Black Lives Matter, a Princess from Zanzibar, Bismarck, and German Memorial Hygiene

in German Politics and Society
Klaus Neumann Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture and Deakin University, Australia

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Following the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's murder on 25 May 2020, memorials in remembrance of individuals implicated in colonialism or slavery have come under increasing attack. This article discusses and contextualizes challenges in 2020 to the memorialization of Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898) and Emily Ruete née Salama bint Said (1844–1924) in Hamburg, where the legacy of the German colonial past is particularly palpable. The article argues that proposed solutions—be it the demolition of the city's main Bismarck monument, its restoration and the erection of a counter-memorial adjacent to it, or the un-naming of a street named after Ruete—potentially erase the complexities and contradictions of the lives of historical actors, are often informed by a desire to quarantine the past, and, just as often, fail to engage with its continuation in the present.

Contributor Notes

Klaus Neumann, following an academic career spent mainly in Australia, currently works for the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Research and Culture on a project about local public and policy responses to forced migration in Saxony and Hamburg. He has had a particular interest in post-colonial histories, social and public memory, responses to refugees and asylum seekers, and historical justice in the Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. His books include, among others, Shifting Memories (2000) and Across the Seas (2015), winner of the 2016 chass Australia Prize. Previous articles for German Politics and Society discuss Goethe, Buchenwald, and the New Germany (Spring, 1999) and examine the Greek–German relationship (Autumn, 2016).

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