LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Newton– The Gestapo arrested my father, Benjamin Frostig in the spring of 1938. Born in Boston and living in Newton for the past thirty years as an artist and activist, daughter of a survivor and granddaughter of Holocaust victims, I am embarking on the design of a new Holocaust memorial project, entitled The Vienna Project.
The Vienna Project began in 2004, when I inherited letters written by my grandparents between 1938-1945, to my father living in exile. Making a journey of return to Vienna in 2006 and reclaiming my Austrian citizenship in 2007 soon gave way to developing a relationship with my father’s homeland. The Vienna Project grew out of this process starting in 2009, as a new social action, public memory project. The memorial marks the 75th anniversary year of the “Anschluss,” when racial persecution “officially” began in Austria under Nazi rule. The memorial creates a public vehicle of remembrance that enables individuals, families and communities, descendants of victims, dissidents, perpetrators and bystanders to engage in collective acts of remembrance. Introducing a new arts-infused, participatory model of memorialization, the memorial will be installed in Vienna along the Danube Canal on October 24, 2013, followed by a series of street installations. Video projections on the water will pose the question “What happens when we forget to remember?”
Focused on developing the memorial project to acknowledge the horrific events occurring in Vienna 75 years ago, it was a shock to be confronted with terror at home, on April 15th. Citizen outrage and determination to not succumb to fear, so characteristic of the American spirit when groups of innocent people become targets of aggression, reminds us–the people–of our shared humanity and responsibility to intervene. I was particularly moved by selfless acts of courage and kindness following Monday’s bombings. While the dismissal of the gun reform amendment was a set back, the swelling of generosity that spread throughout this city will inevitably prevail and be reflected in new laws to protect innocent lives.
Countries have unique histories, located within specific historic periods, and one tragedy is not to be conflated with another. Remembering the Holocaust 75 years after the crimes took place is not immediately relevant to the Marathon bombings, however, acts of remembrance that sustain larger ideas about social justice, communicate important lessons about agency. Memory cannot change history. Memory can and does invite individuals and groups to take a stand, to call for justice and to put new terrorists and tyrants, on notice.