Status: 22.09.2023, 05:30 a.m.
By: Charlotte Borst
Names, facts, biographies: the guests receive a lot of information, but also a sensual approach. © Dieter Michalek
With great publicity and in a festive setting, the city of Unterschleißheim yesterday opened the memorial site "Nazi forced labor in flax roasting".
Unterschleißheim – A contemporary memorial has been created in Lohhof. The city is thus leading the way in the still young reappraisal of the issue of forced labor and is placing a strong emphasis on a responsible approach to its own Nazi past.
The three-part memorial is primarily intended to commemorate the people who were deported to Lohhof and exploited there. Among the approximately 150 guests who came to the opening ceremony at the technical college at the S-Bahn station is the Munich contemporary witness Ernst Grube (90). His mother, Clementine Grube, was one of the forced laborers in the flax roasting company in Lohhof. From 1944 onwards, the trained nurse from Munich, who was classified as a "Jew", had to work under inhumane conditions in flax roasting alongside around 350 others.
Flax as a raw material
Because with the advancing war, there was a great shortage of workers in the German economy. In Lohhof, flax was processed as a raw material for the textile industry. The memorial directly at the Lohhof S-Bahn station presents the place where the Jewish forced laborers from Munich arrived in a central location. For many of them, Lohhof was not the end of the terror. Clementine Grube was also deported to Theresienstadt on 21 February 1945 with her three children Ernst, Werner and Ruth.
The artist Kirsten Zeitz has set up seven life-size metal portrait steles in four fields at the train station, which are planted with flax – this is the blue-flowered plant from which flax was extracted and by which the women were surrounded.
As persecuted also individuals
Flowers and metal – as contradictory as the materials are, they are suitable for the artist to show that the women were also individuals beyond their fate as persecuted.
Flax-blue concrete flowers embedded in the pavement also mark the "Path of Remembrance", which leads to the digital learning site at the corner of Carl-von-Linde and Johann-Kotschwara-Straße, from where parts of the factory site can still be seen. Here, a QR code makes flax roasting with its barracks a visible reality on a smartphone. The historian Maximilian Strnad has been able to research many names of the exploited in recent years. Kirsten Zeitz has hammered these names letter by letter into metal plates that accompany the path as a band.
"This day will be remembered"
Among the guests in the auditorium of the FOS/BOS yesterday was almost the entire city council. "This day will be remembered," said Mayor Christoph Böck. At "five to twelve" it was possible to save the place from collective oblivion, "because many citizens of the city no longer knew anything about it." The road to implementation was long, there were many setbacks. All the more reason to thank Daniela Benker, head of the cultural office, who, with good intuition, the right team and a lot of perseverance, has created a place that makes facts accessible and shows fates.
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Fancy a voyage of discovery?
The late Heimatpfleger Wolfgang Christoph got the ball rolling. He knew about flax roasting, but it was "frowned upon" at the time, said Böck, to talk openly about it. On behalf of the city, Christoph entrusted the historian Maximilian Strnad, who wrote a book and laid the broad scientific foundation for the place of remembrance.
Growing right-wing extremist ideology
Today, society is once again confronted with growing right-wing extremist ideology, said Mayor Böck: "The danger should not be underestimated. Anyone who votes for right-wing populist or right-wing extremist parties today – even if it's just out of protest – is promoting this ideology."
Ellen Presser, the director of the Cultural Center of the Jewish Community, called the place of remembrance "low-threshold, contemporary and appealing". The memorial enables an open and critical examination of the Nazi era, said Mirjam Zadoff, director of the Nazi Documentation Center. A glance at the daily newspapers shows how necessary this is: "How do we behave today, when exclusion is spreading again, through agitation against refugees, queer hostility and trivialization of anti-Semitism?"
Active for freedom
District Administrator Christoph Göbel was "thrilled with how Unterschleißheim has connected with its history." He called on people to draw the right conclusions from the mistakes of the past for their own behaviour and to actively work for freedom and democracy.
The fact that this is already succeeding is already shown by Unterschleissheim students. They interviewed contemporary witnesses from the flax roasting industry who tell of the horrors they experienced when they were the same age as the students who listened to them.