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German War Memorials

Documentary photo project by Vova Pomortzeff

British or French war memorials are almost taken for granted but there is little known that German war memorials even exist. Although every German town and village has its own memorial and some of them are amazing. German war memorials were erected mainly in the 1930s, when traditions of Jugendstil and modernism were gradually replaced by Nazi aesthetic. Originally they commemorated soldiers fallen in the First World War and late were extended to show the names of locals who died in the Second World War in addition. As a result German war memorials present now an incredible mix of heroic pathos, sincere sorrow, state propaganda, post-war repentance and surprisingly even visible traces of homoeroticism. Russian documentary photographer Vova Pomortzeff spent several months travelling to and fro across Germany to find the most amazing examples of German war memorials. The First World War Centenary provides an excellent opportunity to rediscover this unknown and forgotten cultural phenomenon.

1. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Ettlingen near Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. This amazing coloured stone relief was carved by German sculptor Oskar Alexander Kiefer and installed on the wall of the town hall in 1923.

 

2. World War I Memorial in the village of Schönach near Mötzing, Bavaria, Germany.

 

3. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War II in the village of Oberteisendorf near Teisendorf in Bavaria, Germany. This wooden box next to the entrance to a parish church presents photographs of the locals who died in WWII.

 

4. World War I Memorial in the town of Odenheim near Ostringen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

 

5. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in a memorial chapel in the town of Bischofswiesen in the Bavarian Alps, Germany. The wooden altar carved by local sculptor Anton Stöckl from nearby Ramsau in 1931 depicts a German soldier kneeling in front of Jesus Christ, a farewell scene and a battle scene.

 

6. World War I Memorial in the village of Pang near Rosenheim, Bavaria, Germany.

 

7. World War I Memorial in the town of Niederau, Saxony, Germany.

 

8. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I and World War II near Bischofsgrün, Bavaria, Germany.

 

9. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I and World War II in the town of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, Germany. Mural paintings in style of traditional Bavarian murals depict the Crucifix and farewell and a mourning scenes. The original murals by German artist Josef Hengge from the 1930s were destroyed in 1945 by American troops and repainted again by the same artist in the 1950s. Only the Crucifix scene was preserved untouched, while the battle scene was replaced by the mourning scene.

 

10. World War I Memorial in the town of Wilgartswiesen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. The red stone relief with visible bullet holes from the time of World War II was carved by local sculptor Richard Lenhard in 1938.

 

11. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in a memorial chapel in the town of Bayerbach, Bavaria, Germany. The stained glass window by local artist Franz Xaver Kurlander from nearby Passau depicts a German soldier praying in front of the Crucifix.

 

12. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Würzburg, Bavaria, Germany. The large scale statue by German sculptor Fried Heuler from 1931 depicts six German soldiers bearing the body of the dead comrade in a funeral procession.

 

13. World War I Memorial in the town of Radeburg, Saxony, Germany.

 

14. World War I Memorial in the town of Neumarkt-Sankt Veit, Bavaria, Germany.

 

15. World War I Memorial by German sculptor Georg Wrba in the town of Wurzen near Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. The memorial was gifted to the town by Hermann Ilgen, a German pharmacist and an inventor of rat poison.

 

16. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I and World War II in the town of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps, Germany. The mural painting by German artist Josef Hengge in style of traditional Bavarian murals depict a farewell scene. The original mural from the 1930s were destroyed in 1945 by American troops and repainted again by the same artist in the 1950s.

 

17. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I and World War II in a parish church in the village of Feichten near Neumarkt-Sankt Veit, Bavaria, Germany. The mural painting depicts the Ascension of Jesus Christ with two angels and a German soldier mourning his deadly injured comrade. Both soldiers wear uniforms and the Stahlhelm helmets from the time of WWII.

 

18. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War II at the cemetery in the village of Elsenbach near Neumarkt-Sankt Veit, Bavaria, Germany. The wooden cross with names of the locals who died during WWII, mainly in Russia, and with painting depicting Madonna with Child and two angels mourning a dead German soldier.

 

19. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Dohna near Dresden, Saxony, Germany.

 

20. Memorial cenotaph to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Haßfurt, Bavaria, Germany.

 

21. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Ettlingen near Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The coloured stone relief carved by German sculptor Oskar Alexander Kiefer in 1923 and installed on a wall of the town hall depicts the Death on the Black Horse rides over the battle scene and the allegorical scene with two figures of fighting giants and a huge snake. Since 1995 the memorial commemorates also German soldiers fallen in World War II.

 

22. World War I Memorial in the town of Sohland an der Spree, Saxony, Germany. An inscription under the battle scene in German "Ich hatt' einen Kameraden" ("Once I had a comrade") is the first line from "Der gute Kamerad" ("The good Comrade"), a traditional lament of the German Armed Forces written by German poet Ludwig Uhland.

 

23. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Dohna near Dresden, Saxony, Germany.

 

24. World War I Memorial in the town of Nordenstadt near Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany.

 

25. World War I Memorial in the town of Klingenberg near Pretzschendorf, Saxony, Germany. Two nude German soldiers wearing the Stahlhelm helmets only, mourning in front of the Crucifix.

 

26. World War I Memorial at the Biebrich Cemetery in the city of Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany. The bronze statue of a nude young man with a sword by German sculptor Fritz Gerth.

 

27. World War I Memorial in the town of Rüsselsheim, Hessen, Germamy. The bronze statue by German sculptor Ludwig Spiegel from 1930 depicts a nude man and a woman with a cogwheel. The man also holds the Stahlhelm helmet from the time of World War I. The memorial was gifted to the town by Wilhelm von Opel and his brother Fritz von Opel, the founders of the German automobile manufacturer Opel.

 

28. World War I Memorial in the town of Niederau, Saxony, Germany. The German inscription means "Through Suffering to Light".

 

29. World War I Memorial in the town of Eschenbach, Bavaria, Germany.

 

30. World War I Memorial in the town of Merkendorf, Bavaria, Germany.

 

31. World War I Memorial in the town of Sebnitz, Saxony, Germany.

 

32. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. The red stone statue by German sculptor Hermann Hahn from 1924-25 depicts a horse and a nude rider wearing the Stahlhelm helmet only.

 

33. World War I Memorial in the town of Bautzen in Upper Lusatia, Saxony, Germany.

 

34. Memorial cenotaph to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Haßfurt, Bavaria, Germany.

 

35. Detail of the World War I Memorial in the town of Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany. The large scale statue by German sculptor Fried Heuler from 1931 depicts six German soldiers bearing the body of the dead comrade in a funeral procession.

 

36. Detail of the World War I Memorial by German sculptor Georg Wrba in the town of Wurzen near Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. The memorial was gifted to the town by Hermann Ilgen, a German pharmacist and an inventor of rat poison.

 

37. A pigeon flies from the head of the statue in the memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I in the town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. The red stone statue by German sculptor Hermann Hahn from 1924-25 depicts a horse and a muscular nude rider with a spear wearing the Stahlhelm helmet only.

 

38. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War I and World War II in the town of Anger in the Bavarian Alps, Germany. A birch tree cross is covered with the original German Stahlhelm helmet from the times of WWII.

 

39. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War II in the town of Massing, Bavaria, Germany. A statue of Madonna in front of a composite photo with portraits of the locals who died in World War II seen inside the cemetery memorial chapel.

 

40. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War II in the village of Oberteisendorf near Teisendorf in Bavaria, Germany. A wooden box next to the entrance to a parish church presents portraits of the locals who died in World War II.

 

41. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War II in the town of Ampfing, Bavaria, Germany. Two frames with portraits of the locals who died in World War II are seen inside a parish church.

 

42. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War II in the village of Frauenstein near Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany. The frame in the cemetery memorial chapel presents original war-time death announcements of the locals who died in World War II.

 

43. Memorial to German soldiers fallen in World War II in the town of Massing, Bavaria, Germany. A composite photo with portraits of the locals who died in World War II seen inside the cemetery memorial chapel.

 

44. Graves of German soldiers fallen in World War II at the Lutheran cemetery in the village of Bärenburg near Altenberg in Saxony, Germany. Birch tree crosses covered with the original German Stahlhelm helmets from the times of World War II on the graves of Gefreiter Willi Wilde, who died on 16 June 1945 at the age of 27, and Gefreiter Gebhard Moser, who died on 15 June 1945 at the age of 21. They were injured in the last days of WWII and died in hospital at a local Lutheran church. The graves with typical WWII wooden crosses covered with helmets were preserved even during the GDR time.

 

45. World War I Memorial in the town of Neumarkt-Sankt Veit, Bavaria, Germany.

 

The photographs of this documentary photo project were shot in winter and spring 2014 in fifty different towns and villages in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz and Saxony, Germany. The project is in progress. New photographs coming soon.

Copyright © 2014 Vova Pomortzeff

 
   
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