Thursday, 12 November 2015

Autumnal Woodland, Part III

The last of three posts about our walk two Sundays ago shows you where we were actually headed: Birkenkopf ("birches head"), one of the highest hills around Stuttgart. It is not only a fantastic viewpoint and popular spot for people to visit, but also a memorial.

Birkenkopf today is 511 m high. Until the late 1940s, it was 40 m less high. Where did the additional height come from?

Stuttgart was heavily bombed in WWII: during 53 raids (25 of them in 1944 alone), nearly 1.5 million bombs landed on the city, destroying more than half or up to 70 % of all buildings (numbers vary, depending on where you look for information). After the war, the more than 260.000 people then living in Stuttgart did what they could to clear the rubble and rebuild their lives and their city. Far into the 1950s, many buildings were still ruins. 


The rubble had to go somewhere, and Birkenkopf was chosen. Lorry after lorry rumbled up the hill which was steadily growing in height.


It was decided to leave parts of buildings and street pavements visible on the very top of the hill, so that people would never forget those terrible times.



The plaque reads: "This mount, piled up after the Second World War out of the ruins of the city, stands as a memorial to the victims, as a warning to the living."

The view from Birkenkopf across Stuttgart and the surrounding wooded hills is truly spectacular, especially on a day like that:


It was my first visit here, and I had not expected to be so deeply touched by looking at all those parts of buildings and bits of pavement. I couldn't help but think of the incredible waste of lives; once people lived, worked, loved and argued in these houses and walked those streets, until Germany so stupidly and misguidedly brought the horrors of war upon itself.  What a tragedy!


To see this beautiful butterfly resting on a broken column in the middle of a pile of rubble somehow had a highly symbolic character:



It was one of most touching places I've visited in a long time.

16 comments:

  1. What an extraordinary, sad, touching and highly effective memorial. It is terrifying to think about what happened during the war in Germany, the photo from the 1950s is very sad. Did they rebuild Stuttgart in the older style like they have done in some places,( e.g. Nuremberg? )

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    1. Terrible things happened before and during the war here, and all of it was our own doing (not "mine", of course - I was born in 1968, and my parents are too young to have had an active part in any of it, too; they were born in 1944 and 1942 respectively). All the more important are such memorials; they should help in not making anything like it happen in this country ever again.
      Sadly, Stuttgart was not rebuilt very nicely. Most of it was a mix of modern (1950s and 60s) and cheap.

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  2. Absolutely beautiful and touching post. When I see my friend Alexander again I will have to show him some of your photos. He's in grad school getting a master's degree in German history and language, and he's been to Germany several times. I wonder if he's been to Birkenkopf....

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  3. When I used to dock in St Malo I never missed walking to the citadel there to pay my respects to the poor souls who tried to hang on against all odds. Okay it was war and a fight doesn't take prisoners but it is horrific what your forefathers and foremothers went through. Equally bad this side of the channel. We had a royal family who thought Hitler wonderful. We got bombed but bombing civilians is what cowardly politicians do on any side. Over 50% of aircrew losses were down to pilot error.
    It does us well to remember but also remember that Germany, though split in two didn't have any reparation bills. Okay you did have our lot exercising tanks and that across your fields. The Uk has only just settled the lease lend bills with America.
    Sorry about this. I feel sympathy for any needless loss of life.

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    1. Me too, Adrian, me too. The most tragic aspect of it all is that humankind as a whole seems not to have learnt anything of it, apart from how to be even more efficient in killing each other.

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  4. I remember this! I think we called it something like Monte Shabalino. That is surely not the spelling...And it meant mountain of garbage.There were such wonderful paths all around Stuttgart for walking on, and on Sundays it seemed most of the population was doing that.

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    1. Kristi, your memory serves you well! Monte Scherbelino is Birkenkopf's nickname, and it means mountain of shards.

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  5. I would have reacted to the city debris much as you did. How imaginative of Stuttgart's city fathers to leave those stones as a memorial and as a warning. The butterfly of life appears small amidst those stones but still brings a message of hope.

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    1. Exactly my thoughts, Neil. Thank you.

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  6. "As a warning to the living"...I am grateful that they thought to put these words on the plaque that they have there.
    I have been wanting to write a post about my Dad's time in Germany just after World War II, and will it be okay to link to this post?
    I also love the butterfly in the photo. I think it might be the same small butterfly that Richard photographed here on the bridge at Alexander Lake, The Red Admiral, and somehow, that makes it even more fitting. Not the EXACT butterfly, but the same species, you know what I mean, I can't think straight when my heart is full of emotion!
    "As a warning to the living", please God, that the living take notice!!

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    1. Dear Kay, I would feel most honoured if you linked to this post from your blog. And I understand exactly what you mean about the butterfly - it truly is a most fitting image, and even more so when we connect it with other images of the same kind of butterfly in different parts of the world.

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  7. I never heard about this before, thanks for telling the story and showing the pictures. In times like these, we really need reminders to try and avoid repeating tragic history...

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    1. You are so very right there, Monica.

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  8. "This mount, piled up after the Second World War out of the ruins of the city, stands as a memorial to the victims, as a warning to the living." I was brought up i Liverpool - a city also destroyed by bombing (though not to the extent of Dresden or Stuttgart) and that could be an equally valid reminder there. However no countries seem to have learned the lessons of history. We go on destroying each other in the name of a god or whatever other reason we can find. Why, I ask myself often, if so many despise war and all it stands for is the world constantly at war with itself?

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    1. It is hard to grasp, isn't it, Graham? Sometimes it appears as if a switch could be flicked in humans - the average, peace-loving person turns into a raging beast when the right triggers are pulled. The veneer of civilization is so very thinly spread on our surface.

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