Order of Demolition

The picture shows the inauguration of the memorial stone, which two years later became the subject of a demolition order. Among those in the picture are Bernd Rettig, the chairman of the Hochstädten local advisory council, City Councilor Oliver Roeder, and Kurt Knapp, the deputy district administrator, representing the district administrator. I am grateful to them for participating in the inauguration of the memorial stone, which also referred to the former concentration camp subcamp in the valley. The demolition order was revoked in the fall of 2014.

Chapter: Milestones / Headwind / Demolition Notice / Official Order

Friedensmal and Memorial Stone: Between Artistic Freedom, Administrative Boundaries, and Societal Significance

Introduction to the Topic

In a scenically beautiful environment near Frankfurt am Main, one finds the Friedensmal, a circle of monuments covering an area of 535 square meters. The project had been approved by the local authority. This landscape art installation was developed over a period of 16 years and realized through volunteer work and donations from supporters on private land. It was intended to be a monument to human dignity and freedom. It aimed to signify the lessons we can draw from Germany's dark past while simultaneously serving as a beacon of hope for German-Jewish relations. Kurt Hacker, the President of the International Auschwitz Committee, wrote to me about this idea: "It indeed represents a psychological/philosophical approach that deeply touches."

Shortly after the groundbreaking, the now demolition-threatened memorial stone became the target of an isolated but significant anti-Semitic incident: just 9 days after its inauguration in October 2012, the inscription was destroyed. Although visitor opinions about the
Friedensmal are overwhelmingly positive, there were also forces in the Bergstraße district working against it.

In February 2014, the Bergstraße district authority issued an order for the demolition of the
Boundary Stone, benches, and two information panels, citing landscape protection (report on HR television). Without these 'extensions,' which naturally belong to a monument of this size and significance, the memorial site would neither be understood nor accepted by people. This project would no longer exist. Certainly, building a 535-square-meter monument is a significant intervention in nature. But it looks beautiful, is embedded in the landscape, and had been approved by the authorities. Now, landscape protection is being cited as an argument for the demolition of a mere 1.3-square-meter memorial stone, two information panels each measuring 0.16 square meters, and two benches that breathe life into the monument. Normally, people are even honored for donating a bench along a hiking trail. Does a monument of this size make any sense without benches and information panels to read what it is actually about? All of this must be a natural part of an approved monument of such size and ambition.

The existence of an armaments factory during World War II, located less than 1 km from the
Friedensmal in a tunnel system in the valley, came to broader public attention through a book by Bensheim historian Dr. Krämer. Greek forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners had been deployed there. This local history had been largely ignored for over 60 years. To ensure that the message of this new peace site would not be completely misunderstood, this memorial stone, dedicated to local history, was needed. It was about truthfulness and the credibility of this entire project. The Friedensmal was approved for the outdoor area because it is of special interest to the general public. But how could this still be credible if one wanted to ignore the local history of a former concentration camp subcamp directly at the site in connection with a Friedensmal for human dignity and freedom? And how can it be credible if the information panel about the history is to be torn down? In the year 2014 it is the only place where the history of the satellite camp is publicly named.

With the memorial stone, this could be addressed and clarified. Since then, the project 'works.' Without the 'extensions,' the entire art project would hardly be understood or accepted. It would have no 'life' anymore. The now demolition-threatened memorial stone from the authorities' side reminds us of a dark chapter in local history, but it is also simultaneously a sign of hope for the future. With it, a spiritual bridge from the dark past to new life is now being built at this location.

Statement from the Sponsoring Association

The planned demolition will set a precedent for a Germany we thought we had overcome. Our memorial site is well received by visitors. School classes often come by. This accessible and experiential monument reaches the children. Every evening, visitors sit on the benches and absorb the atmosphere of the place. By now, a majority of the local citizens—through visits, events, explanations, and numerous articles in the local newspaper—are convinced of the project.

The memorial stone was not only the solution for dealing with the topic of the concentration camp subcamp but also the solution for dealing with a newly created content-related issue of the artwork: The authority had approved a fence in front of the significantly effective element of the monument without any possibility for compromise in the design. According to a statement from an authority employee, they had forgotten our peace project. Such a fence along the path is not a problem on its own. However, it did not align with the originally planned design, which envisioned a single opening in a circle of stones leading towards freedom in the direction of Jerusalem,
and now towards the fence. The message here is freedom, granted by the 'Tree of Life.' In Judaism, the Torah is a Tree of Life. In Christianity, 'the Tree' represents the connection with the Creator. The 'Tree of Life' is the central lying symbol in the monument that stands for human dignity and freedom.

Therefore, we created a new open space on the other side of the monument and
removed 22 memorial stones that we could have built according to the permit. Instead, we placed a single memorial stone as a monument of 1.3 square meters next to the 535-square-meter Friedensmal on our property. Overall, the space has been significantly relieved; because today, there are 21 fewer large memorial stones than were originally approved. However, this relief of the landscape was not credited to us.

Article 5 of the German Basic Law, Paragraph 3 states: "Art and science, research and teaching are free", which means that art is constitutionally protected.

A monument is more than a structure; it is a work of art. But art must also have enough freedom in practice to allow for a process that can respond attentively to glaring changes in the environment. How can it be illegal to want to preserve an artistic message? It would be more concerning to continue building something senseless, given that the approved large circle of the monument is already a significant intervention in nature. It would also be a violation of human dignity (Article 1 of the Basic Law) to force an artist to continue working voluntarily on a memorial site that has lost its original meaning.

Anordnung für Rückbau - Seite 1

Anordnung für Rückbau - Seite 2

Anordnung für Rückbau - Seite 3

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Anordnung für Rückbau - Seite 6

Next Chapter:  Demolition Debate

Return to Overview:  Demolition Notice
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