Burgplatz, 45127 Essen | 51.455451, 7.013887 | +51°27’19.62″, +7°0’49.99″
Over a period of 12 years, today’s Burgplatz was called Adolf-Hitler-Platz, in order to enforce the presence of Nazi Germany’s dictator in the town-center of Essen. With recourse to this subtle method the fascists tried to influence and threaten pedestrians as well as democrats and/or left-wingers (who were persecuted emphatically, especially since 1933 when the Nazis took over). There were several places in Essen which had to share Burgplatz’s fate, for instance the Rüttenscheider Straße, which carried the unflattering name of Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of the german air force of that time. With regard to the Wilhelmstraße, the Nazis launched the name „Straße der SA“ („SA’s street“). Even in former Weimar Republic, from the year 1922 onward, the SA intimidated their political opponents (democratic and/or leftist organizations of all sorts) by means of inconceivable methods of terror. For example, they dissolved meetings of other parties or beat up their members. With help of SA, the fascists could easily disband their political competitors and arrest a serious amount of persons who were engaged in warning about the Nazi threat. Those rude behaviour towards their enemies was a kind of a foretaste of the reign of terror the Nazis spread out to the whole of Germany between 1933 and 1945. In other cities, even school buildings were blemished with the names of representatives of the Nazi regime. All in all, the SA loomed large in making the Nazi movement the hegemonic force during Germany’s darkest period of time.
Swearing in of the SA on the Burgplatz on 9th March 1933 (made available by the Essener Haus der Geschichte / Ernst-Schmidt-Archiv)
Renaming streets or public squares in a well-directed manner is a particular feature of rogue regimes. Thus, the rulers try to ban unwelcome traditions and ideas from the public sphere (through erasing former terms) while accentuating and emphasizing their own ideological background. In the case of Nazi Germany, the so-called Blutzeugen der Bewegung – translated literally: „blood witnesses of the (Nazi) movement“ – were honoured by the supporters of Hitler in the first place. „Witnesses“ of such kind died during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) while struggling against political opponents (such as communist groups). For that reason, the Nazis spent a lot of money and time on keeping their anti-democratic and hostile streetfighters reminded beyond their deaths. Indeed, most people killed with recourse to political issues in those days belonged to leftist organizations. Particularly social democratic and communist activists were persecuted and hunted by the bloodstained paramilitary forces of SA (founded in 1922) and SS (from 1925/26 onward). Hitler himself got rid of the leaders of the SA during the so-called „night of the long knives“ in 1934. He supposed SA-chief Ernst Röhm to make claims about becoming the head of the fascist movement himself. So he murdered many of his former comrades. In den following years, the SA was more and more pushed aside. Meanwhile, Hitler found more pleasant ways of establishing his power. He simply didn’t need anymore the filthy engagements of the SA. Hitler and his entourage even pretended to protect Germany against the SA’s „revolutionary“ intentions. Finally, especially when the Nazis triggerend off World War II, the SS (Schutzstaffel, literally translated: „echelon of protection“) became probably the main spine of Nazi Germany and replaced the SA in all contemptuous manners.
1) Imagine to turn up again in the year 1945. Essen has just been freed from the Nazi regime by the Allies. In order to start off with a new phase, streets and squares have to be renamed again. It’s your job to search for an adequate term corresponding with the Burgplatz, the former Adolf-Hitler-Platz. Reach out for a fitting name which may – for instance – allude to the history of a resistance group or a person who symbolizes the democratic tradition of Germany. Try to find some evidence backing your choice. It’s possible to make use of the other personalities mentionned in the context of our geocachig game (look at the table on the right to find other names related to this topic).
2) In a second step, try to draw three or four main facts from the material you’ve searched for in 1). Formulate a brief text which could be printed on a sign introducing the Burgplatz and its story.