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Massive poppy art installation a must-see in Munich for Remembrance Day

This Sunday marks the 100-year anniversary of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, marking the end of World War I.

A “Never Again” art installation of 3,500 poppies will take place in Munich, Germany to mark this centennial, a first of its kind in Germany.

Is this a “Copy Poppy?”

No,  said the artist, Dr. Walter Kuhn, a retired geographer and City Planner in Munich. He said he took his inspirations in Flanders (Belgium) around 10 years ago in Compiegne. But it took nearly 3 years to convince  the City of Munich to make it happen. He nearly had given up, he said, when he finally got the final okay just  8 months ago.

That left little time to get organized for the “Never Again” project for a program that would last 3 weeks.

During the summer, 2 migrants from Afghanistan along with helpers put together the thin red material  with a big black velvet centerpiece to form 3,500 poppies, each about the size of an umbrella. They are anchored deeply into the ground and wedged together with wood affords into the lawn so as to withstand stormy weather and “picking” of the flowers.

Poppies artist Walter Kuhn – Photo © E. Lang

Although Remembrance Day is  on November 11, 2018, most of us don’t remember it, so the day needs stories to keep it alive. This is not done simply by politicians laying down a wreath that is followed by an official photo shoot.

The poppies were the first flowers that popped up on the mass graves of fallen soldiers – more significant, because over 17 million people lost their lives in World War I.

Simon Kendall, British Consul in Munich, said the poppy already has been a symbol to most of the Commonwealth countries ever since the early 1920s. It all started with a war poem that describes the poppies, “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian doctor John McCrae and published in the British magazine “Punch” in 1915.

A huge poppy installation of over nearly 900,000 poppies at the Tower in London in 2014 was unforgettable and attracted more than 4 million visitors, including Queen Elizabeth.

Also known as the Armistice of Compiègne from the place where it was signed, it came into force at 11 am Paris time on November 11, 1918 and marked a victory for the allies and a complete defeat for Germany, although not formally a surrender. Although the Armistice ended the fighting, it needed to be prolonged 3 times until the Treaty of Versailles which was signed on June 28, 1919, which took effect on January 10, 1920.

Today, the city of Munich is still struggling with its past. After World War I, the square of Königsplatz has seen massive changes over the past decades. Königsplatz was used for huge military parades and is the place where the Nazi book burning took place on May 10, 1933. The book burning was a campaign conducted by the German Student Union to ceremonially burn books in Nazi Germany and Austria.

Photo © E. Lang

Throughout the Third Reich period, Munich remained the spiritual capital of the Nazi movement, with headquarter buildings, museums to house the forms of artworks approved by Adolf Hitler, and shrines of the attempted Nazi putsch in November 1923. Also known as the Beer Hall Putsch, this was a failed coup d’état by Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler to seize power in Munich on November 8-9, 1923.

These sites were used as the scenes of lavish annual memorial ceremonies and swearing-in ceremonies for new SS members. The Schutzstaffel, commonly known as the SS, was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany, and later throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II.

The Pantheon was a kind of honorary temple for “heroes” built by Hitler and subsequently destroyed in  1947 by the Americans. The nearby “Führerhaus“ became the Amerika Haus in 1947-1957 before it was turned into a university of applied sciences for culture and music which still exists today.

A European Requiem Concert in honor of the end of World War I, will mark the opening of the “Never Again” art installation which will open at 11 am on November 11, 2018. A carefully-studied remembrance program will include various benefit concerts, mass for peace   exchanges with war victims, and talks such as “My family after the First World War I” that will round up the art installation.

Today in London, Prince Harry laid the first cross of remembrance at the memorial, 3 days before the centenary of the end of World War I.

The Field of Remembrance opens every year on the Thursday before Remembrance Sunday. It has been held on the grounds of Westminster Abbey since 1928 and is organized by the Poppy Factory.


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