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Note boxes 2020

Making of

In Marburg the Voluntary Fire Brigade is an institution. The various units responsible for 16 departments of the town not only hurry to help in emergencies but also offer interesting leisure activities for children, young people and adults including their own retired members. The brigade, which was founded in 1861, could find only a few colleagues with detailed knowledge of its history. The Marburg Fire Brigade is like a puzzle with missing pieces. Most of these pieces are associated with the National Socialist (NS) era.

To fill these gaps the Union of German Fire Brigades and the German Fire-Fighting Museum in cooperation with Justus-Liebig-University, Gießen began a project entitled „Fire brigades in the NS period“. Their purpose is to help the voluntary fire brigades with investigations into their own past. The national ministry responsible for building and the home territories requires the Marburg Fire Brigade to use this assisstance to help free itself from the dust of the past. In several part projects, chosen brigade members assisted in specific areas of research. Their aim was: not to have a view of history from on high looking down but at base level, researched and presented by fire brigade members.

Members of the Voluntary Fire Brigade Marburg, through lengthy research were indeed able to bring to the surface information about the Brigade during the NS era. Through archive searches supplemented with photogaphs and objects the past was piece by piece reconstucted and showed how the voluntary status of the brigade was gradually lost. Soon the saying „Gott zu Ehr, dem Nächsten zur Wehr“ (Respect for God, and then the fire brigade) was no longer appropriate. Laws rendering all organizations subject to NS control incorporated the fire brigades in the totalitarian system, changed their structure (even their appearance) and there would be no more ‘non- aryans’ allowed as members. The situation was clear from the destiny of the Jewish businessman Elias Goldschmitt who was forced to sell his shoe shop at Steinweg 3 ½ in Marburg way under value and then flee to Palastina. Since the seizure of power the inhuman NS ideology spread through German society and also found with fire brigade comrades obedient supporters.

Thus some colleagues in the fire brigades as SA members took part in the setting fire to the synagogue. After WWII there were court appearances of people including members of the Voluntary Fire Brigades who took part in the events of 9 & 10th November 1938 which led to prison sentencing. Information from these court proceedings provide an important source of material about the history of the Voluntary Fire Brigade in Marburg. They form a sharp contrast to the self-evidently free and democratic Voluntary Fire Brigade of today.

With this background to its history the Voluntary Fire Brigade and the Fire Protection Service of the town decided to place historical citations and statements as well as those from today’s members of the organizations in the „Zettelkästen“ in the Garden of Remembrance erected on the site of the ruined Marburger Synagogue. The statements of activists and observers of the terrible happenings of November 1938 form a stark contrast to the statements of today’s members of the fire brigade in Marburg who present a modern perspective of the „Pogromnacht“ and the attack on the Synagogue and Jewish life in Marburg.