Author Archives: Monica Petzal

A good week

Chris Kirby webNow safely back in Suffolk and reflecting on a tremendous 5 days in Coventry. The launch on Tuesday night at both the Herbert and the cathedral went well. I was not prepared for the lengths to which the Herbert had gone to organise the opening. There was a string quartet, excellent canapés and drink, speeches by Chris Kirby and two others as well as myself, mine basically saying thank you to everyone. Over in the cathedral , a lovely speech by Canon Sarah Hills, whom I have come to know and like a great deal. The following three days I attended Rising 15, a Global Peace Initiative which was fascinating, met many interesting people and heard Emma Sky, Terry Waite and Gordon Brown amongst other speakers. Thursday night a gala dinner in the cathedral. Saturday, a civic dinner with HRH the Duke of Kent, a two minute silence to remember the blitz on Coventry and of course the events in Paris and then the chance to show HRH the work in the cathedral, together with the Dean and the Bishop. Followed by an exquisite performance of the Mozart Vespers and Requiem.Cathedral at its very best on these occasions. This is a very truncated view on what has been an extraordinary week.I was asked by the bishop to stay and participate in the ecumenical remembrance service on Sunday night, a great honour, but I was indeed exhausted and regretfully declined, to go home.

The Installation in the cathedral

This has not been an easy birth. The artwork work started over a year ago and with the facilities offered by Camberwell I started printing in January and continued until July. Designing and building the structures has tested the ingenuity and patience of the carpenters and the architect and getting it there was something else. We had practised putting it together out on the field, so the installation,led by the tremendous Kevin,  with help from three  cathedral people and myself was done in one long day. Installing 6th November Coventry IMG_1507

Stolpersteine stolen and vandalised

On Thursday night the Stolpersteine ‘stumbling stones’ in commemoration of the Family Rickenback were stolen and those of my family, the Isakowitz’s vandalised. Embedded in the pavement next to each other outside what was 44 and 42 Werderstrasse in Dresden Plauen, they were attacked during the night. Dresden was always at the forefront of Nazi, Neo-Nazi and right wing activity and this action tells us it continues, though of course there could be other reasons for this crime? stolpersteine

Stolpersteine / Stumbling Blocks

I have just returned from Dresden where I was for the laying of the Stolpersteine ‘stumbling blocks ‘ for my maternal family.These small 10 cm square concrete blocks, covered with a sheet of brass, which are then inscribed, are permanently laid into the pavement outside what was Werderstrasse 42, their former home which they fled in 1936. My grateful thanks are due to Susanne, Ronny and Claus who devote so much of their time to the Dresden Stolpersteine project.And to the formidable artist Gunter Demnig who in 1992 thought of this unique way of commemorating victims of the Nazi and who has now laid over 50,000 Stolpersteine, which makes the project the worlds largest memorial. See also


me and stiolpersteine for web Stolpersteine for web

Rosh Hashanah and Memory   Wednesday 9th September at 8.30pm

The rabbinic name for the New Year is Yom Hazikaron, the Day of Remembrance. The  Dean of Coventry Cathedral the Very Reverend John Witcombe, and historian Professor David Cesarani OBE, and I will explore the meaning of personal and historical memory and what we can learn as individuals and nations.
Some examples of my project will be on exhibition in the synagogue.Please book online: or email
Masorti members: £5 Non-members: £7
If you would like to attend as my guest please email me and I will put your name on my guest list.

75/70 completed

After many months of printing the work is finished and photographed.None of this would have possible without the amazing generosity of Camberwell School of Art who allowed me complete access two days a week to my/their beloved Litho presses. Particular thanks are due to Simon Burbidge, Paul Atkins, Jo Love and the M.A students who were all supportive and helpful beyond the call of duty. Thanks are also due to Richard E Smith in the photography department who photographed them so immaculately and to Hexio Imaging who massively subsidised my transparencies. To view the prints go to the Images section were you can view them both as towers and individually.

Working towards November

The exhibition at the Herbert Museum and the installation at Coventry Cathedral open on 12th November 2015.I am halfway and perhaps more through the Coventry work, having made all the coloured grounds for the final images to go on top and am half way through the actual images. The great news is that HRH the Duke of Kent has written the forward for the catalogue and that we are full steam ahead fro the Herbert show with talks, lectures and education and outreach work. But all other suggestions gratefully received.
There is a new piece for the Herbert about famous people from Dresden and Coventry and I am still working on the list, again all suggestions gratefully received.

The Dresden Exhibition at the Kreuzkirche , 12/02 -15/02 with images

Kreulirche talk IMG_1104 Kreuzkirche with credit Speech website me n HRHflowers from the mayormidisage websitefamily dinner

This is a brief summary of 11th to 15th February in Dresden.

I flew BA from Heathrow to Berlin, I arrived, and my luggage did not. By the time we got to our lovely hotel opposite the Frauenkirche in Dresden there was no indication that it would. So Chris and I went shopping for everything I required, a challenging and expensive few hours.

The next day started early with a meeting at the Kreuzkirche with the church and friend and artist Terry Duffy and a spot of coffee. Then a quick low key and as ever enjoyable visit to the Grafikwerkstatt to whom the greatest thanks are due. The back to a spot more shopping, as no sign of the suitcase. The afternoon started promptly with a talk in German to the Dresden organisation for Christian – Jewish understanding at the Kreuzkirche. A good attendance and my German in reasonable form, with some helpful interventions by those bi-lingual members of the audience.
Swiftly followed by the arrival of the press and the TV. Then the arrival of a teacher from the Plauen Gymnasium, the school my mother went to,  with some current pupils for a half hour question and answer session.
The ‘midisage’ started at 5.30 pm and the church was very full. I was seated on the front row next to the British ambassador, who then had HRH the Duke of Kent and the Mayor next to him. This was new territory, as new as the clothes I was wearing. First the Vicar of the Kreuzkirche Holger Milkau made thoughtful speech about the work and the exhibition. Then Eveline Eaton Chair of the Dresden Trust spoke about the trust. HRH Duke of Kent then gave the Dresden Trust medal to the Mayor Helma Orosz and Eveline Eaton gave her a symbolic cheque for the next Dresden Trust  project. President of the DT Alan Russell then presented her with his new book on the work of the DT and then the Mayor spoke. The Mayor’s speech quite personal to me and whoever had written it had looked closely at the exhibition. Finally I spoke and my speech is here. The Mayor then presented me with flowers. I then led her, HRH, British ambassador (and translator, who was brilliant) round the exhibition. This was not scripted, but I could not see how else they could see and comprehend even briefly,the work. I did this in a nervous and garbled mixture of German and English. HRH was interested, knowledgeable and responsive, a remarkable man and with tremendous stamina as I was to see over the next few days.

The evening was to continue with a big civic dinner but as I had family and friends there I had declined and we went for a long and enjoyable dinner at the Cosel Palais. At midnight my luggage arrived, mostly ( with immense thanks) due to the ceaseless work of the front desk at the hotel chasing it.

Friday 13th February

A family breakfast followed by a meeting with a Guardian writer journalist at the Kreuzkirche. Late morning reunited with my own clothes I changed for the Dresden City Lunch at our hotel with German President Joachim Gauck, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, HRH, and the Dresden Trust Board at al. Fancy lunch, no speeches and then at 3.15 met up with Chris and others to walk to the Frauenkirche for the Ceremony of Remembrance. Security very tight, invitations and passports required. Great music, address by Archbishop Justin Welby, (the one the Daily Mail and all the English press, quite mistakenly thought was an apology for the bombing of Dresden). Also Mayor Helma Orosz and President Joachim Gauck, both fine speeches. Gauck memorably said, ‘we know who started this murderous war’ The outside, freezing cold but peaceful to big stage and set up on the Neumarkt for more speeches and the direction to join the Menschenkette. This is  the Human Chain that citizens of Dresden form by holding hands around the entire city on the 13th February at 18.00 for ten minutes to symbolise peace, tolerance and a united city. We joined it at the new synagogue having met up with Rabbi Alexander Nachma and synagogue director Dr Nora Goldenbogen. Then on (with a brief interlude for a bowl of soup provided by the city) to the opening of the ‘breathing’ light installation by American artist Stuart Williams at the Hofkirche.

Another literal draw for breath and the addition of some much needed layers of clothing and back to the Kreuzkirche for the Ecumenical service. Again fantastic music, much more contemporary than the Frauenkirche. Considerable number of moving contributions including Dean John Witcombe and Bishop Dr Christopher Cocksworth both of Coventry. We have seen a lot of the Coventry group including the Mayor as they are staying in our hotel. Then a late dinner with our friends and bed after midnight.

Saturday 14th February.

Not too early a start, another mega German breakfast which involves mostly deciding what not to eat. Downstairs at 10.30 for the walk to the Semper Opera for the ceremony of the Dresden Prize 2015 to be awarded to HRH the Duke of Kent. Long ceremony of speeches, films and terrific music.  Speeches by the head of the Semper Opera, a couple of government and state ministers and HRH who did brilliantly both in German and English. Ended up with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (much to Chris’s delight) who were tremendous and had the whole place on their feet clapping.

Followed by another intimate lunch with HRH, the Mayor, Justin Welby and al. Seated between Bishop Christopher of Coventry and Nick Marden HRH’s  private Secretary, both completely delightful and interesting, an eye opening experience. Talk about moving between worlds.

Afternoon off from civic duties and a visit to the astonishing Panometer which I have written about before. I then had a pre-dinner meeting with Hermann Lappe, a fascinating man who was the head of the Jewish community in Dresden, instrumental in the building of the new synagogue and now an educator on German Jewish history. Then we (Chris and I, my brother Peter and our friends) were all very generously invited to dinner by Bishop Christopher, again at the Cosel Palais together with Bishop Boll of the Frauenkirche, Justin Welby and his fascinating trouble-shooter David Porter, John Witcombe and other vicars from the Frauenkirche. What a fascinating evening, with Bishop Christopher adroitly swapping us between table so we got to talk to a variety of people including Justin Welby who was I think in fine form, certainly very talkative. Again a late night.

Sunday 15th February

Packed up ready to leave and then to the Frauenkirche sitting high up in the 2nd tier gallery with a great view and acoustics. Again contributions from John Witcombe and Bishop Christopher and major address by Justin Welby in English. After that a lunch in the reliable Augustine Keller with our friends, my brother and Terry Duffy who has been such an asset and fun on this visit. His new work the Coventry Dresden Cope is hanging above the later in the Kreuzkirche.

Then to the train for Berlin and time to draw breathe again.