The “never again!” of the survivors is more than a question of understanding the narratives of victims and perpetrators. It is a lasting challenge to an active “No!” to injustice and human rights violations.
Irmtrud Wojak, the founder of the BUXUS STIFTUNG, was born in the Ruhr region of Germany. Already during her school days she was interested in the causes of social inequality and human rights violations. She wanted to do something about this, studied history and political science at the Ruhr University, became involved in the city partnership of Bochum with Boaco/ Santa Lucia in Nicaragua, where she helped to build an orphanage for children whose parents fell victims to the war of the USA against the this small Central American country. From 1989 onwards, her involvement in the Chile solidarity movement eventually led her to Latin America.
In Nicaragua and Chile, and later in Uruguay and Argentina, Irmtrud Wojak experienced the reality of poverty and violence and learned about the courage of people who, for completely different reasons, had to struggle for their rights and and did just that. During her stay in Latin America, she also wrote her doctoral thesis on the political opponents of the Nazi regime who were strenuously persecuted and the survivors of the Holocaust.
Back in Germany, in the 1990s, she continued her engagement as chairperson of the non-profit organization “Remembering for the Future”, inviting Holocaust survivors from many countries to visit Bochum. In this way, she once again met people who had survived imprisonment in concentration camps and people who were willing to visit the places from which they had been forced to flee, the places where their relatives and friends had been murdered. Where did they get the strength to do this, what was their motivation? Such questions reinforced the historian’s growing unease with an increasingly dominant culture of remembrance that sees survivors merely as victims and suppresses the memory of their resistance from their consciousness. She wondered, what was the point of exploring genocide and motives for mass murder, if the resistance of the victims and survivors is forgotten in the process?
Irmtrud Wojak also experienced firsthand that this side of history is often ignored while working at the “Fritz Bauer Institute. Study and Documentation Center for the History of the Holocaust” in Frankfurt . This despite the fact that the very lawyer for whom the Institute was named, Dr. Fritz Bauer, had fought throughout his life for the idea that wherever human dignity is violated, there exists both a right and even a duty to resist, and that this fact should be recognized. During the 1990s, however, the history of the resistance against the Nazi regime had virtually disappeared from public and political education, apart from martyrs such as Graf von Stauffenberg, the siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, and later Georg Elser, and anti-fascism had even become a taboo term. The commonly accepted view of history consisted only of perpetrators, victims and spectators.
During her time as a staff member at the Fritz Bauer Institute, Irmtrud Wojak curated an exhibition on the Auschwitz trial (2004) and later earned her habilitation at the Leibniz University in Hannover (2008) with a biography of Fritz Bauer. Based on this work and in numerous other academic contributions, Irmtrud Wojak advocated that the point of perspectives of Holocaust survivors and their fight for greater justice should not be forgotten. Whoever violates the dignity of another person, she emphasizes, also violates his or her own human dignity. With this statement the historian positioned herself with respect to the current attitudes of historical review. The “Never again!” of the survivors was more than a call to remember the suffering of others. It is a lasting challenge to an active “No!” to injustice and human rights violations.
After the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen had opened its archives, Irmtrud Wojak became involved there as a historian in 2008 to open the organization for research. After the International Tracing Service opened its archives in Bad Arolsen, Irmtrud Wojak became involved there as a historian in 2008 to open the institution to research. She initiated the establishment of the reference library of the now “Arolsen Archives”.
In 2009 Irmtrud Wojak was appointed founding director of the Munich “NS-Documentation Center” and worked as such until 2011. She conceived the planned center as an open forum for dialogue and human rights education. The history of crimes against humanity and of the victims of the genocide were to be presented, as well as the history of their struggle and resistance to human rights violations. However, this concept also led to disputes with the city of Munich and strengthened her desire to become independent and to actively promote the legacy of Fritz Bauer, independent of the influence of various political interests.
She developed the idea of a Fritz Bauer Library, an interactive research project that documents and tells stories of resistance and survival worldwide. To realize this project, she founded the BUXUS FOUNDATION in 2013. She was supported in these efforts by Irmgard Schmidt and Jens Mittelsten Scheid.
A one-year scholarship at the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University enabled her to test the interactive library in 2014/15. In 2017 the project was awarded an international research seminar at the Radcliffe Institute.
In 2019 the interactive library went online in Bochum.
A suitable property has now been found in Bochum, in a fascinating location, where the BUXUS FOUNDATION is currently working to establish and realize the Fritz Bauer Forum, the Fritz Bauer Library (which, as Irmtrud Wojak says, is “the library with the bravest stories in the world”), the Fritz Bauer Archive, as well as the maintenance of the Fritz Bauer Blog.
According to the vision of Irmtrud Wojak, all of these areas of work will be dedicated to the goal of conveying the courage and strength of survivors and those who have been oppressed, whose resistance has always meant a “struggle for human rights”. The forum is to be a place of protected exchange and encouragement. Through dialogue, art and various forms of media, the courageous, often risky and self-sacrificing “No!” to the injustice in our history and to the human rights violations of our time should be told, researched, strengthened and passed on worldwide.