Solidarity Park Street Art Project, with students of class 9c, Herder Gmynasium Köln(Cologne), Germany
Conny Dahmen – Art Teacher
We introduced the Solidarity Park project to our students which included a personal presentation video that the artist Rob MacDonald made especially for us. We focused on learning about the Spanish Civil War, International Brigades and the events of the Ciudad de Barcelona the ship that sank which is central to the solidarity park project. We took a special interest at the biography of Willy Remmel who was a survivor of the sinking and was from Cologne and therefore our own Brigadista.
Willy Remmel`s nephew, Herbert Remmel, helped us by sending information about this life in and outside Köln Mülheim. Peter Bach from Geschichtswerkstatt Mülheim added specific information about the neighbourhood and its main factory KHD, where Willy used to work
Willy Remmel (1906 –1970) was a German antifascist and trade unionist born and raised in Mülheim, one of Cologne`s neighbourhoods on the side of the river Rhein. He survived the sinking of the Ciudad de Barcelona by swimming to the coast of Malgrat de Mar. He had been a good swimmer since he was a child, where he practised with the local swimming club.
After leaving school, he became a worker like his parents, and was a very active communist party member, agitating and involving his colleagues at Mülheims main industrial workplace Klöckner Humboldt Deutz, a huge motor and wagon factory of up to 20 000 workers at its peak.
He went on the ship ciudad de Barcelona and fought in the Spanish Civil War with the “Thälmann Brigade”. There, Willy, an amateur violinist became part of a small band playing workers songs, the Huete Orchestra. He was also said to be a great dancer.
He fell in love with a brigadista nurse from New Zealand, but couldn`t follow her home. Back in Germany he kept on fighting the Nazi regime and got captured. After prison, he was send to concentration camp Sachsenhausen, where he managed to survive. After the war, he lived and died in the GDR.
There’s is one story about Willy, not proved but often told in Mülheim: one day during an election campaign a NSDAP-propaganda car was going up and down the road along the river. Willy and a friend went up the bridge a threw a trash can towards this car, which got partly damaged and had to stop.
With all this information on Willy’s life and on the sinking of Ciudad de Barcelona, the students of class 9c started developing possible designs for the ship windows of the actual Solidarity Park memorial. For their drawings, they used different types of paper and pens, pencils, crayons or charcoal. Base of their drawings, the students designed and made graffiti stencils to put temporary pictures in some public places.
All the spraying was done with crayon spray, which washes away after a couple of weeks or after heavy rain. To be able to a leave a few permanent pictures with graffiti colour spray, we got the permission to work on the walls of Hall 9, a local club, which has been established in one of the old factory halls of KHD.
The motives of student’s art differed a lot as some chose to picture a scene of the sinking or the life of Willy Remmel, others invented more symbolic, sometimes even abstract pictures.
Our school is close to Mülheim neighbourhood, so we could easily make a walk around and see several places where Willy Remmel used to frequently go.
We spent a lot time under the bridge where Willy used to start his swimming training at Kohlplatz, the local river boat stop ( “Müllemer Böotsche “). With heavy strong streams, the river is quite dangerous and difficult to cross, so he was clearly very trained swimmer which obviously helped him survive the ship sinking.
- Gate 1 at KHD, where Willy Remmel, after work, used to climb a street lamp after work to hold long and powerful speeches addressing his colleagues
- At Gebäude 9, former KHD premises
- The spot under the Mülheim bridge, where Willy supposedly hit the NSDAP- propaganda car
For a full gallery of the Art go to – Gallery
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