This year, for the first and only time, 8 May will be celebrated in Berlin as ‘Liberation Day’. This is to mark the 75th anniversary of the official end to the Second World War in Europe.
We, DIE VIELEN NRW (NRW’s THE MANY), find it necessary to confront the effects of Nazism that can still be felt and seen and to regard this day as a warning.
We live at a time when right-wing terror is continually demanding new victims, when many countries are cutting themselves off and invoking nationalistic interests. Nazism was also the product of excessive nationalism. This is why now cross-border solidarity is just as important as exchanging different memorial practices and perspectives on the past and the present.
We, NRW’s THE MANY, join in celebrating the end of the Second World War and the Nazi regime in Germany. However, we do question whether we can and should speak in generalised terms of ‘liberation’ in connection with these celebrations in Germany.
The military surrender of the Wehrmacht is often equated over-hastily with ‘liberation’ from Nazism. The surrender 75 years ago was one condition for confronting the crimes that had been committed. However it was not possible then – and remains so to this day – to speak of society as a whole being ‘liberated’ from Nazi ideology.
This is why we, NRW’s THE MANY, believe how we commemorate this moment is what matters most!
To talk of ‘liberation’ alone establishes a dangerous ‘consensus memory’ that is inclined towards uncritical examination of our own history. This makes it all too easy to draw a line under the Nazi period and to turn a blind eye to the issue of our own responsibilities, then and now. In particular, it was and still is necessary to campaign for the state to recognise the memories of minorities – in many cases justice in a legal sense has not been done.
The last 75 years show that remembering this injustice repeatedly casts new light on the present. Remembrance is important for the present. Right-wing structures and infractions, racism, anti-Semitism and attacks on democracy and the rule of law are reality around the world. In today’s Germany they lead to violent attacks, exclusion and dissociation. A democratic majority must resist this lack of respect for human life.
We therefore want to use 8 May to commemorate the victims and to draw attention to the persistence of radical Nazi ideas in old and new guises. Initiatives by THE MANY will create a vigilant network across Germany in order to preserve freedom in society and in the arts and culture.
Fundamental human rights and the ideals of equality for all cannot be taken for granted even in a democracy. We will stand up together – not only on 8 May – for human rights and against any resurgence of right-wing nationalist ideology.
We say: NEVER AGAIN!
NRW Declaration by DIE VIELEN (The Many)
Together with more than 50 cultural institutions, associations, organisations and independent artists and cultural workers from all over North Rhine-Westphalia, PACT Zollverein is one of the first signatories of the ›NRW-Erklärung der Vielen‹ (NRW Declaration of the Many).
The declaration is an expression of solidarity in art and culture as part of civil society's engagement against right-wing populist and nationalist movements. With this declaration, active members of the NRW cultural landscape and their interest groups are sending out a socio-political signal that engages with our daily practice: We - the undersigned - show a common stance towards tolerance, diversity and respect and commit ourselves to work actively and sustainably towards this goal.
Art creates a space for changing the world
As participants in the cultural sector in Germany we do not consider ourselves to be above or in any way distanced from current developments in this country, in fact we have our feet firmly on the ground, the very ground on which the most terrible crimes in human history were committed in the name of the state. Once before in this country, art was defamed as degenerate and culture was abused for propaganda purposes across the board. Millions of people were murdered or forced into exile, among them many creative people involved in the arts.
Today we perceive art and cultural institutions and facilities as open spaces which belong to “the Many” (Die Vielen). Our society is a pluralist collection of people. Many different interests come together and find themselves in the in-between. Democracy must be re-negotiated every day – but always on one condition: this is about everyone, about every single person as a being of many possibilities!
Right-wing populism, which attacks cultural facilities and institutions as protagonists in this vision of society, is very hostile to the art of the many. Far right-wing groups and parties repeatedly disrupt events, attempt to intervene in the selection of repertoires, polemicize against the freedom of the arts and aim to achieve the re-nationalisation of culture.
Their contemptuous treatment of refugees and exiles, of the dedicated people in the cultural sector, and of all those who think differently clearly reveals how they intend to treat society if the balance of power should ever lean in their favour.
We, the signatories of this declaration, as stakeholders in the arts and cultural facilities, institutions and establishments in NRW, as members of related interest groups, or as members of the independent arts and cultural scenes, are all taking a clear stance to actively resist such efforts by the right-wing etc. as expressed in the following:
The signatories to this declaration from the arts and cultural institutions proactively organise and foster open-minded, informative and critical discourse about right-wing strategies. They formulate and devise this dialogue together with performers, participants and the public, with the clear conviction that the participating institutions, facilities and establishments have a mandate to uphold and continue developing our democratic society.
None of the signatories provide a platform for ethno-nationalistic propaganda.
We reject the illegitimate attempts of right-wing nationalists to instrumentalise cultural events for their own purposes.
We are united in expressing our solidarity with people who are being forced further and further to the edges of our society by extreme right-wing politics.
Racism is something we encounter every day. Right wing extremism is one symptom of racism. This alliance of DIE VIELEN (The Many) does not just want to fight against the symptoms but wants to have a much deeper impact. We will therefore look carefully into our own structures, put them to the test and subject them to renegotiation. We must open up our arts and cultural spaces as well as our society so that we can really become “The Many”!
Solidarity not privileges. This impacts everyone. The arts will always be free!
With this declaration DIE VIELEN NRW want to clearly express their solidarity as part of civil society against right-wing populist and ethno-nationalist movements. People in the arts and cultural sectors are sending out a clear socio-political signal with this declaration which will impact on our daily work. Together, throughout NRW and Germany, this is a declaration that we are standing up for tolerance, diversity and respect.
Declaration by DIE VIELEN NRW – a voluntary commitment
We are approaching the following to become signatories: cultural and/or arts institutions, establishments and facilities, their interest groups or associations as well as freelancers and independent bodies in the arts and cultural sectors.
With their signatures they declare that they are prepared to make the wording of the declaration known within their own organisations or working environments, for example among staff, ensemble members, curators, public audiences and visitors and to enter into discussions about this with them.
The signatories will publish the declaration on their websites and programmes and display it on notices in the foyer and in many other places.
The signatories will be listed and displayed on the homepage www.dievielen.de and the signatories are recommended to post links to this site as well.
The shiny golden rescue blanket, the symbol of DIE VIELEN, should, depending on each organisation’s corporate design, be displayed together with the declaration – whether as a flag, a layout-background, an icon or as lettering with a shiny golden outline (a tool-kit will be provided).
The signatories undertake to prepare informative events, discussions and activities according to the four levels of action as stated in the declaration. Dates and times will be communicated jointly via www.dievielen.de.
In the context of their own public relations work as well as in a central press conference, the declaration will be published, and the start of the campaign will be declared on 9 November 2018. Campaign activities such as raising the golden rescue blankets as “flags” at cultural venues, initial informative events, readings and at many more places and events, will be implemented on their own initiative yet coordinated together.
The campaign for this declaration of DIE VIELEN is of a regional nature and will spread across Germany by means of regional networks connecting participants in the cultural sector in groupings such as with “Declarations of DIE VIELEN in Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, NRW and many more”.
The signatories agree to stay in dialogue with each other by means of regular meetings. They also undertake to look critically into the exclusion mechanisms inherent in their own working environments as well as in the network of DIE VIELEN NRW itself.
The signatories agree to participate actively in a Germany-wide campaign with days of action, discussion forums and a mobilisation day as a “magnificent demonstration of the arts and culture – solidarity not privileges. This impacts everyone. The arts will always be free!” in Berlin in May 2019 (provisionally on Saturday, 18 May 2019).
The signatories undertake to commit themselves to mutual solidarity with cultural institutions, facilities, establishments and protagonists in the arts who are put under pressure through agitation, smear campaigns or abuse.