Picture and text by Mark R. Hatlie
These pictures were taken on 15 April in Pforzheim, a city which lost over 60% of its constructed living space to allied bombing during World War Two. The marker is a hill that was made to a great extent out of the rubble of the town. It is not unlike the Birkenkopf rubble hill in Stuttgart.
|The hill is visible from the train station down town. It is the hill with the steles on it in the center distance of the photo.|
|It is visible from all over town.|
|This shot is taken from the Siloah hospital near the base of the hill.|
|The top of the hill is flat with a low fence surrounding a large, flat area in the center of which are five tall steles. There is a large plaque on the town side of the steles.|
|When I visited, there were several groups of locals or tourists up there enjoying the view of the city. Mom was having a hard time getting the kids to show the proper reverance for the site - they wanted to run around and on top of the plaque.|
|It reads, "Rubble hill 23 Februrary, 1945 / This artificial hill was created from the rubble of Pforzheim on the Wallberg. It is a reminder of the horrors of the Second World War, especially the 23rd of February, 1945. The city was almost completely destroyed in less than 20 minutes. More than 18,000 people died. / The total war - unleashed by Nazi Germany - was now directed at our city."|
|The sides of the hill are quite steep. That's Pforzheim in the background.|
|On the small photo, the five steles of various hights almost blend in with the sky; the black-and-white pictures blend in with the fence/horizon. I did not notice this effect while at the site and it disappears on the large version of the photos as well.|
|To give you an idea of how tall they are, I am 180 cm (6 ft.) tall.|
|Each of the three sides of each of the steles has a black-and-white photo. Most depict a scene from Pforzheim, showing on different sides of the same stele the same scene before the war, immediately after the bombing, and how it looks today rebuilt.|
|The photos are grainy, as if crudely copied and enlarged from newspapers, probably for dramatic effect.|
|Not all the buildings were rebuilt in their original form!|
One of the steles has information about the history of the memorial itself. It reads (German at bottom):
Natural hight of the hill: 378 meters
1952-1966: the creation of the Wallberg with approximately 1.65 million cubic meters of rubble up to a hight of 417.5 meters
1966-1967: landscaping of the top of the hill as a memorial to the air attack of 23 February, 1945.
February 1989: erection of a memorial plaque
February 2005: erection of the memorial
The British Dresden Trust, which supported the reconstruction of the Dresden Frauenkirche in remembrance of World War Two air attack victims in Europe, supports the erection of the memorial and writes, In humility before God we express our deep regret that by British acts of war on 23 February, 1945 so many people died and the old city of Pforzheim was completely erased. Just like the Dresden Frauenkirche these steles symbolize our strong and common will to honor all victims and to do everything within our power to create a more humane world. We join in warning and extend a hand of friendship. May we also come closer to each other with our hearts and be sure of God's blessing on our ever greater understanding."
The church bells of Coventry/England and Pforzheim ring every 14 November and 23 February on the days their cities were destroyed as a sign of reconciliation.
There follows a long list of contributors to the building of the memorial.
In the original German:
Natuerlich Hoehe des Bergs: 378 m
1952-1966: Aufschüttung dse wallbergs mit ca. 1,65 Millionen cbm Trümmern aund Bauschutt auf 417,5 m Höhe
1966-1967: Land-Art-Modellierung der Kuppe zum mahnenden Gedenken an den Luftangriff vom 23. Februar 1945
Februar 1989: Anbringung einer Gedenktafel
Februar 2005: Errichtung Mahnmal Wallbergs
Der britische Dresden-Trust, der den Wideraufbau der Dresdner Frauenkirche zum Gedächnis der Opfer der im Zweiten Weltkrieg in Europa stattgefundenen Luftangriffe fördert, unterstützt die Errichtung dieses Mahnmals und schreibt: "In Demut vor Gott druecken wir unser tiefstes Bedauern aus, dass durch britische Kriegshandlungen am 23. Februar 1945 so viele Menschen ums Leben kamen und das alte Pforzheim dabei voellig ausradiert wurde. Ebenso wie die Dresdner Frauenkirche symbolisieren diese Stelen unseren festen und gemeinsamen Willen, alle Opfer zu ehren und alles in unserer Kraft Stehende zu tun, um eine humanere Welt zu schaffen. Wir mahnen mit und entbieten die hand der Freundschaft. Moegen wir auch mit dem Herzen aufeinander zugehen uns Gottes segen zu immer besserer Verstaendigung gewiss sein."
Die Kirchenglocken in Conventry/England und Pforzheim laueten am 14. November und am 23. Februar jeden Jahres an den Tagen der jeweiligen Stadtzerstoerung als Zeichen der Versoehnung.