Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Siegesdenkmal

Rarely a local topic caused more letters to the editor than the discussion about Freiburg's victory memorial. What kind of victory? Well, the memorial commemorates Prussia's and its allies' victory over Germany's Erbfeind (hereditary enemy) France in 1871, Germany’s War of Unification.

You may know that in 1870 France declared war on Prussia answering Bismarck's provocation and in the end, the French Emperor Napoleon III. was a POW at Bismarck's mercy. Read more in German.

In 1876 it was the then German Emperor Wilhelm I. who inaugurated in the presence of the Grand Duke of Baden, Friederich I., and the then Imperial Chancellor Bismarck the Siegesdenkmal (Victory Memorial) glorifying Baden's role in the War of Unification.

Siegesdenkmal, now without any decorations and barriers
in Freiburg's pedestrian zone
For decades the memorial had stood in the axis of Freiburg's Kaiser-Joseph-Straße when in 1961, traffic oblige, it was placed somewhat off-axis on nearby Friedrichring rarely discovered by visiting tourists. With the complete redesign of the site due to the new streetcar line, the Siegesdenkmal was moved to its old location, now a pedestrian zone, causing a storm in the media.

Photo of yesterday. Siegesdenkmal back at its original position
While a few pleaded for the memorial being part of our history others proposed to move it to the outskirts of the city, and some wanted the bronze to be melted down. The city council was startled by those reactions, promised to name the square around the memorial presently called like the streetcar stop Siegesdenkmal, and proposed the name Europaplatz (Europe Square).

A new avalanche of letters was the result mostly criticising the name Europaplatz as a cheap plugin. Some wanted to retain the old name calling it Platz des Siegesdenkmals, others favored Freundschaftsplatz (Square of Friendship [with France]), while the socialist camp proposed Jean Jaurès, the French socialist, who was assassinated for his pacifist ideas at the eve of World War I., the bloodiest confrontation between the two European neighbors.

Red Baron preferred a last-minute proposal Badische Freiheit (Baden Freedom) commemorating the Baden Revolution of 1848/49.

Without any clear majority for one of the proposals the vote of Freiburg's city council scheduled for mid-February had been postponed. Yesterday evening the deputies finally decided in a close vote of 20 against 19 to name the square Europaplatz, admitting that Freiburgers will continue to call it Siegesdenkmal.

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