Green light from Bruchsal town hall for the path to the House of Jewish History and Culture of Baden.
March 27, 2021
The Bruchsal City Council has endorsed the considerations and proposals put forward by the mayor in a workshop. In a large, cross-faction consensus, according to a statement from township, these proposals have been found by council members "to be a convincing solution for the appropriate and future-oriented handling of the property and its history."
The Lord Mayor emphasized that, in terms of urban development, the envisaged new use of the site also offered the prelude and opportunity for further development and upgrading of the quarter between the railroad station and the city center. This fundamental and unanimous approval of the municipal council at the workshop would give the necessary support and tailwind to continue the project in the sense we all worked out and accompanied.
At a press briefing on March 26, 2021, the Mayor and City Council presented this ideas (text in German):
A general presentation in the Bruchsaler Rundschau
Thinking place instead of fire station
By our editorial member Christina Zäpfel
Bruchsal. The working title sounds abstract. Thinking Place Foundations. The idea behind it is ambitious: Bruchsal's mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick wants to build an education and visitor center with supraregional appeal on the site of the old fire station in the city center. It will focus on Jewish life in Baden, but also on civic education for firefighters and anti-Semitism prevention.
The plan can only be understood against the background of the history of the central area: A synagogue once stood there, burned down by Nazis on Reichspogromnacht (Night of Broken Glass) in 1938. Perfidiously, eyewitnesses reported that firefighters stood idly by and watched the fire. The site was aryanized and became the property of the city, which built its fire station there after the war.
The Bruchsal fire department has had a new home for a few months now. For several years now, the question has been how to redevelop the site, which has been described as a prime piece of real estate. „There are no longer many places in Baden with such a history,“ explained Petzold-Schick. However, she said it was also clear that „we don't want to build a Holocaust memorial or a pure museum.“ She said she is already in contact with the state, but also with the state firefighting school. Firefighters from all over the country are trained in Bruchsal. Teaching them civics at a historical site, immunizing them against anti-Semitism, so to speak, could be one of the goals of the place. Petzold-Schick wants to make the project a matter for the boss. In a closed meeting in 2018, the local council had decided on citizen participation. Almost 50 contributions came together. In addition, there was an ideas competition for professionals. In June, the municipal council is to decide again.
The Bruchsaler Rundschau (local newspaper) reported March 27, 2021 about this press meeting already the following day under the headline: "City wants to do the right thing now". The journalist Christina Zäpfel commented on the municipal project under "Barockstadt wird Mutstadt" (Barock Town becomes Courageous Town) . Here you can read the article and the comment:
City wants to do the right thing now
Bruchsal's mayor plans civic education site on fire department grounds
By our editorial member Christina Zäpfel
It is supposed to be a big deal, with the working title "Denkort Fundamente" (Foundations Place of Remembrance). It is about the future development and use of the old fire station area in the Bruchsal city center. After it became quiet around the citizen participation procedure, Bruchsal's mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick now presented her idea. She and her administration have a triad in mind: The tenor is that something memorable could be created where the Jewish synagogue once stood - and later the fire station. A combination of an expanded commercial college (Handelslehranstalt), a place of Jewish life and remembrance, and a kind of educational center to complement the state firefighting school.
"We agreed, also in the local council, that we do not want to build a Holocaust memorial, a pure memorial or a museum on this site", Petzold-Schick explained. Rather, the living Jewish culture should play a role and at the same time current issues should be discussed, such as how to deal with resurgent racism and anti-Semitism. "It should be about civil courage. We want to look back sensitively, critically, angrily and not euphemistically."
Quite unique is the place in central location of Bruchsal, clarified Petzold-Schick. Not only did a magnificent Jewish synagogue stand here until the Night of Broken Glass as an outward sign of a once lively Jewish life in Bruchsal. No, the Bruchsal fire department did not extinguish the burning house of worship in 1938, and in the post-war period a fire station was built on this very site. Also at the suggestion of the state's anti-Semitism commissioner, Michael Blume, this unique inglorious combination has now been incorporated into the idea of an educational center.
"At the site of the former failure," as the Head of the Bruchsal main office Wolfgang Müller put it, a place of civic education could be created. Hierarchically structured institutions such as the fire department or police are susceptible to right-wing tendencies, Müller explained. Educating them socially and civically is also a wish of those responsible at the state firefighting school, Petzold-Schick added. She had already put out feelers, presented her idea to the Minister of the Interior, but also to the District Administrator (Landrat) and representatives of Jewish institutions in Baden. "The site could become a magnet statewide or nationwide," she envisioned.
In terms of urban planning, the site is so central, it could become the second center of attraction next to Bruchsal Castle, explained city architect Harmut Ayrle. Attractors such as the Handelslehranstalt (commercial college) or the Landesfeuerwehrschule (state fire department school) would bring life to the city center.
Petzold-Schick emphasized that her guiding principle at this special location was "not only not to do anything wrong, but to do the right thing. A profane development with a shopping center or apartments is out of the question at this location. Financing issues have not yet been clarified. Subsidies from the state, for example, are conceivable, as are donations, sponsors and patrons. Should the commercial college expand its area, the district will contribute financially. A few days ago, the local council was confronted with the idea for the first time, and in June there will be a closed meeting on the subject. The elected representatives have the final say.
The current vision originates, at least in part, from the nearly 50 citizen suggestions for the site as well as an ideas competition. Although there is hardly any Jewish life left in Bruchsal today, there are signals from other Jewish communities that find the idea good, explains the mayor. The core idea behind the project is to create a meeting place with experimental possibilities that emphasizes the importance of Jewish culture in Baden.
The idea was presented to the public for the first time at a press conference. Now it is a matter of holding further talks, establishing contacts with other institutions, and involving the elected members of parliament. A lot will probably depend on which state government is involved after the current exploratory talks.
Who actually owns the site of the old fire station? The city, that's the simple answer. Just a few days ago, however, there was an interesting archival discovery: the purchase contracts were actually considered lost. By chance, the archivist Tamara Frey now came across decisive documents. Martin-Peter Oertel, head of Bruchsal's legal department, has made an initial inspection. According to this, the site in Friedrichstraße was initially and famously owned by Bruchsal's Jewish community, which had a synagogue there. After National Socialists burned down the place of worship in 1938, the Jewish community was forced to sell the site to the city in 1939 in the course of the so-called Aryanization. 1,560 Reichsmarks were paid, about 30 percent below value, Oertel said.
After World War II, the Allies took care of compensating the previous owners affected by the Aryanization. So the city-owned land, which was littered with rubble, was returned to a Jewish trustee organization (JRSO). This in turn then offered it to the city for purchase in 1951, whereupon the city built the fire station there in 1952. This was the result of an initial preliminary examination, Oertel emphasized. It is currently assumed that there are no more claims, at least no material claims. However, one had informed the Israeli religious community Baden (Israelitische Religionsgemeinschaft Baden) about the find, which would like to examine the files for its part, explained OB (Lord Mayor) Petzold-Schick. Cz
Commentary Bruchsaler Rundschau, March 27, 2021, Issue No. 72:
Baroque town becomes courageous town
It is the early morning of November 10, 1938. A Bruchsaler witness reports on this particular fire department operation: "I had the impression that the men wanted to extinguish. But apparently they were under a lot of pressure. The hoses were rolled out but not filled. Not a drop of water was sprayed." This is how his memories of the synagogue fire are described in the book "History of the Jews in Bruchsal." Nazis had previously set fire to the magnificent house of worship of a vibrant Jewish community. The fact that a few years later the city built its fire station on this site can today be interpreted as an inglorious unique feature of Bruchsal.
Lord Mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick now wants to erect a "Foundations Place of Remembrance" on these historical ruins. Not as reparation. But as a reminder and as a strong signal against newly burgeoning anti-Semitism and racism. She wants to take a big risk, and this courage deserves respect. She is right in saying that the inner-city site is a prime piece of real estate and could certainly be sold off. But against the backdrop of history, it is difficult to imagine profane residential buildings or a shopping center on the site. The fact that underwear is now sold nearby, on the first floor of the city hall, is already enough of a tribute to disdainful consumption.
But now the triad of the expansion of the commercial college, an educational facility for firefighters and a lively cultural center for Jewish life in Baden seems very contrived. One could also say that the city is planning a "eierlegende Wollmilchsau" ((German expression for an all-round talent). But thinking big is good for the time being. It is good for the city society, especially in these times. The signal alone is worth something; life has to go on somehow.
And if you think big, you can expect that other institutions will participate: The state, for example, the state firefighting school, possibly the federal government. In any case, the city or the small "House of the History of the Jews of Baden" sponsoring association will not be able to manage the project on their own. The idea of bringing the State Fire Brigade School on board is actually quite innovative. Headlines about right-wing activities in fire department circles are still very fresh. After cases with the police it is to be feared that also with fire-brigades similar things become rumoured. And if the baroque city were to become a place of civil courage in the future, everyone would really benefit.
Bruchsal journalist, historian and book author Rainer Kaufmann also commented on the city of Bruchsal's plan:
A bold vision for the reuse of the former synagogue site
Commentary by Rainer Kaufmann on the municipal press conference
There is no question: Bruchsal Mayor Cornelia Petzold-Schick has gone out on a limb by declaring the issue of the subsequent use of the former synagogue site to be her business, the business of the boss in Bruchsal township. And thus she knows for sure that she will later have to be measured against this claim and against the visions that she currently and the visions that she has currently associated with it. She has set the bar herself and it is quite high. First of all, that demands due respect.
Respect is also due to the fact that she has clearly rejected all those who said, selling the "Filetgrundstück Feuerwehrhaus" (fillet ground fire station) was nothing more than a normal land deal between the city and a normal land deal between the city and some investors, for which some in the Bruchsal municipal Bruchsaler local council had already firmly priced in incomes. If it goes after the Bruchsaler city hall chief, the city will not sell the land, but will only offer it to potential users only after the heritable building right to make available. Her statement is to be understood as too heavy the historical and moral burden on the property is too heavy for it to be treated according to usual financial schemes. That was plain language.
She called her vision in lieu of commercial use "Denkort Fundamente", a linguistic neologism that encompasses both commemorating the past and thinking about the future. It's a bold vision that opens up a narrative for the city, that is unique in the whole of Baden and certainly beyond.
The fact that this also opens up special urban planning perspectives, was shown by Hartmut Ayrle, the head of the city's planning department. The synagogue site lies pretty much in the middle of the route between the castle and the train station. Creating a magnet here attracting people from all over the world certainly meets Bruchsal's long-held desire to effectively connect the castle and the city center. Detours to the Otto Oppenheimer Monument and the Bürgerpark are already planned. If one takes a closer look at the three components of this place of thought, it quickly becomes clear that the city administration has also taken care of the financing of this vision from the very beginning. For example, the district of Karlsruhe wants to expand the Handelslehranstalt (commercial school), a project that will hardly cost the city anything. The administrative district therefore certainly has first right of access to the site.
Obviously, the "House of Jewish Life" is also undisputed, although the naming makes it clear that it cannot be another Holocaust memorial. On the contrary, it is rather intended to reappraise and present the share of the Jewish population in the economic, cultural and social life of Baden. With noticeable relief, the Mayor explained several times that there was a great deal of support for this idea throughout Baden. And from this she obviously derives the expectation of being able to tap financial sources outside Bruchsal. After the municipal council gave her the green light for this proposal in its recent closed meeting, she can now follow up on the corresponding signals that seem to exist.
The third pillar of this vision, however, requires explanation. The very name "Lernort Feuerwehr" (learning location fire service) makes one sit up and take notice, given the history of this place. How is that supposed to fit together? The idea of a "state political education place for the fire department members at the site of the former failure" probably goes back to the anti-Semitism commissioner of the State of Baden-Württemberg. It was taken up by the mayor probably also therefore because the partner Landesfeuerwehrschule (State Fire Academy), whose sponsor is the State of Baden-Württemberg, is probably another source of funding for the overall project "Denkort Fundamente" project.
It will be difficult for the mayor to convey the vision of the "fire department as a place of learning" because it is actually a "no go" for many people, especially for descendants of former Bruchsal Jews. And whether the construction is sufficient to be able to counteract the feared "right-wing tendencies in hierarchically structured institutions such as the fire department and the police" (quotation from the head of the municipal office, Wolfgang Müller) at the site of the former failure, of all places, can certainly be doubted. Using the right-wing quagmire of our society as justification for such a vision runs the risk of only raising its profile unnecessarily. And whether the fire department and the police want to be described as a hotbed of right-wing tendencies without contradiction may be doubted. The mayor and the city still have a lot of convincing to do.
Unfortunately, the proposal to include at least part of the municipal museum in the memorial Museum into the Denk-Ort concept on the former synagogue site. Above all, the history of Germany's democratic development - the Peasants' War (Joss Fritz), the Baden Revolution of 1848/49, Frankfurt's Paulskirche, the introduction of women's suffrage in 1918. Weimar Republic and finally the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany could also be effectively presented with Bruchsal's local history. Especially also with events of German history, which also found their expression in Bruchsal.
Why this aspect cannot be taken up in a "state-political educational place", the city administration will have to explain. We should not release them from their historical responsibility. Even if this part of the "Denk-Ort-Vision", the Städtisches Museum (Municipal Museum), seems difficult to finance for Bruchsal for the time being, it does not have to be written off completely. Visions can also be long-term and only be implemented later.
The weekly Kurier also published an article on the press briefing (A 'Thinking Place Foundations' with three areas) and a commentary with the headline "Ein heißes Eisen" (A hot potato).
A "Foundations Place of Remembrance" (Denkort Fundamente) with three areas
Bruchsal's mayor announces utilization concept for former synagogue / fire station site
By KURIER editor Sonja Zeh
Bruchsal . Despite paralyzing pandemic times, there is now movement again in the matter of the use of the "Old Fire Station Area" in the Bruchsal city center. In addition had
the city had invited last week to a press conference, to which medium representatives also digitally switched on. The reason was the presentation of the utilization concept, which is based on an idea of the mayor. It picks up elements and approaches from some of the works that resulted from the public ideas competition in 2019. 18 utilization concepts were exhibited in the city hall at that time.
As Cornelia Petzold-Schick emphasized, she has since declared the topic a matter for the boss. She had presented her idea to the municipal council in a hearing on March 20. Now she wanted to bring her basic idea of a utilization concept to the public at an early stage by means of the media. This unites three areas under the heading "Denkort Fundamente": firstly the district-owned Handelslehranstalt (HLA) (commercial school), secondly a house of Jewish life and thirdly the state fire brigade school. According to the mayor, only in the interaction of these elements a subsequent use comes into question. In this respect, she made it clear that in addition to the HLA (which is interested in an expansion) and the representation of Jewish life in Baden / Kraichgau (in the form of a memorial and place of learning), the fire department will also be involved. By the way, not the municipal, but the state fire brigade school. (See also the commentary).
Already DER KURIER had made public a year ago the consideration to be able to remember also in the future the history of the fire department at the place of the old fire station. Perhaps in the form of a museum. But the approach of integrating the fire department into the utilization concept goes further. The "Learning Site State Fire Brigade School" is to focus on civic education content and address the hundreds of course participants who come to the Landesfeuerwehrschule in Bruchsal from all over Baden-Württemberg every year. The Lord Mayor also hopes that this will bring frequency to the "Denkort Fundamente". Her simple calculation: Every municipality has a fire department and sends its people to Bruchsal for training. In this respect, the city is known throughout the country.
The city administration speaks of the "place of education for the fire department members of the country at the place of the former failure". Alluding to the fact that in 1938 the fire department refused to extinguish the synagogue set on fire by Nazis. According to the mayor, the proposal to include the fire department in the use concept came from Dr. Michael Blume, the state government's anti-Semitism commissioner. Petzold-Schick speaks of a project, which is to be occupied with highest sensitivity and appreciation of different participants. With esteem and respect one wants to come together. She announced the start of binding talks in the near future. In June, the municipal council will then deal with the utilization concept in a closed meeting.
At the press conference, it was also announced that a file had been found in connection with the former synagogue/fire station site. Curiously, the papers were to be found in the folder "Polizeiwesen" (police affairs) from 1962 - in the basement of the town hall, where 6.500 old, unorganized files are stored. Archivist Dr. Tamara Frey had found the file and made it accessible. It deals with the restitution of the former synagogue. According to the city's legal advisor, Dr. Martin-Peter Oertel, the file shows that the Jewish community was forced to sell the synagogue and two residential buildings to the city in the summer of 1939 for 16,500 Reichsmarks, 30 percent less than their value. The city had returned the property in 1950, then reacquired it from the Jewish trustee organization in 1951 for 8500 marks to build its fire station on it in 1952. The file leaves questions unanswered. It is still being examined in more detail, it was said.
The commentary: A hot potato
by Sonja Zeh
It is a hot potato in Bruchsal that many people are trying to touch. This was already demonstrated in 2018/19 by the lively participation in the process of finding ideas for the reuse of the area in the city center that became vacant when the volunteer fire department later moved. What was not all discussed about it, debated on all channels, tried to blame former city fathers. How could they be so brazen as to build a fire station on the site of the burned-down synagogue? And now the fire department is to be made responsible for the subsequent use of the site? But it is not the city's firefighters, but the state firefighting school (Landesfeuerwehrschule) - THE model training facility for firefighters in the state and beyond.
The city reflects again on its here resident national mechanism, which holds next year by the way Bruchsal already 75 years the loyalty. However, the state firefighting school has become unfaithful since its move to a location near the highway four years ago, since then the state's firefighters have completely disappeared from the cityscape. From the outskirts of town, it's hard to walk into the city center for an after-work beer. In the future, the restaurants there (as long as they don't have a pandemic) will probably be looking forward to these guests again, if the "Lernort Landesfeuerwehrschule" (Learning Site State Fire Brigade School) comes along.
There, where the synagogue stood, the teaching fire fighters want to convey state-political training contents. Especially at the fateful place of Jewish past, current topics such as racism and anti-Semitism are to be taken up. Sensitive, looking back critically, not glossing over anything - is the OB's (Lord Mayor) motto for a forward-looking showcase project. Apart from the significant content, there are opportunities from an urban planning perspective. City planner Hartmut Ayrle sees a number of options. We can wait and see.
Likewise, patience was needed until a certain file surfaced. It clarifies the ownership of the site in question. It clearly belongs to the city. This finding was not particularly new. What is more exciting is whether the Jewish trust knew that the city wanted to build its fire station on it? What were the reasons of the city fathers? What did the people of Bruchsal say? Can answers to these questions still be found today? A hot potato. One can be curious.
Two comments from readers of the Bruchsaler Rundschau, April 9th, 2021:
The Bruchsal regional portal Landfunker reports about this issue, too
(text and video in German)