On this page, due to public interest and for better accessibility, we once again make our submission available.
Note: This is a shortened version of the original German-language text.
We propose to open the 39er memorial. The central space, which has been blocked so far, will be made accessible to the public. A path will be opened through the monument between the two previously separate parts of Reeser Park. We remove the gate, the “crypt” is gone, and the pedestal is lowered to the ground level. The interior of the monument will provide space for information and further content. It will become a place of learning and remembrance.
Our premise is that National Socialism, and the ideology behind it, is not over. Its spirit is always ready to flourish and grow. It is still there, maybe not so loud and visible but it is among us.
This problem is concentrated in the central space of the monument, as in a burning glass. It is visible, but not accessible to the public. In this it is reminiscent of the choir room of a church. This false "inner sanctum", with the table resembling an altar or sacrifice table, and the suggestion of an underground burial chamber - this is where the core of the war-glorifying death cult statement of the monument lies.
The basic structure of the monument suggests a gate or some kind of passageway. But the fact that the gate remains closed and sealed with the Iron Cross denies any movement that does not take place along the direction that the soldiers march in. The forecourt, the Aufmarschplatz is completely dominated by the martial aesthetics of the monument and can also only be used to a limited extent due to the way it is laid out. Thus, it remains a parade ground as long as the two halves of the park are not connected. Similarly, the rear part of the park is in the shadow of the monument in more ways than one. The entire public space of the park as well as the settlement around it suffer from the fact that symbolically as well as pragmatically free access routes are cut off.
It seems extremely urgent to us to grant the democratic public access to all areas of the monument and the Reeser Park. There must be no more shelters for the inhuman ideology behind the design of the 39er monument.
By opening the quasi-sacral inner space of the monument and giving passage to the democratic public, we show that there is nothing sacred there. This message will be further strengthened by the fact that in the area of the newly created passageway the step will be removed. We put everything on the same level. We propose to cut the pedestal, and install a new, textured concrete floor. This makes the intervention in the structure visible and tactile. Through its unevenness it reminds one to slow down and pause.
An inclusive place of learning and remembrance
Information panels will be mounted on the interior walls of the passageway. In cooperation with the Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Düsseldorf we would like to commission contributions from historians from those countries or cities that are engraved on the front of the monument. These are the places where battles happened.
Especially at a time when historical revisionism is on the rise throughout Europe, we believe that it is important to make information accessible from more than one perspective. These texts are intended to place the military operations in a historical context from the perspectives of the respective countries. The locations are in today's Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Belgium and France. There are consequently six contributions to be commissioned.
The aim of these contributions is again an opening: the expansion of the so far exclusively German historical view to a variety of international perspectives.
In addition to the text, the original state of the monument is documented in pictures on the panels, so that the intervention remains clearly recognizable as such. A dedicated website, easily accessible via a QR code, provides space for the all texts and their translations into six languages.
It is very important to us that opening up the monument also functions as a tool in spacial planning. The newly created passageway will connect the two halves of the park, making it more usable for residents and urban society. The two realities of the playground and the memorial are no longer kept separate, but can be experienced in their co-existence. The distinction into "front" and "back" part of the park becomes less dominant.
The entire green space should be redesigned: the playground should be modernised, the railway lines removed, and the densely overgrown areas behind the monument and at the northern end of the site should be turned into a bird- and insect-friendly habitat.
Since we don't have much information about the needs of the residents and the local community, we cannot make any concrete decisons about this redesign. Another competition should answer these questions. But clearly it should be preserved as a playground, recreation area and green space. And certainly the local community must be involved in this process of further opening up the park for everyone.
Status quo of the 39er memorial in Dec. 2019
Visualization of the opened monument incl. floor made of concrete matrices