Johannes and his
Memorial Site

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A documentary by Susanne Scheiner
2022 / 66 minutes
Languages: German, Swissgerman, English
Subtitles: English

Content

In 2011 Johannes Czwalina, a business consultant with a big and important clientele, acquires a former railway gatekeeper house; he wants to use it as a guesthouse for his clients and visitors. The house is situated in Riehen, a community of Basel, at the line that leads from Basel to Lörrach and other places in southern Germany. The headquarters of the Czwalina Consulting company is right across the house. When Johannes is going to prepare the house, three elderly men visit him. During World War II they had lived in the house with their parents and regularly they saw a personnel carrier of the Swiss police driving in direction of the German border in Lörrach and being full of people. As children they didn’t know what really happened: Jews who had sought refuge in Switzerland were brought back to Germany and that meant: mostly to death. Later they understood what they had seen and they speak about to Johannes.
Johannes has a deep social conscience; before becoming a business consultant he had worked as a priest and youth worker in Basel. Burdened by the Germans crimes against humanity – he grew up in Berlin – and being aware of Switzerland's behavior during the war, he decides to modify the idea of the guesthouse and to establish a memorial site for Jewish refugees.
The film is a documentation about the establishment and the activities of the memorial site, the only one in Switzerland. It shows how a sensitive single person created the site, despite financial and other personal sacrifices, which neither the state nor other official institutions in Switzerland thought to be necessary.

Premiere (in German language)