Wednesday, November 29, 2017

NS Documentation Center

Red Baron is dedicating this blog to a friend who indefatigably digs into Freiburg's Nazi past. The city owes him a number of commemorative plaques - he partly financed himself - located at sites of shame. As an example, here is a photo of the plaque that was put up on his persisting demand inside the Basler Hof, a historical building on Freiburg's Kaiser-Joseph-Straße.

Built in 1496 by Emperor Maximilian‘s treasurer Konrad Stürtzel, the building housed Basel's cathedral chapter from 1587 to 1678 when they had fled their city as a result of the turmoils caused by the Reformation. Later the Habsburg governors of the Vorlande (forelands, i.e., far away from Vienna) resided in the Basler Hof until in 1806 the administration of the Grand Duchy of Baden took over and moved into the premises. As its last resort, Baden’s revolutionary government worked in the building from June 24, to July 7, 1849.

Stürtzel‘s city palace continued to accommodate governmental institutions. From 1933 to 1941 the Gestapo (Nazi Secret State Police) carried out its inhumane acts of mistreatment and torture in the basement. While Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) remind passing people outside the building the commemorative plaque informs the visitor inside about the Nazi past.

Basler Hof in the 1930s (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof following the disastrous air raid on November 27, 1944 (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof rebuilt
Since long my friend has been struggling with the creation of a Nazi documentation center in Freiburg. I will never forget when a couple of years ago at a New Year's reception for our part of town my friend approached Mayor Salomon asking him for support of such a center. The Mayor’s answer was abrupt, "I have no money."

My friend never gives up. Constant dripping wears the stone and the exhibition Nationalsozialismus (NS) in Freiburg not only turned out to be a great popular success (Red Baron reported) but also turned the tide. Following a lecture by my friend explaining his ideas of a NS documentation center, all parties presented at the municipal council eventually sent a letter to Mayor Salomon writing, "We know about the great challenge for a documentation center to be up to its mission, i.e., acquainting future generations with Freiburg's NS past." The mayor said, "The municipal council gave us a mandate and we will start working on some ideas we had already developed before.“

Note: The other "we", the citizens of Freiburg, shall elect a new mayor or re-elect the old one on April 22, 2018. Let's face it, Dr. Salomon is starting his election campaign early.

Money shall be earmarked for the center in the municipal budget of 2018/19. As for the future site, some people proposed the basement of the Basler Hof, others regard the former Gestapo basement used for torturing people as inappropriate for the future NS documentation center.

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