News about the progress of the planning of the "Memorial Site Foundations". The latest reports are always at the top of this section.
Letter to the editor. Bruchsaler Rundschau, May 7th, 2021. From Bernd Morlock, German-Israeli Circle of Friends (Deutsch-Israelischer Freundeskreis), Bruchsal.
Regarding the article "Factions stand behind synagogue plans" of April 17 and the letters to the editor by Valentin Gölz and Holger Kistner:
One can hardly believe it. In the political landscape, which is badly strained by Corona and pre-election campaigns at the federal and state level, a good solution seems to be emerging at the municipal level in the delicate, much-discussed discussion (...) about the handling of the synagogue site in the heart of the city, which was prudently moderated by the Lord Mayor. The sponsoring association "House of History" (Förderverein Haus der Geschichte der Juden Badens e.V.) also had its share. One could confidently call it a great moment of local politics. For it would be a misunderstanding to think that it was primarily about the past. Dealing with "racism, anti-Semitism and political or religious fanaticism" (Johannes Peter Frank, 1779) is a task of enlightenment and education for the present and the future.
The planned concept with classrooms, lecture rooms, open courtyard and gastronomy is convincing. The goal "overcoming hatred between peoples and religions" (Mr. Wacker) likewise. The fact that this also includes a reference to the present-day state of Israel with all its achievements and difficulties (Mrs. Birkle), as well as to the Bruchsal citizens of Jewish faith who found protection and refuge from anti-Semitism and persecution there in the 1930s, must not be forgotten if one wants to face the present in the Memorial Site Fundments (Denkort Fundamente). The German-Israeli Circle of Friends (Deutsch-Israelischer Freundeskreis) congratulates and offers its support.
It is a pity that the discussion has been falsely tongued by focusing on individual professional groups. Enlightenment and education as well as thinking for oneself in the sense of Kant are necessary everywhere, which applies both to dealing with one's own past and to the often one-sidedly distorted presentation of the subject of Israel.
Bernd Morlock | German-Israeli Circle of Friends (Deutsch-Israelischer Freundeskreis) | Bruchsal |
Under the headline "Fractions stand behind synagogue plans", the Bruchsaler Rundschau published a report on Saturday, April 17, 2021, summarizing the statements of the various municipal council fractions. According to it, the city councilors show themselves "taken, satisfied, in parts even enthusiastic" about the municipal plans for the design of the former synagogue site.
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wacker (FDP) sees for the plans (planned are a place of remembrance of the former synagogue, relocation of the Handelslehranstalt, a place of life / history of the Jews in Baden as well as a state-political place of education for the fire department) the heading "place of learning of enlightenment to overcome hatred between peoples and religions", whereby he suggests to extend the place of education for fire fighters to other occupational groups and contents.
Prof. Dr. Werner Schnatterbeck (CDU) welcomes the proposal. He says the idea opens up new urban planning perspectives beyond the actual site. He sees the topic of education, an educational site for democracy, as extremely important. For him, the central theme is commemoration. To this end, he quotes former German President Richard von Weizsäcker: "The young are not responsible for what happened back then. But they are responsible for what history will make of it."
Ruth Birkle (Die Grünen/Neue Köpfe) sees the former synagogue site as a place for youth, for meetings and for events. She understands that no further Holocaust memorial is desired by the descendants, who have expressed their ideas and wishes in a petition, but rather a preoccupation with Jewish history up to the present day, which also includes a reference to Israel. She and her group particularly like the expansion of the commercial college and the addition of more floors to the sports hall. She hopes for support from the state for the financing.
Anja Krug (SPD) would like to see an architecturally appealing building for encounters, discourse and contemporary remembrance, where life and encounters are possible on a low-threshold basis. She sees the opportunity for democracy education at this historic site, where history and life were once to be forcibly extinguished, as authentic and vibrant. She calls it great luck that the descendants of the victims of the Holocaust are involved in the process.
Roland Foos (Freie Wähler) explains on behalf of his faction, "The idea of a place of learning about Jewish life and a special educational facility, as an outpost of the State Fire School (Landesfeuerwehrschule), takes up the need for an appropriate treatment of the historically occupied property." He emphasizes the positive possibilities for urban development and calls for not building over the synagogue's footprint. Here he argues for an open space. He does not see the financing with the city. For the Freie Wähler (Free Voters), it is important that the project is shouldered by an external sponsor; in the opinion of the group, a municipal operation is out of the question.
The AfD/UBiB faction did not comment on the questions of the Bruchsaler Rundschau.
Bruchsal journalist, book author and filmmaker Rainer Kaufmann does not quite share the euphoria conveyed in the Bruchsaler Rundschau. In his "remarks", he does pour just a little cold water:
Factions back synagogue plans. Really?
Comments on an article in the Bruchsaler Rundschau of April 17th, 2021
By Rainer Kaufmann
After a survey among the local council factions, the Bruchsaler Rundschau is certain: the majority of the Bruchsal local council expresses itself positively on the planned "Denkort Fundamente" (Memorial Site Foundations) on the site of the former synagogue, later to become the fire station. However, a closer analysis leaves some doubts. Behind the conclusion of the Rundschau, "the knot seems to have burst and the way for a new development could be free soon", stands namely a whole set of question marks. As a reminder: a few weeks ago, in a closed meeting of the municipal council, the city administration had initially obtained the green light for the concept of considering a triple after-use on the site through the expansion of the commercial college, through a "House of Jewish Life in Baden and in the Kraichgau Region" and through a civic education center for the state firefighting school in Bruchsal, a so-called "place of learning fire department" (Lernort Feuerwehr). The Lord Mayor called the project "Thinking Foundations", which she henceforth declared to be a "chief's matter", meaning that she will use her full political weight for the cause. In doing so, she has assumed personal responsibility, regardless of whether the project is successful or fails.
For failure is by no means ruled out, as can be seen from the statement of the Free Voters, which presumably even has a majority in the local council. Despite a fundamental agreement in the thing it is important, said their speaker Roland Foos, that the project is shouldered by an "external carrier. A municipal operation is excluded for us." This probably means above all the components "House of Jewish Life" and "Fire Brigade Learning Center". A possible municipal financial commitment to the conversion and operation of these two facilities, even if only partially, is thus clearly excluded by the Free Voters. And thus probably also all considerations are rejected, whether the moral legacy, which lies on this area, should not require also a certain commitment of the city Bruchsal, which goes beyond the allocation of land in hereditary lease. After all, the CDU parliamentary group has already demanded that a considerable amount of land be priced into the city treasurer's medium-term financial planning, as was done during an earlier budget discussion. And that at least is good in such a way.
It would be all the more important, however, if the city would now finally get its act together to have the historical legacy of the property worked up beyond doubt by an independent and therefore external historian. The sale prices allegedly agreed upon in the two land sales in 1939 and 1950/51 are still not beyond doubt. In 1939, it was probably more a case of forced Aryanization disguised as a sale of land, and in the sales negotiations after the war, the two parties hardly saw eye-to-eye, since the seller, the JRSO, was under pressure to sell, as the Bruchsal synagogue property was one of the last unsold properties of the organization shortly before its planned dissolution. And whether the city informed its Jewish negotiating partners at that time openly and honestly about the plan, already decided by the local council, to establish here a fire station of all things, should likewise be cleared up clearly.
For the public certainly has a right to know in detail how Bruchsal's property managers behaved in each case and how this can be evaluated historically today. The question of whether the former owners of the property and the synagogue were compensated at some point for the loss of value of the torched house of worship, even if only symbolically, must also play a role. The opposite seems to be the case, namely that costs were deducted from the already modest purchase offers in both property sales. Once for the removal of the synagogue debris in 1939 and at the beginning of the 1950s for the removal of the remains of concrete protective trenches that had been dug on the site during the war.
A noteworthy commitment of the city of Bruchsal to the implementation of the mayor's utilization concept could, in front of the whole world, at least adequately include the aspect of moral reparation, whereby the real damage done to the Jewish population of Bruchsal can never be fully calculated or even compensated. That is not the point either, it is only about a symbolic gesture. And the municipal council should certainly allow itself to pay something for it.
To the aspect "citizen learning place fire-brigade" gave above all FDP local councillor Jürgen Wacker an important suggestion, by wanting to justify the project not alone with the fact that one puts the fire-brigade at the pillory, whereby he referred to the NS time and also to the recent, quite questionable insinuation of the right-wing extremist machinations in uniformed structures of our country. Wacker's idea of also taking into account the first beginnings of enlightenment and liberalism is more than worth considering. The physician cited as an example the then personal physician of Prince-Bishop Limburg-Stirum, Dr. Johann Peter Frank, who completed his work "Systemes der Medicinischen Polizey" in Bruchsal in 1779, in which he called for turning away from superstition and toward reason. "The second, current enlightenment must deal with racism, anti-Semitism and political or religious fanaticism," the FDP parliamentary group leader demanded.
There would be an important addition to this: the history of Germany's emergence into democracy can also be presented using the example of Bruchsal, including - but not limited to - the persons Joss Fritz from Untergrombach, Anton Eisenhut and Lorenz Brentano. Joss Fritz was the initiator of the Bundschuh movement, Eisenhut was one of the leaders of the Peasants' Wars and was executed in Bruchsal. Brentano was also, during the years he lived in Bruchsal, a deputy in the Baden Parliament and in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, one of the original cells of democratic traditions in Germany. And there is another connection between the liberal 19th century jurist and the synagogue grounds: in his political life, Brentano also campaigned for the equality of Jews in Germany, for which the Jewish population of the town wanted to thank him with a torchlight procession. The procession was banned by the city's mayor at the time, while an angry, anti-Semitic mob attempted to demolish Brentano's home on Huttenstrasse. Only the intervention of the dragoons saved it from their destructive fury.
A connection with the proposal of a "Bergfried Place of Learning: Freedom, Civil Rights and Democracy", for example in the construction of a branch of the Municipal Museum with the focus on "Germany's Emergence into Democracy" on the historic synagogue site, would fit perfectly into the three-component project of the Lord Mayor. And it would also fit in with the city planning department's plans to supplement the important visitor axis from the castle to the synagogue grounds and the train station with two interesting detours to the keep and the Otto Oppenheimer memorial. All of this together could help the city create a new narrative, even internationally, and thus a certain appeal that reaches far beyond Baroque and asparagus.
Werner Schnatterbeck, representing the CDU, expressed a similar opinion to Wacker. According to the Bruchsaler Rundschau, he and his parliamentary group consider the topic of education to be of central importance. An educational location for democracy must be filled with life. For example, he could imagine classrooms for other students as well, where they could work specifically on topics such as the stumbling stones. The fact that remembrance is not neglected is central. Schnatterbeck recalls the words of former German President Richard von Weizsäcker: Today's generations may not be responsible for the atrocities of the Nazis, but they are responsible for what history will make of them.
However, that all these aspects, should they be taken up by the city of Bruchsal, also require a financial commitment of the municipality, that to mention both, Wacker and Schnatterbeck, apparently did not want or did not dare. It remains to be seen, how they and their parliamentary groups behave, if it comes sometime once to the oath.
For the Green/New Heads group, Ruth Birkle also welcomed the focus on education. Remembering has long been a matter of course at this point. Whether this takes off the table an earlier admission by Birkle that one does not necessarily have to preserve the still existing remains of the foundations of the former synagogue, still needs to be clearly explained. However, her proposal today to "keep the former synagogue site free as a courtyard and space for youth, meetings and for events" is diametrically opposed to her earlier position on the foundations. The contradiction should be resolved quickly.
For the SPD faction, the Bruchsaler Rundschau quoted Anja Krug: "In view of the historically significant place, where history and life were once to be violently extinguished, the opportunity for democracy education is authentic and alive." She assessed the petition of the descendants of Bruchsal Jews on the discussion about the use of the synagogue site as a "gesture of reconciliation", although it remains inexplicable why the descendants of the victims of that time, of all people, should be prepared to make such a gesture today, and that too unilaterally. Wouldn't it be time for the city of Bruchsal to finally offer a "gesture of reconciliation" on its own initiative and to promise to be actively involved in the design and also permanently in the operation of the "Denkort Fundamente"? And with which attitude of mind the SPD city councillor justifies her generous remark, it is a "luck that the descendants of the victims of the Holocaust bring themselves so fairly and openly into the process", she will have to explain to the signers of the petition surely still more near. Perhaps also the answer to the question at what point the involvement of the descendants of the Jewish population of Bruchsal has to be labeled as "unfair".
Conclusion: As long as the mantra of the Free Voters, that the city should not get financially involved and must raise funds from outside, is not off the table, all the positive remarks, also from the other factions, are not worth nearly what they are now seen as in this interim report in the Bruchsaler Rundschau. If not now, then sometime in the foreseeable future, it will no longer be possible to avoid the question of the financial responsibility of the city of Bruchsal in the Bruchsal municipal council. Until then, there will be no other choice than to put a thick question mark behind the headline of the Bruchsaler Rundschau "Fractions stand behind the synagogue plans".
April 17th, 2021
The Bruchsal historian Dr. Jürgen Dick expresses rather fundamental thoughts on the proposal "Learning Site Fire Brigade" on the site of the former synagogue in Bruchsal, which is regarded by the Bruchsal municipal council factions as an essential element of the "Memorial Foundations". He also addresses the often uncritical handling in Bruchsal of the prince-bishop heritage.
Emergence of democratic fire departments in the run-up to the revolution of 1848/49
Dr. Jürgen Dick
In principle, the idea of transforming places of remembrance of injustice and political failure into places of remembrance that are intended to prevent similar events in the future is understandable and to be welcomed. However, caution is required with regard to the detailed justification.
The "place of learning fire department" (Lernort Feuerwehr) would be, if one bases the reasoning of chief official (Hauptamtsleiter) Müller - exaggeratedly expressed - a "state-political educational institution" for the prophylaxis of right-wing tendencies in a hierarchically structured institution. As a member of the fire department, especially the volunteer fire department, I would oppose being placed under such general suspicion. The idea of the volunteer fire department at the municipal level was part of the awakening association system in the mid-19th century and has strong links with the democratic citizens' movement in the run-up to the revolution of 1848. The fire departments founded at that time were based on voluntary, active, independent cooperation within the framework of self-responsibility and self-administration of the citizens, detached from authoritarian structures. Often the firemen came from the gymnastics clubs, i.e. there was an interweaving of gymnastics, singing, firefighting and democratic attitudes. The quasi-military discipline and hierarchy is not contradictory to this. It was not until the end of the 19th century that parts of the fire department were professionalized in larger cities. After the National Socialists seized power, the fire departments, like many other organizations, were brought into line, integrated into the police, and thus subjected to the control of the totalitarian system.
After World War II, old traditions were resumed and independent structures were again established at the municipal level (cf. Tobias Engelsing, Im Verein mit dem Feuer. The Social History of the Volunteer Fire Brigade from 1830 to 1950. Constance 1990). In my opinion, the fire departments are closely anchored in the respective social life of the community. If there should be right-wing tendencies there, which I am not aware of, then they are the reflection of what Rainer Kaufmann has called the "right-wing swamp of our society" and not a structural problem of the fire department itself.
Also, the injustice of 1938 and the lack of historical responsibility in 1952 are primarily the fault of those politically responsible in the city of Bruchsal at the time. Nevertheless, I agree with Rainer Kaufmann when he expresses considerable concerns about a "fire department learning site", since the injustice that occurred is now strongly connoted with the "fire department". I therefore support the idea of a "state-political place of learning" that focuses on the history of democracy worthy of tradition, not least in order to set a counterpoint to the monarchical tradition (castle, prince-bishops, etc.) that is still overflowing in Bruchsal. Too often, the role of the princes as "patrons of culture" is placed uncritically in the foreground, while at the same time forgetting that they could only exercise this role on the basis of a social order of social inequality. The monarchical tradition, which entered into an unfortunate alliance with growing nationalism in the second half of the 19th century, led, among other things, to that thinking in terms of authority that prepared the ground for the downfall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the National Socialists (In this context, I recommend the novel "Der Untertan" by Heinrich Mann). The intellectual roots of modern anti-Semitism also go back to the Kaiserreich.