Backstage II

April 27th to May 31st, 2017

Exhibition in three parts and three phases

»Ozarichi, März 1944« in campus hall 25
»Megalothymia« in campus building 10, ground floor
Christian Boltanski, »Die Archive der Großeltern« in campus building 7, basement

Opening of »Backstage II« on Wednesday, April 26, at 6:15pm with short presentations and a panel discussion on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the bombing of Guernica / Gernika, Lüneburg and the ID 110, with contributions by (in this order) Dr. Laura López Paniagua (Berlin / Madrid), Prof. Dr. Carlos Collado Seidel (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Prof. Dr. Roberto Nigro (Leuphana), Prof. Dr. Christoph Rass (Osnabrück University), Prof. Dr. Ulf Wuggenig, Dr. Steffi Hobuß and a welcome note by the vice president Prof. Dr. Beate Söntgen (all Leuphana)

The Bombardment of Guernica / Gernika: April 26, 1937

The exhibition »Backstage II« opens on April 26, 2017, with six short lectures followed by a panel in Lecture Room 3 of the university. On this day 80 years ago, on April 26, 1937, a devastating air raid took place on the small Basque town of Guernica / Gernika.

This exertion of violence in a joint action by National Socialist and fascist forces prompted Pablo Picasso to paint the iconic picture thanks to which the attack was firmly inscribed in transnational cultural memory. This year, in a phase of once again budding right-wing populism and neo-Fascism, marks an occasion to remember the attack by German and Italian aircraft on the civilians of a militarily insignificant town.

Locally, there are special reasons to remember this act of barbarism, namely, the direct involvement of numerous »temporary citizens« of Lüneburg in this crime. On the one hand, many »Spain fighters« from the Legion Condor operating illegally in the country at the time were later stationed at the airbase newly built in Lüneburg-East in 1937. It was the base of parts of the »Löwengeschwader/Lions’ Wing« (ak Bomber Wing 26 and later 267) as well as the »Wikinger-Geschwader/Vikings’ Wing«) (ak Bomber Wing 100) of the air force newly set up in the wake of the militarization of the city from 1935–1939. On the other hand, it was none other than the Silesian Junker Dr.-Ing. Freiherr Wolfram von Richthofen, who had moved to Lüneburg from Berlin to further build up the local airbase in 1938, who military planned and commanded the attack on the small Basque town and recorded it in his personal war diary (Kriegstagebuch, KTB) with characteristic cold-bloodedness and lack of empathy toward the fate of individuals—a symptom of the special type of megalothymia, the desire to be recognized as a leader and the desire for fame, that he revealed. Until his death in Bad Ischl, Austria, in 1945, Lüneburg remained the principle residency of this later field marshal general of the Luftwaffe. His family, including his mother, who had been transferred from Silesia to Lüneburg shortly before the end of the war, remained in Lüneburg for years after his death.

The Nazis propped up the aristocrat, who was successful in the Spanish civil war and had initially stood in the shadow of his popular cousin Manfred—the aviator hero of World War I called the »Red Baron« and admired by the National Socialists—as a new type of aviator hero, whose habitus was both technocratic and technophile. As an officer from distinguished Silesian nobility, Wolfram von Richthofen had neither inhibitions nor a sufficient soldierly »sense of honor« not to place himself fully at the service of the National Socialist propaganda upon the request of Hermann Göring, even though he occasionally dissociated himself in a symbolic way in his war diary. After public appearances upon his return from the victorious Spain campaign in Hamburg and Berlin, he also appeared in Lüneburg on 06/26/1939.

The social frame was the Gautag (District Day) in Lüneburg, which had become the district capital of the Hanover-East region. Wolfram von Richthofen spoke in front of around 30,000 people there, also about his deployment to the Spanish civil war: »Last year I set up a new bomber wing in the district capital of Lüneburg and then took off from Lüneburg to the final battle in Spain as the commander of the legion ‘Condor’ after having become acquainted with the Spanish war for almost one-and-a-half years as the Chief of Staff. […] You will believe me when I say that it is a special pleasure to stand before you today because of my many relationships to the blood and territory of Lower Saxony. […] What great things have we achieved? We have fulfilled our duty, as all soldiers do, when the Führer calls.«

Backstage II: New exhibition parts and opening

In »Backstage II,« three new displays are presented in the exhibition section »Megalothymia.« They refer to the severe war crimes committed in Ozarichi in Belarus in 1944; to the 110th Infantry Division set up in Lüneburg in 1940; and to the local culture and politics of remembrance characterized by »faux pas« (in the sense of Erving Goffman) vis-à-vis this military unit, employing »techniques of neutralization« (in the sense of Gresham Sykes and David Matza). A special focus, in the tradition of genealogical analysis, is placed on the complicity between the municipal leadership and the leadership of the association of veterans of the 110th Infantry Division that was ultimately responsible for the fact that in the city center of Lüneburg a »memorial« was dedicated to the division, even if had already been in the sights of the war crime trials in Nuremberg. Furthermore, »Backstage II« presents two documents, which have not been accessible through normal channels, for a critical reading.

The first being a copy of Wolfram von Richthofen’s personal war diary comprising no less than 1,800 pages, is presented on a table in the Megalothymia part of the exhibition. The diary starts on November 28, 1936, although the writing down »according to keyword notes« began only on May 5, 1937. On the Basque town bombarded under his command, Richthofen writes on April 30, 1937: »Guernica […] literally razed to the ground.« And on the result of one of the technical tests: »The 250s [weights of bombs, Ulf Wuggenig] toppled a number of buildings and destroyed the water supply lines. The fire bombs now had time to unfold their effect. The style of the buildings: tile roofs, wooden gallery and timber framework houses, led to their total destruction. […] Bomb holes could still be seen in the streets, simply magnificent.«

The second document, a copy of Wolfram von Richthofen’s 1929 dissertation (Technische Hochschule, TH Berlin), was reported as »lost« by the meanwhile authorized library (Technische Universität, TU Braunschweig), when an interlibrary loan was requested. It is presented for a critical reading as well. This study, acquired through a different channel thanks to the support of the local Leuphana library, is titled »Der Einfluß der Flugzeugbauarten auf die Beschaffung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung militärischer Gesichtspunkte« [The Influence of Airplane Construction Types on Acquisition, Taking Special Account of Military Aspects.] This work, which takes a hybrid engineering and economic approach, attempts to examine the conditions of possibility of a technical as well as economic kind, conditions for a technically viable, large-scale, industrialized production of aircraft. Under political aspects, it grants insights into the illegally mounted attempts on a scientific level to work on establishing an air force already in the 1920s in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

The exhibition section »Ozarichi, March 1944«, already implemented in »Backstage I«, is supplemented in »Backstage II« by further translations of Russian sources on the massacre of the 110th Infantry Division and the responsibility of its commander in march 1944, general lieutenant Eberhard von Kurowski, unknown to date in the German-speaking countries. Furthermore, the second part of the show also takes into consideration the field effects triggered by »Backstage I« and documents certain remembrance-political developments. These effects are, on the one hand, of an activist and interventionist nature, since after »Backstage I« the local »memorial« to the 110th Infantry Division was temporarily concealed, first on March 8 and then again on March 23, 2017. Since these interventions did not make the news neither in local or regional papers nor in TV against the background of neutralization techniques, they are now shown, projected in visual form on a wall of the Kunstraum.

On the other hand, due to the scientific evidence presented with the support of the military historian Christoph Rass (University of Osnabrück) in the Kunstraum—substantially presented based on an expertise by Rass to invited guests from the fields of science, education, politics, law, and the military in the frame of the opening of the new Libeskind Central Building of the university in the form of a public intervention by Marina Gerber und Ulf Wuggenig on March 11, 2017—the local chief prosecutor present at the event saw himself forced to revise the counterfactual exculpation of the involvement of the 110th Infantry Division in the war crimes of Ozarichi, which had been formulated by him in 2015.

The question of whether the memorial to a »division of war criminals« ultimately erected surreptitiously via deception and covering up—the silence kept on the deportations and the massacre in Belarus in the speeches of former officers of the 110 I.D. held at Lüneburg Town Hall in the 1950s and in the subsequent chronicles of veterans demonstrated in the display »Complicity« of »Backstage II« with numerous sources from the city archive—can be legally (and not only morally) contested is currently being assessed in new proceedings of charges filed with the prosecutor against the city of Lüneburg, which assumed responsibility for the memorial in 1960. The genealogy, context and meaning of the problematic epigram on the stone applied for as the »memorial« to this unit by the veterans’ association of the former 110 I.D. also play a crucial role. As it is not uncommon in the elaborated political rhetoric of right-wing fringes, the epigram of the stone, now preferably called a »memorial to the fallen,« chosen by the veteran officers of the 110 I.D. making recourse to Greek mythology, is characterized by strategically employed polysemy: »Es sage keiner, dass unsere Gefallenen tot sind« [Nobody say that our fallen soldiers are dead].

From a theoretical perspective, this touches not least upon the question of whether things such as memorials can be attributed a potential for action, as proponents of the Actor Network Theory (ANT) imply. According to military-historical mainstream literature, the war crime in question is no less than »one of the most severe crimes ever committed by the German Wehrmacht against civilians.« (Dieter Pohl, Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht, Munich, 2008: 328). Pohl already drew attention to the participation of the 110 I.D. with reference to the research conducted by Rass as early as 2007 in his habilitation dissertation at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich. Therefore, the way the city of Lüneburg, the local Bundeswehr, the prosecution, the media, and other institutions deal with this crime is the topic of artistic-scientific research on which the Kunstraum will present results in the exhibition part »Backstage III« in June and put up for public debate in a series of panel discussions.

»Backstage II« opens with several short lectures. In view of the selected opening date and the significance of Picasso’s iconic »Guernica,« the first contribution by Laura López Paniagua (artist and art historian, Berlin / Madrid) is dedicated to this large-format painting that the artist created in just six weeks for the Spanish pavilion of the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris, making recourse to forms and motifs of both Cubism and Surrealism. For the popular, anti-militaristic, cultural perception, it is doubtless the »most famous work by the most famous artist of the 20th century.« Postmodern art historians such as those of the October circle, in turn, view Picasso’s icon as an indication that even ingenious artistic modernism can be »reconciled with referentiality, responsibility, and resistance.« (Hal Foster et al., Art Since 1900, London, 2004: 285).

On the day of the opening, the reproduction of Picasso’s painting will also be shown in Hörsaal 3, which local artists and activists supported by the initiative »dragoner-denk-mal-nach« in a peace-promoting intervention in 2013 placed around the base of the dragoon memorial commissioned by the National Socialists in 1939—featuring the ideal-typical, aggressive rhetoric of a trooper on horseback with a spear—in today’s Clamart Park in Lüneburg.

As an expert on Spanish-German history, the Legion Condor and the Spanish civil war, the historian Carlos Collado Seidel from the Philipps-University Marburg will address the way in which the bombardment of Guernica / Gernika has been dealt with politically and socially both in Spain and Germany over the past decades, and include the written records of Freiherr Wolfram von Richthofen.

The second main theme of the evening is the ongoing discourse on Ozarichi. In Lüneburg, which traditionally understood itself as a garrison town and now has to cope with the transition to a true university town, this debate is not yet part of a reflective culture of remembrance, as is the case in cities with a stronger academic tradition. Exemplary in this respect is Karlsruhe. Like the Lüneburg 110 I.D., the Karlsruhe 35 I.D. was also decisively involved in the war crimes committed in the area of Ozarichi. In Lüneburg, as opposed to Karlsruhe, tried and tested neutralization techniques such as denial, suppression, distortion of information, and the »damning of those who damn« still prevail locally.

Against this background, and as a further step in clarifying the suppressed aspects of the local history, philosopher Steffi Hobuss will analyze from a linguistic and discourse theoretical perspective the above-cited epigram on the memorial stone to the 110 I.D. As a leading military historian on »Ozarichi 1944,« Christoph Rass will deal with questions relating to the type and extent of involvement of the Lüneburg unit. Finally, based on material from the city archive, Ulf Wuggenig will talk about the close entanglement of leaders in the fields of politics, administration, the military and the church who in the 1950s created the conditions of possibility for sustainably covering up the outrageous war crime. Despite all cover-up attempts, it is now forcefully coming out of historical concealment thanks to the mechanisms of cultural and social memory and the memory storage, which has been enormously expanded by the digital transformation.

A panel discussion following the lectures will engage with these topics in more detail.

»Hinterbühne II« has been organized by Ulf Wuggenig, Cornelia Kastelan and Hannes Loichinger (Leuphana) with support by Susanna Eremjan, Sophie Peterson, Annika Weinert and students in the Masters program Cultural Sciences – Culture, Arts and Media, in external cooperation with Prof. Dr. Christoph Rass, the Arbeitskreis Gedenkkultur Lüneburg (particularly Joachim Gottschalk and Peter Raykowski), Siegfried Berneis and Klaus Düval (Guernica reproduction)

Information design: Sherpa, Hamburg