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10/16/2017 | Wissenschaftliche Standpunkte

Speech by the President of the University of Kassel, Prof. Dr. Finkeldey, on the occasion of the rededication of "The Ramp

Speech of the President of the University of Kassel, Prof. Dr. Reiner Finkeldey, at the re-dedication of the memorial "The Ramp" on October 5, 2017 in the wording:

Dear Ms. Nele,
dear Mr. OB Geselle,
dear Mr. Krause-Villmar,
ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you all on the occasion of the rededication of - as it says in your invitation - the work of art and memorial "The Ramp" here, at the central location of our campus. It is good that you have come.

Work of art and memorial - for me, both terms stand for the ambivalence that probably each of you here feels when looking at "The Ramp". Of course, the rededication of an undoubtedly important work of art is a joyful event, and yet - can one speak of joy when looking at the memorial, since it reminds us of atrocities that are unique in the history of mankind? It is clear, however, that today's rededication is an important event for the university.

The ramp - I only knew it standing on the edge of the university grounds on Moritzstraße - is now back in the center of the growing university campus. Thousands of students, colleagues or visitors to the campus, will pass it every day and - unfortunately - some will drive by it. Why is this important?

The ramp is a very concrete reminder of terrible injustices that happened to people. Even if the figures are faceless - the historical reference is clear. One sees victims of violence - not abstractly and outside of a social and historical context, but very concretely as victims of the National Socialist reign of terror. With the focus on the victims, the view is directed to unspeakable suffering, which we can hardly comprehend in its entire, inconceivable extent - one is tempted to say, thank God! - can hardly be comprehended today. Indirectly, however, it is also about the perpetrators, although they do not appear in the memorial.

The crimes also took place here, in Germany, in Kassel, on the grounds of the now so peaceful university, then the Henschel company, in other words here where we are now.

Contemporary witnesses who can give a direct account of the events of that time will soon no longer exist. It is therefore all the more important not to let the memory of what happened during the Nazi era fade into oblivion. For this reason, it is therefore important that the ramp is positioned so centrally. The significance of the memorial only comes from the fact that it is looked at, as will happen again thousands of times every day.

There are other memorials in Kassel that commemorate the suffering of the Nazi era and the war. Soon it will be the anniversary again of October 22, 1943, the day of the destruction of old Kassel by Allied air raids in World War II. We all know: The memorial for the bombing victims at the main cemetery and the memorial the ramp belong together. Without the crimes of the Nazis and the war they instigated, the air raid would not have existed.

Are these not all self-evident facts that are known to everyone? Is it therefore unnecessary to direct one's gaze at all or so often to a memorial that addresses the crimes of Nazi terror? I have two answers to this question:

The honoring memory of the victims, Jews, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals and many others, of these - I must repeat myself - historically unique crimes alone makes it the duty of Germans in particular not to forget. The difficult issues of guilt of us, those born after 1945, or the possibility or impossibility of forgiveness are not even touched by this statement. Forgetting or concealing what happened during the Nazi era would in any case make us, the present generation, guilty.    

So, if this look into the past alone is sufficient to emphasize the importance of the ramp at this site, thoughts of the future naturally come to us as well. Recent political developments in Germany, Europe and worldwide show that vigilance against "right-wing" ideas, which may at first appear quite harmless, is called for. Despite the historical uniqueness of the National Socialist terror, it is important to show the flag here; we must resist the beginnings!

Ladies and Gentlemen,       

It is one of the saddest events of Kassel's past that the dangers and the potential for violence of the right-wing scene manifested themselves brutally only a few hundred meters from here. The murder of Halit Yozgat in 2006 by the NSU terrorist group shows what happens when right-wing violence is underestimated. The small memorial at Halitplatz is also so directly related to the ramp and Halit Yozgat must not be forgotten either.

Let me close with a heartfelt and sincere thank you:

First and foremost, of course, I sincerely thank you, Ms. Nele, for creating the artwork and memorial "The Ramp."

I thank all those who have contributed in various capacities to the installation of the ramp at the university, and I mention your name here on behalf of many, dear Mr. Krause-Villmar.

Finally, I would also like to sincerely thank all those who have ensured that the ramp is now here between the Campus Center and LEO, and of course all of you for your attention.



In the presence of the artist, the memorial "The Ramp - Arrival and End" was officially rededicated at the University of Kassel on October 5. The work by E.R. Nele commemorates crimes committed during the Nazi era and has recently been placed in its final location in front of the LEO Learning Center, in the new heart of the Holländischer Platz campus.

The location and details of the arrangement of the figures were closely coordinated with the renowned artist. In 2011, the "ramp" had been temporarily relocated due to the expansion of the university and the transformation of the campus. Now that the construction work around LEO is largely complete, the memorial was successively moved to its new, permanent location on Moritzstraße directly in front of LEO in the summer, with final work completed in late summer.

The memorial consists of several faceless bronze figures tumbling out of an original Reichsbahn train car. It commemorates the deportation and subsequent murder of people - Jews and others - from Kassel and the deportation of forced laborers during the Nazi era. The Holländischer Platz campus is largely located on a former factory site of the Henschel company, which used forced laborers on a massive scale during the war years.