KRIEGERDENKMAL: WAR MEMORIAL IN MUNICH
HOFGARTEN PARK IN MUNICH
The historically amazing map of Munich, delivered to the world by Matthäus Merian in his ‘Topographia Germaniae’ back in 1642, reveals way more than a city of a sophisticated shape, fortified with walls and ditches. The far-from-coming ODEONSPLATZ at that time was no more than an urban open space, yet next to the rectangular park with eight midlines, diagonally and squarely converging to the center. The territory for raising a park was designated already in the 1560-s, yet half a century before any practical means of bringing a green zone within the ‘Alte Stadt’ (Old Town)into being. The Hofgarten park had a powerful patron, Maximilian I, who had been a ruler of Bavaria for 54 years.
The territory of the HOFGARTEN park was basically outlined in the years between 1613 and 1617. The ‘Temple of Diana’ covered pavilion, devoted to the Roman goddess of hunting, femininity, and childbearing, the incarnation of a Moon, a protector of women and girls, had soon become a signature highlight of the whole park complex. The temple of the goddess has a form of twelve-sided pavilion as the convergence point of the all-landscape axis of the Hofgarten. With the passing of the years, new green zones and architectural designs were beginning to shape the northern part of the Old Town of Munich. The last years of the XVIII century witnessed the erection of a new ‘ENGLISCHER GARTEN’ (English Park) to the North-East, an urban miracle of the times, which nowadays leaves behind Central Park in New York in terms of area within the city. The XIX century brought up the ODEONSPLATZ square along with Theatinerkirche, just as the ‘Münchner Residenz’ to the South had been constantly expanding.
THREE GENERATIONS OF THE ARCHITECTURAL COLOSSUS
HOFGARTENKASERNE. The Bavarian army originates in the year 1682 and the next two centuries provided a means to make the region the second-strongest in the German Reich (The German Empire) up to 1871. In this fact, it was of a small wonder, that Maximilian I Joseph, prince-elector of Bavaria wasted no time giving an order to build up a new complex of the army barracks, a few minutes after the complaints of the soldiers against the improper conditions had been brought to his notice. The building-up process of the HOFGARTENLASERNE lasted six years and was finalized only in 1807, in the third year of the semi-use of the partially erected premises.
Maximilian, I Joseph fulfilled his destiny to become the King of Bavaria, yet the fortune of the army barracks, once patronized by his order, would be dealt with by his successors years later. The initially substandard works on pond drainage with the foundation on the very site had later been fraught with high dampness. In such a curious way, the building that had been predesignated to ‘revise’ the inappropriate conditions, in fact, become a seat for diseases, all the way to typhus outbreaks. The end of the year 1893 witnessed the complete evacuation of the HOFGARTENLASERNE army barracks, yet it took another six years to take down the buildings to clear a historical and architectural way for the Bavarian Army Museum.
THE BAVARIAN ARMY MUSEUM. In contrast to the architectural predecessor, which caused fatigue and diseases for thousands of the Bavarian Army soldiers for 90 years, the museum was destined to stand for less than 40. The new foundation was lined a few meters to the West of the previously dismantled army barracks. In this landscape respect, the upcoming Bavarian Army Museum was to become the Eastern ‘wall’ of the Hofgarten city park. It took another four years to maintain all the needed construction works up to the inauguration ceremony of the ‘Bayerisches Armeemuseum’ (Bavarian Army Museum) in 1905. Historically de facto, the museum had been established twenty-five years before the grand opening and had been accumulating artifacts from all over Bavaria, under the leads and roof of the Munich Arsenal.
The new building with a colonnaded face, a stairway, and a dome had much in common with the Capitols in the USA. In addition to the gargantuan collection of exhibit units devoted to the Bavarian Army with its three centuries of history, the ‘HALL OF FAME’ occupied the 32-meter dome of the building as the museum highlight. At the time of the opening, the backside of the building was not facing the road (paved later) and was designed to be architecturally modest and laconic. It is very unfortunate that the Bavarian Army Museum has been tragically damaged during the air raids on Munich during the Second World War. The semi-preserved sections, including the dome, were later reconstructed to become the Bavarian State Chancellery. The surviving exhibit items were moved to the Bavarian National Museum already in 1946 to be exhibited there for a quarter-century.
BAVARIAN STATE CHANCELLERY. Almost forty years of abandonment and neglect passed since the surviving collection of the devastated Bavarian Army Museum had been moved in 1946. During that time, the wings of the building were dismantled due to the announced emergency state of the building, leaving the central part of the former architectural colossus a grim reminder of the Second World War. Finally, the year 1982 witnessed the initiation of the repair and renovation works to be laster for another decade. In a strictly historical sense, the Bavarian State Chancellery, as the governmental authorities were established on April 12, 1933, under the rule of the Nazis and Hitler, who had taken the power only three months before. Over half a century the Chancellery repeatedly changed a number of locations all along before the opening of a new building in 1993. Today the restored central part of the building is being architecturally infused with two wings, roofed with glass.
KRIEGERDENKMAL HOFGARTEN: MUNICH WAR MEMORIAL
Summarizing the above brief history of the HOFGARTEN, we now have a little deeper understanding of a site, once chosen to become an architectural home of the KRIEGERDENKMAL (Krieger – War, Denkmal – Monument/memorial). In 1924 the still unfinished memorial was open to the public within the Eastern part of the Munich garden with a three-century history. Arounded with the ‘RESIDENZ’ complex of building to the South, ODEONSPLATZ square (a site to finish the so-called ‘Beer-Hall Putsch’ only a few months before) to the West, the gargantuan ‘ENGLISCHE GARTEN’ to the North-West, and a new residential district (erected upon the location of the old textile factory) to the East.
Having in mind the fact, that Munich had a number of buildings of a military nature and intended purpose (for example the War Ministry – captured by Ernst Roehm during the ‘Beer Hall Putsch’), it was the Hofgarten to be chosen to become home for a new memorial. As was already mentioned above, the park area itself had less in common with the military history and praised the goddess of femininity and childbearing. On the bright side, the Eastern part of the HOFGARTEN had been a home for the Bavarian military barracks for nine decades and for the Bavarian Army museum for another twenty years. That is to say that thousands of soldiers of the Bavarian Army, once called up for military service for Wilhelm II, gave their lives on the battlefields of the Great War (The First World War).
Rupprecht Maria Luitpold Ferdinand, the crown prince of Bavaria was the prime guest at the opening ceremony of the memorial, which was destined to be fully finished only four years after the opening. Being fascinated with the idea of a military career since his childhood, Prince Rupprecht had become the commander of the corps before forty and the military rank of Feldmarschall and Commander of the Army group, named after him. That very day of the year 1918 with the declaration of the Bavarian Republic, the Crown Prince, and Feldmarschall were deprived of the right to become a King, a tradition of seven-century history.
The frustrated unfulfilled King of Bavaria was a passionate supporter of the prohibition of Chemical Weapons, sea blockades, and air raids on cities. In the face of the promises of the Nazis to restore the Bavarian monarchy, Prince Rupprecht had always regarded Hitler as a madman. The senior Feldmarschall spent the Second World War years in Italy, as a personal guest of King Victor Emmanuel II (Hitler visited Italy a number of times, particularly to himself become a guest of the King in May 1938). In dramatic contrast, his wife and children had to experience the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and they welcomed the end of the war in Dachau.
Three decades from the day of the opening ceremony of the memorial, the Crown Prince of Bavaria was buried inside a crypt of the Theatinerkirche, a church to the South-East from the HOFGARTEN and KRIEGERDENKMAL. Harkening back to the year 1924, he was supposed to be the most ‘appropriate’ candidate to give a blessing to a memorial, which was meant to honor the soldiers of the Great War. The Feldmarschall had lost thousands of his subordinate soldiers, the Bavarian citizens, in particular, the Munich citizens not least of all. Properly speaking, the better part of 13 000 soldiers of the Great War, who were honored by the memorial, had served and lost their lives under the supreme of Prince Rupprecht.
The KRIEGERDENKMAL memorial had great historical importance during the years of both the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. It was an annual practice to lay floral tributes to the statue of the soldier inside the crypt and along the memorial to honor the fallen warriors of the most slaughtered war in human history. In the same typical way for the graves of the unknown soldiers, an honor guard used to stand in front of the KRIEGERDENKMAL. As an effect of the damaging air raids on HOFGARTEN, the war memorial suffered tragic destruction at the end of the Second World War. As opposed to the almost vanished Bavarian Army Museum at a stone’s throw, concrete blocks of 2-meter thickness survived the bombardments. At the same time, the inscriptions and the names of the fallen soldiers were irrevocably lost.
The KRIEGERDENKMAL memorial can be divisible into three parts, each being an equal architectural and historical value. To begin with, the memorial is presented with right-angled pit of two-meter-deep, paved with marble. Four stone staircases at the corners offer convenient access to the deepening, being a part of the complex itself. In a position facing the monument of Otto, I and the building of the Bavarian State Chancellery, the left side wall of the pit describe the close formation of the Bavarian Army marching in a shoulder-arms manner. The opposite right side wall characterizes twelve crosses, symbolizing the graves of the fallen warriors with death at the end of the march.
The following section of the memorial composition is made like a stone crypt. The giant right-angle plate of 2 m thick is centered on four corner-based stones. The West and East sides are architecturally accompanied by another four stones each with an anaglyph of an armed warrior. Facing the Bavarian State Chancellery, the close-in side of the upper plate has the SIE WERDEN AUFERSTEHEN – ‘The Will Revive’ inscription. The reverse side has the UNSEREN GEFALLENEN – ‘To our Fallen’ words.
Either of the two stone staircases leads by the hand inside a marble crypt, where a shadow and marble sustain moderately chilly temperatures even in hot summer weather, a stereotypical reminder of the grave. The third part of the historical and architectural composition is to be inscribed in memory with a LYING STATUE OF A FALLEN SOLDIER, recumbent on a plate, made of red marble. The statue and the plate were made according to the design of Bernhard Bleeker, a professor of the Munich Academy, who later enjoyed privileges during the years of the Third Reich, staying in the Nazi’s good graces. Years later the works on the statue of the fallen soldier in HOFGARTEN, Bleeker made portrait sculptures of Adolf Hitler and a number of architectural creations for the regime. Back in 1972, the authentic marble statue, which had survived the war and air raids, was replaced with a bronze copy, still available on the site. ‘BAYERNS HEER SEINEN TOTEN’ (To Bavarian Army and its fallen) inscription made on marble can be also seen a few inches from the legs of the warrior.
The stone crypt is also an architectural home for two more letterings, which have been made within renovation works after the war.
‘ERBAUT VOM OBMANNS-BEZIRK MÜNCHEN-STADT DES BAYR. KRIEGERBUNDES DEN 13 000 GEFALLENEN HELDENSÖHNEN DER STADT MÜNCHEN’ – Erected by the Obmanns district of the city of Munich, Bavaria. The 13,000 fallen hero sons of the city of Munich.
‘ZUM GEDENKEN AN DIE 22 000 GEFALLENEN 11 000 VERMISSTEN 6 600 OPFER DES LUFTKRIEGES DER STADT MÜNCHEN 1939-1945’ – To honor 22 000 fallen, 11 000 missed and 6 600 victims of the air war of the city of Munich 1939-1945.
13 000 GEFALLENEN – MUNICH IN THE WWI
As we have discovered before, the KRIEGERDENKMAL war memorial in Munich was inaugurated by Rupprecht, a Crown Prince of Bavaria (never-fulfilled King), a Feldmarschall, who had been a supreme commander of the ‘Heeresgruppe Kronprinz Rupprecht von Bayern’ (Army Group Rupprecht of Bavaria) during the First World War. By the time of August 1914 and the outbreak of the Great War in Europe, the Bavarian Army had been satisfied with a respective autonomy, de facto being a part of the army of the German Empire. The soldiers used to swear their military oaths to the King of Bavaria and not to Kaiser Wilhelm II. The second day of the announced war and nationwide mobilization witnessed the formation of a new 6th Army, created on the basis of the major amount of the Bavarian pre-war Army and now led by Prince Rupprecht.
The first fallen warriors among the soldiers of the Bavarian Army are historically accounted for the battles along the Eastern border of France and in South Belgium. One year later, in September 1915, the soldiers of the 6th Army made their tragic way to history as the first victims of the first English gas attacks. It should be said ‘the first enemy victims’ as the English soldiers in fact suffered the failed attacks to more extent due to insufficient use and unfavorable wind.
In the following years of the Great War, the newly formed ‘Army Group Rupprecht of Bavaria’ included three armies with only a skeleton staff still formed from the Bavarians, as the newly mobilized reinforces were taken from almost every region of the German Empire. Even though, the Bavarian Army lost 200 000 men in combat, 13 000 among which were the male citizens of Munich. The amount engraved within the KRIEGERDENKMAL memorial. Some contingent of these fallen warriors, honored in HOFGARTEN, had been buried in ‘LANGEMARK’, a large military cemetery in Belgium, close to the infamous town of Ypres.
The KRIEGERDENKMAL memorial was made to honor the memory of 13 000 fallen soldiers, male citizens of Munich, who lost their lives in the battles of the Great War. With that said, this 13 000 figure does not indicate the CIVIL VICTIMS, inevitable at the core of the conflict. The naval blockade of the German Empire caused starvation and famine all along the former prosperous European ruler. The food rations came true for the people of the once-blooming and well-to-do Kingdom of Bavaria and its capital in particular. An unexpected conflict between the urban citizens and the villagers for food and the so-called ‘FOOD RIOTS’ within the streets became a tragic reality.
Already in 1916, Munich had become a reception center for the wounded soldiers from the frontlines and a number of schools and even famous Munich beer halls were turned into medical aid stations. Two years later, in 1918 Munich witnessed an outbreak of the Spanish flu with a death toll of close to 600 people. Along with that, thousands of families, who had lost their bread-earners: husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers, now become the unwilled victims of the War, never engraved on the stone of the KRIEGERDENKMAL memorial. A few thousand of the people, who lost their lives for the sake of the failed ‘Münchner Räterepublik’ (also known as the ‘Bavarian Soviet Republic’) were also not honored among the victims of the First World War.
MUNICH IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR
‘To honor 22 000 fallen, 11 000 missed and 6 600 victims of the air war of the city of Munich 1939-1945’. This lettering within the KRIEGERDENKMAL memorial provides a historical glimpse of the citizens of Munich, the casualties of the most bloody conflict in world history. The Nazis used to appraise the heart of Bavaria as the ‘Hauptstadt der Bewegung’ (The capital of the movement) and the annual November celebrations of the failed ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ had become history. In September 1938 Munich happened to appear as the front-page story of almost every recognized news periodic all around the world. As history has shown, the newsworthy event was no more than an attempt to accredit the so-called ‘Munich Agreement’ with the never-fulfilled role of the peacemaker against the ambitions of Hitler and a means of preventing a new World War.
The first days of the Second World War expressed no signs of exciting enthusiasm, which was common for the people of Munich back in August 1914, a few minutes after LUDWIG III, the King of Bavaria, with his passionate speech. Looking back to the summer of 1939, a few weeks before the invasion of Poland, the unprecedented mobilization ‘devastated’ the homes of Munich and Bavaria and left them without men, and had been called to the army. The first per-person food rations were implemented weeks before Europe experienced the first gunshot on the Poland border. Already in 1934, five years before the War, the Dachau concentration camp, the first of its kind, had been put into operation. Nonetheless, it was the war years to witness a creation of a number of concentration and labor camps around Munich, as well as the major part of the Jewish pre-war population, who had already left the country or were despotically imprisoned.
As one of the largest cities in Germany, the transport and manufacturing center of the region, Munich was tragically destined to suffer massive air raids during the War. Contrary to the popular belief, the first bombs dealt damage to Munich already on June 4, 1940, during the Battle of France and on the day, when the last soldiers were to be evacuated from the coast of Dunkirk. In the years that followed that first raid, Munich witnessed 74 bombardments, which caused the death of 6600 citizens and another 15 000 were wounded. 3.5 million air bombs made unprecedented damage to the city, leaving the major part of the ‘ALTE STADT’ (Old Town) in ruins and 300 000 people without homes. The mass evacuation, the drift from the urban, and the deaths resulted in a twice-less population than Munich had before the War.
I am very grateful to war archives, museums, libraries, private collections, and writers for the historical photos in this article. To the extent that some author or a copyright owner may not want some of the above black-and-white photos to be used for educational purposes here, please contact me for adding credits or deleting the pictures from the article.