In 1936, the war memorial for those killed in action in the First World War was built. It was designed by the Karlsruhe sculptor Wilhelm Kollmar (1871-1948). The group of figures consists of three resolutely advancing soldiers with a drum, rifle and field kit, and is made of shell limestone. It stands in the middle and is raised on a platform on a semicircular place surrounded by walls. Name boards of those killed in action are embedded into the walls.
In 1946, the names of five Jewish World War I soldiers killed in action, who had not been named in 1936, were added. In 1959, the war memorial was extended by adding the names of those killed in action in the Second World War. The ranks of 29 SS members were listed as Wehrmacht ranks.
In 1999, the memorial for the victims of violence, war and persecution, designed by Hubertus von der Goltz, was inaugurated. It is a counter-memorial deliberately located at the upper end of Ehretstraße and in sight of the war memorial.
The war memorial is one of the so-called “uncomfortable monuments”, which challenge people to confront history with their own position.
It is a complex historical record – both from the time of National Socialism (1933-1945) and the post-war period (after 1945). Location, layout and design all have typical features of National Socialist monuments. These monuments were designed to dominate public space, with their central spaces and antique architectural forms and oversized monumental sculptures. The location of the Weinheim war memorial on one of the main traffic arteries was therefore deliberately chosen. The installation was also accessible from the street and was suitable as a marching ground. The symmetrical design of the square, the elevated central arrangement of the group of figures and their size dominate the public space.
The monumental soldiers are stylised into invincible heroic fighters in the simplistic formal language typical of National Socialism. They have no individual traits, and have a stereotypical and expressionless appearance. They therefore become, as it were, heroic symbolic figures of warriors who unconditionally march in lockstep to war. This monument was therefore especially suitable for advancing war propaganda.
In addition, the war memorial documents the exclusion of Jews during the time of National Socialism, whose fatalities on the name boards remained unmentioned, although their families donated towards the war memorial. In 1946 the names of the Jewish soldiers killed in action in the First World War were added to the plates.
In 1959, the monument was dedicated to soldiers killed in action during the Second World War. The use of this Nazi ideological monument was continued and was supplemented with the names of those lost in action in World War II. At the same time, the SS grades of 29 soldiers killed in action were reduced to armed forces ranks.
The memorial for the victims of violence, war and persecution was built in 1999 deliberately in sight of the war memorial as a memorial monument. Therefore, in its public spaces, the city of Weinheim provides an unequivocal answer to the war memorial.
The war memorial is a worthwhile testimony to both the art of National Socialism and the design of war memorials, as well as how this is dealt with in the post-war period.
Today, the monument does not serve as a glorification of war; on the contrary, it serves as a record of a different time period and as an encouragement for a conscious and sensitive approach to history.