Südwestfriedhof (engl.)

Fulerumer Straße, 45149 Essen | 51.435096, 6.966655‎ | +51° 26′ 6.35″, +6° 57′ 59.96″

This cemetery in the south-east of Essen has more than just one interesting happening in store. Thus, there are several things to occupy with in here. Ask the Falken employee accompanying you which of the cemetery’s secrets you may uncover at first.

[1] The murders at the Montagsloch

On this cemetery, the corpses of 34 Soviet prisoners of war have their final rest. The men and women were shot by the Gestapo because the latter wanted to make room in the police prison. The prisoners of war were tied up with telephone cable and transported to the so-called Montagsloch, a hole in the ground to be found in the Gruga, one of Essen’s most famous parks. Nowadays, a commemorative stone reminds of the victims. After the shooting, the Gestapo officers buried them in a shallow grave. On 28th April 1945, the Allies discovered the provisional graves. As a result of that, the corpses were exhumed and buried appropriately later on.

Morde am Montagsloch Artikel

A newspaper article treating the murders at the Montagsloch (source: Neue Ruhrzeitung, May 5, 1995)

Taking into account the historical background, it is worth mentioning that between 1941 and 1945, more than five million Soviet soldiers became prisoners of war. 3,3 million of them did not survive their forced stay in Germany. The accommodation of the deported was dreadful in most cases. Many prisoners of war were diseased with epidemics, because of the disastrous hygienic conditions and the inadequate care. The Nazis intended to exploit their prisoners as intense as possible. After the end of World War II, many former prisoners of war had considerable problems with reintegrating into the Soviet society. In the Stalin era (1927-1953), the captivity in Germany was frequently interpreted as a betrayal. Approximately 15% of the persons arrested in Nazi Germany before were put into labour camps in the Soviet Union owing to their alleged betrayal.

1) What does the treatment of the prisoners of war tell about the Hitler or the Stalin regime? Try to describe the relationship of both regimes to individuals and their destinies. You may conduct further enquiries in order to reply to the question.

[2] Final rest for people sentenced to hard labour, inmates of concentration camps and celebrated politicians

In addition, 321 men and women sentenced to hard labour by the Nazi regime were inhumed on this cemetery. Mainly, these people came from the Soviet Union and from Poland. Urns containing the ash of 20 former concentration camp inmates were installed here as well. Well-known politicians were buried on this cemetery, too. For instance, Heinz Renner – Essen’s first mayor after the war – was buried here. Nowadays, the Heinz-Renner-Haus (office of the party Die Linke) in the Severinstraße is named after him. Otto Hue – functionary-in-chief of an old miner’s association (Alter Bergarbeiterverband) – found his final rest here as well.

Zwangsarbeiterin

The Russian woman Zinaida Sterck-Walichowa was one of many prisoners of war who were sentenced to hard labour in Nazi Germany. The title reads: „Memories still hurt“ (source: Horst Zimmer).

1) Listen to the song The peat bog soldiers (Die Moorsoldaten). What’s the statement of this song, regarding forced labour in general and „life“ in a concentration camp in particular? Is there a definite hope perceptible at the end of the song? What’s your opinion of The peat bog soldiers?

[3] Victims of the Kapp coup (1920)

Furthermore, the victims of the right-wing Kapp coup were buried on this cemetery. In the course of this coup, a group of right-wing extremists led by the administration official Wolfgang Kapp tried to topple the government of the Weimar Republic and transform the latter into a military dictatorship. Many members of the Reichswehr attended the coup against the background of not having gotten over Germany’s defeat in World War I. In addition, these soldiers blamed the democratic forces within the government for being allegedly responsible for the outcome of the war. In the view of these conservative, monarchist or far-right persons, the Weimar Republic was a thorn in Germany’s flesh. The main part of the right-wing political spectrum detested democratic ideas.  For these reasons, they aimed to replace the Republic as soon as possible with a dictatorship, led either by military or an emperor. In the first place, left-wing workers opposed the coup by means of a general strike and – in the Ruhr Area – with help of the Rote Ruhrarmee (red Ruhr army). Many of Kapp’s supporters carried the Swastika on their helmets – even at that time, 13 years before Hitler finally took over.

1) What is your view on the issue? For which reason a dictatorship where the military holds sway is not in the worker’s interest? Call into mind that – immediately before the Kapp coup took place – World War I (1914-1918) devastated Europe.

2) Find out whether Wolfgang Kapp stood accused of his intended overthrow of the Weimar Republic. What does the result of your further research tell you about the early Weimar Period?

3) Do you know any songs referring to and warning about the threat of war? Try to list some of them and figure out which of them you like most.

[4] Victims of the aerial warfare

There are graves of people who died in the course of the aerial warfare to be found on this cemetery. These graves border on the Fulerumer Straße. It is possible to talk about an aerial warfare when armed forces make an attempt at eliminating strategically important targets of their enemies, without running the risk of having too many own ground troops fighting. Thus, the civilian population suffers huge losses, a risk which is usually accepted by the warring fractions. In addition, devastating ravages of war are an inevitable consequence.

In the beginning of World War II in 1939, the Nazis initially employed this strategy on Poland, falling back on their experience made in the Spanish civil war not long before (1936-1939). By means of this approach, the Wehrmacht – the army of the Nazi regime – razed several Polish towns to the ground and hence caused the death of thousands of people. During their attacks on the Netherlands, the Nazis caused enormous damage by air raids, too. Hitler’s attempt to force the United Kingdom to its knees with the help of aerial bombardments in 1940 failed. In return, the Royal Air Force (RAF) sounded the attack on German cities. In the years 1942 and 1943, the town centre of Essen just like the Krupp factories were attacked by hundreds of British bombers. While doing this, the bombers destroyed thousands of buildings; hundreds of people met their death. The violence triggered off by the Nazis returned one more time to Germany. So people from Essen who died during the aerial warfare found their final rest out here.

SW Blume

SW Platte

Between the graves, there is a commemorative stone set in the ground. It was installed by the Nazis in 1943. The stone was neither removed nor replaced. The text reads: „The dead warn: love your homeland.“

1) Ponder on the inscription of the commemorative stone. Note down what you think about the sentence. Do you have any idea what exactly the Nazis intended with the installation of this stone?

2) Try to formulate another sentence alluding to the fate of the people who met their death during the World War II bombardments.

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