UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

March 5, 2009

A GERMAN CITY LOSES ITS PAST

Times, UK - The German city of Cologne woke up yesterday without a memory. As police used tracker dogs to try to unearth suvivors beneath the collapsed archives building, engineers were trying to work out how the 1971 institution - once regarded as a state-of-the-art documentation centre, copied across the world - could have simply collapsed, as if hit by a missile. Some of Germany's most valuable documentary treasures may have been destroyed, wiped out in the three minutes it took for a six-story building to become a pile of smouldering brickwork on Wednesday afternoon.

The private papers of the Nobel prize-winning novelist Heinrich Boll, one of Germany's most powerful postwar writers, have been lost under the rubble. They include the drafts of books, corrected manuscripts, letters and radio plays. The writer was born in Cologne and insisted before his death in 1985 that the papers be moved from Boston to his home town. Related Links

Lost, too, were manuscripts of essays and articles written by Karl Marx when he was editor of the Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne in the 19th century.

Letters written by the philosopher Hegel, lyrics and notes written by the composer Jacques Offenbach - who composed The Tales of Hoffmann - edicts issued by Napoleon and King Louis XIV, and the personal papers of Konrad Adenauer, West Germany's first Chancellor and former mayor of Cologne, were also lost. If they are ever recovered, the documents will almost certainly be irretrievably damaged. . .

There was even less warning of the collapse of the building than would have been given during a nuclear attack. Workers on the rooftop heard a cracking noise and immediately alerted the 26 people using the archives at the time. Less than three minutes later, the building was flat.

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