Ohlsdorf Cemetery - Monument to victims of the 'Hamburg Firestorm'
A vast burial ground was established in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery for the around 37,000 victims of Allied air raids on Hamburg in the summer of 1943. Prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp were forced to recover the bodies, many of which were mutilated beyond recognition, from the rubble in the destroyed parts of the city. They also had to help dig a mass grave in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery. The wide arms of this cross-shaped grave extended for hundred of metres.
‘Passage across the Styx’
On 16 August 1952, a monument to the victims of the air raids in Hamburg was dedicated on the site of the mass grave. The rectangular sandstone block stands the intersection of the arms of the cross-shaped grave. It has a sculpture by Gerhard Marcks (1889–1981) entitled ‘Passage across the Styx’, which depicts Charon, the ferryman of the dead in Greek mythology, carrying a bride and groom, a mother and child, a standing man and a seated old man to the underworld. This frozen scene refers to the fact that people of all ages fell victim to the organised mass death. The monument is supplemented with 18 oak beams bearing the names of the city districts from which the victims came. An explanatory panel notes that there were 36,918 victims. There are gravestones for individual victims along the edge of the complex, most of which were placed by relatives in the first years after the war.
The monument has been a topic of debate ever since it was dedicated. Critics say that it portrays the war as a matter of fate and thus glosses over the connection to the Nazi regime.