The historical BADEHAUS (Bathhouse) in Waldram, a section of Wolfratshausen in Upper Bavaria, Germany, is to be restored to become a modern center of remembrance of the recent past of our region. As a documentation and meeting place with a special focus on youth work and education, the project will also promote international relations and interreligious dialogue. Hence the project shall represent a seriously needed innovative and enduring culture of historical awareness in this country, especially in light of the gradual disappearance of immediate contemporary witnesses.
There is a consolidation of our contemporary history in Waldram: world and regional history are obviously interlocked here. The BADEHAUS is a real showcase of four time layers which became manifest in the Wolfratshausen Forest: Nazi forced labor camp, death march from the concentration camps, Jewish DP camp, settlement for displaced persons.
• First Time Layer: Nazi Forced Labor Camp
In 1939/40, the BADEHAUS was part of the Nazi model settlement „Foehrenwald“ for conscripted German workers and foreign forced labor employed in the ordnance factories of the Wolfratshausen Forest (today Geretsried). Many of these workers came from the regions occupied by the German Wehrmacht, mainly France and Eastern Europe.
• Second Time Layer: The Death March From The Concentration Camps
In the last days of World War II, a convoy of the death march of the Dachau concentration camp prisoners lead past Foehrenwald. Immediately upon their liberation many of the survivors were accommodated and medically taken care of there, as, for example, the distinguished jazz musician Coco Schumann. Thus Foehrenwald became an important rescue center for victims of the Nazi annihilation policy in the first days after the war.
• Third Time Layer: The Jewish DP Camp
After the end of the war, the settlement became one of the largest DP camps in Germany and the last to be closed. In a period of twelve years, tens of thousands of homeless Holocaust survivors, mainly from Eastern Europe, passed through the DP camp waiting there for their emigration to Israel or hoping to start a new life in any other country. The last Jewish residents left the camp in 1957.
• Fourth Time Layer: The Catholic Settlement for Displaced Persons
In 1955 the Catholic Settlement and Housing Office bought the whole area to create homes for displaced Catholic families, mostly for those with many children. Foehrenwald was renamed into Waldram and all the streets got new names, too – it was the third renaming since the settlement’s foundation. To this day, many of the inhabitants of Waldram or their ancestors stem from Transylvania, the Sudetenland, Poland, Hungary and Romania.
III. OUR PLAN
During the Nazi era, the BADEHAUS was a community house with sanitary facilities (for men); in the Jewish DPs‘ period it served also as a mikveh – in Judaism, this is a bath for ritual immersion. After 1957, the BADEHAUS was altered to create living quarters for teachers and students of the adjacent Catholic Major Seminary St. Matthias (Spätberufenenseminar St. Matthias); parts of the former BADEHAUS were then used as a washhouse. As of 2011 the historical building stood empty and would have been demolished.
In September 2012 members of the Historical Society Wolfratshausen (Historischer Verein Wolfratshausen e.V.) and the Urban Settlement Alliance Waldram (Siedlungsgemeinschaft Waldram) joined forces to launch the society „Bürger fürs BADEHAUS Waldram-Föhrenwald“ in order to save the BADEHAUS from demolition and convert it into an innovative meeting and remembrance place.
Today, three years later (as per July 2015), the Society already has more than 280 members, 75% of which are from Wolfratshausen and its immediate neighborhood; a number of Jewish former inhabitants and their descendants also joined the Society.
On May 8, 2015, the Erzbischöfliches Ordinariat München (administrative authority of the Archbishopric of Munich and Freising) allocated the estate including the BADEHAUS to the Society „Bürger fürs BADEHAUS Waldram-Föhrenwald“, so that they may raise a memorial there. Now, the building will be renovated and upgraded to become a remembrance place.
IV. USEFULNESS AND RELEVANCE OF THE PROJECT
The Society „Bürger fürs BADEHAUS Waldram-Föhrenwald“ aims to convert the BADEHAUS – one of the last centrally located camp buildings with its original shape reminding us of the place’s turbulent history – into a modern memorial, in which local people as well as national and international visitors may experience contemporary history at an authentic venue.
The project reaches far beyond the local and regional past by referring to the history of the county, the Bavarian Free State, the German Federal Republic and all the other European countries from which the forced laborers, the survivors of the Holocaust and the expellees once came to Foehrenwald/Waldram.
V. THE UTILIZATION CONCEPT IN DETAIL
The BADEHAUS is meant to be an interesting and lively learning place which brings together people of different generations, nations and religions, and in which
– testimonials of Waldram’s history are gathered, researched, edited and made available to the public,
– exhibitions, guided tours, lectures, workshops, and talks with contemporary witnesses for young people and adults are offered,
– schools, associations, organizations, institutions and individuals, who apply themselves to historical, cultural and heritage preservation, will get an information and communication center,
– a venue of learning, of meeting and of interreligious dialogue for the young and the old develops.
VI. TARGET GROUPS / COOPERATION AND NETWORK PARTNERS
The Society strives for a close collaboration with
– the people living in the county Bad Toelz-Wolfratshausen today, but also with former forced laborers, Jewish DPs, expellees, and with the descendants of all these groups of people;
– local authorities, such as the cities of Wolfratshausen and Geretsried, the county Bad Toelz-Wolfratshausen and the District of Upper Bavaria, for which Foehrenwald/Waldram means a substantial part of their history;
– educational institutions, for instance schools, the Catholic and Protestant educational institutes as well as museums of local history nearby;
– local parishes, the administrative authority of the archdiocese of Muenchen-Freising, the Protestant established regional church and the Israeli Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria;
– the economy, which should obtain new impulses on a touristic, gastronomic and commercial level with the restoration and the expected stream of visitors to the memorial site;
– the Denkmalnetz Bayern (Bavarian Memorial Network) and the Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (Bavarian State Office for the Cultural Heritage Preservation), which will probably include the BADEHAUS (with the mikveh) in its list of monuments to be protected;
– the Bayerischer Landesverein für Heimatpflege (Bavarian Local Historical Association), which, from the beginning, patronized the project as an exemplary cultural work;
– the Städtebauförderung (Urban Development Promotion Program), the European LEADER program, the Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen in Bayern (Regional Office For The Non-Governmental Museums in Bavaria), who promised us ideational and financial support.
Last but not least, the enterprise aims to be an European project backed up by many countries of the European Union, from which once forced laborers, survivors of the Holocaust and expellees came to Foehrenwald/Waldram.
VII. PROPERTY DESCRIPTION
The object consists of a first floor with 235 sqm, a second floor with 237 sqm, and a garden level with 219 sqm floor space. The building dates back to 1939/1940, the original construction plans constitute the base for the current space concept. The building fabric is relatively good, but does not meet current standards.
• First Floor
A new entrance leads to the reception desk with the cashbox and a small museum shop. This anteroom accommodates a „store window“ with a showcase which mirrors the original entrance. A plaque lists the patrons‘ and sponsors‘ names.
Next we step into the central meeting space – with 90 sqm, it is scheduled for lectures, talks with contemporary witnesses, movie screenings, and students‘ and project works. There is room for max. 48 seats at lectures, and there is sufficient parking space directly outside the building. For movies, which can be individually chosen, a screen is available. Information can be reinforced in a reading corner. Already in its beginnings, this central room with four historic columns did serve as a meeting area and it constitutes the start and end of the exhibitions tour. From here the kitchenette, the chairs and tables storeroom on the ground floor and the former mikveh, the wardrobe and restroom in the basement can be accessed.
The adjoining part of the building on the ground floor with about 97 sqm is earmarked for the permanent exhibition. The precise contents, stagings and furnishings are to be based on a detailed museum concept and are not available at present. Basically though the following space sequence applies on which the visitors will chronologically go through the four time levels of Foehrenwald/Waldram:
• Space 1: the forced labor camp of the Nazi era
• Space 2: the station of the death march of the concentration camp prisoners
• Space 3 and 4: the Jewish „Shtetl“ of the DP era
• Space 5: the settlement of the Catholic expellees.
The rooms being relatively small, the exhibition architecture will be concentrated on central photo and text blackboards; in Rooms 1 to 5 there will be computer installations to convey history to young visitors in a more playful way. The few original exhibits can be shown in a glass cabinet/room. The three different names, which each street and place were given during the three settlement stages of Waldram/Foehrenwald’s past, are an important presentation element, such as for the BADEHAUS: Danzinger Freiheit – Independence Place – Kolpingplatz.
• Second Floor
After Room 5 the exhibition circuit leads up to the second floor. In the course of the roof renovation the woodwork will be uncovered so that, as in the historic construction time, there will be one large room only. One half is intended for the permanent exhibition, the other one for changing exhibitions. Furthermore there will be an office, a restroom for the staff and a janitorial room.
The biographies of families of Foehrenwald and Waldram will constitute the focus of the permanent exhibitions‘ area. The main layout idea is a stylized forest of pine trees („Föhren“) representing the „family trees“ of individual camp residents based on photos and documents as well as an audio and video station. This part of the exhibition is scheduled as „work in progress“, that is a students‘ project will annually compile a new biography and plant a new „tree of remembrance““. Thus the „forest of pine trees“ („Föhrenwald“) will grow continuously – it will be funded by donations of individual tree sponsors and be presented each time at a high-visibility event.
We already have two complete presentations for the rotating exhibitions area: the photo documentation The Children of DP Camp Foehrenwald and the exhibition We Lived In An Oasis Of Peace, which tells of a school for Jewish girls in Wolfratshausen (1926–1938). Both these presentations shall always be open to the public when there is no other special exhibition. From the attic the circuit goes down back to the central meeting area and from there either to the former mikveh (which may also be visited at the beginning of the tour) or to the exit.
• Garden Level
A staircase in the central events area leads to this basement – illuminated by daylight – with the former mikveh and its own documentation room, which records the significance of the ritual bath in the Jewish religion. The mikveh of the DP camp era, which unfortunately was destroyed by subsequent remodelling works, shall be sensorially experienced by a light installation project on the floor. Testimonies of contemporary witnesses regarding the mikveh in Foehrenwald will be seen and heard via film and audio in the former ritual bathroom.
Two rooms on the other side of the garden level floor can be used as workshops and for repairs. They have separate entrances and shall be leased as financial modules for the maintenance of the remembrance place. Furthermore there are storage rooms, building services, restrooms and the wardrobe on this barrier-free basement floor, which accesses the premises‘ green area.
VIII. CONSTRUCTION STAGES
Stage 1: Clearing out/core removal, roof renovation
Stage 2: First floor and garden level renovation
Stage 3: Second floor extension
Stage 4: Remembrance place set-up
In the use phase the object should be self-sufficient through donations, admission tickets, earnings from guided tours and events, proceeds from book and film sales as well as rental income from the events area and the two garden level chambers. The Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen in Bayern (Regional Office For The Non-Governmental Museums in Bavaria) scrutinized the utilization and operational concept and rated it as quite positive.