A Traveling Tombstone – the sculpture “Tevat Paul” in memory of Paul A. Levine

By Elena Medvedev

A project in collaboration with sculptor Robert Schmidt-Matt and the initiative “Paul A. Levine Library”

A Traveling Tombstone “Tevat Paul“; series: “Zweisam”; Sculptor: Robert Schmidt-Matt. Material: Diabas, 10 x 10 x 12 cm. Engraved: “Responsible irresponsibility – Paul A. Levine”. Photo credits: Ronen Khazin.

We remember with reverence and love.” — Hasia R. Dinner

Introduction

We, the Initiative “Paul A. Levin Library” along with sculptor Robert Schmidt-Matt, are launching the Traveling Tombstone project, a natural stone (Diabas) sculpture commemorating Holocaust historian Paul A. Levine, with his epitaph carved into it:

“Responsible Irresponsibility. Paul A. Levine”

A Traveling Tombstone “Tevat Paul“; Photo credits: Ronen Khazin.

Paul A. Levine was buried in a collective grave—this fact multiplies the sorrow of many people who knew the star historian. At this sorrowful moment, some students, scholars, and friends have been united by the question “why?”. The initiative “Paul A. Levine Library” was born and is since then constantly working on several projects, each of which turns to a memorial to Levine’s name, a memorial of a different kind.

A Traveling Tombstone is both an artistic challenge and a pragmatic attempt to find a solution, after two years of dealing with the thorny question that has surrounded the Holocaust historian who died in 2019: when the place of burial is collective – where, then, is Levine’s own grave?

The burial site for historian Paul A. Levine: a collective grave at the edge of the cemetery road

In the last six years of his life the prominent Holocaust historian Paul A. Levine[1] lived and researched in Berlin. Here, in Berlin, he wanted to be buried and known; Levine wished a tombstone for his last resting place. For an inscription on it he left his wording, an afterglow in the form of the oxymoron “Responsible Irresponsibility” (a rhetorical figure), and this fact was well known to those around him.

But for unknown reasons his wish was denied, and the unimaginable became reality: the Jewish-American-Swedish Holocaust historian was buried in a “collective grave” on the edge of an inner cemetery road. At the same time, his archive was abandoned to fate. This thoughtlessness had irreversible consequences and precluded any possibility of fulfilling Professor Levine’s will to erect a tombstone with his personally prepared words. His idea of an individual tombstone was thus destroyed.

How do we respond to such Irretrievable Destruction? In which culture of remembrance do we find the grounds that make it possible to separate locality?


[1] Dr. Paul A. Levine, the pre-eminent thinker and educator, was a longtime associate professor of Holocaust history and genocide studies in Sweden, Uppsala University. He has lived his final six years as a freelance consulting historian in Berlin, his favorite city. Levine repeatedly emphasized his desire to die and be buried in Berlin – the city that was close to his heart and central to his research; the “Belle & the Beast”, as he called Berlin with love and sympathy. Paul Levine’s numerous publications include the award-winning “Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest; Myth, History and Holocaust” (Levine, 1996) and “Tell Ye Your Children; a book about the Holocaust in Europe 1933-1945” (Bruchfeld, Levine 1998). Levine worked on memoirs in his last years; they would include teachers’ guides on how to think and teach about the Holocaust and genocide in a progressive and humanistic way. See also in: IHRA, In Memory of Holocaust Scholar Paul Levine, 4.11.2019, https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/news-archive/memory-holocaust-scholar-paul-levine.


The answer seemed self-evident – we transform a senseless act into a meaningful memorial: a Traveling Tombstone!

A Traveling Tombstone – the idea

Inspired by Daniel Boyarin from his book “A Traveling Homeland”[2], the answer was found (obvious for a student of Jewish Studies): if a homeland can travel as a concept, then, under certain circumstances, a monument/tombstone could travel as well.

A Traveling Tombstone “Tevat Paul“; series: “Zweisam”; Sculptor: Robert Schmidt-Matt. Material: Diabas,
10 x 10 x 12 cm. Engraved: “Responsible irresponsibility – Paul A. Levine”. Photo credits: Ronen Khazin.

In an attempt to resolve these questions, motivated by fatal thoughtlessness, the Student Initiative Paul A. Levine Library was initiated, saving the historian’s archival materials and his library and taking care of Levine’s memory.

Based on these considerations, but above all to fulfill the last wish of the Jewish-American-Swedish historian, the idea of a Traveling Tombstone was created. On the one hand, the new concept should illuminate the idea of the monument from a different perspective. Moreover, the memory of Paul A. Levine would be carved in stone, as he wished, with his own last words.

The search for a solution brought together the Initiative and Robert Schmidt-Matt, an artist working in Kreuzberg, Berlin. A special detail – the core idea in all his works – is the integrity of the parts and their simultaneous inseparability. His way of dealing with contradiction was highly convincing when his sculptures, full of dialectics, appeared before the observer. Through the inseparability and simultaneous integrity of the opposing parts in the Berlin sculptor’s art, the most important basic law of dialectics, the essence of dialectic contradiction, becomes visible: the unity and the struggle of opposites, which is obviously also hidden in Levine’s message.

A Traveling Tombstone Tevat Paul. Diabas 10 x 10 x 12. Sculptor: Robert Schmidt-Matt.

“Responsible Irresponsibility” is a seemingly irrational message that might want to give us the basic idea about life and history: The history of mankind, like life itself, is anything but rational – both are full of contradictions.


[2] Professor of Talmudic Culture, historian and philosopher of religion Daniel Boyarin argues that Jews carry their homeland with them into the diaspora in the form of textual community built around the study of the Talmud. In: Boyarin, Daniel, A Traveling Homeland, 2015.


Tevat Paul – “Ark Paul”

The sculpture bears the Hebrew name Tevat Paul (תיבת פול – Ark Paul) and is a memorial stone that can be placed anywhere, consisting of two inseparable parts.

A Traveling Tombstone “Tevat Paul“; series: “Zweisam”; Sculptor: Robert Schmidt-Matt. Material: Diabas,
10 x 10 x 12 cm. Engraved: “Responsible irresponsibility – Paul A. Levine”. Photo credits: Ronen Khazin.

In this way, the Jewish culture of remembrance is linked, which enables a separation of location-specificity: indeed, if a homeland can travel as a concept, then a tombstone can, under certain circumstances, also travel.

Dedicated to the Holocaust historian in 2021, Tevat Paul is sculpture No. 5 from the existing series Zweisam by the Berlin artist. It is the first sculpture that opens the proposed new series, Traveling Tombstone, in memory of Paul A. Levine.

Today, the traveling tombstone Tevat Paul is on its way traveling; and it has an interesting route to explore and people to meet.

A Traveling Tombstone Tevat Paul on board. March, 2022.

In the time of global catastrophe, when the humanity in people is in demand in a way it hasn’t been for a long time, we appeal to empathy, solidarity, and activism. Ironically, it is exactly these values ​​ that were the main subject of investigation in studies by Professor Levine, who spend his career and life researching and teaching about individual and social indifference and activism, about empathy, ignorance, and solidarity. And it is precisely these values ​​that have become decisive for Levine`s personal history today, in times of war in Ukraine – the heart of Europe, as well as during these pandemic times that humanity is still going through.

Our goal is to present the Traveling Tombstone, Tevat Paul, as a piece of art and a concept in different places, to visit our partners, to find new friends and further support.

The Initiative Paul A. Levine Library invites you to support the project A Traveling Tombstone.

👉  See also Tevat Paul on travel.

Yours,
Elena Medvedev

Sources:
– IHRA (The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), News, In Memory of Holocaust Scholar Paul Levine, 04.11.2019, https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/news-archive/memory-holocaust-scholar-paul-levine.
– Forum För Levande Historia, Om Detta Må Ni Berätta, https://www.levandehistoria.se/material/om-detta-ma-ni-beratta.
– Levine, Paul A., Burchfield, Stephane, Tell Ye Your Children. A book about the Holocaust in Europe 1933-1945, The Living History Forum, 1998.
– Levine, Paul A. (Editor), The Uppsala Programme for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Uppsala University, 1998-2007, Accomplishments and Goals, The Uppsala University Newsletter, Spring 2007.
– Boyarin, Daniel, A Traveling Homeland, 2015.
*Levine P. A., The Berlin History Education Initiative, Draft Memorandum—February 2018.
– Levine, Paul A., 27.05.2019. From Levine’s correspondence.

👉 For our followers on FB: see regarded posts on
👉 #omdettamåniberätta, & #paullevine.

Read last news about the project “A Traveling Tombstone” dedicated to
the Holocaust historian Paul A. Levine

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