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A statue of a land mine victim has been set next to the monument dedicated to Erwin Rommel in Heidenheim, the German hometown of the popular WWII general. Officials say the change should push people to “seek” the truth.
Authorities in the south German town of Heidenheim have installed a statue representing a land mine survivor in front of the massive limestone monument dedicated to General Erwin Rommel.
Although, “A statue does not proclaim a truth, but encourages people to seek it,” Heidenheim Mayor Bernhard Ilg said. However, the German general was born in Heidenheim and went on to build a military career that culminated during WWII. Rommel’s military talent, charisma and, later, his sympathies to the military resistance against Hitler, earned him the respect of his Allied rivals, despite his service to the Nazi regime. He was forced to kill himself after he was implicated in the failed 1944 attempt to kill Adolf Hitler, although historians believe he was not actively involved in the plot.
Moreover, Rommel remains the most popular German general of his era. The inscription on the back of the original monument describes him as “upright, knightly, and brave.” WWII still deadly today
However, troops under Rommel’s command have also buried countless mines across North Africa, with experts estimating that 17 million pieces of British, Italian, and German unexploded ordinance still remains strewn across the desert. They continue to claim lives to this day. Over 33,000 have been killed by WWII landmines since the tally was officially started in the 1980s, and another 75,000 were injured.
“What was the German military doing in North Africa in the first place?” historian Wolfram Wette was quoted as saying by reporters.
Although, “They were fighting an imperialistic, criminal war of aggression,” Wette added.
However, the artist behind the modification to the Heidenheim monument said his statue was purposefully made to look small next to the impressive limestone bloc.
“I wanted to confront the monumental (features) of the original memorial with the fragility of a land mine victim,” said artist Rainer Joos. Debate over removing Rommel monument
However, the town of Heidenheim has been searching for a way to tackle Rommel’s heritage since 2014, according to reports. However, the addition of the amputee statue comes amid a movement to topple monuments dedicated to controversial leaders that had originated in the US earlier this year.
Joos believes it would be a mistake to remove the Rommel monument altogether. “If we let grass grow over it, that would mean the end of the important task of dealing with history,” he said.