Tangible Walls, 1999
Concrete and iron
1,25 x 6,50 x 1 m
Ruhrorter Strasse 11,
Duisburg, Kasslerfeld district
Tangible Walls
Memorial by Gabriella Fekete

Is this how they spent the last moments of their lives?
Was there a chair in front of a Nazi executioner’s desk?
Was there an interrogation?
Or was all that could be heard the victims’ screams and interrogators’ angry barking?

This is all speculation.
Eyewitnesses of the period are getting ever fewer in number – what remains are the irreversible facts. The surnames of the four men found on the first wall of Gabriella Fekete’s memorial.
Next to the names are their dates of birth and death, all having died on the same day near the site of the memorial. The plaque it bears, “Erinnern lehrt Vorbeugen” (Remembrance teaches avoidance), reveals the reason for their violent death. All four were Duisburg trade unionists beaten to death. Their executioners: Nazis, who at the time had only recently come to power and begun to implement the “new order”.

Four victims. Four men in the prime of life. Experienced in life and socially committed. They were political opponents of the new regime, but also fathers, husbands and brothers. Their families and friends were the first to experience the new regime’s potential for violence. And the others? Are the impenetrable walls in front of each chair walls of silence, fear or the indifference of their contemporaries?
Gabriella Fekete uses highly simple means of communication to portray the drama of the individual, his powerlessness in the face of violence. The memorial not only documents the tragic events of 2 May 1933; the sculptor has also succeeded in impressively capturing the atmosphere of the time and linking to it the message that violence can only thrive in cold societies and an indifferent world.

The location of the memorial strengthens this impression. “Tangible Walls” can be found near the historical site, on the pavement of Ruhrorter Strasse, in the middle of urban life with passing pedestrians, trams and cars. Life takes its toll and the people try to get on with everyday life. Like back then. Like today. Like tomorrow?

Gabriella Fekete’s memorial seems to be a microcosm in the cityscape. A sculptural piece of captivating originality that ultimately insistently forces observers to reflect and remember.

Here the sensitive artist, who has been associated with Duisburg for years, seeks to convey that violence and injustice are no historical terms. The memorial dedicated to the four righteous men can also be seen as an appeal to the conscience and commitment of all of us. Here and now.

Anna Tyszecka