Aschrott Fountain [Kassel 1985] Print E-mail



Aschrott Fountain (Kassel 1985)

„The sunken fountain is not the memorial at all.It is only history turned into a pedestal, an invitationto passersby who stand upon
it to search for thememorial in their own heads.For only there is the memorial to be found.“
Horst Hoheisel
Artist Horst Hoheisel, with Artistic Director of dOCUMENTA (13), Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, will perform the monthly cleaning of Negative Form, Hoheisel's counter-memorial to the Aschrott Fountain in the center of Kassel, at 10 am on March 29, 2011.


MEMORIAL-SURVEILLANCE in the Foyer of the City-Hall of Kassel during the Documenta 11 (Kassel 2002)



Aschrottfountain (Kassel 1985)


Aschrottbrunnen (Kassel 1985) In 1908, Sigmund Aschrott, one of Kassel’s entrepreneurs, instructed the City Hall architect, Karl Roth, to design a fountain tor the new City Hall building which was then on the drawing-board. This sandstone obelisk-shaped fountain, constructed on an historical sandstone catchment became the characterizing feature ot the City Hall’s Courtyard of Honour, the Rathausehrenhof constituting a counterbalance to the monumental Henschel fountain (Henschelbrunnen)on the opposite side. Ihe citizens of Kassel loved the fountain and identified with it. The fountain became a symbol ot their civic pride. On April 9, 1939, National Socialist activists from Kassel destroyed the fountain. Ihe fountain was a symbol for them too, a symbol of their hate: its founder; Sigmund Aschrott, was a jew. Today, this act of destruction by the Nazis has, in turn, also come to symbolize something for us: the irreparable destruction of their own bond with European civilization, with their/our own history and cultural heritage. And, during the post-war years, one symbolic act followed on the heels of another. In 1963, long after the Nazi municipal authorities had planted flowers in the empty basin ot the fountain, the Aschrottbrunnen was once more turned into a fountain. During my childhood in Kassel there were no signs to remind us either of the obelisk designed by Karl Roth or of its founder, Sigmund Aschrott. In Kassel, no one wished to be reminded ot the victims ot National Socialism, of their own guilt, turning to look in the other direction while crimes were being committed. The fountain had become a symbol of memories repressed, the desire to forget.
In December 1986, Horst Hoheisel was commissioned to execute his proposal during documenta 8. On December 10, 1987, the new Aschrott Fountain was inaugurated, and on November 7, 1988 - the 50th anniversary of the November pogrom - a memorial plaque commemorating its troubled history was set into the base.Horst Hoheisel’s new Aschrottbrunnen is a statement that is made all the more powerful by its subtile expression. It brings home to the viewer the extent of the deep wound inflicted at the heart ot Kassel on April 9, 1939, right in front of the City Hall - a wound that will never heal, a wound not to be paved or glossed over. It sparked numerous public debates even while it was being built, evoking great interest among Kassel’s residents. This interest in the Aschrottbrunnen continues today, intriguing especially young people, who are curious to know more about the darkest period ot their city’s history, now rescued from oblivion. For it is a memorial in the deepest sense of the word, a stimulant to memory, a flint to fire debate. And although it is a ,negative form’ and, as such, sunk deep into the ground, it has remained a stumbling block tor those who would prefer it not to be there. When all’s said and done, the new Aschrottbrunnen has indeed become a ,Symbol of Remembrance’, a wish voiced in 1990 by Ester Haß. And that’s no small thing these days tor a memorial. Hans Eichel, State Governor of Hesse

,What did the artist have in mind?’ - Ten years after the inauguration of the Aschrottbrunnen, people in Kassel still ask me this question. I like to throw the ball back at them, countering with a question of my own: ,What crossed people’s minds in 1939, when Nazi activists first demolished the fountain and then, by an official ordinance ot the mayor of the city, the remaining pieces were cleared away? What crossed the minds of Kassel’s citizens when, in 1941 and 1942, the deportation trains left from track 3 at the main railway station, deporting more than 3000 Jews from Kassel to Riga, Majdanek and Theresienstadt?’
A simple counter-question is my way of meeting the never-ending stream of attempts to interpret the Shoah. The form that Germans destroyed between 1933 and 1945 can no longer be grasped, either mentally or physically. The destruction of the sandstone form, an ,architectural folly’ as the architect ot City Hall then termed it, was followed by the destruction of the human form. The only way I know to make this loss visible is through a perceptibly empty space, representing the space once occupied. Instead of continuously searching foryet another explanation or interpretation of that which has been lost, I prefer facing the loss as a vanished form. A reflective listening into the void, into the negative of an irretrievable form, where the memory of that which has been lost resounds, is preferable to a mere numb endurance of the facts.              Horst Hoheisel