The Rosengarten (rose garden) of Göttingen is a forgotten place close to the new town hall building and the city center, just behind the Wallanlagen. Some people might walk from the Cheltenhampark via the Albanifriedhof to the Rosengarten and discover lots of beautiful roses there – but it is typically not a place you’re visiting on purpose. Younger citizens might remember that school’s out parties where once celebrated there, others might have been at this place because it is the schoolyard of the Bonifatiusschule.
Older Göttinger might have come there because the former home of Robert Oppenheimer can be found there or they might remember the election campaign speech of Willy Brandt held there on September 5th, 1961. Or they remember the anti-war protests of the 1980s connected to this area.
Currently it is a rose garden next to a car park and a destroyed memorial consisting of a giant cross and memorial plaques that have been painted over and scribbled on. How did it become like this? Göttingen was the garrison city of the 2. Kurhessisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 82 of the Prussian army. The connection was pretty strong and until 1992 the place in front of the new town hall building was named the 82er Platz – a lot of people still know it by this name.
In 1924 the soldiers asked the city administration for support as they wanted to set-up a memorial for the fallen soldiers of their regiment during World War I. The city council provided funds and a location: the place where you still today can find the so-called Ehrenmal im Rosengarten. The result was a 2.3 meters high statue of a soldier and it was initially placed close to the road. It stated that the soldiers, their ‘fallen heroes‘ were ‘faithful to the death’ (this second part was added after 1945).
The monument was inaugurated during a three days long event. It was handed over to the city represented by mayor Georg Calsow. The social-democratic publication Volksblatt called for protests against this event, but there wasn’t any. After these days many events of the soldiers happened at this place over the years and in 1953 the monument was moved to the position where you currently can find a large cross. There it was surrounded with memorial plaques for East Prussian army units. As they lost their homes after World War II Göttingen was giving them a place to remember.
In the 1980s the times were finally changing. All the years the soldier events and the memorial were accepted in the city. As the anti-war movement grow stronger this changed. In 1988 the soldier monument was torn down multiple times. In the end the head of the soldier fell off, was stolen and dropped in a lake close to the village of Barterode. The monument was replaced by a wooden cross, the soldier received a new head and was brought to the Zietenkaserne military grounds (and later further on to Osterode and Munster).
In 1999 an urn holding the soil from the battle ground of Verdun was stolen that was buried in the monument to support the French-German reconciliation. The monument was vandalized multiple times and it feels like nobody has a plan on how to proceed with it. There is no explanation, no comment on what it means and what happened in that place. The memorial is just standing there and will probably forever be in this bad condition. Good ideas wanted: how to turn this place into a peace memorial and to remember all victims of war?
Ehrenmal im Rosengarten