The following article, written by Sebastian Heiser, regarding the naming of the street leading to the new Daimler distribution center, was published on December 21st 2012 in the online newspaper Taz.
Idea of the Pirate Party – Berlin provokes Daimler
The street at the new distribution centre will be named after Edith Kiss, who worked as a forced laborer for the company.
Located directly next to the river Spree in the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Daimler is currently developing their new distribution center. In this new thirteen-story building, close to the train station ‘Ostbahnhof’, up to 1200 people are going to be employed. There is going to be enough space in the basement for a showroom for all new car models. The company would like to have a prestigious address, and has put forward the some names, for which it would like its street to be named from: Bertha Benz, the wife and business partner of automobile inventor, and Baroness Mercédès Jellinek, the titular saint of the automobile.
However, for the Green Party, who are the largest group in the parliament district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and also the party which provides the district mayor, that was out of the question. “They can build their headquarters here, but it’s not our job to help with public relations management” said the Green Party group chairman Paula Riester.
At the district Commission’s meeting, who is in charge of advising on the renaming of streets, the representatives of Daimler were not able to make a point for the company. Instead, a proposal was raised to name the street after Erne Merck, who drove car races in the 1920s sponsored by Mercedes. However Daimler rejected this proposal. The minutes of the meeting state: “However, this proposal did not receive the approval of Mr. Felgenhauer/Daimler Real Estate GmbH, since this name is hardly recognized by people nowadays.”
The Pirate Party then placed a fourth name in the game. Again, the name of a woman, as the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has resolved to name streets only after women, for achiving parity between female and male street names. This fourth name was Edith Kiss.
The sculptress from Budapest who was deported by the Nazis in 1944 at the age of 39 because of her Jewish faith, and sent to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück. In the Daimler-Benz plant in Ludwigsfelde, south of Berlin, Kiss assembled aircraft engines under inhumane conditions with more than 1,000 other female forced laborers.
The “working group confrontations” states: “Edith Kiss never spoke about her experiences in the concentration camp and tried to express her memories with her art. In just a few weeks she created the 30 Gouache-paintings for her album ‘deportations’.” Her later paintings often reflected the suffering of deportation as well. In 1966, she committed suicide.
On Wednesday 19th December 2012, the District Parliament decided on renaming the road after Edith Kiss. In addition to the Pirate Party also the Green Party, the SPD and the Left voted for the proposal, as the Pirate parliamentarian Ralf Gerlich then wrote on Twitter. Only the CDU was abstaining the vote – but they are not represented well in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. In the last election, they got 7.9% of the votes.
“We think it is good to remember the history of the forced laborers and to confront Daimler with the dark side of their history” said Jessica Zinn from the Pirate Party faction. Bertha Benz was from the beginning out of the question because she was an early supporter of National Socialism and personally corresponded with Hitler. Zinn: “It was outrageous that Daimler has raised such a proposal.”
As that the decision was final against the name suggested by Mercedes-Benz, the company was trying to put on a good face: “It is important and right to commemorate the victims of National Socialism. Therefore, we support the decision of the District Assembly.” reads a statement from the company.
More Information (in German):
* Protocol of the Commission meeting, where the Daimler representatives stood up for the renaming of the street after Bertha Benz or Mercédès Jellinek (PDF, agenda item 5).
* Statement by Daimler, after the district has opted instead for Edith Kiss. (PDF)
The inauguration of the street is going to be on February the 13th 2014 starting at 5pm in Mühlenstraﬂe 30, 10243 Berlin-Friedrichshain. Jana Borkamp, the district councilwoman for finance, culture and education is going to deliver a speech.