Memorial chapel
The Book of Names
Alphabet Garden
Alphabet Garden

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The Alphabet Garden

In 1990, a memorial was constructed at Grafeneck to comemmorate the 10,654 people killed by the National Socialst Regime. The memorial includes a book that will eventually identify all who perished at Grafeneck. The book is on permanent display at the memorial site.

But how can be acknowledged the victims hoe remain nameless, no matter if they are christians, jewish, atheists...? The Memorial Committee asked Diane Samuels, an American artist, to consider about it. Could one project meet all of these needs?
Diane Samuels proposed a memorial "Alphabet Garden." Her inspiration came from an old Jewish folk tale in which a scholar is allowed to meet his heavenly study partner already in this life. The man lives in a distant village in a shack and has neither books nor commentaries. "How can you pray when you have no books?" the scholar asks. "I have no books because I cannot read or write," the man replies, "but I can recite the alphabet. I ask God to take my letters and form them into prayers."

The Alphabet Garden at Grafeneck re-creates this folk tale on a small plot adjacent to the existing memorial. The Grafeneck Memorial site is surrounded by a meadow-woodland environment, so a formal, high-maintenance garden is neither practical nor aesthetically compatible. So the garden is planted with ground cover and bulbs that will naturalize, giving the Alphabet Garden a rough, natural look. The changing seasons will provide different colored surroundings for the letters.
Set in the ground are twenty-six small, square, granite stones, each bearing a letter of the Roman alphabet. The stone and letters are similar much larger stones in the adjacent Grafeneck cemetry. Since every name in languages using the Roman alphabet is a combination of these twenty-six letters, the Alphabet Garden expresses the Grafeneck memorial goal of remembering all 10,654 victims, the ones known by name and the unknown. The granite letters are level with the ground and set in concrete foundations. They are secure enough to withstand the seasons, or be walked on or mowed over without damage.

The Alphabet Garden was built in August, 1998 by members of the Grafeneck Memorial Committee and volunteers from the region.

Each letter of the alphabet, like the name of each victim at Grafeneck, has great importance. There are stories of men who spend their entire lives counting the letters in the Torah to make sure that all the letters are present. Not one can be missing because each letter is precious and powerful.

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