Erich Maria Remarque was born in Osnabrück in 1898. He was a prolific and widely-read author who is best known for his anti-war novel Im Westen Nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front), which was published in 1928 and subsequently translated into more than 55 languages.
The novel reflects Remarque’s own experiences as a German soldier in the First World War. It clearly exposes the senselessness and brutality of war from the point of view of an ordinary soldier.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933 they immediately banned Remarque’s books and even burned them in their infamous book-burning nights.
In 1938 the Nazis revoked Remarque’s German citizenship. From 1939 he lived in exile in the United States, where he became an American citizen in 1947. In later years he divided his time between New York and Switzerland. He described his life style as “unintentionally cosmopolitan”.
The Erich Maria Remarque Peace Center was founded in 1989 by the city of Osnabrück in co-operation with the University of Osnabrück. It is located directly on the Market Square across from the City Hall and Saint Mary’s Church. The center includes a permanent exhibition on Remarque’s life and works, entitled “Independence – Tolerance – Humor”, with explanations in both German and English.
Perhaps I should point out that in earlier times it was quite common for men in German-speaking countries to have “Maria” as their middle name. One example is Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826), the composer of operas such as Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon.
When I was in Osnabrück in 2012 there was also a temporary exhibition on a topic that has received very little attention up to now: “Camp Brothels – Forced Sex Work in the Nazi Concentration Camps”.
On the same square as the Remarque Peace Centre is the historic Osnabrück City Hall (Rathaus), which was completed in late-Gothic style in the year 1512 after more than twenty-five years of construction.
It was here, and in the city hall of the neighboring city of Münster, that the Peace of Westphalia was negotiated and finally signed in 1648, ending the Thirty Years’ War.
In the Second World War the Osnabrück City Hall was largely destroyed by aerial bombings, but the historic furnishings and artworks still exist because they had been removed and were stored in a safe place until the end of the war. After the war, the City Hall was quickly rebuilt and was reopened in 1948 in time for the three hundredth anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia.
When I visited Osnabrück in 2012 there were “Peace Masks” on display in various parts of the city.
These masks were designed to look like that standards that were carried by legions of the Roman army 2000 years ago at the Varus battle, which took place near Osnabrück.
It turns out that over 2000 of these masks were made by people in Osnabrück and vicinity in a campaign initiated by the Osnabrück artist Volker Johannes Trieb, entitled Dem Frieden gewachsen?! which means roughly “Are we capable of peace?!”
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2017.
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