What do you do with a gun that symbolizes hatred and genocide? This was the dilemma of Jerry Chojnaki. This particular gun was a Walther, used by Nazi’s during WWII. Jerry’s father was a U.S. soldier in Germany. At the end of the war, he obtained the gun as a souvenir. Decades later, he gave it to his son. At first, Jerry put the gun in a safe and thought little of it. Later, when he removed the gun from the safe, it felt very heavy to him, a heaviness due to what the gun represented.
His first thought was, “How many people were killed by this gun?” He felt immense discomfort and questioned what he should do with the gun. He could have sold it as it was worth quite a lot, though, he did not feel comfortable with that. Morally, he felt the only thing to do was to destroy it. So, he took a hammer and screwdriver and pounded away at it for two hours until it was in many pieces. He felt a sense of relief with each blow. Then, it was done; an object that, Jerry felt, encapsulated evil, was no more. Now, what does he do with the pieces?
Jerry was introduced to Carlos Nielbock of C.A.N. Art Handworks and the Gallery of Metals and brought him what was remaining of the gun. Growing up in post war Germany, Carlos Nielbock understood the horrors of the war and the need for a sense of atonement one may have. Carlos Nielbock is a master craftsman and metalworker. He learned the skill of metalwork beginning as a teenager in Germany and brought those skills to Detroit in 1984.
Carlos Nielbock used his skills to fabricate a cross, which buried the pieces of the gun. When designing the cross, Carlos Nielbock kept the idea of darkness to light in mind. The metal at the base of the cross is darker and the cross becomes lighter towards the top.
The very top of the cross is highly polished and reflective. Looking at the back of the cross, the pieces of the gun can be seen jutting out of the metal. The shiny, ornamental front of the cross contrasts sharply with the back. The indents on the front of the cross represent lives lost during the atrocity of the Nazi regime.