This work by the famous german artist Käthe Kollwitz is places inside the Neue Wache (New Guardhouse), a neoclassical building inspired by the Roman Pantheon.

The Neue Wache was dedicated to the Unknown Soldier of the World Wars since 1931, more than 100 years after its construction. The hole in the roof is open, it doesn’t let just light come in, but also rain, snow, etc.

In the middle of the empty inside there was a perpetuous flame, but since 1993 it was substituted by this artwork inaugurating its rededication as the “Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship”, after the reunification of Germany.

The artwork itself represent a mother with her son in her arms, and it cites a frequent topos of classical art: the Pietà (image of the Virgin with dead Christ in her arms). It makes then a correlation between a sacred image and the death of a soldier, symbolizing his martyrism for his country.

The sculpture is placed just under the opening in the ceiling, so that it is vulnerable to the weather changes, and this is not casual: it represents the suffering of people during the war.

Under the pavement there are rests of some soldiers of the resistance and samples of the soil of the concentration camps.

It is a very powerful place, creating an intense atmosphere, to have a moment of remembrance.

– M.C.

Bibliography and further readings:

KOLLWITZ Käthe, The Diary and Letter of Käthe Kollwitz, Northwestern University Press, 1988

Various Authors, Käthe Kollwitz and the Women of War: Femininity, Identity, and Art in Germany During World Wars I and II, Yale University Press, 2016


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