End the glorification of German colonial crimes
Bernd Langer, Script version 20.4.2022
End the glorification of German colonial crimes and the cultivation of fascist ideas
The Anti-Fascist Working Group Bad Lauterberg and its Anti-Colonial Commitment
The Wißmann monument has stood in Bad Lauterberg’s spa gardens since 1908. It has survived two world wars without being melted down. That says something about the importance attached to it. Apart from that, it is indeed a work of art in which the sculptor Johannes Götz has skillfully combined various aspects. Wißmann holds a map on his knee and looks into the distance under a pith helmet. His long saber, a gift from the Sultan of Zanzibar, hangs defiantly at his side; epaulets indicating his military rank. Looking at the bronze man, the viewer is reminded of a military commander as well as a pioneer advancing into unexplored territory. The designer of the large spa park, in which the monument is integrated, also understood something of his craft. Bad Lauterberg does not have a more prominent place to offer. Next to the prestigious Kurhaus, in whose hall major social events take place, is the park. In summer, spa guests enjoy the sun on the large terrace. Apart from the twittering of birds and the chattering of ducks, the only sound to be heard is the quiet splashing of the adjacent Oder River. A place of relaxation, surrounded by shady trees, flowerbeds and well-tended greenery. In front of the terrace is a small open space with benches and a duck pond with a water fountain. The benches are aligned to a concert shell, a few meters away from it, vis-à-vis the Kurhaus, stands the approx. 2.20 meter tall bronze Wißmann on a large erratic boulder at the duck pond. Although the monument, all in all, should measure 4.50 meters, it does not tower above its surroundings. Rather, the bronze man blends into a background of tall trees. There is no more popular photo motif in the idyllic ambience of the spa park. Thousands of corresponding picture postcards have been sent all over the world for over a hundred years. All this serves tourism, which is an important economic factor of the Kneipp spa. If the bronze man were removed, the town would not only be deprived of its landmark, but the entire concept of the spa park would be thrown out of balance. One would have to replace the monument with something else. As long as this decision-making process has not yet matured, the time is occasionally bridged by small acts of sabotage. In the 1980s, for example, unknown persons decorated the buildings of the spa park with political slogans, including spray-painting the question „Why the best for the guests?“ on the spa house in large letters.
Most of all, however, tempers flare when it comes to criticism of Hermann von Wißmannn; after all, this is a matter of politics and historical interpretation. When the Anti-Fascist Working Group Bad Lauterberg organizes its demonstration against the Wißmann cult and the Schutztrupp meeting taking place at the site in October 1982, it is met with broad social rejection and leads to a spectacle of a special kind. About 120 people form a demonstration procession, which is curiously observed and resented by 10 times the number of onlookers. Behind many curtains stand locals, others are bolder, leaning out of the shutters or lining the demonstration route. Occasionally there is shouting from the ranks of the onlookers, who remain at a distance and rather form a threatening backdrop. As a demonstrator, you feel like you’re in between the gauntlet and the bystander. Much has changed since that time. Today, society is looking for a different way of dealing with the colonial past. It is remarkable, for example, how the city is responding to criticism from some civil society groups about the local Wissmann representation in 2020. With almost breathtaking speed, the commemorative plaque of the Schutztruppenverband, which had stood on the gravestone of his mother and sister in the mountain cemetery since 1971, is disappearing. Likewise, the additional plaque of the tradition association at the Wißmann memorial is dismantled and replaced by a large information board. The text is debatable, but such measures would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
Zone border area
The first ideas for founding an anti-fascist working group came in 1977, with the new city youth worker playing a role in getting the youth center movement going. He is close to the DKP. In addition, some communist trainee teachers from Göttingen complete their state training at the Cooperative Comprehensive School. Officially, however, no one is allowed to know that the future teachers are organized in the KB or that the city youth worker is connected to the DKP, because it is the time of the Radikalenerlasses and the Berufsverbote.
Then there are a few older students, trainees, and young workers who do not agree with the political conditions. A large part of the group actually consists of bio-german working-class youth, a milieu that can no longer be found today. Just as the nearby border fence to the GDR. Bad Lauterberg is located in the border zone, there are only three directions on the compass. The initial spark for the founding of the working group was an international neo-Nazi meeting that took place in neighboring Scharzfeld at Pentecost 1978 and against which the Göttingen public prosecutor’s office initiated a large-scale raid. Even television reports on the police action. At that time an extraordinary thing. At the beginning we call ourselves antifascist working group Lauterberg, because the „Bad“ seems too bourgeois to us. Besides, we come only partly from Bad Lauterberg, most of us come from the villages in the surrounding area. Mainly from Barbis but also from Bartolfelde, Osterhagen and Scharzfeld. Places which all lie at the Harz and not, like Bad Lauterberg, in the Harz. The name antifascist working group Bad Lauterberg creeps in only gradually.
In addition to the topic of neo-Nazis, the reappraisal of the Nazi past is one of our focal points. Bad Lauterberg was once a communist stronghold, at least four anti-fascists were killed. The old Fritz Ließmann, born in 1906, who was already a communist before 1933 and a member of the DKP and VVN until the end of his life, works in the working group. He dies after a short, serious illness at the end of 1979. Fritz is a lonely exception, especially in terms of age. With their 25 to 30 years, the two trainee teachers from Göttingen and the city youth worker are already among the older ones. The city youth worker loses his job in 1980 and moves away, the trainee teachers complete their training and goes to Bremen. Fluctuation remains a constant phenomenon in the working group. When things are going well, activists are in the group for two to three years. The composition and size of the group changes accordingly. At the beginning there are about ten people, in the meantime we grow to 20. At one group meeting, 35 people are gathered, which is a one-time exception and is therefore counted separately. A core of five to ten people is really actively involved.
We are an undogmatic group, different currents work together, otherwise it is not possible in the small city. There are members of the DKP and the VVN, the KB is involved through the student teachers from Göttingen, there are also Jusos, at least one fully convinced anarchist and young people from the working-class milieu. I count myself among the autonomists. Politically, therefore, it is a colorful mixture that reflects the radical leftist currents of the time. In this respect, ideological disputes can also be found in the working group. Our meeting place is every Friday, at 19:30, in the town house. Beside events we appear above all with our INFO. An irregularly appearing pamphlet, with an imprint in accordance with the regulations, which even notes the number of copies. Most of the time it is 1000 copies. Between 1978 and May 1985, ten INFOs were published, as well as several flyers on special topics.
When a new INFO is ready, it is distributed with vigor. Initially still in front of the schools and always, by means of a book table, in the pedestrian zone. It is not that we are mobbed during the street agitation, that happens only extremely rarely. Rather one meets us with ignorance, skepticism and refusal. Which we do not mind! On the contrary, young as we are, we have both the future and the truth for us and feel the exclusion as confirmation. We see ourselves as part of a left-wing, political subculture. These are turbulent times and we are involved in the major events of the time and also militant demos. Examples would be the Rock against Right in Frankfurt/Main, big demos against nuclear power plants, the Startbahn-West, etc.. Our focus, however, is on the southern Harz region, so the annual meeting of the Traditionsverband ehemaliger Schutz- und Überseetruppen e. V. came into our sights as early as 1979. The military units in the German colonies in Africa from 1891 until their official dissolution in October 1919 were called ´Schutztruppe´. Under Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who was rather skeptical about colonial expansion, the term ‚Schutzgebiete‘ was in common use for the overseas territories. The term ‚Schutztruppe‘ goes back to the protection of German interests in the colonies. Whereby we put against the term Schutztruppen the term Kolonialtruppen. We feel that the term „colonial troops“ is more precise, especially since it omits the positive adjective „protection“. Colonial troops, however, are in the historical sense, military troops recruited from colored people from the colonies. For example, the colonial troops massively used as cannon fodder on the Western Front by the great colonial powers of France and England during World War I. The term ‚colonial troops‘ is used in a colloquial sense. Colloquially, i.e. also in the local press, the Schutztruppler are often referred to as ‚Africans‘. This expression dates back to the Kaiser era and is also found on the contemporary plaque on the monument. „Germany’s great Afrikaner, Hermann von Wissmann. Born Sep. 4, 1855, died July 1, 1905, the grateful fatherland.“ After Wissmann’s death, the book „Hermann von Wissmann, Germany’s Greatest African“ was published. During a recent guided tour, one of the participants asked whether Wissmann had been a black man. The Schutztruppe meeting has been a fixed ritual in the city since 1969. One would otherwise meet in Hamburg, but there students took the Wißmann monument from its pedestal for the second time in 1968, whereupon it was no longer erected.
But untouched, far away in the province, on the outermost edge of the republic, stands one last Wißmann monument. In Bad Lauterberg, the ‚colonial hero‘ still enjoys fame, renown as an African explorer who also fought the slave trade. The positive view of Wißmann and German colonial policy is also steadily deepened by the tireless work of the local archivist Max Walsleben. The fact that Walsleben was NPD district chairman until March 1985 does not matter.
So it is not surprising that the Schutztruppenverband is welcome in Bad Lauterberg and is officially welcomed every year by the mayor; without distinction whether this has the party book of the SPD or the CDU.
Who criticizes Wißmann questions fundamental conceptions. It is the ‚mustiness of 1000 years‘ that lives on here in the zone border area. But how does one proceed against the post-national socialist CDUSPDFDPNPD society? Ideas are needed! As a core of the evil the domination relationship man – woman is seen. Feminism, sexuality, psychology etc., are hotly discussed topics in the left scene. Books like Ernest Bornemann „The Patriarchy“ or Klaus Theweleit’s „Male Fantasies“ make the rounds. Touched by this spirit, some Antifa activists also look at the Bronze-Wißmann in the Kurpark. Clearly it is a patriarchal and basically obscene monument. It requires some preparations, because size and attachment want to be well thought out. From a cardboard tube and papier-mâché an approx. 1.5 meter long penis is made and attached to the monument at night, two balloons round off the appearance. The thing makes already impression, the public in the morning in the health resort park shows itself dismayed; unfortunately everything is faster disappeared than it can be photographed. With this first direct action the resistance against the Wissmann cult begins. At this point, the colonial past is at best a marginal topic. An exception is the historical novel Morenga by Uwe Timm. His story recounts the uprising of the Herero and Nama in German Southwest Africa from the point of view of a German vet in the Schutztruppen. The uprising under Jakob Morenga lasts from 1904 to 1908. None of this has anything to do with Wißmann, but the novel, which also incorporates historical documents, gives an idea of the colonial war and insights into the Schutztruppe. For us, it plays a role.
In INFO 5, January 1980, the article „Old comrades – or what else?“ deals with the ongoins of the Traditions-Verband. For the first time it says „No more Schutztruppen meeting in Bad Lauterberg! Renaming of the Wißmannstraße!“ The antifascist working group opposes the 12th annual meeting from October 19 to 22, 1980 in Bad Lauterberg with letters to the editor in the Harzkurier and the Bad Lauterberger Tageblatt. Surprisingly, a hitherto unknown Lothar Hirsch speaks out against the Wißmann cult in the same way. Counter-actions do not take place, but a few people of the working group mingle with the audience at the monument and observe how the members of the tradition association come from the direction of the Kurhaus. Three old veterans with wreath and black/white/red St. Peter’s flag and another Belgian flag bearer walk in front. Then they line up at the monument and a speaker takes the floor. Especially the medal clasps of the old men have it in themselves. Besides awards from the First World War, the War Merit Cross with swords and the Eastern Battle Medal, the so-called ‚Frozen Meat Order‘ can be seen. Both with swastika. We from the working group are clearly outnumbered and leave it at observing. Running to the police is of course out of the question.
We don’t want anything from the state, the system is our opponent. It is necessary to act ourselves!
During the night, unknown persons replace the wreath ribbons. Immediately the managing director of the association, Otto Haberland from Berlin, files a complaint with the police for „disparagement of the memory of the deceased and theft of low-value items“. In the internal info of the anti-fascist working group it says in addition: „Lost went a wreath loop in the value of 125, – DM. The amount of the damage caused was estimated at 25,000 – 30,000 DM. The wreath ribbon was replaced by two linen cloths, size 80 cm x 35 cm with the inscriptions: 1. Zum Gedenken an die von Deutschen „Schutztruppen“ ermordeten Freiheitskämpfer in Afrika und China 2. Araberaufstand 1888/89 Hottentotten-Aufstände bis 1904 Hereros 1896 Boxeraufstand 1900.“ Haberland suspects that the perpetrators belong to the circle around the former youth care worker at the city of Bad Lauterberg, Götz Westphal and the reader letter writer Lothar Hirsch. Both are summoned by the 7th Commissariat, responsible for political crimes, of the police in the district town of Osterode. Lothar drives the little more than 20 kilometers to Osterode, Götz hands the matter over to his lawyer. At this point, Götz is already no longer a member of the working group and Lothar has not yet joined the group; the two do not know each other personally. In other words, the police have no idea. In the end, the investigation is discontinued without results. The study of the investigation file is nevertheless enlightening. Among other things, there is a list of the foreign participants of the Schutztruppen meeting: „Auswärtig: Anzahl 56 Davon: Ehemalige Schutztruppenangehörige 5 Witwen ehemaliger Schutztruppenangehöriger 6 Kinder ehemaliger Schutztruppenangehöriger 10 An der deutschen Kolonialgeschichte Interessierte 36“ After this run-up we do not want to let the 13th Schutztruppentreffen from October 16 to 18, 1981, run off without counteractions. INFO 6 is published with the headline „Every year again Schutztruppentreffen in Bad Lauterberg – Schluss mit der Verherrlichung der deutschen Kolonialverbrechen und der Pflege faschistischen Gedankengutes“. Five of the eight pages deal with the topic.
There is another flyer of the antifascist working group, which calls for Saturday, October 17 to the film „Nazis, are they still there?“ and subsequent rock against right concert with the group Abraxas in the town hall. The band travels from Northeim, there is no music scene in Bad Lauterberg and the surrounding area. For the following day, when the Schutztruppler lay their wreath at the memorial, the film „Namibia fights“ is announced. But despite all the effort our events are not very well received. Only the Schutztruppenverband reacts and asks for police protection for its wreath-laying ceremony. In order to drive the tradition federation into the parade, it requires thus other means than info. booths, meetings or the stealing of wreath ribbons. We are never at a loss for arguments and are even better positioned in terms of content after Lothar joins us. He studies ethnology in Göttingen and devotes himself with scientific meticulousness and doggedness to the topics Hermann von Wißmann and Schutztruppenverband. We soon publish the paper „Wissmann – a Prussian career“. The title refers to the popular documentary film by Joachim Fest „Hitler – a career“. The title page also attempts to draw analogies between colonialism and fascism, in that Wissmann is written in sigrunes and the swastika flag of the Reichskolonialbund flutters behind a drawing of the Lauterberger monument. The subheading then also reads „the story of a colonial criminal“. With all the trimmings, the scientifically correct text, although very tendentiously written, comprises 34 typewritten pages. The work is distributed as a photocopy under our group name. In addition, the title drawing of the brochure is at the same time the poster motif for our demonstration against the ‚colonial troop meeting‘, which everything boils down to in the course of 1982.
A demonstration in Bad Lauterberg, that has never happened in the post-war period! Administration and local parties try to prevent and hinder the manifestation or where and how it goes. A lawyer has to be called on around the demonstration right to fight through. „Who loves Bad Lauterberg, ensures a quiet town“, is a popular placeholder ad in the Bad Lauterberger Tageblatt, which is aimed at us. Again and again it appears in the newspaper.
We put a lot of effort into the demo on October 23. We manage to get a total of 13 groups to support us before the leaflet goes to press with a print run of 5000 copies. It is the peak of the peace and anti-war movement. Even if the topic is a bit special, our demonstration is in line with the spirit of the times. Together with friendly groups, there will be information booths in Bad Lauterberg, Göttingen, Herzberg, Duderstadt and Osterode on October 16. In Göttingen, there will be an extra event on October 22 in the trendy Theaterkeller pub. For this, the film „Aus Liebe zum Imperium“ will be shown. While the mobilization is going on, the legal dispute about the demo continues. The city wants to prevent that our final rally takes place in the Kurpark at the Wißmann monument. Only immediately at the beginning this can be enforced before the administrative court of Braunschweig. Shortly before that, I unexpectedly receive a summons at the police station and call in a lawyer. Through the inspection of the files, I learn that a woman who works for the city administration and knows me from school days has denounced me. Allegedly, I had wildly posted posters for the demo at a bus stop in Barbis one evening. I resent this above all because in this case it was definitely not me. In the end, the investigation runs out, but shows again how many people in my environment are on it. Then finally the day of the demonstration arrives. Meeting point is at the town hall, at 2:30 p.m. it is supposed to start. We wait quite a long time, especially for the African Student Union (ASTU) from Göttingen, which has promised its participation. Their representatives are supposed to lead the demo. But nobody from the African Student Union appears. Later, the excuse is given that they had arranged to meet at the wrong place in Göttingen. A little more than 100 people come together at the town hall. For the district of Osterode this is not a bad result, but we expected 200 to 300 people. At the meeting point there are a lot of curious young people loitering around, but they don’t join. As we set off, the curtains behind some windows are hastily drawn, others prefer to watch the whole thing from a safe distance from their garden fence. Groups of onlookers stand everywhere at the street corners. Outwardly unimpressed, we pick up our banners. Flanked by enough policemen, our demonstration procession is accompanied through the city. In the front part of the demonstration we carry a magnificent wreath. On the ribbon is written „In memory of the more than 50,000 natives murdered by German colonial troops. Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Bad Lauterberg“. By means of speeches via megaphone and chants like „German colonialists are murderers and fascists“ we try to create a mood. We are not interested in insults like „Nestbeschmutzer“, „Geht doch rüber“ („Go over“, meaning the near border fence to the GDR) etc., which become loud here and there at the roadside. However, a symbolic street renaming is planned at the branch of Wissmannstraße into Ritscherstraße, where it goes towards the Kurpark. A prepared sign ‚Jakob-Morenga-Straße‘ is to be hung over ‚Wissmannstraße‘. But just at this street corner there is a group of disliked onlookers and then there is the police. The stopover is not announced. In short, the person who is supposed to put up the sign decides to simply walk on. This leads to harsh criticism afterwards. What is discussed and decided together cannot simply be overturned individually! Municipality and police use the small number of participants for a last harassment. The gate to the Kurpark was not opened, all demonstrators had to pass individually through a small door. An article in the Frankfurter Rundschau describes the mood. „Exactly ninety-eight demonstrators – according to the police count – protested this year’s federal meeting of the ‚Traditionsverband ehemaliger Schutz- und Überseetruppen‘ in Bad Lauterberg in the Harz mountains over the weekend. More than a thousand onlookers lined the streets of the small town, ‚like at a marksmen’s parade‘ (according to a police spokesman), as the demonstrators marched through the town and then laid a wreath for the victims of German colonialism in Africa and Asia at a colonial monument. Already the following night, the wreath was moved aside by unknown perpetrators.“
After the demo, a second ‚Rock gegen Rechts‘ is announced in the ‚Goldene Aue‘ from 8 pm. Bravely the two Göttingen bands ‚Steif und traurig‘ and ‚Faltenrock‘ play in an almost empty hall. The local press reports maliciously on Monday. Under the headline „Counter-demonstration did not find applause“, the Bad Lauterberger Tageblatt reads „Even the participation of professors in the hundred-strong crowd of auxiliaries mobilized by Antifa Bad Lauterberg could not enhance the quality of the counter-demonstration against the comrades‘ meeting in Bad Lauterberg. – It took a long time before the procession formed at the town hall; because there were partly long marches for the participants. The supporters of the anti-history movement are not sown so densely.“ The mood in the group is rather depressed. I am rather alone with the opinion that everything was just a beginning and we should build on this demo. There are arguments about the assessment and political as well as personal fractures in the group come to the fore. Some members distance themselves from the group, an important activist asks the question of meaning and withdraws completely from the political work. Apart from that, other activists soon leave the region. In 1983 I, too, go to Bremen and can only sporadically participate in meetings in Bad Lauterberg. We shrink, but survive this phase, and develop more and more clearly into an autonomous association. This is also the reason why the activities against the Schutztruppenverband in October 1983 go largely undisturbed. However, the Traditionsverband is not officially welcomed by the mayor. A result of our demo, which annoys the association a bit. Apart from that there is an exchange of blows between the working group and the Traditionsverband about letters to the editor in the local press and the annual theft of wreaths. However, the working group is not able to do more, because in the whole North German area autonomous antifa groups mobilize against the NPD federal party conference in Fallingbostel on October 1, 1983. There is a violent street battle with the police. The Bad Lauterberg antifascist working group is part of the North German Antifa Coordination. All the while, the Traditionsverband is trying to rejuvenate itself and in 1983 gives itself the addition Friends of the former German protectorates to make it clear that anyone ‚interested in colonial history‘ can join it. In 1984 I return to the Harz which is also reflected in a revival of the working group. Among other things, new contacts are established with the BWK in Clausthal and with the Volksfront, which has the same personnel. These ‚mass organizations‘ are on the descending branch and consist of two recognizable members. Above all our technical possibilities improve by this establishment of contact, thus the sentence for the leaflet „end with colonial tradition and Wissmann veneration“ develops 1984 on the ballpoint typewriter of the BWK. Against the Schutztruppentreffen we appear on Saturday, October 20, with a film and discussion event in the town hall. Again it is an alliance action: „Autonomer antifascist working group Eichsfeld, people’s front KV Clausthal, gay group Clausthal, Prof. Dr. Rolf Bertram – member of the district council Osterode,“ call beside us. We continue to fight against windmills. It is still the time of the printed word. Therefore we let ourselves on a co-operation with the Harzer land messenger, briefly HaLa from Clausthal. An alternative „event magazine for the Harz province“ as it says in the subline. Clausthal is the only place in the Harz with a university, which is also reflected a little in political life. The DIN A5 booklet appears in an edition of 500 copies once a month. The cooperation is free of charge. Although in Bad Lauterberg, no stores, cafés or pubs exist, over which the HaLa is distributed, we work 1984/85 intensively on the project and drive regularly to editorial meetings to Clausthal. Always in the hope to be able to move something in the region and also to make the problem around the Wißmann monument and the Schutztruppen meeting more well-known. Again it comes to a direct action. The plaque of the Schutztruppen Association at the monument with the inscription „He fought successfully against the slave trade and for the freedom of the oppressed“ is unscrewed one night and remains missing. Unfortunately, it is discovered after some time during a cleanup of the Odra riverbank and the city provides for a new, better fortification.
When the Schutztruppenverband plaque is reattached, the screw heads are filed off. In 2020, it will be removed after criticism from the city.
However, our group becomes smaller and smaller, for the people who move away from Bad Lauterberg, no new ones appear. In May 1985 we still manage to publish the INFO 10, in the second half of the year the working group falls silent. This year the Schutztruppenverband comes to town earlier than ever, i.e. already from October 4 to 7. Unusual is also that this time no announcement in the apron takes place, Bad Lauterberger daily paper and Harzkurier report only on Friday, 4 October, thus after the participants already arrived, of the ‚tradition meeting‘. Probably, with the short notice counteractions are to be prevented. Because hard confrontations cast their shadow over the republic. On September 28, 36-year-old locksmith Günter Sare was run over by a water cannon during an anti-NPD demonstration in Frankfurt/Main. After the death of the anti-fascist, the Federal Republic experiences some of its most turbulent days. All over the country, people spontaneously take to the streets. Police stations, banks and department stores go to pieces, there are many attacks. The damage runs into the millions and the autonomous Antifa becomes a household name. Also in Göttingen and Northeim the city centers are affected by ‚Scherbendemos‘. Even if you don’t know each other personally, you feel connected in the political scene. When ‚one of us‘ is killed, a response is due, there is no question. Günter Sare is a household name for everyone these days.
Fiery atmosphere in the spa park
You can always do something – they say. But what to do when you’ve already tried everything and have to act very quickly? Well, to build a fake bomb is not so difficult. All you need is an empty fire extinguisher and a travel alarm clock, which you glue, visually artistic, to the metal casing. A few cables should protrude into the metal container. To make the dummy weightier, fill the metal casing with sand and in the upper area with powdered sugar to simulate explosives. When everything is ready, the replica disappears into an inconspicuous sports bag and off you go. All alone is seldom good, better if someone is keeping an eye out. In addition, a propaganda plate is to be dismantled. So we have to think about the way and the time. It is early morning and pleasantly cool, the dark forest smells autumnal, only the ripple of the Oder can be heard. Meeting point VVN stone at the Felsenkeller, the Wißmann monument is only a few hundred meters from here, on the other side of the Oder. The goal is sabotage, to thwart the show, in the spectacle the action unfolds. In the event of a bomb alarm, everything is cordoned off and firemen from a defusing team have to roll up specially. All in all, this takes hours and will kick up some dust. Of course, a fake explosive attack entails investigations and remains an explosive action. Above all, it must be remembered that all the material falls into the hands of the investigators unharmed. Everything can be evaluated. One mistake, one fingerprint, one item that can be traced and it will end badly. There is no need to hope for any solidarity. At best, it amuses some people who see everything as a joke – and not what it’s all about. Militancy is part of politics! But everything works like clockwork, only the letter of confession is missing. The text must be written, one needs a typewriter only for this purpose. Always applies, no traces leave. Each machine has a unique stop. One takes the third carbon copy and traces the letters with a fine pen. Then everything must be copied and the originals destroyed. Also, should be carefully considered where the letters are thrown in and to whom they go. One is best left at the scene of the crime. If you don’t have enough time, you can hand in the statement later. The written statement is a central part of the action, specifies the political orientation. „Bomb alert in the spa gardens,“ is the headline in the local press the next day. „The only person really affected by the incident is Raab, the tenant of the spa house. About one hundred fewer meals than usual on Sundays were sold because the guests were unsettled. Except for the thirty meals for the ‚Africans‘ almost nothing was sold,“ it is read. A local farce with class? Nerves are needed in the days that follow. Everything goes well. The letter of confession is also received and quoted. „Aktion Springteufel – Mourning for our comrade Günter Sare, murdered by the cops on 28.9.85“, is the title. Articles, comments and letters to the editor occupy the local press for a while in the following period.
The working group, which has not appeared since the summer, also speaks up once again. After that, it becomes quiet around Wißmann and the ‚Traditionsverband‘. In the HaLa, No. 31, of November 1985 appears a final article on the ‚assassination‘ of the Wissmann monument. This is the last statement of the antifascist working group at all. There is no dissolution paper, it simply stops. However, considerations are still made. To simply tear down the monument at night is not possible. For this, a rather long, powerful rope and many people pulling would be necessary. Even then, the outcome would be uncertain, because unlike in Hamburg, the Wißmann in Bad Lauterberg is not on a pedestal, but is anchored directly in the rock. To bend the bronze over or tear it down would require a tremendous amount of force. At most a tractor or Unimog with a winch could accomplish this. Such considerations fail already because of the fact that the local police station is directly at the health resort park. Therefore sawing off is also out of the question. It would be too noisy and take too long. Even with an angel hair wire saw one would have no chances of success. That leaves acid. Copper alloys can be dissolved in high-percentage sulfuric acid. At least this works with pennies. This leads to the idea of simply filling the feet of the statue with acid and letting the chemical reaction do the rest. Some tests show that it would probably take a few hours before the bronze Weissmann falls into the duck pond. Freely according to the motto of the ‚colonial hero‘, which is engraved on a large stone at the monument: „I find or I make my way“. Above all, there is plenty of time to disappear. Intoxicated with their own idea, they get to work. In the protection of nightly hour, two small holes are drilled fast into the boots, by means of plastic hose and pressure sprayer the acid can be filled into the boots. The unknown assassins can then quietly disappear into the dark night with their instruments. But is everything well thought out? Is a metal alloy of a penny coin identical with a cast bronze? Aren’t there anyway drains for water to collect in the plastic? Or doesn’t the acid simply eat its way through fine cracks in the metal and then run off? Practice shows that the boots can be filled. But the acid finds its way under the soles of the boots after a short time. For a few days, it stinks violently of sulfur around the monument; until rain, wind and sun have broken down the unappetizing chemistry – and nothing has happened. The Wißmann monument remains standing, the working group is history. Efforts in 1991 to found a new group in Bad Lauterberg do not get beyond beginnings. Nevertheless, the monument continues to be pointed out. As with an intermediate rally at the Antifa demonstration on January 29, 1994 and at the Antifa demonstration on January 19, 2008. Also later the monument remains a topic at various events and antifascist city tours. But these are all sporadic activities organized from outside.
It is only in 2020 that criticism of the monument and the colonial historical representation will be voiced again from the region. Not with revolutionary pretensions, but with civil society commitment. In the meantime, the generation from the time with ‚oak leaves and swords‘ has largely left. Pride in the homeland and nation, or even in colonial deeds, does not fit in with a multicultural, united Europe. The Traditionsverband exists, but it is unclear whether it still meets in Bad Lauterberg. In any case, there have been no reports in the press for years. The fact that the world is changing and that different views are gradually determining social life than in the past certainly has little to do with the efforts of the Antifa working group. It merely made its contribution and has long since disappeared in the dark wake of time. In any case, some things have remained; Wissmannstraße still bears its name and the monument still stands in the Kurpark. At least the latter also has a positive effect. As long as the sculpture remains visible in public space, it always causes controversy. For sure, the ‚Colonial Heritage‘ would not be an issue in this region without the Wißmann monument. It remains to be seen whether the bronze man will disappear one day or whether the monument will be embedded differently in terms of content. Either way, it remains a tough process.
Becker / Perbandt / Richelmann / Schmidt / Steuber ( 2 1907): Hermann von Wissmann. Deutschlands größter Afrikaner, Berlin.
Langer, Bernd (1997): Kunst als Widerstand, Bonn. Langer, Bernd (2004): Operation 1653. Stay rude – stay rebel, Göttingen.
Langer, Bernd (2017): Kunst und Kampf, Münster.
Timm, Uwe (1978): 17 Morenga, München.
Timm, Uwe (1981): Deutsche Kolonien, München, Walzleben, Max (1978): Hermann von Wissmann persönlich. Einblicke und Eindrücke, Bad Lauterberg.
Documents and flyers
The INFOs and leaflets of the working group I have supplied several times in complete sets to appropriate archives. I have not found them listed so far. Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Lauterberg, INFO 5, Alte Kameraden – oder was sonst? Achtseitige Flugschrift, Dezember 1979/Januar 1980.
Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Lauterberg, INFO 6, Alle Jahre Wieder Schutztruppentreffen in Bad Lauterberg. Schluß mit der Verherrlichung des Deutschen Kolonialverbrechen und der Pflege faschistischen Gedankengutes. Achtseitige Flugschrift, keine Datumsangabe im Impressum. 1981 gegen das Treffen das Schutztruppentreffen gerichtet.
Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Lauterberg, Schutztruppen raus aus Lauterberg! Flugblatt, Oktober 1981.
Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Lauterberg, Wissmann – eine preußische Karriere, 34seitige Broschüre, 1982.
Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Lauterberg, Kein Kolonialtruppentreffen in Bad Lauterberg und anderswo! Schluß mit der Verherrlichung der deutschen Kolonialverbrechen und der Pflege rassistischer und imperialistischer Tradition. Flugblatt, Oktober 1982.
Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Lauterberg, Inter-INFO, 1982.
Antifaschistischer Arbeitskreis Lauterberg, Schluß mit Kolonialtradition und WissmannVerehrung, Flugblatt, 1984.
Harzer Landbote. Veranstaltungsmagazin für die Harzer Provinz. Kolonialtruppentreffen. Schluß mit Kolonialtradition und Apartheid-Rassismus, Ausgabe No.: 30. Oktober 1985.
Harzer Landbote. Veranstaltungsmagazin für die Harzer Provinz. Bombenstimmung in Bad Lauterberg. ‚Attentat‘ auf Wissmann-Denkmal. Ausgabe No.: 31. November 1985