With the special exhibition “Fortresses – Monumental Witnesses of a eventful History” the European Photo Academy from Rastatt presents another topic of European significance: It is about the fortresses in Rastatt, Germersheim and Ulm, which were built by the German Confederation in the middle of the 19th century. It is also about the fortress Landau, which was already built on the orders of the French king Louis XIV. end of the 17th century and was later modernized.
The fortresses were initially a response to numerous campaigns of conquest of France at the beginning of the 19th century. Prussia, Austria, Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, and over thirty other German states had joined forces to defend themselves.
All fortresses significantly affected the function and development of the cities and their surroundings. Old city walls had to give way and the entire population of the cities, whether in Germersheim, Landau, Rastatt or Ulm stood under the sign of the fortress construction and operation. 14,000 construction workers are said to have built a modern fortress in Landau in 1688, on the orders of the French King Louis XIV. In Rastatt there were about 4,000 to 8,000 in the middle of the 19th century, and in Ulm up to 10,000 workers who worked on the construction of the bastions.
However, the fortresses wrote their own story: for instance, the Bundesfestung Rastatt played an important role in 1849 especially during the Baden Revolution, when a part of the Baden military of the fortress garrison mutinied and together with the vigilantes assumed the democratically elected government. All in all, these events were among the revolutions that occurred in 1848/49 in many parts of Central Europe against the backdrop of liberal, bourgeois-democratic aspirations. The Federal Fortress Ulm was to help southern Germany as a whole and especially the route along the Danube to Vienna. In fact, the fortress was never involved in a military conflict. In the outer fort “Fort Oberer Kuhberg” of the fortress Ulm the Nazis established from 1933 to 1935 a concentration camp for the detention of political prisoners.
Several parts of the bastions were already sanded at the end of the 19th century. While in the 60s and 70s of the 20th Century parts of the fortresses had to give way to modern buildings, they eventually moved into the consciousness of the population increasingly as a significant and worthwhile cultural monument. The impressive architecture of the monuments testify to the architecture of the time and are part of a multi-faceted history. Above all, especially voluntary workers restored parts of the bulwarks. For instance, the Fort Oberer Kuhberg in Ulm was transformed into a museum. It is today a fortress in its original state. In Rastatt exciting tours take place through the underground passageways of the fortress Kasematten. Both in Germersheim and in Landau several buildings of the fortresses are preserved. They are used differently and significantly shape the cityscape.
The special exhibition of the European Photo Academy shows photos of the various parts of the fortresses. The team of the European Photo Academy worked on the photographs with different photographic and digital techniques to give the motifs an artistic touch. It is the challenge for the photographers to provide pictures with a message. Not easy, one might say, considering that each person interprets a picture a little differently. Exciting at the same time, because the different interpretations allow a multifaceted examination of the subject. Thus, the current exhibition wants to be an inspiration to deal with fortresses as a historical cultural heritage of immense, cross-border significance.
The exhibition can be seen from 17 August to 23 September 2018 in the “Erinnerungsstätte für die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte” in the Baroque castle in Rastatt. At the vernissage on 17 August 2018 at 19.00, the fortresses will be explained with short presentations.
Beside the visit to the special exhibition it is worth to walk also through the “Erinnerungsstätte”, which belongs to the German Federal Archives.