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German war memorial about to be demolished


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#1 egbert

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 08:32 AM

One of the last German still existing memorials in the Sedan area , erected 1915 on the grounds of the then german war cemetery, will most likely be demolished by order of the Sedan city councel. The back side has inscriptions of names from soldiers kia. The run down memorial is a threat to the public due to its condition it is said. A group of German/French historians still try to save it and run a last ditch effort before the wrecker's ball gets into action. See letter to mayor here.
I found the subject being discussed in the Flemish and French GW fori.

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#2 roughdiamond

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:33 AM

Disgraceful is the only way to sum it up, and that includes the state of the graves in it's environs, a sad indictment of the German Government, especially when compared to similar structures in a CWGC Cemetery.

Hard to tell from the close up photo of the front, but have the German War graves been removed?

Sam

#3 cdr

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:43 AM

This is a sad occurence.

Unfortunately the disrepair is known since years.(posts on the French forum date back to 2009) German authorities do not seem to have taken any action



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#4 egbert

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:55 AM

The military graves have been relocated after the war and concentrated to a VdK cemetery in vicinity which are being taken care of very well by VdK. The graves around the rotten memorial are French (I believe civilian) graves. VdK (CWGC equivalent) is a private organisation, who according to their charter, may only care active military graves/cemeteries according to the bilateral agreements with the single countries. The Sedan memorial therefor lies within jurisdiction of France, most likely the city of Sedan.
As to my knowledge, according to bilateral agreements, all foreign memorials (NOT war cemeteries!) must be maintained by the state on whose grounds they stand. I.e. Germany cares of Russian (i.e. State of Berlin, Russian monument) and other foreign memorials in Germany. Protection of historic monuments in Europe is state (not country) jurisdiction.

#5 roel22

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:55 AM

A great shame.
A shame how it looks, and a shame when it will be demolished.
Personally I wouldn't expect too much support from the German government, but let's hope I'm wrong about that.

Roel

#6 egbert

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:16 AM

A great shame.
A shame how it looks, and a shame when it will be demolished.
Personally I wouldn't expect too much support from the German government, but let's hope I'm wrong about that.

Roel

Roel, again, it is domestic national affair of the state in which the memorial stands. The only thing the German government is doing, is to take care of all foreign war memorials which have been erected on German soil.

This source heresays the memorial is owned by the city of Sedan, that has sole jurisdiction of the monument and his fate

#7 roel22

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:22 AM

Thanks Egbert, I realise It's out of their hands now. I was referring to "moral" support/pressure of the German authorities.

Roel

#8 centurion

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:33 AM

Looking at the photos and the way the stonework/concrete is splitting I would suspect that it's irreparable no matter how much is spent on it and there is a genuine danger of chunks falling off. No amount of indignation is going to fix that. If it were demolished on safety grounds would there be any impediment to the German government and/or public replacing it with a new memorial? Possibly where the graves are today and where more people would see it.

#9 Paul Reed

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:36 AM

Egbert - have you considered contacting the Historial at Peronne who might consider saving sections of it that are of special interest? Especially sections with wording or names on?

#10 cdr

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:38 AM

Egbert's link to the French newspaper is very interesting. The problem apprently first arose in 1971 ! Currently there is an estimate available to secure the structure (18787 euro) the estimate for demolition is 11800 euro :blink:



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#11 centurion

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:53 AM

Egbert's link to the French newspaper is very interesting. The problem apprently first arose in 1971 ! Currently there is an estimate available to secure the structure (18787 euro) the estimate for demolition is 11800 euro :blink:



Carl

Both figures look remarkably low - are there some missing zeros? It's unusual for a builder's estimate to end as precisely as 87 euro

#12 egbert

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 10:53 AM

After reading the French, German and Flemish sources I found the letter to the mayor which yet has to be answered. It also states the ownership of the monument. In the mid-portion of the letter all the French, German and a Canadian historian/s and universities who support the letter are mentioned.
The monument uniquely is built with armoured concrete and thus repairable at good will. Other than that please take from the French sources or google it. This website does not allow the attachment of docx-files , so I will add the public letter to the city council of Sedan here:


Lettre adressée au maire de Sedan
Monsieur le Maire,

Historiens et chercheurs, spécialistes de la Grande Guerre nous avons appris que la ville avait décidé de détruire le monument allemand 14-18 du cimetière Saint-Charles avec l’accord des associations patriotiques pour construire un ossuaire français. Nous nous permettons de vous écrire pour vous faire part de notre indignation et vous demander de reconsidérer cette décision afin de préserver un lieu de mémoire très significatif de la Grande Guerre. Cette décision nous paraît peu justifiable pour plusieurs raisons
- D’abord l’architecture du monument et le témoignage qu’il porte sur cette période de l’histoire sont à la fois riches et originaux. Son ampleur permet aussi d’en faire un témoin visible et aménageable dans une intention pédagogique.
- Enfin à l’heure de la « mémoire partagée », à l’approche du centenaire de la Grande Guerre qui sera à l’évidence franco-allemand, européen et international, on ne peut concevoir que les autorités françaises détruisent un patrimoine allemand si important au lieu de veiller à sa préservation.
- Une telle politique de préservation se justifie d’autant plus que cette période suscite des interrogations et un intérêt certain dans un très large public, comme en témoignent les innombrables activités de mémoire autour de la Grande Guerre.

Avec tous nos remerciements pour l’intérêt que vous voudrez bien prêter à notre requête, nous vous prions d’agréer, Monsieur le Maire, l’assurance de notre respectueuse considération

Vincent Auzas, doctorant à l’Institut d’histoire du Temps Présent, Sylvette Boyer, Professeure au Lycée de Nouméa, Philippe Boulenger, Professeur à l’Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Rémy Cazals, Professeur à l’Université de Toulouse, Yohann Chanoir, Professeur au Lycée de Reims, Nicolas Charles, Professeur au collège de Monthermé, Christian Chevandier, Professeur à l’Université du Havre, Rémi Dalisson, Professeur à l’Université de Rouen, Mourad Djebabla-Brun Professeur adjoint au Collège militaire royal du Canada (Kingston, Canada), Irene Guerrini, Chercheuse à Gênes (Italie), Benjamin Gilles, Conservateur à la Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine, Thierry Hardier, Professeur au collège de Noyon, Charles Heimberg, Professeur à l’Université de Genève (Suisse), Anne Hertzog, Maîtresse de conférences à l’Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Elise Julien, Maîtresse de conférence à l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Lille, Gerd Krumeich, Professeur à l’Université de Düssledorf, Alexandre Lafon, Professeur au Lycée d’Agen, Michel Litalien, Directeur, Réseau des musées des Forces canadiennes, Marie Llosa, doctorante à l’Université de Toulouse II, André Loez, Professeur de lettres supérieures, Paris, Nicolas Mariot, Chercheur au CNRS, Valériane Milloz, doctorante à l’Université de Paris I, Julien Mary, doctorant à l’Université de Montpellier, Philippe Nivet, Professeur à l’Université d’Amiens, Nicolas Offenstadt, Maitre de conférences à l’Université de Paris I, Philippe Olivera, Professeur au Lycée de Marseille, Jean-Paul Pellegrinetti, Maître de conférences à l’Université de Nice, Stéfanie Prezioso, Professeure à l’Université de Lausanne (Suisse), Antoine Prost, Professeur à l’Université de Paris I, Marco Pluviano, Chercheur à Gênes (Italie), Yann Prouillet, Société philomatique vosgienne, Jean-Louis Robert, Professeur à l’Université de Paris I, Denis Rolland, Société historique de Soissons, Frédéric Rousseau, Professeur à l’Université de Montpellier, Arndt Weinrich, Chercheur à l’Institut historique allemand, Paris

Monument commémoratif allemand du cimetière Saint-Charles de Sedan.

C’est au cimetière Saint-Charles que se dresse le plus important monument commémoratif érigé par les Allemands dans les Ardennes durant la Première Guerre mondiale. Aujourd’hui, il est également l’un des plus imposants de tous ceux réalisés par les troupes de Guillaume II dans les territoires français passés sous leur domination entre 1914 et 1918.
Les Allemands décident dès septembre 1914 de créer un carré militaire dans le cimetière municipal de Sedan pour enterrer leurs soldats morts dans le secteur. Sur le mur du fond, les Allemands ont fait graver sur des plaques de marbre le nom des soldats morts. Au centre du mur est créée une croix en or entourée de deux couronnes vertes. Celle-ci n’existe plus, tout comme le mur du fond. Les plaques se trouvant tout autour du monument, où étaient aussi inscrits des noms de soldats morts ne se trouvent plus sur place, seuls leurs emplacements sont encore présents.
A partir de 1915, les occupants décident de sacraliser cet espace en construisant un grand monument destiné à rendre hommage aux troupes tombées au champ d’honneur. Lony, professeur à l’école d’architecture de Trèves, et officier délégué, fit les plans de cet édifice. La construction s’étale de juin à octobre 1915, elle est réalisée par des soldats d’une division sanitaire stationnée à Sedan. Pour les matériaux, le choix de l’architecte se porte sur le fer et le béton, matériaux novateurs pour ce genre d’édifice : c’est un des premiers monuments réalisés en béton armé.
L’architecte fait construire un mur pour délimiter le carré Allemand du reste du cimetière. Il décide d’utiliser la pente en construisant deux terrasses. Au centre, il place un monument important : 9,3 mètres de long et 5, 35 mètres de large. L’édifice a des allures de monuments antiques avec ses quatre colonnes doriques. Celui-ci semble être une porte d’entrée vers le ciel, selon les souhaits de son concepteur. Sur chaque côté est ménagée une entrée. Les deux piliers principaux aux angles de la façade sont couronnés par des fruits stylisés. La façade principale porte une inscription de quatre lignes, texte poétique de Joseph von Lauff :
Kämpfend für Kaiser und Reich, nahm Gott uns die irdische Sonne ;
Jetzt vom Irdischen frei, strahlt uns sein ewiges Licht.
Heilig die Stätte, die ihr durch blutige Opfer geweiht habt!
Dreimal heilig für uns durch das Opfer des Danks.

Combattant pour l’Empereur et pour l’Empire, Dieu nous a pris le soleil terrestre.
Maintenant, libérés de toutes choses terrestres, sa lumière éternelle nous illumine.
Sacrée soit cette place, que vous avez consacrée par des victimes sanglantes.
Trois fois sacrée pour nous par le sacrifice du remerciement.

À l’intérieur, sur le plafond, trois couronnes végétales entourent deux croix de fer. Au centre, l’ordre « pour le mérite » est représenté.
Son implantation à Sedan n’est sans doute pas le fruit du hasard. C’est une des villes importantes de l’arrière front où sont cantonnés un grand nombre de soldats au repos ou en convalescence. La ville abrite aussi un important camp de prisonniers (l’un des plus importants du front occidental) dans le château fort. Mais Sedan est surtout pour les troupes impériales un lieu fondateur de leur nation. C’est là que le 2 septembre 1870 Napoléon III signe la capitulation de son armée face aux troupes de Guillaume Ier. Quelques mois plus tard, le grand-père de Guillaume II fonde à Versailles le IIème Reich allemand.
Le monument est aujourd’hui isolé au milieu du cimetière civil puisque toutes les sépultures allemandes ont été enlevées et déplacées vers plusieurs cimetières militaires germaniques des Ardennes (notamment celui de Noyer-Pont-Maugis qui se trouve à quelques kilomètres). Il est l’un des derniers témoignages dans le département des Ardennes des nombreux monuments commémoratifs qu’avaient construit les Allemands.

Nicolas CHARLES

#13 Chris_Baker

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 11:28 AM

This is very sad, egbert. It seems that the responsibility for the memorial lies with the authorities of Sedan and all that can be done is to appeal to them. The position is similar to the recent building at Hill 60 (Ypres), where appeals from interested parties came to nothing.

#14 centurion

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 11:45 AM

After reading the French, German and Flemish sources I found the letter to the mayor which yet has to be answered. It also states the ownership of the monument. In the mid-portion of the letter all the French, German and a Canadian historian/s and universities who support the letter are mentioned.
The monument uniquely is built with armoured concrete and thus repairable at good will. Other than that please take from the French sources or google it. This website does not allow the attachment of docx-files , so I will add the public letter to the city council of Sedan here:






If by armoured concrete you mean steel reinforced concrete then it is likely to be very difficult to repair, The picture shows very well what happens when this starts to go. The steels starts to corrode inside and reacts with the concrete. There is internal swelling causing cracking and bursting.Sometimes this can take many decades to manifest itself and there is little to be done about it. The monument may have been doomed from the day it was built This is why reinforced concrete dams built in the 1920s and 30s are often very regularly and closely inspected. 

#15 Siege Gunner

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 11:51 AM

Many German memorials erected in occupied France during WW1 were demolished at the end of the war. I seem to remember reading that this one was spared because its location was relatively unobtrusive and it was not regarded as 'triumphalist', but also because it was constructed of stuccoed/rendered reinforced concrete and blowing it up or otherwise demolishing it would probably have caused serious damage to surrounding French civilian graves. That method of construction was comparatively novel at the time and was also used in early modernist/Art Deco buildings, many of which have since been comprehensively restored (although many others have not), so restoration is almost certainly technically feasible if there is a will and also a way to pay for it. The final decision will no doubt come down to politics and priorities.

Personally, though, I think I would vote in favour having it down and landscaping the dilapidated surrounding area as a garden of shared remembrance, reflection and reconciliation, perhaps incorporating some kind of loggia with photographs and information boards narrating the history of the site.

#16 SteveMarsdin

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 11:58 AM

Hi Egbert,

I raised this here in 2010:

http://1914-1918.inv...1

It has to be remembered it is a civil cemetery which includes war graves from all three Franco-German conflicts, with a Jewish graveyard and memorial to the deportees of WW2 just outside the gates. To restore the memorial to its former glory in situ would dominate the cemetery, from which the actual German graves have been relocated.

I would be in favour of something along the lines of what Mick has suggested or what was suggested in the earlier thread.

#17 centurion

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 12:07 PM

Many German memorials erected in occupied France during WW1 were demolished at the end of the war. I seem to remember reading that this one was spared because its location was relatively unobtrusive and it was not regarded as 'triumphalist', but also because it was constructed of stuccoed/rendered reinforced concrete and blowing it up or otherwise demolishing it would probably have caused serious damage to surrounding French civilian graves. That method of construction was comparatively novel at the time and was also used in early modernist/Art Deco buildings, many of which have since been comprehensively restored (although many others have not), so restoration is almost certainly technically feasible if there is a will and also a way to pay for it. The final decision will no doubt come down to politics and priorities.


See


http://www.ihbc.org....ortingcols.html
http://upcommons.upc...1/8308/1/01.pdf





Very difficult, expensive and at best buys you another 20 years.



#18 ph0ebus

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 01:28 PM

What comes to mind when looking at these photos is perhaps they can save the columns and reuse them in some new structure? They did that when my synagogue was burned down in the 1980s. The building was unable to be repaired but columns that survived the fire were incorporated in the new synagogue building and their presence was quite moving.

-Daniel

#19 egbert

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 01:48 PM

What comes to mind when looking at these photos is perhaps they can save the columns and reuse them in some new structure? They did that when my synagogue was burned down in the 1980s. The building was unable to be repaired but columns that survived the fire were incorporated in the new synagogue building and their presence was quite moving.

-Daniel

Daniel and Centurion, I have googled for renovation of armoured concrete and found that today it is no problem at all to restore even the greatest and worst case damaged buildings (like all the thousand of bridge constructions and protected historical monuments, dating from early last century). When sifting through French language sites, dealing with this particular memorial, I learned that experts (architects and material experts) claim the repair can be done -it is all a question of will and cost .
@Paul: I also learned from the French sites that the Peronne museum historians are networked with their scientific counterparts who signed the letter. But I am not sure whether Peronne (Département Somme) has any drive to deal with Département Ardennes.

#20 ph0ebus

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 02:08 PM

Daniel and Centurion, I have googled for renovation of armoured concrete and found that today it is no problem at all to restore even the greatest and worst case damaged buildings (like all the thousand of bridge constructions and protected historical monuments, dating from early last century). When sifting through French language sites, dealing with this particular memorial, I learned that experts (architects and material experts) claim the repair can be done -it is all a question of will and cost .
@Paul: I also learned from the French sites that the Peronne museum historians are networked with their scientific counterparts who signed the letter. But I am not sure whether Peronne (Département Somme) has any drive to deal with Département Ardennes.

Of course, I would prefer the entire structure be saved, but if that proves impossible (structurally, politically or fiscally), saving at least a part would be preferable to nothing...

-Daniel

#21 ulsterlad2

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 05:52 PM

It's a real shame that it has reached such a state. It looks like it was once a very fine memorial.

#22 centurion

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:02 PM

It's a real shame that it has reached such a state. It looks like it was once a very fine memorial.


Concrete Cancer (which is what the memorial appears to have in a terminal state) can strike without warning (just like the human variety) and in the same way lots of people will offer cures. If caught early enough this can be possible but I suspect that this one is too far gone.

#23 Paul Reed

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 06:16 PM

Egbert - still think it may be worth contacting the Historial. While they are based in Peronne they are now considered a 'national WW1 museum'.

In some respects there is a need for an 'open air museum' to preserve structures like this along with bunkers etc under threat. Huge costs involved but perhaps this should be an objective for the centenary?

#24 Phil Evans

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 09:29 PM

Reinforced concrete repairs are a licence to print money and they grow like Topsey. I've worked on a couple of Listed buildings in the UK and seen the clients' despair. Also, as Centurion says, it only buys time.

Phil

#25 khaki

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Posted 01 April 2012 - 11:04 PM

It would be probably cheaper to build a new one, has anyone considered that? , its nice to have the original but it looks too late for a restoration attempt..

khaki