THE GERMAN CORNER: INVENTING GERMAN NATIONALIST TRADITION

April 25, 2010 at 2:40 am | Posted in Germany, History, Military | Leave a comment

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German Emperor Wilhelm I

Deutsches Eck (German Corner)

Deutsches Eck (German Corner) is the name of a headland in Koblenz where the Mosel joins the Rhine. In 1897, nine years after the death of the German Emperor Wilhelm I, the former emperor was honoured with a giant equestrian statue bearing an inscription quoting a German poem: Nimmer wird das Reich zerstöret, wenn ihr einig seid und treu (Never will the Empire be destroyed, so long as you are united and loyal.) Another inscription could be found at the statue dedicating it to Wilhelm dem Großen” (Wilhelm the Great).

In 1945 the statue was badly damaged by an American artillery shell. Soon afterwards it was completely taken down. The French military government planned to replace the old memorial with a monument for peace and understanding among nations, but this concept was never realized.

After the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic in 1949, the country was divided into a capitalist west and a communist east. In order to express the deep wish for a united Germany, President Theodor Heuss turned the German Corner into a monument to German unity. As a result, the coats of arms of all German Länder (states), including those of former German territories such as Silesia, East Prussia and Pomerania, were installed. Replacing the destroyed equestrian statue, a German flag waved over the plaza.

After the Berlin Wall came down in October 1989, three concrete parts of the actual wall were installed next to the monument. On October 3, 1990, the emblems of the new federal states were added.

The monument lost its function as a reminder after the German Reunification in 1990. Yet a discussion arose regarding a reshaping of the plaza. Critics considered the reinstallation of the equestrian statue of Wilhelm I as out of time and improper, whereas promoters saw the chance for tourist benefits. The debate came to an end when a couple from Koblenz announced that they would bear all costs for a reconstruction of the statue. On September 25, 1993, the new statue was inaugurated.

Today, a big national flag and the flags of the 16 Länder are flying at the German Corner as a reminder of German unity. The three parts of the Berlin Wall are now dedicated to the “victims of the separation”.

Deutsches Eck (German Corner)

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