Interview with Lutz Walk, Arbeitskreis Stedingsehre, about the history and current use of the open-air stage in Bookholzberg-Ganderkesee near Oldenburg, which was built by the National Socialists as a Thing site.
My name is Lutz Walk, we dedicate ourselves to the problematic history of this site with a group of about 30 committed citizens from this region to enable a culture of critical remembrance.
The origin of this site built by the Nazis is due to a historical event, the Battle of Altenesch in 1234, in which the Stedinger peasants, who settled along the Weser River, lost to the Archbishop of Bremen. They were devastatingly beaten, almost all the Stedinger people were exterminated.
In total, about 230,00 people from this region were spectators at the performances on this stage. This huge stage for 10-12,000 spectators was built here on the hillside with a historical-looking “stage village”. It was an idealized village, as one imagined how the Stedinger might have lived. Against this backdrop, a mass spectacle now took place, with several hundred participants: amateur actors, but also professional actors. The Nazis were adept at integrating this spectacle into the Thing movement that emerged in the early 1930s. Later, the Nazis argued internally, whether this Germanic-oriented approach to the so-called Thingstätte was still appropriate, and the term “Thingstätte” did not exist for this place for very long. It was later renamed “Low German Cult Site” in memory of the historical contexts.
The function of this place had always remained the same. Only the naming and ideological assignment changed in the course of the 1930s. After the end of the Nazi reign of terror, in 1945, the English and Canadians came to the region as liberators and they first used this place variously for administrative purposes. It was on this stage that the first democratic mayor of Bookholzberg after the Second World War was proclaimed, by the Canadian occupying forces. In this respect, the postwar period for this place began with a positive event.
This place, owed as a memorial to a historical event, has several interwoven meanings. This makes dealing with this place very difficult. Today we see the green idyll. Nature has reclaimed much of the theater complex and this idyll naturally obscures some of what happened here, in the Third Reich.
We are standing here now on the so-called honorary tribune at the upper edge of the grandstand. The spectators came had the wide Stedinger Land in front of them and directly in front of them the stage village, in which then the action, the fight of the Stedinger, took place.
Today, one can only guess what impression this view made on the spectators. Here on this old, historical photo, on which there are still no trees, one sees that the landscape extends into infinity. You can still see the church tower, with the crowd of actors. There were probably over 300 actors and you can also see the bridge over the moat. This is where we are now and the whole village was the stage for this mass spectacle.
It was portrayed as one would imagine idealized, not historical, life in a Stedinger village. Also, the drawbridge, which is folded up here once, one can see here. It is preserved in its original state. This souvenir album served the contributors to preserve the memory, to the participation in a special event. It was not a matter of course that one could participate in such a special spectacle as a normal village citizen.