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Exhibition at Rochester Cathedral remembers Nazi victims

By Nicola Jordan

An exhibition has opened at Rochester Cathedral as part of a worldwide display to remember thousands of people who were killed at the start of Second World War.

The 70,273 Project concerns the period between 1940 and 1941 when that number of people were murdered by the Nazis for being mentally or physically ill.

The Germans deemed them imperfect and unworthy of life under Hitler’s death programme.

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An exhibition has opened at Rochester Cathedral
An exhibition has opened at Rochester Cathedral

The exhibition is the brainchild of American writer and quilter Jeanne Hewell-Chambers who decided that each individual – babies, children, men and women – should have their own embroidered memorial.

Her ambitious plan was to “blanket the world in love”.

Her idea captured the imagination globally and, now in its third year, people from more than 100 countries take part.

An amazing 13,850 exhibits have been collected for the Rochester exhibition, some 20% of the total number.

Indeed, the scale of contributions outgrew the cathedral and there are some quilts on show in the Guildhall Museum.

The Rochester display has been co-ordinated by Lucy Horner, from the Rochester arts gallery Francis Iles, and Medway artist Wendy Daws.

Mrs Horner said: “When I first put out a plea for blocks and commemorations last year, I didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams that we would reach a commemoration of 13,850 lives.

“It is a mass petition for love and humanity being signed in stitches from people all over the world. That’s what I call extraordinary and wonderful.”

She added: “Thank you to everyone who has helped.”

White blocks were sewn into quilts and pelmets at community stitch-ins and get-togethers – the white sheet of paper and two red crosses representing a sinister symbol of a doctor’s evaluation to end a life at the stroke of a pen.

The 24 quilts and 10 pelmets, including two huge altar panels, were hung in the cathedral by head verger Colin Tolhurst and his team, and the exhibition was officially opened on Wednesday by Ms Hewell-Chambers, who is visiting from her home in North Carolina.

It runs until Monday, March 12, and entry is free.

There are similar embroidered hangings on show at the cathedrals in Durham and Lincoln.

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