KMinister of State for Culture Claudia Roth wants to rename the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK), which brings together numerous museums and cultural institutions.
“What do Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys have to do with Prussia?” Roth told Der Spiegel. The name does not “express the cosmopolitan nature of the cultural assets”. He also excludes a large part of Germany. “Prussia is an important heritage, but not our only one,” she said. “Germany is much more.”
The President of the SPK, Hermann Parzinger, would also prefer a different name. “When I say SPK, I almost always have to explain which institution I represent,” he says. It’s not easy to find a new name, and he’s happy to accept good suggestions. But there isn’t one yet.
Prussia, according to many, was the reason Germany fell into the abyss of two world wars. Militarism, deification of the state, fixation on obedience and intolerance: According to this interpretation, Protestant Prussia had also left its mark on the newly founded German Reich since 1871 and pushed aside the more liberal, Catholic culture of southern Germany and Austria. In 1947 the victorious powers ordered the abolition of the state.
But the name also stands for effective administration and incorruptible officials, friendliness to education and tolerance towards religious minorities.
In its early days, Prussia was a patchwork quilt of territories: in 1415, the German king Sigismund had the Hohenzoller Friedrich VI, who resided in Nuremberg. enfeoffed with the Mark Brandenburg, a poor and sparsely populated territory that was also derided as “the sandbox of the Holy Roman Empire”.
In the centuries that followed, the Hohenzollerns inherited and married more and more new territories. The historian Christopher Clark describes the rise of Brandenburg-Prussia as alternating “phases of precocious strength with phases of dangerous weakness”. However, Napoleon’s defeat also ensured a rebirth: At the Congress of Vienna, Prussia was also granted the Rhineland and Westphalia, core areas of industrialization.
According to Clark, all the military catastrophes left “a lasting feeling of vulnerability”. This is the main reason why Prussia was characterized by an oversized armed force and a glorification of the military.
Under National Socialism, many members of the Prussian nobility supported Hitler’s policies. Conversely, quite a few members of the resistance had illustrious Prussian names, such as Helmuth James von Moltke and Peter Yorck von Wartenburg.
Criticism of Roth’s plans came from former Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse: This was an “attempt to free oneself from historical burdens,” he said. Thierse accused the Greens of “pursuing history with moral fury”. Because they currently have to make painful compromises, “they probably need all the more violent replacement actions”.
The Foreign Ministry, led by Green Party politician Annalena Baerbock, had previously renamed the Bismarck Room in the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. The room is given the name “Hall of German Unity”. The portrait of the former Chancellor was also taken down.