Mahnmal für die Toten beider Weltkriege / Memorial for the Dead of the World Wars

Joseph Beuys’s memorial is one of his earliest and largest works, as well as one of few artworks that have been preserved in their original context. The installation includes the “resurrection symbol” inside of the church tower and the portal, both of which were designed by Beuys himself. The tower was built around 1200 and is the only surviving structure from the Romanesque church that was dedicated to Saint Maurice. The church burnt down in 1891. In 1959, the borough of Büderich decided to transform the tower into a memorial for those who died in the world wars. They commissioned four artists for designs and decided on a proposal from the still unknown master student of Ewald Mataré.
In his studio in Kleve, Joseph Beuys constructed an oak gate with iron fittings that resemble archaic symbols, but could also be seen as weapons or other tools. On one leaf of the gate, he engraved the names of the 220 citizens of Büderich that died in the wars. Inside of the tower, the “resurrection symbol” is mounted on iron beams on the left side, rather than the front wall. This abstract element can be seen simultaneously as a crucified figure and as a figure ascending to heaven. There is also a sort of halo around its head, which makes associations with Christ even clearer.
A large round iron disk was embedded in the figure’s chest; a rod was used to connect this disc to the iron suspension system from above its head. The originally Christian idea that a connection to the universal transcendent space can be created through pain can be found repeatedly in the artist’s later work.

Further reading:
Holger Brülls, Kein Kreuz: Das Büdericher Mahnmal für die Toten der Weltkriege von Joseph Beuys, Meerbusch 1995, ISBN 3-9804756-0-3
Margot Klütsch, Meerbuscher Kunstwege, Düsseldorf 2010, ISBN 978-3-89978-132-8

Joseph Beuys

geboren in Krefeld; 1986 gestorben in Düsseldorf.
Volksschule, anschließend Gymnasium in Kleve.
Freiwillige Meldung zur Luftwaffe im 2. Weltkrieg.
Absturz bei einem Einsatz auf der Krim, bei dem Beuys verletzt wurde. Ende des Jahres erneuter Kriegseinsatz, diesmal an der Westfront.
Kriegsgefangenschaft. Rückkehr nach Kleve, wo er sich der örtlichen Künstlergruppe anschloss.
Immatrikulation an der Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf.
Meisterschüler bei Ewald Mataré.
Erste Einzelausstellung im Haus der Brüder Hans und Franz Joseph van der Grinten in Kranenburg (Niederrhein).
Eigenes Atelier in Düsseldorf-Heerdt, das er bis Ende 1958 nutzen konnte.
Umzug nach Kleve.
Unter Beibehaltung seines Klever Ateliers am Tiergarten Umzug nach Düsseldorf. Professur an der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
Teilnahme an der documenta 3 in Kassel.
Seine fristlose Entlassung an der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf erregte großes Aufsehen. Teilnahme an der documenta 5.
Gastprofessur an der Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg. USA-Reise.
Teilnahme an der Biennale von Venedig.
Teilnahme an der documenta 6 in Kassel.
Retrospektive im Guggenheim-Museum New York.
Teilnahme an der documenta 7.
Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Preis der Stadt Duisburg.

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Meerbusch-Büderich, Dorfstraße 50–52
Joseph Beuys
Resurrection symbol: 200 x 300 cm, gate: 300 x 300 cm
Oak, iron
Object type
Monuments / memorials