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Wieneke, Rick - VM - Grady van den Bosch

Rick Wieneke: Fountain of Tears

Seven Words

by Grady van den Bosch

Fountain of Tears is a Holocaust monument originally built in the Southern Israeli town of Arad. The artist who made it, Rick Wieneke, resides there, having arrived in Israel when he was 21 years of age. In Wieneke’s life, his conversion to Jesus and his contact with the Jewish people, including Holocaust victims, came together at the same moment. He was gripped by the fact that the state of Israel was founded only three years after the Holocaust. He stayed to live there permanently. Wieneke saw it as a calling from God to make Fountain of Tears. For this purpose he visited Auschwitz-Birkenau several times and spoke with many Holocaust survivors.

Fountain of Tears is a sculpted dialogue between the suffering of the crucifixion of Jesus and the suffering during the Holocaust. It is a wall of 20 x 4 meter (length x height) consisting of seven panels made of stone, with a relief of the crucified Jesus on each panel. Each relief refers to one of the seven words from the cross of Jesus. The panels are each divided by a stone pillar, consisting of rough-hewn stones, six in total. These form a memorial for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. In front of each relief is a life-size bronze sculpture of a survivor of the Holocaust, head shaved and dressed in the striped clothes of the concentration camps. With their posture and expression they each react to one of the words from the cross of Jesus. From the stones water trickles like tears, water that is channeled to six olive trees, making new life possible there. In Rick’s eyes this refers to God’s compassion on his people after the Holocaust, made concrete in the establishment of the new state of Israel. The trickling water refers to the title of the monument, which in turn goes back to Jeremiah 9:1: “Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eye a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people” (NIV).

With this monument Rick Wieneke wants to pose the question whether there is a relationship between the suffering of Jesus and the suffering in the Holocaust. Is there a correspondence between these two forms of suffering? While he was creating the reliefs of the crucified Christ, he started with a meditation at each word from the cross, in order to discover whether that word contained a relationship with the Holocaust. The monument is intended more as a question than as an answer on this point.

The middle panel has the words from Jesus: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (quoted from Ps. 22:1). Rick spoke with many Holocaust survivors and many of them wondered where God was in the terrors of the camps. This is represented in the bronze figure standing in front of the relief of this word from the cross. In a posture full of despair, he has turned his back to the crucified One. In this way Wieneke connected the words from the cross with various aspects of the Holocaust.

There are two versions of this monument. As mentioned, the first version stands in the town of Arad, Wieneke’s hometown in Israel. Here the stone panels are made from Jerusalem stone (a type of pale limestone, dolomite and dolomitic limestone, common in and around Jerusalem, that have been used in building since ancient times). A second version stands near the entrance of Birkenau, part of the concentration camp Auschwitz. Here the stone panels are made of grey stone from the surroundings, symbolising the ash of the cremated victims. Wieneke was very reticent making the second monument, because he considered the place to belong to the Jews. But when a Polish friend told him that a piece of land had become available, he saw that as a calling. This version stands in a closed building, with an Israeli flag on top. Out of a sense of reverence this building is nowhere advertised. It is up to the passerby to enter the building or not.

Christians, Jews, and Holocaust survivors visit the monument. Usually people are deeply touched, such as the survivors who recognise themselves in the work of the middle word from the cross. “How did you know this?” is often their reaction to Wieneke. In this personal work the artist has brought together his faith in Christ and his compassion for both the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Everyone can have his own thoughts when meditating on it.

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Rick Wieneke: Fountain of Tears, stone, bronze and water, 20 x 4 m. In Arad, Israel (2008) and near Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland (2018). https://fountainoftears.org/ (for more explanations about the seven panels)

Rick Wieneke (1955) was born in Canada and lives in Arad, Israel. After reading the book Exodus by Leon Uris, he became fascinated by the Jewish people and God’s role in the origin of the state of Israel. He went to Israel in 1977 and lived in a kibbutz for seven years. It was there that he came to faith in Christ and started to work as a sculptor. Together with his wife Dafna he finally decided to live as a full-time artist and devote himself completely to sculpture. That is why they left the kibbutz. Rick Wieneke’s work can be found all over the world. His largest work is Fountain of Tears.

Grady van den Bosch is Master of Education in Arts and works from her own business Studio Grady Art & Arteducation as an art and music educator and artist. She is committee member of the Dutch national Platform Kerk & Kunst (Church and Art) and member of the work group of Arsprodeo. For several years she was coordinator of the art committee of the Oosterlichtkerk and the Protestant Congregation in Huizen, NL. Grady van den Bosch is editor at ArtWay.

ArtWay Visual Meditation 10 May 2020