‘Mourning Child’ counter-memorial in front of St Johannis Church
A war memorial entitled ‘Der Soldat’ (The Soldier) was dedicated in 1932 next to St Johannis Church in Hamburg-Harburg. It was commissioned by Harburg’s mayor at the time, Heinrich Denicke, and designed by the sculptor Hermann Hosäus (1875-1958). The four-and-a-half metre tall bronze statue of a soldier stands on a six-metre-high pedestal. The soldier has a head wound but strides forward into battle with his rifle on his shoulder – an expression of a revanchist, pro-war attitude. A group of 18 veterans’ associations had pushed for the creation of the monument since the 1920s, but the statue was highly controversial even when it was erected in 1932. The Social Democrats said that it glorified war, but the journal Kunst im Dritten Reich (Art in the Third Reich) praised the work in 1937 as a ‘heroic sculpture’.
Efforts to establish a counter-monument
The peace movement in the early 1980s sparked fierce public debates about the monument. The Harburg Peace Policy Centre launched a competition in 1986 to turn the memorial into an ‘anti-war memorial’. The Harburg artist Hendrik André Schulz (born 1957) was commissioned to realise his design for the ‘Trauerndes Kind’ (Mourning Child) sculpture. The bronze sculpture of a weeping child kneeling amongst soldiers’ helmets with bullet holes was dedicated on 1 September 1988. The counter-monument was placed in the shrubbery next to the high pedestal of ‘Der Soldat’, but on account of its concealed location and modest dimensions (it is barely larger than life-sized), the sculpture of the child does little to counter the lasting impact of the old war memorial.