The Hermannsdenkmal commemorating the battle at the Teutoburg forest - 9 a.c.
A favoured joke amongst academics is the question: What happened 1009 a.c. in Germany?
Answer: The millennial anniversary of the battle of Teutoburg forest. No other event of the early German history is well known like this battle.
Despite of the fact, that the real battle happened approx. 100 km away at Kalkriese, the event itself and the year are scientifically proven.
This was one of the reasons, to build this monument as a symbol for Patriotism - in a period, when the reborn national consciousness in Germany (as an echo to the French Revolution 1796 as well as a consequence of the Napoleonic wars till 1813) was hungry for visible points of a national identity.
Everything else about construction history and facts (the biggest statue in Germany, till construction of the Liberty sculpture the biggest in the World etc…) is meanwhile to find on the world wide web, but not the fact who is the “grandfather” of this kind of construction: the 1697 finished statue of San Carlo at Arona was the first of their type in Europe, serving as a model for the “Hermann” as well as for “Lady Liberty” and others.
This week is dedicated to National Monuments of Germany.
Info – at a glance
Deviating from presenting with every riddle-pic a single place or sight, this time we want to memorize the day of remembrance November 9th, as the day when the Berlin Wall fell down – for most of the Germans a deeper feeling than the official day of German Unity on October 3rd.
First time since 40 years we get the feeling to be one nation, and a similar feeling ruled approx. 200 years ago, finally manifested in the declaration of the German Empire 1871.
And – a quite mystical fact – the fall of the wall and by that the end of the German division happened 50 years after Germany initiated the WWII, corresponding with the biblical “jubilee year”, which grants the total absolution…. (as celebrated by the Catholic Church too every 50 years).
The French Revolution 1796 changed the World, as it heralded the end of the feudal order in Europe. So even in Germany the regionalism with approx. 300 principalities and kingdoms (around 1800 a.c.) changed more and more to a nation under unique ruling and government, finalized with the Imperial Proclamation of the German Empire, ironically celebrated on French Territory, at Versailles.
To visualize this new national feeling, most under the aegis of the new emperors, various monuments emerged.
In this article we do not point out the abuse linked with some of these monuments, of past and recent times. This is a general problem of nationalism all over the world.
Here we will present those of the hints and some others, but not intended to be exhaustive, listed by year of inauguration. (in brackets years when construction was initiated and the inauguration) – for more information about the object click the name, to find it on map click the city or place:
The King´s Seat – Rhens (1346? Reconstructed 1841-1843. moved 1929)
The most historical monument – quite forgotten, but giving testimony about the medieval elections of the emperors. Detailed information is rare. But it is embedded in the UNESCO world heritage “Upper Middle Rhine Valley”, which offers hundreds of castles, nature formations and romantic places, worth a visit.
New Guardhouse – Berlin (1816-1818)
This – originally a profane construction for the Prussian guards – was declared in 1993 for the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Victims of War and Dictatorship.
Before this, the after WWII refurbished buildung was used as Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism in GDR, an obligatory point to visit for classes and groups, with a weekly military parade for change of the guards, positioned in front of the columns.
National Monument for the Liberation Wars – Berlin (1818-1821)
Not well known, this monument based on the desire of the population and was finally commissioned and financed by the Prussian King. It is situated in the Victoriapark, on the highest inner-city elevation.
Based on the Valhalla Legend of the Nordic Mythologies, the Bavarian King Ludwig I. ordered a Hall of Fame, to honor “distinguished people of the German tongue”. It is still “in process” with nominations and placement of busts.
Bavaria & Hall Of Fame – Munich (1843-1853)
Because Valhalla was dedicated to the whole German Nation, The Bavarian King Ludwig I. initiated another monument only for Bavaria's cultural and scientific elite.
Mostly visible during the Oktoberfest period, most people don´t think about to climb the stairs at the inner corpus into the head of the Bavaria sculpture – the only one statue in Germany with this possibility.
The hall of fame shows actually 82 busts of Bavarian distinguished persons.
Hall Of Liberation - Kelheim (1842-1863)
Dedicated to all German fighters, for the final victory about Napoleon's army in 1813, this monumental construction impress the visitor just by the outside with 18 sculptures of 6,5m height, symbolizing the German tribes involved to the battles.
And – a curious fact in Bavaria – the Prussians and Austrians are specially honored with a placement right and left of the main entrance. Once here, the visitor may enjoy even a visit of the nearby Abbey Weltenburg, situated in the Danube Valley Reserve.
The place is best to reach from Kelheim by a boat trip passing the National Nature Monument (declared 2020) of Danube Gorge.
Victory Column – Berlin (1864-1873, was moved 1938-1939)
This is probably the most military monument – to symbolize the various “uniting” wars of the Prussian Monarchy. The column was built with real cannons, conquered during the Prussian wars against Denmark 1864, Austria 1866 and France 1870/71 – culminating finally into the German Empire with the Prussian King as new German Emperor.
After WWII France applied for the total demolition of this monument – the request was rejected by British and American Government, the Soviet Union remained neutral in this negotiation.
So the French Administration confiscated some of the battle reliefs which were removable – they were (but partially destroyed) given back in 1987 for the 750-year anniversary of Berlin.
Winterberg-Monument – Saarbrücken (1872-1874, destroyed 1939)
This was a monument built by the citizens of Saarbrücken to remember the unifying of Germany in 1871. The pedestal was inspired from the King's seat of Rhens.
Soon the 20 m tower top of the Winterberg became the landmark for Saarbrücken, not only in Germany but even in the international perception.
For military reasons the Wehrmacht itself blasted the monument – as some others confined to France – in September 1939, to eliminate orientation points for enemy artillery. Every trial to rebuilt the monument after 1945 was not successful, only the pedestal could be reconstructed.
Hermann – the battle of Teutoburg forest - Detmold (1838 - 1875)
The main motive of the photo-riddle this time was even the first in idea for a National Monument – the first thoughts came up in 18th century. T
he first drafts of this one was made by the young Ernst von Bandel (he learnt from the leading architects and artists of his period) under the impression of the Napoleonic wars.
It needed 20 years to initiate with the foundations, and then again 37 years to finalize the sculpture. It is interesting, that the construction was financed in major parts by donations of the German population, even prominent and not ultra-national people, like the emigrated poet Heinrich Heine contributed.
The sculpture itself with a height of 26,57m (totally 53,46m with pedestals) is the highest in Germany and was, till the construction of Lady Liberty in 1866, the largest in the Western World.
And “Hermann” is somehow a scientist now, because the monuments serves for survey of lightning strikes since 2012.
And – another curiosity – “Hermann the German” has a little brother in US.
Victory Column/ Battle of Fehrbellin – Hakenberg/ Fehrbellin (1875-1879)
This is one of the more forgotten monuments in the national retention. Dedicated to the 1675s victory of the numerous inferior forces of the Brandenburg Elector Friedrich Wilhelm over the invincible alleged Swedish troops under Count Wrangel. F
riedrich Wilhelm was named “The Great Elector” when, as consequence of the battle, he conquered the todays Mecklenburg-Vorpommern territory back from Sweden and unite it with Prussia. A key participant at Prussian side was Prince Friedrich of Homburg – and his name was honored later by the German author Heinrich von Kleist with a drama.
The battle finally marked the turnaround of Prussia, from a principality among others into a European power as well known since 19th century.
Germania – Niederwald-Monument - Rüdesheim (1877-1883)
This was the probably most pushed monument, initiated immediately in 1871 after the proclamation of the new German Empire. It is – as far as the author knows – with 12,50m height the biggest sculpture of a Germania still existing.
How controversial the discussion about the new “Germanity” was even at that time, illustrates the assassination attempt on the emperor during the inauguration ceremony. Another curiosity linked to that monument: During the speech of Wilhelm I., an artillery crew misunderstood a gesture of the commanding officer and fired by mistake a salute.
Aware of this, all cannons started the salute fire, and the last words of the emperor went lost in the noise. For that reason those words were carved into the pedestal (middle stairs).
A particularity: the monument 223 m over the Rhine can be reached by a rope-way, since the former tramway was destroyed in 1944 during WWII.
Barbarossa Monument - Kyffhäuser (1892-1896)
Another of the once more than 300 Emperor-Wilhelm I. Equestrian Sculptures, is this Barbarossa Monument - one of the 43 monuments which survived the two grand wars.
The most dangerous period were the years after 1945, when German Communists wanted to blast away this “imperialistic symbol” – but Soviet officials resisted and saved the monument, explaining “You Germans must finally learn, to live with your history and your monuments.”
Not only that the exposed situation of the Monument grants a fantastic panoramic view – in good conditions up to 80 km – some people realized the idea of “ground pictures” to improve the impression.
Thematically this monument is the best visualization of the new German National feeling after 1871: Emperor Wilhelm I. “white-beard” came to fulfill the promise of the medieval emperor Friedrich I. named Barbarossa “red-beard” – according to legends sleeping inside the Kyffhäuser, til the German Nation will be reborn.
Wilhelm I. Monument – Porta Westfalica (1892-1896)
According to general opinions the construction is with 88 m the second in height of the German National Monuments, after the battle-of-the-nations monument in Leipzig.
Thanks to the dimensions it is really visible from far. A particularity is the “standing” emperor – usual was mostly an equestrian statue – as for example the Architect for the competitive monument of Hohensyburg preferred and many other cities executed too. The emperor´s sculpture itself is “only” 7 m in height – a gnome in comparison with “Hermann”.
Wilhelm I. Equestrian Statue/ German Corner - Koblenz (1891-1897)
Today visible in the refurbished figures, the pedestal was left in 1945 after a US-artillery-strike without the demolished sculpture.
In 1953 then Bundespräsident Heuss converted the pedestal into a memorial of German Unity – with plaques of all federal states and the lost areas like Silesia or East-Prussia. And probably some people will remember, that the German flag was installed on top. In 1990 the plaques of the five new East-German countries were added.
In 1993 a patron financed the refurbishment of the sculpture, which was lifted finally in September 1993 with the biggest mobile lifter available in Europe onto the pedestal. This corresponds with the fact, that the monument at the year of inauguration 1897 was the biggest of it´s kind in the world.
Students Corporations Monument (for the fallen) – Eisenach (1897-1902)
Somehow in the historical shadow of the Wartburg not all visitors find their way to the 33 m monumental building.
On the local website named as a “fraternity” monument, it is a testimony of erratic German history. Eisenach was chosen for the memorial because of the Wartburg-festival of students in1817, where the students demanded national unity. On the one hand visible as a progressive force, they confused others with the public burning of books and antisemitic speeches.
The monument itself was erected as a memorial for the 87 fallen students during the battles of 1870/71. But the later following two dictatorships were not interested in maintenance or care of the place.
For the National Socialists the students corporations were forced into line, the specific monument lost relevance. For the post war Socialists the idea of liberty and German unity was unacceptable. So the substance corroded. After 1990 the students corporations could get back the memorial and it was refurbished.
Since 2006 the building reopened and became accessible for everybody, visitors now may climb the 102 steps to the tower for a fantastic panoramic view, after passing the refurbished art nouveau paintings and elements of the hall.
Wilhelm I. Equestrian Statue – Hohensyburg/ Dortmund (1893-1902)
In 1889 Dortmund lost the challenge for the commissioned monument which became the “Porta Westfalica” at the today known place.
So the elders decided to build their own monument and started the fundraising for it. Maybe for lack of money, maybe for structural problems: The monument became smaller and suffered construction problems. Finally the National Socialists refurbished the memorial in 1934-1935 and eliminated some “sidekicks” like the two prince statues and changed the whole composition to idealize the symbol of ONE leader.
Bismarck Monument – Hamburg (1901-1906)
It seems, that Otto von Bismarck, the “iron chancellor” was more favoured than his employer, the Prussian King and then German Emperor. Not only monuments were built for him: landmarks, plants, geographical areas and foreign places were named after him, at least the pickled herring.
In Germany 72 monuments or reliefs survived the wars, 37 are lost. Additional 173 out of 240 Bismarck-towers can still be visited in Europe, 66 towers with his name overseas are lost (destroyed). The most impressive monument with 45m height was blasted by Danish Partisans in 1945.
The last duty of the exceptional phenomenon: During WWII he “protected” up to 950 people in the catacombs of his sculpture before air-raids (please take note of the legend for historical distance to NS-Symbols).
Monument to the Battle Of the Nations – Leipzig (1898-1913)
One of the few monuments not glorifying the victory but giving a voice (really!) to the fallen men and the pain of their mothers. (this video shows a choire, but there is a certain sound of grief inside).
At least the largest monument in Germany, it was set to memorize the first mass battle of history, with half a million soldiers and at least more than 89.000 dead & wounded. Germans fought on both sides of the battle.
Not crowned, not dedicated to a conqueror or a single person, this monument is a worthy place for grief and memory. An exceptional illustration of history and construction of the monument – in German language - can be found at a webpage for historical postcards. There is even a hint for the Russian Memorial Church not far away, linked with the battle remembrance and erected 1913.
Of course visitors may climb even the cupola for a view from the external platform. By elevator reaching the balustrade at 57 m, those without claustrophoby (!) may continue by stairs to the platform on top.
Probably an interesting fact is the height of 91 m – a certain school of architects in Germany never exceeded 91 m at that period. The measure corresponds with 300 feet and bases probably on antique measurements where the highest known construction had this extents.
Naval Memorial – Kiel-Laboe (1927-1936)
With 85 m it characterizes an impressive landmark at the coast. Based on the proposal of a former seaman in 1925, this was erected as a memorial for German sailors who lost their lives in the war of 1914-1918. A fundraising of sailors and their congregations covered the costs of 700.000 RM - comparable with today unbelievable economical 200.000 €.
When the construction – after a suspension period caused by the crisis – was inaugurated with the presence of the “Führer”, it took the smell of nationalism. So in 1946 it was on the list of NS-Monuments, which the Allied Control Council wanted to demolish. But finally it was validated as memorial for men, not for ideology, and gave back to the sailors.
In 1954 it was rededicated as a memorial for the sailors of all nationalities who were lost at sea for armed conflicts. Since 1996 even the civil marine victims are included.
Soviet War Memorial – Treptow/ Berlin (1946-1949)
The biggest memorial of it's kind in Germany: visitors sometimes forget that they walk along the graves of 7000 young men, fallen for the liberation of Berlin.
The scene of the Soldier saving a child is supposed to real occurrences. There are two other Soviet War Memorials in Berlin. But this with 9 ha and the real impressive sculptures requires – and offers – time to memorize the fright of war.
On 31.08.1994 the military ceremony for the Soviet troops leaving Germany was celebrated here. It is to remark that with the 2+4 treaties Germany took responsibility for these memorials and for their maintenance.
Unfortunately the memorial is a frequent aim for attacks and desecration. After the first attack in December 1989 the population responded a few days later with a 200.000 people manifestation. But the more WWII is away, the more attacks of hate increase.
This memorial shall be seen in this (non exhaustive) list in place of the various war cemeteries, whether of German or foreign soldiers.
National Buchenwald Memorial – Weimar (1954-1958)
After WWII and the NS-period a complete new character of memorials was born. Buchenwald seems to be the most distinguished example of those.
The old concentration camp facilities have been taken over by the Soviet Administration in 1945 and were used by the NKWD for imprisonment of all kind of suspects. After cessation of those camps – and a general demolition of the imprisonment barracks – the GDR hurried to build a National Memorial for the victims of the NS-period, with a focus to the communist resistance.
A particularity here is the collection of soil and crematorium ashes from all other concentration camps, stored under the plate of the freedom tower. The post-1990 established foundation tries to satisfy the remebrance even for the concealed victims now.
The Peasants' War Panorama – Bad Frankenhausen (1976-1987)
This – one of the largest panel paintings in the world – was even in the re-united Germany categorized as memorial of national importance. It is for copyright laws not possible to show parts of the impressive inside, but a virtual tour is available. However, to understand the multipurpose background of the painting and the history, it is recommended to book a guided tour.
A particularity is the construction of two building shells. Because the painting is made direct on the walls, a second cladding was built to protect the main hall. In case of the – inevitable – decay by climate conditions of walls and the roof, only the outer shell must be refurbished (after 80 years).
Not well applicable to the aim of the memorial, but among the population circulates the unflattering nickname “the elephants pot”.
Probably the smallest and easiest memorial to miss. Only the visitor who searches specifically for this place will find it.
What Heinrich Heine wrote (“Almansor” Verse 243f) – under the impression of the burning books at the Wartburg festival in 1871– became reality in 1933 and cumulated in the Holocaust.
Sculpture Park “German Unity” – Eußenhausen/Meiningen (1996 on going)
This is a very contemporary place for the remembrance of the German Unity, initiated by a private initiative. The sculpture park is still in progress.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – Berlin (2003-2005)
The last in this list of examples, it is the recently most controversial disputed memorial. But – and this is to point out – it is the visible sign that the German population assumes the responsibility for the genocide of the Jewish nation and the necessary manifestation to express the own dismay about the activity at that time.
There is NO OTHER similar memorial in the world, that a Nation confesses the violent acting against different tribes and races – except the small Ruanda state which tries to overcome the trauma of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi.
Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) – Germany and some European countries
Not a monument in dimension of measures, the private idea was taken up by groups in various countries and is a quite good possibility to remember what happened. Now they also remember in various countries about the fright of Nationalism.
Addendum – some other and in dimension smaller monuments of national relevance:
Lost sculptures and German National Memorials of Königsberg (today Kaliningrad)
Lost National Monuments of Danzig (today Gdansk) – no link available
The Tannenberg National Memorial (Hindenburg Grave) – Olsztynek (ex Hohenstein i. OP)
some Sculptures of persons of national retention:
* The Heinrich-Heine Memorial – foreseen 1897 for Düsseldorf, but installed at New York
- 1958 substituted with the “3 Norns” memorial for the NS-victims
if not mentioned other wise in the picture, all photos by ©F. E. Schulz