World War One Memorial and Counter-Memorial at Dammtor in Hamburg

Pictures and text by Mark R. Hatlie

These pictures were taken on 26 April, 2007 in Hamburg near the Dammtor trainstation near the university. The memorial complex is located near a wide walkway between down town and the train station and the bridge to the university. It is, so to speak, right in the face of the students on their way to class.

It has been the scene of anti-war demonstrations.

The memorial is actually two memorials, a war memorial built during the Nazi period, later expanded during the postwar period, and a "countermemorial." Here, the war memorial is in the foreground, the counter-memorial in the background.
Here it's the other way around, with the counter-memorial closer.
An information plaque explains the two memorials. See below.
This is the 1936 memorial to the 76th Regiment.
The text reads, "Germany must live even if we must die."
The back, facing the heavy traffic on the nearby street, reads, "For the infantry regiment Hamburg 2nd Hanseatic Nr. 76 and its reserve infantry regiment Nr. 76."
This is the nearby wall.
The large section reads, "Great Deeds of the Past are Supporting Columns of the Future." It then lists the places where and dates when the regiments fought.
The small one reads, "In honor of fallen and missing comrades 1939-1945, 225th infantry division."
The plaque in the ground reads, "For our fallen and missing comrades in the Second World War 1939-1945 / Panzergrenadier regiment 76."
These last four shots show the artwork by Hrdlicka.

The information plaque at the site reads as follows:

76 War memorial, Richard Kuöhl, 1936
Memorial against war, Alfred Hrdlicka, 1985/1986
After the First World War the senate decided that Hamburg didn't need a "Hero Memorial Site," but rather that a central memorial for the fallen should be built. In 1931 a pylon with the representation of a crying mother (by Ernst Barlach) with a child was erected on the city hall square. The wording was, "Forty thousand sons of the city gave their lives for you."

That memorial was not enough for National Socialists. After they came to power, in 1934 they organized a contest for a memorial for the Hamburg 76th regiment. Participation was restricted to "Reich German Aryan architects and sculptors." (Note: Reich German refers to Germans in Germany, as opposed to "Volks-"Germans living in other countries. The Nazi senate approved a memorial block design by Ernst Kuöhl. The marching soldiers and the inscriptions "Germany must live even if we must die" and "Great deeds of the past are the supporting columns of the future" demonstrate the Nazi propaganda preparing for war. The memorial was dedicated on 15 March, 1936 with a military parade.

Wrongly considered a memorial for the fallen of the First World War, a plaque memorializing the fallen of World War Two was added in 1957.

Since 1945 its destruction has been demanded again and again because it glorifies militarism and heroic death. The senate decided to leave it in place as a reminder of history, but with a commentary. At the recommendation of the Hamburg Art Commission, the senate invited the Vienna sculptor Alfred Hrdlicka to "change the site such that the memorial glorifying war is turned into a memorial against war."

Hrdlicka's design contrasts the massive block of the 76 memorial with a brocken swastika which were to form the outline for four memorial elements. The elements were to appear one after the other upon completion and have aspects of the war as their theme: "Hamburg firestorm," (refering to the bombing of the city, M.H.) "Oppression and resistance," "Soldiers' death," and "The image of woman and fascism." On the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, the 8th of May, 1985, the "Hamburg firestorm" was dedicated, and on the 29th of September, 1986, the sculpture "Downfall of a concentration camp prisoner" followed. Only these two parts were ever completed.

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Contact / Impressum:
Mark R. Hatlie (ViSdM)
Im Feuerhägle 1
D-72072 Tübingen

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