By Rick Wienecke
In 2001, I had a number of encounters with the Lord in which he was showing me that he was going to restore to the Jewish people all that had been taken from them as a result of the Holocaust. I was to create a memorial to the six million Jews who had perished that would be interwoven with the seven last utterances of Jesus from the crucifixion. All the tears and emotions of this scared me, but at the same time, pulled and intrigued me. After much struggle, I began a creative response.
For all the years that Dafna and I have given into sculpting the Fountain of Tears, we have realized that there is a genuine dialogue of suffering between the Holocaust and the Crucifixion. This dialogue is between two personalities; it is not a dialogue of religious symbolism. There are seven panels of crucifixion, but no cross shown. Why no cross?
I have shared with groups that the cross as a visual symbol is much more negative to the Jewish people than the Nazi swastika ever will be. Through European history Christian persecution under the sign of the cross helped create the foundation for the Holocaust. This is a memory cut deeply into the minds of the Jewish people.
One of the strongest comments made by an Israeli woman in seeing the Fountain was, “You have taken the two hardest things in our history and put them at the same table. This is insane.” She then started to call friends and relatives to come and see. The dialogue began to broaden our perspective in a lot of ways we never would have expected.
I felt the Fountain had to focus on the person of Jesus and his last words with a single figure representing a Holocaust survivor, showing his response, his communication. The intense common suffering of both creates an intersection, a place of meeting… a relationship?
Where can this intersection have its beginnings? For this article, let’s focus on the first word that Jesus speaks as he is dying: “Father forgive them they know not what they do.” Besides the Lord himself, does anyone really know the exact order of the seven last words? What would be the most important to Jesus?
In my understanding of the person of Jesus, it would have to be a prayer of forgiveness for his own killers. This is more than a prayer; it is an intercession to Father, pleading for his forgiveness because of the perpetrators’ lack of knowledge. Yet these words are even more. They become the foundation of the New Covenant, a covenant founded firmly on forgiveness.
The covenant demands response: if you are forgiven you must give out freely forgiveness to your perpetrators. This first intersection creates a real dilemma for the Holocaust survivor.
There is a deep understanding for the word “forgiveness” in Jewish thinking, but when it comes to the Holocaust, there is also a deep fear that if I forgive on any level, those that perished will be forgotten. Elie Wiesel in his book Night writes, “To forget would not only be dangerous but offensive: to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
What we have discovered in our journey with the Fountain of Tears is that, at the intersection of the Holocaust and the Crucifixion, there is not always agreement, but there is definitely dialogue.