History, is devoted to its memory. It is built from collected fragments of information, the detritus of knowledge about the past, and the relics of memories lost.
Memory, in this case it is not a record of experienced recollections but an attempt at an orderly re-assembling of lost memory. It is memory arranged in the form of an archive.
Oblivion, is tantamount to the erasure of the memory of the monument. Devastation experienced years ago, pillage and the dispersion of its unwanted (alien) remains provokes a set of basic questions:
Should one speak about the Tannenberg-Denkmal now?
How should one speak about it?
The Tanneberg – Denkmal, built in 1925-1927, was once a monumental building, located between Olsztynek and Sudwa villages, in former East Prussia and present Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland. It commemorated the victory of the Prussian army over the Russian in the Battle of Tannenberg 1914. Later on it became also the mausoleum of Paul Hindenburg, a German military man, a field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and politician – the President of the Reich during the Weimar Republic and the early Third Reich in 1925-1934.
In 1934, Hindenburg’s body was ceremoniously buried in a special crypt in the monument. Adolf Hitler, appointed by Hindenburg to be the Chancellor in 1933, participated in the funeral. In 1935, Hindenburg’s remains were transferred to the specially prepared mausoleum located in one of the Tannenberg-Denkmal towers.
In January 1945, the Germans, fearing the possibility of the profanation of his remains by the Russian army, managed to take his coffin at the last moment and transport it deep into German territory. A few days later, the mausoleum was partially destroyed by an explosion caused by retreating German troops. Currently, Hindenburg’s remains rest in St. Elisabeth’s Church in Marburg, Germany.
Some of building blocks of the Tannenberg-Denkmal were used for the construction of the stairs at the building of The Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Warsaw (1948), for the construction of The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw (1952–1955) and the Monument of the Liberation of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (1954).
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Dorota Nieznalska, a Polish visual artist engaged in critical art, creating installations, sculptural objects, vide art and photographs, accomplished her project “Tannenberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!”, supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and devoted entirely to history – remembrance – oblivion issues.
Dorota Nieznalska’s works – the movie and the website, juxtapose archival documents, photos and videos of the Tannenberg-Denkmal monument with Wagner’s music and the words of Pierre Nora, a French historian and precursor of studies on “the sites of memory”. The project is an attempt to deal with the memory of the historical and cultural heritage of former East Prussia.