This is a translation of the original MAZ articles which were published in March-April 2014. These articles pick up and support the usage of racist language and caused us to start this blog. We don’t wish to offend anyone by reproducing the exact terminology, we would rather like to invite you to read our comment on the debate and consider the various perspectives. Let’s critically engage with Prussia’s colonial history and its legacies.
MAZ Article Published on 06 March 2014:
Name of Sculptures in Park Sanssouci Put Up for Discussion – “Mohrenrondell” (Blackamoor Rotary) criticized
Potsdam’s mayor and the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation met the debate on the name of the sculptures of Africans in Schlosspark Sanssouci, ignited by city councillor Andreas Menzel (Grüne), with incomprehension.
Potsdam. The name of the “Mohrenrondell” will not be changed. City councillor Andreas Menzel (Grüne) was confronted with incomprehension when he asked Mayor Jann Jakobs (SPD) to comment on the foundation’s use of this name. In Jakobs’ opinion Menzel’s concern is completely irrelevant, he argues that the name finds its origin in Frederician times and, therefore, is a historical one: “I think it is acceptable to keep the name.”
Referring to the Potsdam Edict of Toleration, Menzel insisted on questioning “words that are used to name things and places.” According to him, it is indeed necessary to think about whether “Mohrenrondell” is an appropriate name or not. […] Jakobs replied that the city has not to decide on the naming.
According to the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, the word “moor” could already be found in Old High German. In the beginning, it referred to the Moors (people of Mauretania) and since the 16th century to people with darker skin in general. Frank Kallensee, spokesman for the foundation, explained that the term was commonly used when Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg, issued the Potsdam Edict of Toleration in 1685. The first Potsdam Edict of Toleration was an offer to protect protestant Huguenots who had been persecuted in France.
Kallensee states that the four sculptures, which are probably of Italian origin, can be found in the Brandenburg electoral art collection since 1694. Between 1992 and 1997 copies replaced the originals, which have been exhibited in Caputh castele since 1999. In Mattias Oesterreich’s 1775 Beschreibung und Erklärung der Statuen, welche die Sammlung Sr. Majestät, des Königs von Preußen, ausmachen (engl.: “Description and Explanation of the Statues that Make the Collection of the King of Prussia Special”) the sculptures are called “Bust of a Moor.”
For this reason, the name “Mohrenrondell” is said to be an exclusively historical name that is only used in this sense for the “Mohrenrondell” as a work of art. It is argued that this name is just as little conflicting with the 2008 Potsdam Edict of Toleration as Heinrich Heine’s poem “Mohrenkönig” (engl.: “Moor King”, 1844), Shakespeare’s “Othello, the Moor of Venice” (1604) or Schiller’s snappy sentence in his “Fiesco” (1783): “The moor did his work, the moor can leave.” Furthermore, the foundation’s spokesman pointed out that, since 1700, there has been a “Mohrenstraße” in Berlin.
Jakobs gave an example of a special naming constellation. He referred Menzel to Golm’s (a district of Potsdam) municipal administrator and said: “Why don’t you ask Mr. Mohr (Engl.: Moor) what he thinks about his name?”
By Volker Oelschläger
MAZ Article Published on 25 March 2014:
Name of Sculptures in Park Sanssouci Is Criticized – Debate about the “Mohrenrondell” (Blackamoor Rotary) in Potsdam
Four sculptures in Park Sanssocui in Potsdam are the reason for a new debate: The so-called “Mohrenrondell” has been part of the Brandenburgian-electoral collection of arts and is probably of Italian origin. However, a city’s councillor believes that this name is discriminatory. Should the name be changed?
Potsdam. The debate on the “Mohrenrondell” in Park Sanssouci enters the next round. City councillor Andreas Menzel demands a change of name of the sculptures that are from Frederician times and wants to raise awareness for the historical slave trade with the help of a display. He does not suggest alternative names.
Menzel wants to table a respective draft resolution in the city council assembly on 2 April 2014. This proposal is a request for mayor Jann Jakobs to approach the owner of the sculptures, the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation. Explanation: The name – he calls it the “M-Rondell” – is “colonial-racist“ and for this reason not only “discriminating victims of the slave trade but also black people who are living in Germany today.” Such terms should not be used to name public places in a city which acknowledges an Edict of Toleration, says Menzel.
The public representative, whose membership in the Green Party has been evoked in the middle of March, now tries to make a change on his own. Iman Attia, Professor for Social Work and Social Pedagogy at the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, supports Menzel’s argument. As the researcher of racism explains, the term moor is “mocking” people’s experiences of exploitation, discrimination and persecution. She recommends to “pursue the debate on how to deal with this legacy seriously and in a profound way,” and suggests that “informative, critical, distancing references” should be introduced.
In his fight for political correctness Menzel has also asked Magdolna Grasnick, the municipal representative for migration and integration, for support. Grasnick believes his criticism of the term “Mohrenrondell” is “definitely justifiable”. She supports “language sensitivity and educational work on racist terms”, and speaks up against “exclusion through language.” However, with regard to the marble sculptures, she argues that we are dealing with a 270 year-old piece of art. Grasnick does “not understand the name as discriminatory” as long as it is exclusively used for this work of art.
Speaker of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, Frank Kallensee, also referred to this exclusively historical meaning and that the term is used only in this sense and gave more examples like Heine’s poem “Mohrenkönig” (1844) and Shakespeare’s “Othello, the Moor of Venice” (1604). Mayor Jakobs had already labelled Menzel’s proposal as “completely irrelevant” in the meeting of the city’s parliament in March.
By Carola Hein
Gloss by MAZ author Ildiko Röd: „No more Mohrenrodell“
My politically correct fingers almost refuse to type the unspeakable. But it has to be done! So: Mohrenrondell. This can be found on the grounds of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation and thankfully Potsdam’s soon-to-be ex-Green Party politician Andreas Menzel has recently mobilized against this racist name. Of course, we from the MAZ are also looking for alternatives; otherwise the city is running the risk to lose its reputation as a tolerant stronghold. A new name has to be found for the „Mohrenrondell“:
1. Rotary with a migratory background.
2. Rotary for citizens who have darker skin but no season ticket for the solarium.
3. Conservative Party -Rotary (patronage: Katherina Reiche.)
If none of this helps, there is only one solution left: Tear down the rotary! (Preferably by illegal workers.)
MAZ Article Published on 28 March 2014:
Wish for Debate on Prussia’s History of Exploitation – Anti-discrimination Advisory Board against “Mohrenrondell”
The “Mohrenrondell” in Park Sanssouci has been the topic of discussion for a while now. A city’s councillor thinks that the name is “coined by colonial-racist thought” and he suggested that the name should be changed. An idea which has triggered astonishment, but also a big discussion. Now the anti-discrimination advisory board has also voiced their opinion.
Potsdam. The anti-discrimination advisory board Brandenburg enters the debate on the “Mohrenrondell” – sculptures in Park Sanssouci which originate in the times of Frederick II. The organization works on cases of racial discrimination and, according to Katja Schlegel, appreciates Andreas Menzel’s attempt to change the name of the work of art.
It is mandatory to consciously deal with Prussia’s history of exploitation. This includes the discussion of the handling of names and markings that could “hurt people, trivialize history and reconstruct exclusion.” Susan Arndt, editor of the reference book Afrika und die deutsche Sprache (engl. Africa and the German Language), states that moor is the oldest German word for black people and originates from the Greek word “moros” which means foolish, naïve, stupid or godless.
A “serious and profound” debate is necessary, says Schlegel: “We have been waiting for such a debate and invite all those who are involved to start one!”
MAZ article published on 01 April 2014:
Poll: MAZ Readers Reject Renaming the Mohrenrondell – A new round in the debate about the Mohrenrondell
In the debate about the term of the name “Mohrenrondell” in Park Sanssouci, Mayor Jann Jakobs (SPD) again has to declare himself in front of the city’s councillors on Wednesday. Some statements of the mayor on this topic caused a stir. A researcher of racism accused Jakobs of “mockery” of the topic.
Potsdam. Andreas Menzel, who was excluded from the fraction of the Green Party three weeks ago, wants to know whether the mayor is “ready to support the widespread information and public discussion about the backgrounds of the naming of the “M-Rondell”?” According to Menzel, this name is connected “with the history of the Prussian electorate in Gross Friedrichsburg’s slave trade that resulted in the abduction of children from Africa to Potsdam.”
Menzel has already requested a statement on the naming of the “Mohrenrondell”, which he questions, during the last assembly. Jakobs rejected the request by referring to the historical background in Frederician times as “irrelevant”. However, it was his remark, which has also been recorded by the city council TV on the municipal administrator of Golm – Ulf Mohr –which has caused transregional outrage. Jakobs said that one could also ask Ulf Mohr “how he likes it to have this name”. The researcher of racism Iman Attia accused Jakobs of “mockery” (Maz reported on that), the organization Venrob criticizes this “openly racially connotated remark”. Menzel, who cannot file a petition without a parliamentary party, today wants to solicit support from at least five city councillors, to achieve that Jakobs demands the renaming and the installation of an information display at the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation. In our online poll, MAZ readers have until now voted against the demanded renaming by 55 votes to 790.
The MAZ was informed that the foundation is preparing an edit of the historical background for electronic media. Spokesman Frank Kallensee did not want to comment on this on Wednesday and instead referred to publications such as Adrain von Butlar’s book Tod, Glück und Ruhm (engl. Death, Luck and Glory, released in 2012) in which the colonial background is analyzed and the exhibition “Onder den Oranjen born” from 1999, in which the topic of the slave trade of Brandenburg was included.
By Volker Oelschläger