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Resolution for renaming the »Grüneburgplatz« to »Norbert-Wollheim-Platz«

The Signatories of this resolution welcome the effort of the Ortsbeirat of Frankfurt, Bockenheim-Westend, to rename the »Grüneburgplatz« to »Norbert-Wollheim-Platz«. Also we demand the city of Frankfurt/Main, the academic senate and the chairmanship of the Goethe University of Frankfurt support the intent.

Norbert Wollheim was the first survivor of the concentration camp Buna-Monowitz (Auschwitz III), operated by the IG Farben corporation, who in 1951, after the war, successfully sued the IG Farben Industrie AG for compensation. He became a symbolic figure and a role model for other survivors of the Nazi concentration camps and the extermination camps.

Before he was sentenced to work in an armaments factory in Berlin and then deportated to Auschwitz in March 1943 (along with his wife and their three year old child), Wollheim had organized in the years 1938/39, rescue transports for Jewish children – the so called „Kindertransporte“. It is only thanks to his tireless and selfless work that those children have survived the Holocaust. After the war, he was involved in the founding of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Following the court settlement between the Jewish Claims Conference and the IG Farben iL in 1957, Wollheim, as the chairman of the „Compensation Treuhand GMBH“, dedicated himself to the allocation of compensation payments to survivors of the concentration camp Buna / Monowitz. Norbert Wollheim is a symbol of the struggle of the forced laborers of the Nazi regime for compensation and also of the rebirth of Jewish life in Germany after the end of National Socialism.

The „Grüneburgplatz“ is right in front of the former headquarters of IG Farben Industrie AG and is used solely as a mailing address of the Frankfurt University, who moved into the IG Farben Building in 2001.

The IG Farben building is inextricably linked to the Shoah. The IG Farben was not only directly responsible for the death of thousands of slave labourers in the concentration camp of Buna-Monowitz, but also (alongside Degussa) was involved in the production of poisonous gas Zyklon B through one of its subsidiaries – Degesch. Renaming the „Grüneburgplatz“ to Norbert-Wollheim-Platz would commemorate the suffering and struggle for recognition of the victims of IG Farben as well as creating a reminder of the crimes of the perpetrators.

On one hand, the demand to rename Grüneburgplatz to Norbert-Wollheim-Platz would create a commemoration of Norbert Wollheim and the victims of Buna-Monowitz in a central location of the IG Farben campus. On the other hand, Goethe University and their staff should and must visualize the necessity of active memory of the history of the place and the history of the university at the time of National Socialism. This visualization would be expressed very directly in the change of the mailing address of the Goethe University in »Norbert Wollheim Platz 1″.

The signatories argue strongly against the suggestion brought forward by the University President Werner Müller-Esterl and the Senate Commission to name a previously unnamed and insignificant access road to Goethe University rather than Grüneburgplatz after Norbert Wollheim, because it does not meet the criterion of commemoration and active memory.

The counterproposal may also be understood as an attempt by the university management to push the remembering of the involvement of the University in the crimes of National Socialism to the side (road). This in turn also means that the University is trying to withdraw from the responsibility that a place like the IG Farben Campus necessarily demands.

For the reasons outlined below we believe that the any concerns, that changing the name of the square would put an end to a centuries-old tradition, are unfounded.

The terms „Grüneburgpark“ and „Grüneburgweg“ are actually traditional as they are derived from the name „Grüneburg“, which goes back to the Green Castle, once built on this spot. The actual name „Grüneburgplatz“ however has only got a very short history – for only 15 years, from 1930 to 1945, it was in use by IG Farben as their headquarters‘ mailing address; neither before nor after the name „Grüneburgplatz“ was used, nor was it in use when the University moved into the building.

The renaming therefore does not constitute a breach of a centuries old tradition, since it is only the address of the University that would be affected by the change.

The original demand for renaming was stated by Dr. Karl Brozik, representative of the Jewish Claims Conference in Frankfurt am Main at the global meeting of former IG Farben slave labourers in Frankfurt in 2004. It was formulated due to the relocation of the University to the new site and is supported by Prof. Dr. Micha Brumlik, former director of the Fritz Bauer Institute.

We thereby join the request of the Committee of the survivors of Buna-Monowitz, established on the 27 March 2004 with the following resolution and passed to the former mayor of Frankfurt Am Main Petra Roth:

„At this historic place, the IG Farben Building, we remember the victims of Auschwitz, the thousands of our comrades, exterminated through forced labour in „IG Auschwitz“ (…) Norbert Wollheim represants the victims of Buna-Monowitz. To name the square in front of the IG Farben building after Norbert Wollheim would constitute a sign for us the survivors of the city of Frankfurt am Main of rememberance, of the historical responsibility and of the imperishable past.
We gather today for the last time in Frankfurt am Main. Our generation, witnesses and victims of Nazi persecution and extermination, are slowly passing away.
Before our destiny is only history, we want to make sure that historical amnesia is not spread. We appeal to the leaders of the city of Frankfurt am Main, to rename the „Grüneburgplatz“ to „Norbert-Wollheim-Platz“:
in respect of the victims,
with responsibility for the future. “

In a press release from 27 March 2014, exactly ten years on the day after the handover of the resolution to the former Mayor Petra Roth, the University President Werner Müller-Esterl announced: „The renaming in the festival year 2014 presented Goethe University with the chance to take over historical responsibility for the history and to honour outstanding scholars such as Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, who enjoy worldwide recognition to this very day and at the same time can provide a powerful symbol for all the members of the university. “
The instrumentalization of Horkheimer and Adorno as prominent Jewish scientists who were expelled from this very university during the Nazi era and forced to survive in exile, is verging on the tasteless. „To take over historical responsibility for their own history“ would mean in our view to support the demand of the survivors to rename the „Grüneburgplatz“ to „Norbert-Wollheim-Platz“.

The resolution already adopted in 2004 calls for „taking as soon as possible all the necessary steps to rename the square, so that even those survivors currently alive can witness the change. “ The fact that this demand has not been satisfied for more than ten years, and there is still visible resistance, bears witness to the failure of the Goethe University and the city of Frankfurt in the face of its historical responsibility.

We appeal to all readers to urgently support the petition presented to the Goethe University and the city of Frankfurt to rename the „Grüneburgplatz“ to „Norbert-Wollheim-Platz“.

Initiative to rename the »Grüneburgplatz« in »Norbert-Wollheim-Platz, June 2014

If you would like to sign the resolution just send us an email:
contact: resolutionwollheimplatz[at]gmx.de

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