Germany / Monument

The Torchbearer




Vogelsang International Place is riddled with Nazi-symbols. Quite a few of them focus on the national socialist idea of a master race, the ‘Herrenmensch’. The most conspicuous symbol is the statue of the torchbearer, that it visible even beyond the perimeter of the Ordensburg. It borrows from Christian and Greek symbolism as well as the pagan idea of light.

In the years before the Second World War the Ordensburg Vogelsang adhered to a cult of prowess and virility. Physical health, beauty and strength were equated with the ideal of the ‘Aryan race’. The opposite characteristics were attributed to the ‘inferior races’. Many of the reliefs and sculptures in Vogelsang have survived and still reflect this National Socialist concept of the so called Herrenmensch. They were placed in a way that the young men saw them every day.

The most conspicuous relief - called the ‘torchbearer’- loomed large above the cadets whenever they were in the vicinity of the Vogelsang hillside. To this day the huge figure still commands the Sonnwendplatz (solstice place) with its bowl of fire and is easily visible from as far as Lake Urft. The artist, sculptor Willy Meller, purposefully created similarities between the torchbearer and another sculpture: the ‘master hero’ in the hall of honour, erected to commemorate fallen Nazis, particularly the ‘martyrs’ killed in Hitler’s putsch attempt of 1923.

For the cadets the torchbearer served as a guiding principle for their perceived distinction of being the ‘master race’. The inscription, which draws from Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount both in phrasing and in content, directly addresses the cadets: “You are the torchbearers of the Nation, you carry forth the light of spirit in the fight for Adolf Hitler”. The raised torch is a reference to the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind. It fits in with the symbolism of light, popular in National Socialism, and was politically reinterpreted: The flame symbolised the rebirth of the nation through the victory of Nazi-Germany.

When the U.S. soldiers captured the Ordensburg in 1945, they fired their guns at the torchbearer and other sculptures. The bullet marks are still clearly visible. Hitler's master race is the topic of a permanent exhibition in Vogelsang: “Destiny: Master Race. National Socialist Ordensburgen – Between Fascination and Crime”.

Vogelsang 34, 53937 Schleiden, Allemagne