Ernst-Ludwig Chambré-Stiftung zu Lich
by Klaus Konrad-Leder and Kristine Tromsdorf
The foundation was initiated by Ernst-Ludwig Chambré, a survivor of the Holocaust from Lich (Oberhessen), in 1997. His Sephardic family had been living in Lich since the 18th century, where they ran a shop offering manufactured goods as well as a small private bank.
After the First World War, Ernst-Ludwig, who was born in 1909, and his father Max Chambré, who had served as a front-line soldier, were engaged politically in the “Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold”, a party linked to the Social Democrats.
This resulted in a situation in which the Chambrés (part of the family, along with father and son, mother Emilie and the daughters Henriette and Anne-Marie) became the focus of attention of the NSDAP, which had started agitating in Oberhessen in 1927.
One week after the Reichstag elections in March 1933, the electoral success of the National Socialists in Oberhessen significantly exceeded the national average. A pogrom was started in Lich: SA men from Lich attacked the Jewish families of the town. Men were tortured and Max Chambré’s knee caps were smashed, never again was he able to walk without assistance. His son Ernst Ludwig only escaped the pogrom because he was not in Lich on that particular day.
Ernst-Ludwig Chambré was the only one of the family to survive the Holocaust; his entire family, his parents, his sisters and his two nieces, were murdered in Auschwitz.
In 1987 pupils of the comprehensive school in Lich carried out a research project about the period of National Socialism in their town. It was initiated as a reaction to anti-Semitic defacements found on the walls on a nearby church. In the course of the project a direct contact to Ernst-Ludwig Chambré, who had immigrated to the US, was established, which deepened in the following years. In 1997, half a year after the death of Ernst-Ludwig Chambré, the foundation bearing his name was founded. The objectives and aims of the foundation, which he generously supported, had been defined jointly.
Since then, it is the aim of the foundation to help preserve the memory of Judaism in Hesse and to foster the exploration of conditions under which anti-Semitism and racism arise. In order to do so, the foundation financially supports the Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur of the German department of the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, initiates relevant publications and provides funds for the publishing expenses (2). Moreover, the foundation’s activities lie in the cultural field as well as in educational work within the field of Holocaust Memorial.
In cooperation with the Jugendbildungswerk of Giessen (an institution dedicated to the education of youth in the area of Giessen), the Ernst-Ludwig Chambré-Stiftung offers annual multi-day seminars at the Memorial Places Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
The underlying concept of the offered seminars, addressing young people between 15 and 20 years, is based on the following educational principles:
a. Those wishing to participate should have made a reasoned and voluntary decision.
b. Substantive preparation in the spare-time of the participants (usually at the weekends).
c. Participants should conduct a Journal (see below) and should abide by agreed communication rules.
d. Willingness to participate in a review seminar (product-oriented).
For the following reasons we consider it necessary to request that the participants reasonably and voluntarily decide to take part in a seminar:
We would like to counteract the often-heard complaints of people who feel ‘overfed’ with the subject. Although by now it appears to be evident that those young people complaining about an overload of the topic at school are also the ones, whose knowledge of the Holocaust is rather limited (3), we assume that a program for this target group is not reasonable.
Furthermore, we consider the often-heard complaint that our range of seminars would only address those participants, who ‘simply not require it’ to be irrelevant for two reasons:
This argument seems to be based on the (tacit) acceptance of the assumption that people who have a certain level of education do not need to attend a seminar like this. At the same time it implies that a seminar about this topic would be suitable only for those, who lack the necessary educational background and are therefore susceptible to right-wing extremism and fascism.
We believe that there is no objective evidence of an anti-fascist attitude due to a certain level of education. At the same time, there is little reason to believe that visiting a memorial place could serve as an effective means to prevent latent or manifested right-wing positions.
Our seminars therefore address participants who reject right-wing extremism, anti-Semitism and racism. It is our main goal to encourage the attendants to publicly engage against these positions.
Participants are expected to attend all of the six to eight preparatory seminar sessions, which usually take place at the weekends. For the following reasons we attribute great importance to mandatory attendance: Firstly, it allows attendants to ascertain their motivation to participate – after all the Ernst-Ludwig Chambré-Stiftung covers all expenses of the excursion, except for a token sum. Secondly, our experience has shown that it is crucial that participants gain a comprehensive insight into the historical background of the respective memorial place. This way emotional overburdening is reduced in so far as the attendants are enabled to talk openly about burdensome impressions instead of remaining speechless. Therefore, establishing an open communicative culture characterized by trust is pivotal, especially due to the fact that the participants usually do not know each other well at the beginning of the seminar. During the preparatory sessions communicative rituals, for instance a sharing circle or the personal journal, are implemented. The way these methods are used differs greatly from rituals at school. Within the frame of a sharing circle, participants are expected to express their opinion about materials, for example a film, or, if applicable, to indicate if they feel unable or do not wish to share their thoughts with the others. The personal journal also serves as individual reflection and provides a basis for an open and trustful way of communication. Unlike the procedure in the sharing circle, participants are free to keep their thoughts to themselves or share their entries with the others, although they are expected to explain their reasons. The journals remain the property of the attendants. It is part of the review-seminar, which usually takes place a few weeks after the excursion, to make a mutual decision if the experience shall be processed in the form of a project. There are many possible projects ranging from the organization of a reading to a photographic exhibition. It is the aim of the projects to generate publicity and to share the experience gained with others. Over the years remarkable project ideas have been presented to the public.
(1) For a complete overview of the election results of the NSDAP see: Konrad-Tromsdorf, Klaus: “Jüdisches Leben in Oberhessen“, in: Erwin Leibfried, Sascha Feuchert, William Gilcher and Werner Cohen (ed.): Hilda Stern Cohen: Genagelt ist meine Zunge. Lyrik und Prosa einer Holocaust-Überlebenden. Volume 2 of the Memento-series. Frankfurt a.M.: Bergauf 2003, p. 163. Onlinet: http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/was/pro/cohen/map.htm.
(2) The publication series ‘Memento’ is a collaborative project of the Arbeitsstelle Holocaustliteratur and the Ernst-Ludwig Chambré-Stiftung. Issues published up to now:
Vol. 1: Klaus Konrad-Tromsdorf and Sascha Feuchert (ed.): Silke Berg: “Wenn sich Vergangenes zunehmend mit Nacht bedeckt …”. Bilder vom Ghetto Lodz 1940-1944. Bilder von Orten 1995. Porträts von Juden in Lodz 1995. Frankfurt a.M.: Bergauf Verlag 2000.
Vol. 2: Erwin Leibfried, Jörg Riecke, Sascha Feuchert, William Gilcher, Werner Cohen (ed.): Hilda Stern-Cohen: “Genagelt ist meine Zunge...”. Lyrik und Prosa einer Holocaust-Überlebenden. Frankfurt a.M.: Bergauf 2003.
Vol. 3: Erwin Leibfried, Sascha Feuchert and Klaus Konrad-Leder: Gabriele Reber: “Lasst meine Bilder nicht sterben ...“. Amalie Seckbach. Bruchstücke einer Biographie. Frankfurt a.M.: Bergauf Verlag 2006.
Publications supported financially by the Ernst-Ludwig Chambré-Stiftung (among others):
Oskar Singer. Herren der Welt. Zeitstück in drei Akten. Published with a foreword by Sascha Feuchert. Hamburg: Arbeitsstelle für Exilliteratur 2001.
Sascha Feuchert et al (ed.): Oskar Singer. Im Eilschritt durch den Getto-Tag ...“. Reportagen und Essays aus dem Getto Lodz 1942-1944. Berlin: Philo Verlag 2002.
Sascha Feuchert et al (ed): Letzte Tage. Die Lodzer Getto-Chronik Juni/Juli 1944. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag 2004.
Andrea Löw: Juden im Getto Litzmannstadt. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag 2006.
Sascha Feuchert et al (ed.): Die Chronik des Gettos Lodz/Litzmannstadt. 5 volumes. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag 2007.
(3) Cf. also K. Ahlheim and B. Heger: Die unbequeme Vergangenheit. NS-Vergangenheit, Holocaust und die Schwierigkeiten des Erinnerns. Schwalbach/Taunus: Wochenschau Verlag 2002.
(4) Several photo books, a photographic exhibition entitled ‘Auschwitz’ and several posters are part of the Foundation’s archives. Of course the works produced are available to the participating schools and their students. Several poster series have also been given to local representatives of the Landtag or Bundestag.
Chairman of the foundation: Kristine Tromsdorf
Chairman of the Advisory Board: Staatsminister a.D. Karl Starzacher