Monday, May 07, 2001

Heritage monument stolen

Statues defaced elsewhere in urban parks

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A thief walked off with a 150-pound German heritage historic marker in Clifton's Fairview Park over Easter weekend.

The stolen monument.
(File photo)
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Honorary consul Richard Schade (second from right) with German American Citizens League members at the monument site: Don Tolzmann, Regina Schnetzer, Helen Gripkey and Manfred Schnetzer.
(Tony Jones photo)
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        It was the third reported vandalism to German monuments in the city over the past year. The vandalism has raised concern among German heritage groups locally, but parks officials say the incidents likely are part of random defacing in urban areas.

        Last August, someone scratched a telephone number on a statue that honors Friedrich Hecker in Over-the-Rhine's Washington Park. Hecker founded the Turner Society, a civic organization that promotes gymnastics and education, after he came here as a refugee in 1848. He lived from 1811-1881.

        Vandals also spray-painted a statue in Inland Park in Mount Auburn. That statue depicts Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, known as the father of gymnastics and playgrounds in Germany. He founded the Turner Society in Germany and lived there from 1778-1852.

        Don Heinrich Tolzmann, president of the German American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati, said he isn't sure if someone is targeting German markers deliberately or if the vandalism is random.

        “The markers and monuments represent a part of the German heritage,” Mr. Tolzmann said. “To see them marred, scratched and painted means we are losing that fabric of our heritage.”

        Willie F. Carden Jr., director of parks, said he is very concerned about the vandalism, not only to German monuments, but to buildings, fountains, benches and other markers in all parks.

        Mr. Carden added that he doesn't think that there is a hate group targeting German markers.

        “I think this was a group of kids or young adults pulling a prank,” Mr. Carden said.

        “(Graffiti creators) seem to think spreading paint is some kind of art. They spread it everywhere,” he said.

        The missing Fairview Park marker was donated in 1993 by the German American Studies Program at the University of Cincinnati and the Ohio Historical Society.

        The marker was mounted on a post on the southeast side of Fairview Park, overlooking much of downtown Cincinnati, including Over-the-Rhine, a predominantly German settlement in the early 1800s.

        On one side of the marker are listed the Cincinnati streets with German names that were changed to American names on April 9, 1918. The other side of the marker carries the message that once war was declared on Germany, a tragic display of hysteria was directed at Germans.

        “I think people see German writings on the monuments and they think Nazi,” said Richard E. Schade, Germanic Languages and Literature Director at University of Cincinnati and an honorary consul of the Federal Republic of Germany.

        Manfred Schnetzer, vice president of the German-American Citizens League, thinks the monuments should be fenced in.

        Mr. Carden said he didn't agree with that suggestion.

        All the incidents puzzle Helen Gripkey, of White Oak.

        “I would just like to know why. I think this is very bad that someone would destroy a monument that means so much to us,” she said.


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