The installation "The Past is Present" is an orientation system consisting of 16 thought-provoking memorial signposts, called Denkzeichen. It leads from Pirna railway station through the town center to the memorial, once the site of Nazi crimes, at Sonnenstein. All of the Denkzeichen show a picture of Sonnenstein Castle taken from the Saxon court painter Canaletto (1722-1780), who played an important part in shaping the city's identity. In addition, each Denkzeichen is inscribed with a key word or phrase connected with the Nazi "euthanasia" murders. On a closer look, the inscription mars the beauty of the town's image. In this way the art project echoes a violation of Pirna's topography, striking through the town as the Canalettoweg cuts through the place where the crimes occurred.
The project, by the Berlin artist Heike Ponwitz, is a memorial to the 15,000 people who were murdered in the Nazi death clinic at Pirna-Sonnenstein in 1940 and 1941. The design was chosen among the submissions to a competition organized by the Saxon Memorial Foundation in the year 2000. The Denkzeichen installation is supported by the City of Pirna.The Denkzeichen deals with the subject of "euthanasia" and the historic site. It raises questions about the positions taken by the city, its inhabitants, and its visitors in the face of the murders, then and now. The past and the present are intertwined. This artistic project, together with its multi-lingual web presentation, is intended to emphasize Pirna-Sonnenstein and its significance for cultural memory in regard to the Nazi "euthanasia" murders.