This Virtual Centre of the Persecuted Arts will never be able to be completed as it is a never-ending story. Detailed research has indeed been conducted on the lives of well-known exiles. Yet thousands of poets, journalists, musicians, painters, photographers, film makers, architects, scientists and experts in the field of the humanities as well as sportsmen – all of whom were opponents and victims of dictatorships – have been completely forgotten. Here we would like to focus attention on these individuals of whom we can be proud. They can be held up as an example in an age which lacks exemplariness.
Virtual Centre of Persecuted Arts for the promotion of democratic culture
The aim of the Else Lasker-Schüler-Foundation is the establishment of a real Centre of Persecuted Arts. This is intended to be developed as a centre of documentation and information on topics such as censorship, the proscription and burning of books, the persecution and emigration of writers, artists and other intellecuals in the past as well as today.
The Centre of Persecuted Arts defines itself as a focus of communication where people can come together and exchange ideas. As such a meeting place the Centre provides a location for historical and civic education, a forum for witnesses of the times and (interactive) research in the visual archive.
The common goal of all the activities of the Centre of Persecuted Arts is the promotion of a democratic culture which enhances tolerance and respect for dissenting opinion. The work of the Centre is an active contribution to the fight against violations of human rights, against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia.
It is at present unclear how long the envisaged Centre of Persecuted Arts will remain a vision. Implementation depends on financial imponderables. To prevent this vision remaining purely utopian, i.e. an idea without a real location, it will be located in the worldwide web. The website www.exil-archiv.de will be developed into the virtual location of the real Centre of Persecuted Arts and be linked with it in the future.
As such, it can already perform major tasks of the real Centre of Persecuted Arts set out above. The actual quantitative and qualitative dimensions will in the end depend on the actual funding of the project. The following goals are both desirable and feasible:
www.exil-archiv.de is a centre for discussion and information on seminal topics such as censorship, the banning and burning of books, the persecution and emigration of writers, artists and other intellectuals. The website serves as an online magazine storing scholarly, literary (essays, poetry, short stories, diaries and novels) and journalistic sources which explain the historical background and context and describe present-day cases of censorship and persecution of intellectuals. In this sense www.exil-archiv.de can be built up gradually as a virtual framework for documentation, education, research and journalism.
The following kinds of projects could be published on www.exil-archiv.de:
Portraits of and extracts from the works of writers/ artists/ musicians/ singers/ film makers/ scientists and experts in the field of humanities/ journalists etc. - all being examples of creative individuals who were persecuted in the past or are being hampered today in trying to work in their professions. Reports by victims of persecution in the present-day world.
Interviews with, selections from the work of and recollections of writers in exile on the occasion of the anniversaries their birthdays or deaths. Remembering key dates such as the Nazi seizure of power or the Nazi book burnings.
Background information about countries in which the freedom of expression in particular and human rights in general are infringed.
www.exil-archiv.de provides contributions specially designed for the schools and seeks to promote tolerance and human dignity through remembrance. Young people should be “interactively” involved in designing the website and thus become co-authors. In this way they learn to recognise the structures underlying violence, racism and xenophobia in past and present. A whole range of specially developed teaching units and materials for the schools is already available via www.exil-club.de.
www.exil-archiv.de is open to exile researchers too as a virtual forum. Academic exile research work can be published on the website in order to make it accessible to a wider public. As a prelude to the academic monitoring of the Centre of Persecuted Arts the www.exil-archiv.de has already begun to collate the results of existing exile research on Internet.
www.exil-archiv.de is the field for exploration and experiment of the real Centre. Hence the content and thus the navigation structure of the page is orientated on the conception of the real Centre (cf. Hajo Jahn, ed., “Gewissen gegen Gewalt, Wuppertal 2000, pp. 39-48). Word and picture data banks are to be built up as a virtual archive on persecution, as a contribution to education through the medium of art and culture.
The following resources can be used:
The documentation of the picture collection of Dr. Schneider (the works of German impressionists “ Verfemt, vergessen, wiederentdeckt“) Biographies and extracts from the works of persecuted, exiled or murdered intellectuals Collection of Jürgen Serke.
www.exil-archiv.de also provides information about:
Activities of the Else Lasker-Schüler Foundation as well as of associated institutions (such as the exhibitions of the Museum Baden/Solingen). The Else Lasker-Schüler Forums Prominent public figures who support and cooperate with the Else Lasker-Schüler Foundation Events and current developments.