The reconstruction of the Garrison Church in Potsdam, which began in 2017, is intended – according to the project’s supporters – not least to create a place of learning about German history here. In August 2019, the chairman of the scientific advisory board of the Garrison Church Potsdam Foundation said: „The Garrison Church must show Prussia as a sore point in history, a Prussia that hurts – and not only the local citizens, but also the tourists. So far nowhere in Germany, not even in Potsdam or Berlin, is there a visible, authentic place that also reminds us of the difficult and dark sides, of the bad traditions of Prussian history“.
But the practice here is quite different. In its publications, on its website and in its exhibition on site in the Chapel of the Nail Cross, the Garrison Church Foundation draws a beautified and partly falsifying picture of the history of the place, following a simple narrative of sacrifice: This place of remembrance of good Prussian tradition was abused by the National Socialists and destroyed by the Allied bombing war and the measures of the GDR state of injustice. A large part of the place’s disastrous history is faded out: the unholy alliance of church, state and military, the Prussian-German wars of aggression and the colonial wars of the German Reich, which were sanctioned at this place. This probably includes the genocide of the Herero and Nama in German Southwest Africa (1904-1908). Practically nothing is told about the fact that this church was the central place of identification for the right-wing extremist and anti-democratic movements and parties of the Weimar Republic. Contrary to what the Foundation describes, the church was not abused by the Nazi regime on „Potsdam Day“ in March 1933. Instead, it was representatives of the church itself who helped to enforce this ceremony in the form it was practised and who have been pleased to participate in it. As a result, the place played an important role in the political propaganda of the Nazi regime, in its sacred cult practice and popular cultivation of tradition – whether on Reichsrundfunk, on coins or with countless souvenirs.
For the resistance against the Nazi regime, the church did not play a relevant role – contrary to what the Foundation claims. And it was not the Chairman of the GDR Council of State Walter Ulbricht who had ordered the demolition of the church ruins, but rather this was primarily a decision of the local political actors in Potsdam.
The reconstruction is regarded as a „nationally significant cultural investment“, is under the patronage of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and is being financed with over €20 million of taxpayers‘ money, so that in the foreseeable future a tourist site aimed at a broad public will be created here.
Against this background, the initiators of the platform www.lernort-Garnisonkirche see a great urgency in educating about the history of the place and informing the public about all the dimensions that have been concealed and suppressed by the foundation. For this purpose, on the one hand, it is necessary to convey already existing historical knowledge and make it accessible to the general public, and on the other hand, the gaps in knowledge that still exist are to be gradually investigated.
Contents are above all the history of the historical Garrison Church from 1730 – 1968, the history of the Holy Cross parish from 1949 until today, the history of the Potsdam computer centre from 1971 until today and the history of the reconstruction project since 1984. But also the essential discourses that belong to the context of the controversial project such as the reconstruction, the historical role of the Hohenzollern, the relationship of the church to the military and right-wing radicalism in history, the idea of peace and reconciliation and other topics are to be dealt with as far as possible. It is planned to publish some contributions in English in order to inform interested parties from abroad.
The platform is conceived as a growing, developing project and is intended to give space to a multitude of voices, some of which may be contrary. On the one hand, new contributions for the website are planned, on the other hand, important texts published elsewhere can be republished here. The contributions will be of different character: essays, scientific treatises, reports, opinionated commentaries, interviews and others. All of them should be distinguished by the quality of their content and guarantee a truthful presentation. Important documents from the debate on the project should also be made available as downloads or video recordings and linked to important actors – whether supporters or critics. All contributions can be commented by the readers.
This factual information portal is intended to introduce interested contemporaries to the topic, but also to provide the knowledgeable reader with sound, in-depth information on relevant individual topics. For the portal, it is less about the daily political developments (which are followed and addressed by other websites), but rather about the fundamental issues and conceptual questions. The website is also intended as an archive, so that it will continue to provide meaningfully compiled and structured information for many years to come.
The editors are Dr. Hermann Düringer (Frankfurt am Main), Carsten Linke (Potsdam) and Prof. Philipp Oswalt (Kassel/Berlin) and supported by a scientific advisory board.
Prof. Dr. Micha Brumlik
Prof. em. Dr. Michael Daxner
Prof. Dr. Gabi Dolff-Bonekämper
Prof. Dr. phil. Geoff Eley
Prof. Dr. Manfred Gailus
Dr. des. Matthias Grünzig
Prof. Dr. Horst Junginger
Prof. Dr. phil. Andreas Pangritz, Bonn
Dr. Annette Leo, historian, Berlin
Prof. em. Dr. Wolfram Wette
Graphic: Birler-Brell.de based a concept by Steffen Schumann/ Berlin-Weissensee School of Art
The project is supported by the Martin-Niemöller-Stiftung