Looking to Germany: Confederate Statue Management Options
Race, Gender, Media — Blog 6
“These statues were meant to create legitimate garb for white supremacy. Why [else] would you put a statue of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson in 1948 in Baltimore?”
James Grossman, the executive director of the American Historical Association
Shameful pasts persist as non-exclusive to the United States. Genocides, racist political activity, and government-sponsored atrocities spatter throughout history worldwide, all subject to the judgment of hindsight. The conflicts between historical preservation, progression, educational value, and civil responsibility to victims have been addressed in many countries, serving as examples of options and potential outcomes for this current American conundrum. Germany is perhaps an all too obvious place to look first.
Adolf Hitler infamously committed suicide with Eva Braun in his underground shelter at the end of World War II. The German government elected to destroy the Führerbunker, citing fear that the location would later serve as a place of Nazi pilgrimage. Officials cited the potential for the location to be used as a place of celebratory pilgrimage for modern white supremacists. Today, the location is recognized with a sign and used as a parking lot. The space is often filled with tourists’ rental cars as they visit the nearby Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Thus, the approach to the bunker included annihilation of the actual location, along with a counter-action.
In Charlottesville, for example, Confederate statues fulfilled the fears of these German leaders. The statues became a place of congregation for white-supremacists, leading to chaos and violence. Memorial replacement options include victims of slavery, the Confederate movement, the Jim Crow movement, or to commemorate recent riots and protests. The statues could be moved to a museum that puts such symbols into the proper context, if it is preserved at all.
This synecdochally exemplifies strategic decisions of destruction versus preservation. Concentration camps have been preserved while public displays of Nazi symbolism are now illegal in Germany, outside of their many publicly funded museums that steer conscious focus to the victims and dangers of the country’s fascist past. Small plaques sprinkle the sidewalks outside homes of Holocaust victims. Thus, the answers involving these Confederate statues lie in the distinction between remembrance and memorialization.
Sources and More Information
To walk around Berlin is to constantly, inevitably, trip over history. Almost literally, in the case of the…www.npr.org
Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center conducted a study on public symbols of the Confederacy. The center found…www.npr.org
The United States is once again grappling with what to do about public symbols of the Confederacy as they become…www.huffingtonpost.com