The Committee intends to contribute to the Grafeneck Memorial’s goal of being a site for PRAYER and REMEMBRANCE and to provide an APPEAL to humanity and responsibility.” From the outset, this sentence has defined the commitment of the Grafeneck Memorial Committee.
Decades passed before the story of what occurred in Grafeneck in 1940 was again discussed; before the silence surrounding this “non-place” was broken. For many years there was only stillness on this hill between Münsingen and Gomadingen.
For nearly 40 years the murders of handicapped people by the National Socialists at Grafeneck were not spoken of; silence reigned in the region and, far beyond this, there were no words for the horror which had occurred.
Only on the fortieth anniversary of the confiscation of the “Grafeneck Cripple Home” for the “needs of the Reich” did 1,000 people meet on a day of prayer and remembrance and march to the site of the erstwhile destruction of “life not worthy of continued existence”. Wilfried Nill, at them time Protestant minister for the community of Zwiefalten, was, together with the Protestant Youth Council of the Münsingen district and the Samaritan Foundation, Grafeneck, the initiator of this first memorial for the more than 10,000 victims systematically murdered in Grafeneck.
The memorial service held in 1979 was the initial spark for the founding of the Grafeneck Memorial Committee: in the Protestant Youth Council, Münsingen, young people and ministers from the Münsingen Religious District as well as members of the Grafeneck Samaritan Foundation found a common base from which to bring to light this dark chapter of history. In the following years the Committee devoted itself primarily to planning the annual memorial service. However, initial efforts were also undertaken to reconstruct the history of the year 1940 and to recall the events of that year to consciousness.
In constructing the memorial site, the members of the Committee set new tasks for themselves. The memorial site to be developed was to be filled with life and active memorial work. Then as now, the conceptual work was based on three pillars:
With the completion of the memorial site next to the Grafeneck cemetery 1990, the history of this location again returned to the consciousness of an ever increasing public. Four years later the Committee became a registered charitable organization, primarily to better deal with questions concerning the financing of the memorial work. Today, members of the Committee include private individuals, religious communities, as well as institutions from the diocese, Caritas, public and private handicapped care institutions, and centers for psychiatry, primarily from Baden-Wuertemberg and Bavaria.
The memorial work in Grafeneck is financed in part from membership dues but, primarily, by subsidies provides by the State of Baden-Wuertemberg and the Federal Government. However, without the comprehensive support provided by the Samaritan Foundation as the primary provider of handicapped assistance in Grafeneck as well as the owner of the memorial site, Thomas Stöckle could not have been employed in 1996 as the official historian.
Handicapped individuals began returning to the Samaritan Foundation in Grafeneck shortly after the end of the Second World War. Some visitors question the renewal of handicapped work at this “non-place”. Others, however, view the link to the history of the year 1940 to the individuals living there today as an unique opportunity which could not be more significant or more impressive.