Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Diamond Jubilee

It is not Queen Elizabeth's jubilee I am addressing but the marriage between the territories of Baden and Württemberg sixty years ago becoming a new State in Germany's south west that was accordingly named Südweststaat at that time. Matching this union had not been without difficulties. In particular many people in South Baden with their capital Freiburg were opposed to such an unnatural wedding forcing Sauschwaben and Badenser as they mutually named themselves into one bed made in Stuttgart.

States in Germany's south west in the Weimar Republic and before (Wikipedia)

At the end of World War II the Allied Forces divided Germany into four zones. The US occupying most of southern Germany gave a territory to the French that comprised South Baden and the part of Württemberg, south of Stuttgart, just leaving the Autobahn between Stuttgart and Munich under US control. The French part encircled a tiny Prussian enclave with Hechingen castle, the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern. It was in this castle where Frederick the Great's bones rested after the war until they were moved to their final destination at Sans souci castle in Potsdam in 1991, fulfilling Frederick's last will. He wanted to be buried near to the graves of his beloved whippets.

Let’s come back to the main story. Shortly after the war in 1946 with Germany regaining a little self-determination the south of Württemberg and the Hohenzollern territory under French occupation
Leo Wohleb
became a state called Württemberg-Hohenzollern with its capital Tübingen. The people in the south of Baden, likewise under French occupation, but disliking the Schwaben formed the state of Baden with its capital Freiburg. At the same time the north of Baden and of Württemberg occupied by the US forces united to the state of Baden-Württemberg with Stuttgart as their capital. Already the founding fathers of our Grundgesetz (Federal Constitution) considered this partition unnatural and favoured a marriage well aware that this was a mariage à trois. The man bitterly opposed that his beloved Baden should cuddle up in the same bed with two states dominated by Schwaben was Leo Wohleb, a guy of only 155 cm but of an enormous intelligence and assertiveness.

"Unnatural" partitioning in Germany's southwest following American and French occupation (Wikipedia)
Brought up in Hamburg my personal recollection of the marriage of the three states is rather dim. When I started studying physics in Tübingen in 1955 that was the capital of Württemberg-Hohenzollern until April 25, 1952, the dice had aleady been tossed. Only once I was confronted with these historical developments when at a Studentenkneipe (students' ceremonial drinking session) I sat together with the Liberal Reinhold Mayer, another of those stubborn characters in the south west. He was the last Ministerpräsident (governor) of Württemberg-Hohenzollern and the first one of the newly created Südweststaat until he was beaten in a state election in September 1953 by his christian-democratic opponent Gebhard Müller. All I remember: Mayer was slurping red wine from the nearby Remstal while we students were downing Stuttgarter Hofbräu beer. As usual the Kneipe was too noisy for a decent conversation.

Today 60 years ago this is all history. During a tour in Freiburg guided by a real expert we visited the historic places where Leo Wohleb lived and worked as pupil, student, teacher and eventually as President of Baden. We were reminded not to think of earlier divisions but rather of the common roots of Baden-Württemberg nicely presented in the form of a mosaic in front of the Basler Hof, Baden's former Ministry of Interior.

Baden-Württemberg

The three lions in the shield stand for the Hohenstaufen who in the early Middle Ages controlled most of the south west territory. On top of the shield from left to right we recognize the coats of arms of the various territories forming Baden-Württemberg starting with Franconia (the Franconian rake) followed by Prussia’s Hohenzollern, Baden, Württemberg, Palatinate’s lion and last not least the Habsburg colors, red-white-red.

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