We moved house…. The kids have started school….. My life begins anew….. And I have no idea where to start, with everything I want to do. My hands are itching to create, something, anything. Last night I spoke for the very first time with the quite wonderful, powerfully passionate peach of a lady that is my very darling Jeanne. If I must, I will share her with you too – OUR darling Jeanne. This is the woman who, almost on a whim, created a lifetime’s work for herself as a result of watching a documentary about the T4 program in Nazi Germany which authorised the extermination of 70,273 mentally or physically disabled men, women and children who were judged by official doctors to be unworthy of life.
This officially sanctioned, secret programme of murder took place during a very specific period of time prior to the events of the Holocaust, when the remit grew to include the extermination of every non-desirable element or as we prefer to call them, ‘human beings’. During this specific window of time, between January 1940 and August 1941, doctors in mental institutions across Germany were required to submit the medical records of all those in their care so that a decision could be made as to whether each person deserved to live or was perhaps an unnecessary burden to society. Two doctors were required to read these records and make their judgement by each marking the papers with a single red cross. Once two red crosses were placed on the file, that person was singled out from the institution where they were cared for and killed, first of all by lethal injection and then, as that became too expensive or time-consuming, with gas. Each person’s medical records were examined so that a plausible and convincing cause of death could be sent to the victim’s family in order to not arouse suspicions.
This initial killing program specifically targeting the disabled and mentally ill was officially brought to a halt in 1941, but in fact the exterminations continued and eventually culminated in the deaths of 11 million people during the Holocaust, 1.1 million being children and 6 million Jews. The total figures also include groups targeted by the Nazis such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and Roma.
Jeanne launched The 70273 Project on 14th February 2016 with the intention of making a white quilt block with two red crosses on it, symbolising those marked-for-death records, for each and every one of those victims, and we are now hoping to achieve this within the same timeframe that the Nazis completed their task – just eighteen months. Needless to say, she’s going to need a little help with this gargantuan task. So the word has been spread – around the world! – and a wonderful number of hands have already created over 3,000 fabric blocks which in turn will each be pieced together to eventually create over 1,000 complete quilts to represent these lives destroyed so quickly and callously. Seven of these quilts are already nearing completion, and the first to be completed has already been exhibited in the Cashiers Library in North Carolina USA, where Jeanne lives (not in the library itself, you understand).
With the help of the wonderful Katell on hand to help with translation, I have now set up a sister group to the main 70273 Project Page on Facebook to accommodate the growing numbers in France who have stepped up to lend a hand. The francophone group page can be found here. If you are inspired to get involved, head on over to Jeanne’s blog ‘The Barefoot Heart’ where you can find all the information you need to get going.
And I was thinking… now I have all this free time, why don’t I start a little 70273 Project to run alongside Jeanne’s vision? So I began today, with my very own, one-woman 70,273 Artworks project. In keeping with my natural proclivity towards re-using and recycling as much as possible, I will endeavour to photograph, paint or collage 70,273 blocks of my own – in any size and in any media at all. I’m not a big fan of rules, so the only one I am going to keep to for creating these artworks is that none of the elements involved will be purchased specifically for use in the project except paint, pens and ink. I have started today with the first five, all composed with what leapt into my hands in the kitchen – ketchup, flowers, purse, tomatoes. Progress will be posted here and on my own Facebook page. PLEASE NOTE: this project is not in any way intended to be included or seen as a part of The 70273 Project itself, which is an entirely separate quilt project. This is just a little something to keep this little woman busy at home 🙂
…See how often I have unintentionally mentioned ‘hands’ in this post? With so many people holding hands across the world through their collaboration in Jeanne’s project we can, one by one and all together, use our work to have these forgotten voices heard and in doing so, make sure that this particularly shameful episode in human history does not come around again.