Tuesday, August 22, 2000

Vandals strike at monuments

Residents of German descent want to protect area's heritage

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Vandals who marred local monuments to two Germans have German-Americans calling for city help to protect the area's heritage.

        Somebody scrawled a phone number on a Washington Park statute honoring Friedrich Hecker, who founded the country's first Turner Society, which promoted gymnastics and education. And in Inwood Park, a vandal sprayed orange paint on a monument to Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, considered the father of gymnastics.

        Washington Park is in Over-the-Rhine. Inwood Park is in Mount Auburn.

        The damage was discovered two weeks ago by a PBS television crew working on a documentary about German-American heritage. Guided around the city by Don Heinrich Tolzmann, president of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati, they could not film the Jahn monument because of the vandalism.

        That prompted Mr. Tolzmann to ask the park board to clean up the conditions he called deplorable.

  A closer look at the Germans who inspired the statues, both by Cincinnati sculptor Leopold Fettweis:
  • Friedrich Ludwig Jahn: This German immigrant (1778-1852) is considered the “turnvater,” or father, of gymnastics and playgrounds. In Germany he founded the Turners, a civic organization.
  The white marble portrait bust, inset in a gray granite slab, honoring Jahn stands in Inwood Park, Mount Auburn.
  • Friedrich Hecker: A marble portrait bust of this writer and philosopher (1811-1881) stands in Washington Park, Over-the-Rhine. He came to the United States as a refugee of the failed German revolution in 1848.
  While visiting here, he founded this country's first Turner Society, a social group that promoted gymnastics and education. He earned the rank of brigadier general during the Civil War, when he fought for the Union Army.
        “I would deplore any monument being defaced,” he said. “But in the case of Cincinnati, if it's a German heritage monument, it's just all so much worse.”

        And after the graffiti is gone, he'd like something more to be done — either fencing the monuments to protect them or moving them to a place where they'd be less likely to be defaced.

        Vandalism, unfortunately, happens in virtually all Cincinnati parks, city officials said Monday. But the German League argues that because of the Queen City's rich, deep German heritage, this damage is particularly offensive.

        Larry Annett, assistant to the director of parks, thanked the group for bringing the vandalism to the park board's attention. He sent a superintendent Monday to look at one of the monuments, after which he said workers would start removing the graffiti as soon as possible.

        “We don't like to see these problems either,” he said.

        As for the group's bigger request, Mr. Annett said the board would look into it.

        “It's not a question of if they'll be vandalized again,” Mr. Tolzmann said, “but when. It was time to say something.”


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