News about the progress of the planning of the "Memorial Site Foundations". The latest reports are always at the top of this section.
The city library is to become part of the think tank
Bruchsal city council wants to concretize the project / Religious communities have not backed out
FROM CHRISTINA ZÄPFEL
Article in the Bruchsaler Rundschau May 25th, 2023
Bruchsal. After years of planning, brainstorming, citizen suggestions and several rounds in the municipal council, it should now become concrete: The redevelopment of the old fire department area in Bruchsaler Friedrichstraße. The relocation of the municipal library will probably be a central issue. Until now, it has been housed in the community center.
There, where the Jewish synagogue stood in Bruchsal until 1938, a memorial site is to be built. So far, so well known. In a two-day closed meeting, the municipal council has now dealt with the concept once again.
According to the city, there will be a new decision in the municipal council this summer. Then it becomes more concrete, how this memorial place is to be arranged. Most recently, there was talk of a Jewish academy. Part of the site is to be made available to the district for the expansion of the commercial college. There was also talk of relocating the municipal library. The previous partners, according to the press release, are still on board: the city library, the district of Karlsruhe, the Israeli Religious Community of Baden (IRGB), the Israeli Religious Community of Württemberg, the Association for the Promotion of the House of the History of the Jews of Baden, representatives of the descendants of Bruchsal Jews and the State Fire Brigade School. Further talks are to be held with them.
"I am glad about this clear position of the city councilors. The path that we started together in 2019 with the ideas competition can now be continued in this sense. In this way, we will do justice to the special significance of this place," Mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick (non-party) is quoted as saying.
Plans were presented by a specialized architectural firm. Basis were the interviews led before with the project partners. Several variants were presented, centering on the municipal library. This was followed by "an intensive and very constructive debate," it continues. The municipal council was very concerned that the library should play a central role.
Wake up call heard
The fire station is to be the site of the „Denkort Fundamente“ project
FROM HEIDI HECHTEL
Published April 29th, 2023, in Jüdische Allgemeine, Berlin
A fire station, of all places! Exactly where on the night of November 9, 1938, the magnificent synagogue in Bruchsal was burned down by the Nazis, the city built the fire station in 1954 on the ruined site, which it had bought in 1951 for 8.800 German Marks from the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO).
„Don't you know you're not allowed to do that?“ had been the stunned reaction of Paul Schrag from New York on his first visit after years of exile. A historical thoughtlessness? Rather a historical irresponsibility, unique in Germany, calls it the local historian and author Rainer Kaufmann. For decades, no one took offense. A Jewish community no longer existed.
It was not until the fire department moved out in 2020 that citizens began to reflect on the history of the site and demand appropriate commemoration - alarmed by the city's intention to sell the prime site to an investor for retail, offices and apartments. The proceeds of 2.5 million euros had already been priced in, the local council was told.
The wake-up call was heard. In 2018, at the commemoration of the anniversary of the Pogrom Night, Mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick emphasized the special responsibility in the new designation of the site, marking a change in thinking. Bruchsal reflects on its history.
MUSEUM What will be built on the site of the former synagogue? A Jewish museum? A place of thought? A House of History within the walls of the fire station or in a new building? The city formed a Historical Commission and announced an architectural competition. With an open procedure, it cleared the way for many conceptions.
„Denkort Fundamente“ (place of remembrance foundations) is what the city calls the project, referring to the synagogue's foundations, which were once uncovered to some extent but have been closed up again. A House of Baden's Jewish History and Culture (Haus der Jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur von Baden) is the plea of the eponymous sponsoring association, which Rolf Schmitt founded in 2019. The concept describes a place of living culture in the existing fire station, to also face the displacement of the post-war period. The history of the Jews of Bruchsal and Baden is to be presented in museum rooms, and the first floor must become a place for meetings and events in order to be attractive to the younger generation as well. „A lighthouse project with far-reaching appeal,“ says Schmitt.
An investor wanted to build offices and apartments there.
Also involved in the planning are the descendants of former Bruchsal and Baden Jews, with whom Schmitt, who is involved in the Stolpersteine campaign, has established worldwide contacts: 127 people from 13 countries signed a petition to the head of the city and the municipal council for this purpose. „We want to build bridges from the past to the future,“ assures Ulrike Schüler, initiator of the petition along with her cousin Peter Odenheimer from Basel. For them, it is above all important „that the enormous achievements of Jewish families in economic, human and cultural terms are honored here.“ Bruchsal and the Denkort Fundamente project are also the focus of the Jewish Religious Community of Baden (IRG Baden) and the Jewish Religious Community of Württemberg (IRG Württemberg), which are planning a Jewish education center. The aim is to provide intellectual tools for the fight against anti-Semitism and prejudice. The state has pledged 200,000 euros for this purpose, and the communities are contributing 70,000. The city is faced with the task of putting together an overall package from all the proposals and, above all, thinking about funding. The descendants propose a foundation, the basis of the capital would be the property under the condition of a restitution. Schüler and Odenheimer assure that finding additional donors will not be a problem.
It is certainly not an easy undertaking to reconcile all the wishes and ideas. At present, everything is open, but the mayor has an ambitious schedule: The planning is to be in place this year, and the project is to be realized by 2025 at the latest. Whatever it is called and whatever it looks like.
Flyer from September 2022
The House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden: A Lighthouse Project and a Challenge for Bruchsal
From the speeches of December 21, 2021 of the parliamentary groups of the Bruchsal municipal council on the introduction of the budget 2022
Approval of the House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden by the CDU faction, rejection by the faction of AfD/uBiB
In the budget speeches of December 21 of the parties and voter groups represented in the Bruchsal municipal council, the synagogue site took only a subordinate role. In general, however, reference was made to the excellent financial situation of the city of Bruchsal. Thus, the CDU emphasized the record character of the municipal budget with over 150 million euros, the Greens (Die Grünen)/Neue Köpfe referred to the opportunity for a sustainable development of the city thanks to a good budget situation. The Free Voters (Freie Wähler) faction emphasized that "all budgets after the financial crisis were settled significantly better than planned. Contrary to many forecasts, the debt level in the core budget has fallen from over €30 million to less than €20 million. Last year again closes €10 million better than planned."
Directly taken position to the building of the synagogue property in the budget speeches however only by the CDU parliamentary group and the parliamentary group of the AfD/uBIB.
For the CDU faction, Prof. Dr. Werner Schnatterbeck explained that for the "core", i.e. the synagogue property itself, the first fundamental decisions have already been made, which provide for cooperation with the district and aim at an expansion of the commercial college. Schnatterbeck continues: "The 'Denkort Fundamente' - here [in the municipal council] supported with a clear majority - finds complementary two expressions, on the one hand to strengthen a defensible democracy from within and on the other hand to give a space to the Jewish-German culture at this special place. In the meantime, there are groups of thought, discussion and support for these two substantive approaches, which deserve to be appropriately involved in the further inner and outer shaping process. Here already many remarkable considerations are present, which point in the consciousness of this place into the future". Schnatterbeck further urged that the dialogue he had suggested should be accelerated significantly.
Not satisfied with the decision to establish the - unfortunately not only conceptually very non-committal - so-called "Learning Site Foundations" (Lernort Fundamente) on the synagogue property was Mrs. Gabriele von Massow, parliamentary group leader of the AfD/uBiB. In the official gazette of the city Bruchsal is to be read in addition: "The planning for Bruchsals filet piece, the old fire-brigade area is not yet finally decided. However, due to the world trip [?] of the OB (Mayor) and its targeted consequences, the responsibility of the municipal council for the planning was largely taken out of the hands. A lively, pulsating new residential and shopping area on the old fire department area would have deserved the Bruchsaler, instead of museum and training rooms in the middle of the city."
Four things can be gleaned from the budget speeches:
1. the city of Bruchsal is in an extremely good financial position. Despite the Corona crisis, the debt level was reduced by 1/3.
2. apart from the CDU and AfD/uBiB factions, no other faction has taken a position on the synagogue property.
3. the lecture of Mr. Prof. Dr. Schnatterbeck raises however questions, as for example: Will there be the House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden as proposed by the Chairman of the Jewish Religious Community in Baden (IRG Baden), Mr. Rami Suliman? What thinking, discussion and support groups is he talking about that he would like to see adequately involved?
4. the AfD/uBiB faction sums up its attitude: no memory of the Jewish culture and history of Baden, but instead a temple of consumption and a retirement home. This reminds the author of these lines of a story he heard many years ago in religion class. Jesus throws the merchants and sacrificial animals out of the temple he visits, overturns the tables of the money changers and barks at the dove merchants: "Do not make my Father's house a market hall!" This is what resonates in the AfD's demand. The memory of the house of God is to be erased by a consumer "temple" (!) - as is the memory of the people who lived, researched, were happy but also sad in our and their Baden homeland until 1940, who contributed much to our Baden identity through their contributions to culture, politics, science and economy. Whether the hitherto unknown ideas of the city hall leadership, which is currently exhausted in the narrative "Denkort Fundamente", will be better? One does not know.
After Hubert Hieke, who reported below with the headline "Betretenes Schweigen" (Trespassed silence) reflected on the progress of the deliberations on the exhibition, event and learning venue "Haus der jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur von Baden" (House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden), the Bruchsaler Rundschau took up the topic a few weeks later and also asked the organisers of the petition about the state of affairs. They were unable to provide any information, as they are not involved in any of the considerations, they feel left out. They are like the citizens of Bruchsal and the representatives of the association - everything seems to take place behind closed doors.
An expert on regional local politics in dealing with Jewish issues expressed the fear that it could end up like the situation in Freiburg with the synagogue property there: good ideas at the beginning, but in the end something comes up that is then discussed for years and until today - in Freiburg something came up against the will of many committed people and also completely against the will of the descendants of the former Freiburg Jews. The idea of a training site for the fire brigade on this property, which has been put forward by the Bruchsal city administration for some time, is vehemently rejected by the descendants. And what does the city administration say to the petitioners' accusations? The official statement is that the memorial arises from a complex overall context, and that individual aspects cannot be singled out.
Descendants feel left out
Petitioners criticize lack of participation at the Denkort Fundamente in Bruchsal
By our editorial member Nicole Jannarelli
Bruchsal. Going public was not easy for Ulrike Schüler. Until now, the 68-year-old has deliberately avoided it. Because of her family history, as she says. It reaches all the way to Bruchsal, where some of her Jewish ancestors once lived. Until the Nazi regime brought expulsion and extermination.
The fact that a meeting place is to be built in Bruchsal on the site of the former synagogue, which could enable people to come to terms with Jewish history, has made Schüler rethink. “I became courageous for this history house,” she says. But she now doubts whether her courage will pay off.
Last spring, descendants of Bruchsal Jews made their voices heard with a petition. Schüler was one of the main signatories. They would like to be involved in the design of the memorial. Schüler emphasized this at the time and still does today. The direct line to Bruchsal for the petitioners is first and foremost the Association "House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden" around the outgoing chairman Günter Majewski. The members tried to present the descendants' the wishes of the descendants. They in turn feel the strongest connection to the ideas of the association around the Jewish history house, which could also be a point of could be a contact point for descendants.
Only: Since the signatures were handed in, the petitioners hope for a direct exchange with the administration. In vain, as Ulrike Schüler and also signer Peter Odenheimer independently report. "I am frustrated about how much we descendants are left out," says Schüler.
Most recently, Schüler and Odenheimer had spoken with Mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick (independent) when Stolpersteine were laid in Bruchsal in June. They took the personal encounter as an opportunity to write to the mayor afterwards. According to them, the letters remained without response. “I fear Bruchsal will miss an opportunity if the project is not realized as envisioned,” says Odenheimer.
It could become an educational site for locals and a magnet for descendants of Jews from Baden who live scattered around the world, he hope.
The Denkort Fundamente is to become a showcase project and, according to the decision of the Bruchsal municipal council, aims to unite several things under one roof - an extension of the commercial training institute of the Karlsruhe district, civic training for firefighters with the state firefighting school as the educational provider, and a place of Jewish life. This triad alone presents the responsible parties with challenges in terms of both content and space. In addition, financing must be guaranteed. The situation is made even more complicated by different interests.
Among the petitioners, there is resistance to the planned civic education for firefighters, a preventive measure to avoid anti-Semitism.
It is inconceivable to students that descendants of Bruchsal Jews could meet uniformed firefighters at the memorial site. This is also the opinion of other petitioners.
The anti-Semitism commissioner of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Michael Blume, on the other hand, praised the educational site to BNN as a historical and pioneering opportunity. The Jewish state representatives from Baden and Württemberg also expressly welcome the concept. Barbara Traub from the Israelite Religious Community of Württemberg: “The recent anti-Semitic incidents show how important information and prevention are.”
Rami Suliman has been involved in the conceptualization of the memorial from the very beginning. The Pforzheimer is chairman of the Israelitische Glaubensgemeinschaft Baden. Educating people about Jewish life today is a priority for him. He also wants to create the necessary infrastructure for the faithful: “That's what I represent.”
Now there is the idea of the two Jewish denominations to create a joint educational center, similar to a Jewish academy. Financial resources for such a center can be accessed through the state government, because it is supposed to serve the intended fight against anti-Semitism. According to information from this newspaper, Bruchsal has come into focus as a location.
And what does the administration say about all this? First, there will be a decision in the municipal council on the design of the memorial site. And in the new year the planning continues, it says from the city hall. For this all Bruchsaler partners would come again to a table. Otherwise the responsible persons hold themselves covered. And to the reproaches of the petitioners: The official statement is that the Denkort is the result of a complex overall context, and that individual aspects cannot be singled out.
On the way to the memorial
Where the old fire station now stands, the Bruchsal synagogue once stood. SA men set it on fire early on November 10, 1938. The synagogue burned to the ground between 4:30 and 6 in the morning. The fire department was ordered only to prevent the fire from spreading to other houses. Allegedly, there was also no hydrant available. 1948 the city acquired the property from the Jewish Restitution Fund (JRSO) and built a fire station there in 1952.
Since it became clear that the Bruchsal fire department would be leaving the old fire station, there has been discussion about what to do with the former synagogue site. A sale of the site by the city for more than 1.5 million euros is also said to have been considered. Instead, the administration called an ideas competition for citizens. Around 50 proposals were received. Because of the detailed specifications, only about 20 made it into a selection process. Among them was the proposal of the association with the eponymous House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden. When the fire department had long since moved, the decision-making process ended, and the result is the “Denkort Fundamente.”
It is obviously the sticking point in the design of the Denkort. With the district, the city and the state firefighting school (and thus the Ministry of the Interior), there are three possible financial backers at the moment. Especially from the the sponsoring association in particular favors a foundation. Should the education center come about, there will be state funding in any case. Leja
Bruchsaler Rundschau | 2021-12-23 |
The House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden - Ideas for a subsequent use of the synagogue site. A cultural property in the heart of Bruchsal, a lighthouse project. Attempt at implementation. The template can be downloaded here:
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.