-aunt, and continues in several time frames. In my story, the people survive – they don’t die, as my great-aunt did at the age of seven. As a result, the reader is enabled to examine the past without losing touch with the present. Through a website and a blog, young people can continue to tell other life stories in a similar way – for example, the stories of people from their town who were murdered by the Nazis.

What does International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January mean to you? Do you observe it in a special way?
Last year I helped arrange the commemoration in Berlin Cathedral with my other great-aunt, the sister of Rozsika who died. Before that we went to Auschwitz. I sang prayers in front of the crematorium. That was an important moment for me. 27 January means a lot to me, but I don’t want remembrance to be restricted to a single day. I would like to offer a platform that makes people think all year round.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January