Colonial Stone

at the Völkerschlachtdenkmal

Standing on the parking lot in front of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, it is worth having a look near the bushes on the right hand. Somewhat overgrown, there stands a rather inconspicuous findling. When looking closer to the rock, it is possible to distinguish an erased inscription. Through having a look in the 1933 edition of the »Kolonialpost« clues can be found concerning the origin of the stone. On a photograph taken on the 4th of december 1932 former colonial troops and soldiers of the »Schutztruppen« are pictured, standing around the stone with its inscripton »Deutsche, Gedenkt Eurer Kolonien« (Germans, remember your colonies).(1)

Aus der »Kolonialpost« 1933

Colonial revisionist memorial: on the stone, the »lost« colonies of the German Empire are remembered.

Already in 1909 a large »Landes-Kolonial-Kriegerdenkmal« (State Colonial Warrior Memorial) was planned where the stone can be found today to commemorate the soldiers fallen in the different colonialwars, or this was at least the intention of the Königlich-Sächsische Militärverein China- und Afrikakrieger (the Royal-Saxon Military Association of China and Africa warriors).(2) Due to internal discussions the preparations were postponed and only in 1914 the Leipzig sculptor Georg Huth was commissioned to design the eight and a half meter tall monument.(3) Due to the outbreak of the First World War the funds were however needed elsewhere and the memorial never made it past the design phase. After the war, the German empire did not have any colonies left and the monument eventually installed, the findling, accrued another meaning. Now the lost colonies were remembered, instead of the deceased soldiers. The stone thus became an expression of the propagandistic pursuits of the colonial revisionist ideology, a political force playing an important role in the German Empire between the wars.

Furthermore, the silent effacing of the inscription can be seen as exemplary for the approach of the GDR towards colonial history and its remains. In contrast to the Federal Republic of Germany, the colonial monuments and street names not simply remained to existed, uncommented, in the space of the city, but were instead discarded or effaced in silence. This however did not go together with any public discussion about this particular memorial or the colonial past in general. In how far this particular politics of history is more beneficial to a critical engagement with German colonial history than what could be called the drawing of a veil of silence, as it took place in the West German public debate after the Second World War, remains disputable.

  • (1) Vgl. Kolonialpost, 1933, S.18.
  • (2) Vgl. Leipziger Zeitung, 28.4.1914.
  • (3) Vgl. Joachim Zeller: »A Colonial Monument?« In Adam Jones (Hg.): Africa in Leipzig. A City Looks at a Continent 1730 – 1950. Institut für Afrikanistik: Leipzig 2000, S. 11.
Images on this page:

left: Archiv der Leipziger Volkszeitung | right: Jochen Lingelbach

Der Kolonialstein heute

During the GDR the inscription on the stone was erased, though neither there was a broad public debate about the colonial past.