ZELLA MEHLIS (Germany): Gertrud Schop lights candles arranged in the shape of a cross, with one candle dedicated to each of the more than 8,000 German Covid-19-related victims. The 60-year-old Schop plans to continue the work until a vaccine is available.—AFP
ZELLA MEHLIS (Germany): Gertrud Schop lights candles arranged in the shape of a cross, with one candle dedicated to each of the more than 8,000 German Covid-19-related victims. The 60-year-old Schop plans to continue the work until a vaccine is available.—AFP

ZELLA MEHLIS: As Germany slowly emerges from coronavirus lockdown, one woman is lighting a nightly installation of 8,000 candles in memory of the pandemic dead, determined to continue “until a vaccine is found”.

At dusk each evening, 60-year-old Gertrud Schop makes the rounds of an imposing cross marked out with candles on the grass in Zella-Mehlis, a small town in central Thuringia state. Each of the flickering flames represents one of the 8,000 people who has died in Germany since March.

Beginning early that month, Schop had originally planned to light a white candle for each person infected with the Covid-19 disease, alongside red lights for each who succumbed.

“I wanted to make visible the numbers from the Robert Koch Institute (for disease control),” said Schop, who was also motivated by her Christian faith. “Three numbers on a sheet of paper, a statistic, that doesn’t touch people’s hearts like this installation that grows day by day,” she added.

But as the number of cases quickly surged, reaching 176,000 confirmed infections so far, Schop gave up on the original plan switching instead to commemorating the dead alone.

She plans to continue the installation to keep their memory alive, even as the infection rate has slowed and Germany cautiously returns to everyday life.

Now the country — less hard hit than its European neighbours — has begun loosening the restrictions imposed to control the virus’ spread, although Schop’s determination to continue her memorial is undiminished.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2020