Hamburg was a hub of German colonial policy. In 2014, the city officially acknowledged this legacy and embarked on a profound debate. Under the title “Decolonize Hamburg!” the Hamburg Historical Museums Foundation, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Media, will address the issues of current debates in a series of sub-projects and formats, creating a forum for activities and broad exchange.
Since its construction in 1907, the Bismarck Monument in Hamburg’s Alter Elbpark has been invested with a great number of connotations. Today, it is seen by many as an expression of an authoritarian and colonial tradition that is part of our history and to which we must and we wish to find an adequate response. It is necessary to reframe this widely visible monument because in terms of its position, use and symbolic association it manifests complex references to colonialism, National Socialism, discrimination and questions of social justice that had previously not been in evidence.
To this day, Germany lacks an appropriate place of remembrance for commemorating and dealing with colonialism and its consequences. The federal coalition agreement stipulates that “a concept for a place of learning and remembrance of colonialism” is to be developed. As a sub-project of the overall project “Decolonize Hamburg!”, the Foundation of Historical Museums Hamburg (SHMH) in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Media has taken on the task of initiating the discussion about such a place of remembrance in Germany. From January 26 to 28, 2023, an international symposium entitled “Memory in Motion” will be held in Hamburg to develop initial ideas for such a place. Together with the Advisory Board for the Decolonization of Hamburg and in cooperation with the Federal Agency for Civic Education / bpb, Decolonize Berlin e.V., Dekoloniale – Erinnerungskultur in der Stadt and the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin, the SHMH has invited about 50 scholars, artists and representatives of civil society to the kick-off meeting for “Memory in Motion”. The plan is to establish a longer-term network with “Memory in Motion”. The goal of the network is to promote the debate on a centralized or decentralized “Learning and Remembrance Site of Colonialism” by the end of 2023 in coordination with other cities and federal states and to include international voices in this process.
“Decolonize Hamburg! Initiative to Address the City’s Colonial Heritage” is a project of the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg in cooperation with and funded by the Hamburg Ministry of Culture and Media. Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation. The Federal Cultural Foundation is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.