There’s no easy answer for Confederate monuments

tags: Confederate Monuments, White supremacists

Niels Eichhorn is a Civil War historian and assistant professor at Middle Georgia State University.

… The tale of the Kriegerdenkmal, a military memorial in Hamburg, reveals that reconciliation with the darkest chapters of our past is a constant battle that requires an honest and open dialogue that produces accurate monuments, not simply a proliferation of dueling monuments.

In March 1936, Nazi leaders, along with military and veterans organizations, unveiled Richard Kuöhl’s Kriegerdenkmal in a high-profile dedication ceremony. The monument’s location was purposefully selected for the high volume of traffic passing by the nearby Dammtor Station.

Roughly 29 feet long, 13 feet wide and 23 feet high, made from shell-bearing limestone, the monument features marching soldiers on three sides to remember Hamburg’s soldiers from the Franco-Prussian War and World War I. Above the soldiers is a poem about the farewell of soldiers, instilling the idea that soldiers have to perish for the country to survive.

With war on the horizon for Nazi Germany, the message of the monument was clear: Sacrifice was noble and expected.

The monument reflected the celebration of militarism in Nazi Germany. After World War I, monuments to fallen soldiers had appeared across Germany. After the Nazi takeover in 1933, these monuments grew in symbolism. Monuments called for courage, willingness to fight and confidence in victory, marked by symbols such as eagles and swords.

After World War II, the Allied powers attempted to eradicate all monuments to Nazism in Germany. The Allied Control Council mandated the removal of all monuments, museums, statues, structures or plaques that celebrated German militarism or Nazism. They saw these as nurturing German militarism, which many allied leaders thought had helped spur two devastating wars in a 30-year period.

And yet the Kriegerdenkmal “war block” remained because its meaning and symbolism were more ambiguous. For some Germans, it assumed a new meaning of sacrifice related to the Cold War. But it also offered a rallying point for neo-Nazis and veterans groups, many of them with right-wing political identities. Some organizations praised the monument as a symbol of German soldiery. Vandals repeatedly sprayed graffiti on the monument, forcing the police to protect and the city to clean it.

When the local governing council decided to remove the militaristic poem, the Springer Verlag newspaper chain started a campaign against the removal of “Germany” from the monument. A right-wing initiative formed. Eventually, the city’s senate decided to leave the monument unaltered. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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