plötzensee diptych

A window of culprits and victims

by Jürgen Springer
in the weekly journal CHRIST IN DER GEGENWART (No. 43/2011, Freiburg i. Br., Germany,

This work, which was presented to Pope Benedict XVI at a service held in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, follows the tradition of the Berlin Christians, which is also expressed in the Maria Regina Martyrum Church, or in the “Plötzensee Dance of Death” by Alfred Hrdlicka.
The artist Diana Obinja has created an altarpiece in memory of the victims of Nazi terror in Berlin-Plötzensee. Between 1933 and the end of the Second World War, 2,891 people were executed there.

An original window frame from the stairwell of the Berlin-Plötzensee Prison gives the artwork its form as a diptych &em; a two-panelled altarpiece. During the refurbishment of the prison in 2010, metal window frames dating from the 19th century were replaced. The Catholic chaplain Thomas Marin rescued one of these from House 1, where the former condemned cells were located, and offered it to Diana Obinja. The idea for the altarpiece came like a godsend, she explained.
Diana Obinja, who was born in Odessa, has recently also designed an evangeliary, a liturgical book of gospel texts, for the Diocese of Essen, and is also known for her video works, drawings and sculptural projects. At first she drew with chalk on hand-made paper with chalk and pigment to create the shadowy outlines of the menace of this place. Then she made a digital copy and entered the names of the victims and the Nazi culprits. The result was then transferred to acrylic glass and fitted in the window frame. Only some of the names are clearly legible, for example members of the resistance such as Helmut James Graf von Moltke or Alfred Delp. An excerpt is added from a farewell letter from Peter Graf York von Wartenburg to his wife. The names of Nazi culprits are engraved on the left-hand pane. On the right is the seemingly endless sequence of the tormented and killed, their names, dates of death and what they were condemned for, ascending like a ladder heavenwards – beyond the triple cross formed by the window frame and on to eternity.

Acrylic glass membrane with digital print, 80 cm x 100 cm, 2011