Kz survivors take part in setting up a Pillar of Shame in Berlin

By Soren Thornye

Peder Soegaard former kz detainee during the Second World War, now takes part in setting up a Pillar of Shame in Berlin together with 1,000 kz survivors from all over the World.

It takes nearly 2,000 hours to put down a dash for every human being who died during Hitler´s holocaust.

Being one of the Danish survivors from German concentration camps during the war Peder Soegaard has now been drawing dashes. The dashes are part of the Pillar of Shame that the Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot is going to put up in Berlin, as soon as possible.

Today Peder Soegaard is 82 years old. “Shortly 83,” he says, but immediately corrects himself, “At my age you cannot take your next birthday for granted.” Being a doctor he knows what this involves, and he looks with no hint of irony at the interviewer who himself pictures him 10 years younger.

During the War Peder Soegaard was a member of the organisation The Danish Students printing the illegal newspaper called Free Denmark. 1943 he was arrested by the Germans and after three months in prison he was sent to the kz-camp of Sachsenhausen near Berlin where he spent the rest of the War. This way he personally experienced Hitler´s extermination camps.

“Crime against humanity has existed as long as men have been seeking power, but the crimes of the nazis are unique. They represent the most sustained industrialization of political crime, man has witnessed. Auschwitz was an industry of murder, and in the other camps a methodical starving and exhaustion of prisoners took place resulting in innumerable deaths.”

Peder Soegaard believes that his survival is solely due to the food parcels he and other detainees re-ceived through Danish Red Cross. Still he was strongly emaciated when Liberation finally occurred.

He believes that we still need to remember the outrageousness of the nazis. To put up a Pillar of Shame in Berlin is a reminder that 10 million people were methodically exterminated. Not only Jews but also Gipsies, homosexuals, Slavs from Eastern Europe, and political opponents in the widest sense.

The state of Germany has now resolved to put up a monument in honour of the many millions of Jews who were murdered by the nazis. And it is very fair to put up such a monument, Peder Soegaard believes. But because the German monument is solely in honour of the Jewish victims, there is a special need for the Pillar of Shame which is put up not only to honour the Jews but also all other groups of people who fell victims of nazi racism.

“Today it has become a thoughtless habit to compare everything with a concentration camp, so there is a need to remember how outrageous it really was,” he says.

His contribution to the Pillar of Shame in Berlin is to put down 10,000 dashes to honour 10,000 dead fellow detainees. The dashes are drawn on a big sheet of paper which subsequently is trans-ferred to a copper plate by photo technique. The plate is signed with Peder Soegaard´s prisoner number from Sachsenhausen.

10,000 dashes are a lot as each is drawn by hand. But Peder Soegaard has spread the task over two days. The sheet is divided into 20 squares with 500 dashed in each. “It takes 5 minutes to fill out a square, and if you make one square at a time and does something else in between you can easily do the job without making your hands sore,” he says.

Totally 1,000 copper plates are going into the monument in Berlin in memory of more than 10 million people who died in Hitler´s extermination programme. That makes a dash for each of the victims.

Peder Soegaard was the first to complete a sheet. When the last sheet is filled out with dashes is not to say yet. Because it is a part of the concept that kz camp survivors from all over the World are going to take part. So far German and Norwegian kz organizations have embraced the idea. Particu-larly the Gipsy organisations in Europe and the USA have been very interested to join what they see as part of rehabilitation of their people.

Many years have passed since the War and the survivors from the camps are falling away because of old age. Among the several hundred surviving Danes from Sachsenhausen only about fifty are left. And only a few are in good health. That is why Peder Soegaard believes that the completion of the sheets would be furthered if some younger people assist with practical tasks like instruction or mailing the awkward to handle sheets.

The Pillar of Shame in Berlin is going to be the fourth that is put up to protest the atrocities against human rights. Previously Pillars of Shame were put up in Hong Kong, in Mexico and in Brazil. The Pillar of Shame being part of this worldwide manifestation is to Peder Soegaard the strength of the concept. Because this way focus is kept on what in his opinion is the main issue, the struggle for the rights of humanity.

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Relevant documents
  • The Pillar of Shame to the  version of this document  
  • PILLAR OF SHAME - A Happening of Remembrance to the  version of this document  to the  version of this document  
  • Short about the Pillar of Shame to the  version of this document  to the  version of this document  to the  version of this document  to the  version of this document  to the  version of this document  to the  version of this document  
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    The Pillar of Shame in Berlin
    Additional Information:
    Categories: The Pillar of Shame in Berlin | 1996-?: The Pillar of Shame
    Sculptures: Civilization, OMEP | Civilization, OMEP | Pillar of Shame | Pillar of Shame
    Type: Documents
    Locations: Berlin, Germany | Berlin, Germany
    Co-operators and Helpers: Individual kz survivors all over the world | Jewish and Roma organisations | KZ memorial museums | KZ survivors organisations