Good Friday in Dortmund
Dortmund is a working class city, deep in heart of Western Germany’s industrial area. It’s history is one of coal, steel, brewing (in this case the famous type of beer „Dortmunder Export“) and football. Unfortunately more recently it has also gained a reputation as a city with a nazi problem.
Every year, nazis march in the city under the bizarre message of an „Anti-War“ demo, conveniently placed on the anniversary of the invasion of Poland. On occasions such as these, the city takes on the appearance of a place under martial law. Streets are blocked off, police mark every corner with riot vans and water cannons. Around the city counter protests from older citizens or other political parties take place, and much of the youth, all dressed in black, try to use back alleys to outwit the police barricades and attack the nazis.
One thing that has remained the same is that the north side of the city, regarded by many as „the wrong side of the tracks“, has often been a haven for unrulyness and rebellion. In the olden days, foreign workers were encouraged in to help bridge a shortfall in workers needed to help capitalise on booming industries. Nowadays the streets buzz with foreign accents and southern European, as well as north African, cafe culture. And whereas now, much of Dortmund’s alternative scene choose to live in the „Nordstadt“, under the Third Reich too it was also the home to dissident communists, anarchists and resistance in general.
Prior to CCTV, internet monitoring etc, it is surprising how freely these people were able to exist under the nazis. They would congregate in parks, disrupt nazi marches with make-shift explosives, even take part in hand combat with the Hitler Youth in local cafes. It would however appear that as the war wore on, life became more difficult for them. Many were caught and rounded up, being kept in the Steinwache Gestapo HQ (a building that has been deliberately preserved as a reminder).
Some escaped, many though were not so lucky. Around the time of Good Friday, 1945, with Allied Forces soon to take the city, the Gestapo took those prisoners to the Romberg and Bittermark Parks, south of Borussia Dortmund’s stadium, and murdered them.
The Dortmunder Nordstadt was also the birthplace of Borussia Dortmund. It began in the north-east of the city, at Borsig-Platz, before moving to the south in the late 30’s. The club’s „Vereinswart“, a sort of club supervisor, was Heinrich Czerkus. He also happened to be a communist. During the war, he had to hide from the Gestapo, but eventually was caught, late into the war. He unfortunately shared the same fate as those others killed in the days leading up to the Easter 1945.
To commemorate those deaths, many people in Dortmund, make the walk up to the memorial deep in the wooded Bittermark park. A special event is also organised by fans of BVB too, to remember Heinrich Czerkus. The spectre of National Socialism has returned to Dortmund in recent years, particularly so with the politically/racially motivated murder of local punk Thomas Schultz, and Nordstadt shop owner, Mehmet Kubaşık. It means, marking the Good Friday Remembrance, as well as remembering the crimes of fascism, is all the more important.