From Ravensbrück to Berlin: Will Lammert’s Monument to the Deported Jews 1957/1985

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In 1985 one of the earliest memorials dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust was installed in East Berlin. The Monument to the Deported Jews was an arrangement of thirteen bronze figures in expressionist style. Will Lammert, the artist, originally designed the figures for the base of his monument for Ravensbrück in 1957. The artist died in 1957, however, before finalizing his design for the monument. Only two figures on a pylon were installed at the concentration camp in 1959. The figures meant for the base of the Ravensbrück memorial were unfinished, but were nonetheless cast in bronze by the artist’s family. Thirteen of those figures were installed on the Große Hamburger Straße in 1985 by the artist’s grandson, Mark Lammert.

This essay analyzes the Große Hamburger Straße monument in three ways: first, it returns to the literature on the Ravensbrück memorial in order to better understand the role that the unfinished figures would have played, had they been installed. I argue that they originally were most likely meant to depict “Strafestehen”—or torture by standing—at Ravensbrück. Secondly, it aims to explain why and how Lammert’s seemingly expressionist memorial would have been acceptable to East Germany in 1959. While Western art historical attitudes toward East Germany up until the 1990s assumed that Soviet socialist realism was the de facto art style of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), some elements of expressionism were being theorized in the late 1950s, at precisely the time when Lammert designed the Ravensbrück monument. Finally, I analyze the role that a monument for Ravensbrück plays in this particular neighborhood of Mitte, Berlin: standing silently, they are no longer legible as women being tortured by standing. Instead, the sculptures signify, at the same time, the deported Jews of Berlin and the harrowing aftermath of their deportations, the improbable return of the deported Jews, and the changing attitudes toward the history of the neighborhood in which the sculptural group is located.

  • 4

    Angela Lammert, “Will Lammert’s Ravensbrück Memorial: The Image of Woman in German Post-War Public Sculpture,” Sculpture Journal 9 (2003): 103. One article in German is essential to any study of the 1985 monument. It focuses primarily on post-1959 critical reactions to the Unfinished figures, and was written by a relative of the artist, Marlies Lammert, “Ein Denkmalsprojekt für Berlin. Zur Aufstellung der Plastikgruppe von Will Lammert,” in Studien zur Berliner Geschichte, ed. Karl-Heinz Klingenburg, (Leipzig: 1986), 281–333. The Lammert family has been particularly active in publishing about the artist. His work, however, demands attention from scholars outside of the family. The current essay is indebted to conversations and emails with Mark Lammert, the artist’s grandson (who is an artist) and with his wife, Angela Lammert, an art historian.

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  • 9

    Peter Feist, “Einleitung,” in Will Lammert, ed. Peter Feist (Dresden, Verlag der Kunst, 1963), 7. An exhibition catalog.

  • 10

    Feist, “Einleitung,” 9.

  • 11

    Feist, “Einleitung,” 10.

  • 13

    Cremer, “Im Gedenken an Will Lammert,” 7.

  • 17

    M. Lammert, “Dokumentation,” 119.

  • 18

    Akademie der Künste, ed., Plastik und Zeichnungen, 102.

  • 19

    A. Lammert, “The Image of Woman,” 94.

  • 20

    Akademie der Künste, ed., Plastik und Zeichnungen, 125.

  • 23

    Bodo Uhse, Reise- und Tagebücher II (Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, 1981), 337.

  • 27

    Bill Niven, Facing the Nazi Past: United Germany and the Legacy of the Third Reich (London and NY: Routledge, 2002), 20.

  • 28

    Thomas Fox, Stated Memory: East Germany and the Holocaust (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 1999), 41.

  • 29

    Jeffrey Herf, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1997), 167.

  • 31

    Lanwerd, “Skulpturales Gedenken,” 45–51.

  • 34

    Lanwerd, “Skulpturales Gedenken,” 45.

  • 36

    Lanwerd, “Skulpturales Gedenken,” 45.

  • 38

    Brüne, Pathos und Sozialismus, 217.

  • 40

    Quoted in Insa Eschebach, “Soil, Ashes, Commemoration: Process of Sacralization at the Ravensbrück Former Concentration Camp,” History and Memory 23, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2011): 142.

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  • 42

    A. Lammert, “The Image of Woman,” 98.

  • 45

    Kathrin Hoffmann-Curtis, “Caritas und Kampf: Die Mahnmale in Ravensbrück,” 65. Nonetheless, by the late 1960s, Cremer “openly called for a more human scale in sculpture, in the hope of preventing ‘certain megalomaniacal tendencies and realizations.’” Perhaps Lammert’s 3/4 life-sized Unfinished figures had an impact on his old friend and student (but that is another project). See Fritz Cremer, in Bildende Kunst und Architektur: Materialien vom 31. Mai, 1968, Deutsche Akademie der Künste zu Berlin, Arbeitshefte, no. 2, 1969, 19, quoted in Brian Ladd, “East Berlin Political Monuments in the Late German Democratic Republic: Finding a Place for Marx and Engels,” Journal of Contemporary History, 37, no. 1 (2002): 94. Cremer was also responsible for sculptures in Vienna, Buchenwald, and Mauthausen. See Ulrich Krempel, “Moderne und Gegenmoderne, der Nationalsozialismus und die bildende Kunst,” in Der Nationalsozialismus—die Zweite Geschichte, ed. Peter Reichl, Harald Schmidt, and Peter Steinback (Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck, 2009), 329.

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  • 47

    Peter Feist, “Fragment der Erfüllung,” in Will Lammert—Gedächtnisausstellung, ed. Heartfield, 24–30. Quoted in M. Lammert, “Ein Denkmalsprojekt für Berlin,” 286.

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  • 48

    Eschebach, “Soil, Ashes, Commemoration,” 141.

  • 51

    Eschebach, “Soil, Ashes, Commemoration,” 139.

  • 52

    A. Lammert, “The Image of Woman,” 96.

  • 54

    Marlies Lammert, Will Lammert Ravensbrück (Berlin: Deutsche Akademie der Künste zu Berlin, 1968), 8.

  • 55

    M. Lammert, Will Lammert Ravensbrück, 1968, 10.

  • 56

    Ibid., 12; A. Lammert, “The Image of Woman,” 197; and Gerd Brüne, Fritz Cremer, 215.

  • 57

    Lanwerd, “Skulpturales Gedenken,” 210.

  • 58

    A. Lammert, “The Image of Woman,” 97.

  • 60

    Lanwerd, “Skulpturales Gedenken,” 211. Woman as “antifascist fighter” was an exception rather than a rule in DDR concentration camp exhibitions and memorials. “In the historical iconography of DDR sculpture,” writes Koonz, “heroic males resist and women (if depicted at all) persevere.” See Koonz, “Between Memory and Oblivion,” 267.

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  • 61

    Ulrike Goeschen, “From Socialist Realism to Art in Socialism: The Reception of Modernism as an Instigating Force in the Development of Art in the GDR,” Third Text 23, no. 1 (Jan. 2009): 46. This attitude is expressed by Koonz, who writes that “East German sculpture is strongly Socialist Realist in style.” See Koonz, “Between Memory and Oblivion,” 267.

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  • 62

    Goeschen, “From Socialist Realism,” 47. In 1988, at the term “Socialist Realism” was replaced with “Art in Socialism” at the last Congress of the Artists’ Association of the DDR.

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  • 63

    Eberhardt E. Bartke, “Das Denkmal,” in Das Buchenwald-Denkmal. Mit Beiträgen von Eberhard Bartke, Ulrich Kuhirt, Heinze Lüdecke, ed. Deutsche Akademie der Künste (Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1960), 19–24, cited in Susanne Scharnowski, “Heroes and Victims: The Aesthetics and Ideology of Monuments and Memorials in the GDR,” in Memorialization in Germany Since 1945, ed. Bill Niven and Chloe Paver (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 272.

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  • 64

    M. Lammert, “Ein Denkmalsprojekt für Berlin,” 286.

  • 66

    Lothar Lang, “Berliner Künstler stellen aus,” Die Weltbühne, May 1959, 604, quoted in M. Lammert, “Ein Denkmalsprojekt,” 288.

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  • 69

    Georg Piltz, Deutsche Bildhauerkunst (Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben, 1962), 365, quoted in G. Brüne, Pathos und Sozialismus, 216.

  • 71

    M. Lammert, “Ein Denkmalsprojekt für Berlin,” 296.

  • 72

    Goeschen, “From Socialist Realism to Art in Socialism,” 49.

  • 73

    Goeschen, “From Socialist Realism to Art in Socialism,” 50.

  • 74

    Peter Feist, “Fragment der Erfüllung,” 24–30.

  • 75

    Lothar Lang, “Berliner Künstler stellen aus,” 604, quoted in M. Lammert, “Ein Denkmalsprojekt,” 288.

  • 76

    Feist, “Einleitung,” 23.

  • 77

    Feist, “Einleitung,” 23.

  • 79

    Karin Wendt, “Impressionen für Bummler durch die Sophienstrasse,” Neue Zeit, June 6, 1987, 8.

  • 81

    Ladd, “East Berlin Political Monuments,” 2002, 91–104.

  • 83

    M. Lammert, “Ein Denkmalsprojekt für Berlin,” 282. For the history of the Neue Synagogue, see Harold Hammer-Schenk, “Baugeschichte und Architektur der Neuen Synagogue,” in ‘Tuet auf die Pforten’: Die Neue Synagogue 1866–1995, ed. Hermann Simon (Berlin: Stiftung Neue Synagogue Berlin—Centrum Judaicum, 1995).

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  • 84

    Helmut Caspar, “Spuren einer Fahrt ohne Wiederkehr: Vor 50 Jahren begann die Deportation von Berliner Juden / Zeugnisse im Scheuenviertel,” Neue Zeit, October 18, 1991, 19.

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  • 86

    Johannes Heesch and Ulrike Braun, Orte Erinnern: Spuren des NS-Terrors in Berlin: Ein Wegweiser (Berlin: Nicolai, 2003), 67–73.

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