Democracy Road

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Hambach Castle today

Amalie Struve * Mannheim, † New York

Two-wheeled inventor Karl Drais, expropriated to Karlsruhe after 1849

Since September 7, 2007, the Road of Democracy has been commemorating the political awakening to democracy in the region in 1848 (German Revolution) as a holiday and cultural road in southwestern Germany, following the example of other tourist roads such as the Castle Road or the Baroque Road. It is about 280 km long between Freiburg im Breisgau (South Baden) and Frankfurt am Main (Hesse). The topic of “Democracy in Germany” comes up in school lessons, but very few people can look back on relatives in their own family who were involved in the efforts of the time. Visits to the places along the Road of Democracy offer opportunities for identification, showing that democracy is made by people and does not fall from the sky.

On it lie many monuments commemorating individual participants. Some, however, are more or less anonymous communal graves of the “insurgents” who were shot at the time. The word “Prussian”, on the other hand, still has the connotation in Baden of the intervention troops of that time (federal troops). So far, there are a total of 63 stations along this history route. Through a better museum-didactic preparation, connections are to be made comprehensible. In this way, it should be shown what democracy meant in 19th century Germany.

Emergence, special features

The project was initiated by the cities of Karlsruhe and Offenburg in 2005 and officially began on September 7, 2007 with the presentation of the guidebook Die Straße der Demokratie. A Route Companion on the Trails of Freedom at Hambach Castle. Uniform marking and information dissemination facilitates the overview. The good experience gained and the knowledge accumulated during the 150th anniversary celebrations in 1998 should not be lost. The participating towns have decided on a new type of town twinning on a theme in a lengthy process. Tourism marketing (holiday route) and political enlightenment will be connected in a hitherto unique form, across national borders, over a wide area in this new “road through history”.

Karl Mathy speaks of Mannheim’s town hall, protected from protesting supporters of Hecker by vigilantes.

From Frankfurt to Mainz and Mannheim to Lörrach, visitors can travel in the footsteps of the freedom movement – from the French Revolution through the Vormärz period to the present day – in the German southwest and, with the help of buildings, museums, squares and other places of remembrance, use the one guidebook to get to know places, people and the common liberal democratic traditions of a region. The bourgeois revolution in German history often appears in general as a national struggle for liberation against the many monarchies – but it is always linked to the democracy movements of neighbouring countries such as Switzerland and Austria, and first and foremost in France with the February Revolution. This also repeatedly brings to mind that German democracy is a (difficult) part of Europe’s history and cannot be viewed in isolation as a national uprising. Conversely, the Europe of today would be unimaginable without the personal commitment of many people in the 19th century – especially in the initially failed revolution of 1848/49.

The Road of Democracy was created by the Rastatt Memorial to the Freedom Movements in German History, the Hambach Castle Foundation and the eleven cities of Bruchsal, Frankfurt am Main, Freiburg im Breisgau, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, Mainz, Mannheim, Landau, Lörrach, Neustadt an der Weinstraße and Offenburg, as well as the two state centers for political education in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. The first event on the road was a future conference at Hambach Castle on 7 September 2007.

Route overview, stations

From north to south, the route, which runs predominantly through the Upper Rhine Plain, follows the B9, B38 and B36 trunk roads, but the region is also served by a dense network of cycle paths and public transport. The newly built Rhine Valley railway line was of decisive importance in the war. Side trips to the Oden, Black Forest and Alsace are also worthwhile from a historical point of view in some places. In the following, some of the 63 stations are explained with references to linked articles.

The Paulskirche in Frankfurt today

  • Frankfurt – National Assembly, Paulskirche, on September 18 barricade fights, Robert Blum, Heinrich von Gagern
  • Mainz – The Younger Dalberg Court was the scene of a treason trial from 23 May to 8 June 1850 against 77 democrats. The municipal theatre was the meeting place of the people and at the same time the headquarters of the citizens’ militia. In the main cemetery, the so-called Prussian Monument commemorates the Prussian soldiers who died in the street fight on 21 May.
  • Goddelau near Darmstadt: Büchner Museum (Pre-March)
  • Mannheim was a political and military centre in the southwest before and after Frankfurt. Barricade fights on 27 February 1848, demands of the Mannheim People’s Assembly, place of activity of Karl Drais
  • Heidelberg – Liberal and nationally minded students at the university joined with farmers and citizens to oppose the positions of the reaction. The Heidelberg Assembly was a meeting of 51 liberal and democratic politicians on 5 March 1848 at the “Badischer Hof” inn
  • Kislau Castle, a former summer residence and bathing resort of the Prince-Bishop of Speyer, becomes a place of internment for the Baden freedom fighters in 1849 after the defeat, among the prisoners many students from Heidelberg.
  • Hambach Castle – 1832, pre-March, first mass protest meeting of modern times in Germany, near Neustadt an der Weinstrasse
  • Landau in the then Bavarian Palatinate – Konrad Krez, also later an emigrant and then a general in the Union Army in the USA
  • Waghäusel – in the battle near Waghäusel the revolutionary army won over Prussian units (June 21, 1849, Ludwik Mierosławski – French-born officer of Polish origin and second commander-in-chief of the Baden revolutionary army)
  • Karlsruhe – Baden Revolution, Karl Drais, other landmarks are the Old Baden House of Estates (1822, the first German parliament building), 1864 the first German administrative court, 1893 the first German girls’ grammar school and since 1951 the Federal Constitutional Court.
  • Memorial to the freedom movements in German history Rastatt – On July 23, 1849, the united revolutionary and parts of the regular Baden army surrendered here. (This museum was an idea giver of the new street, around 1980 itself initiated by the Federal President at that time Gustav Heinemann)
  • Offenburg – in the house Salmen people meetings (for example the Offenburger assembly 1848), Franz Sigel assembled here the badischen Freischaren.

Freiburg, Historic Department Store at the Münsterplatz

Constance Town Hall. Majolica relief by Johannes Grützke (1996/98) on the Hecker Uprising

  • Freiburg – Barricade fights against Baden and Hesse federal troops on Easter Sunday 1848. From 1946 to 1949, the Historic Department Store on Münsterplatz was incidentally the parliament building. On 22 November 1946, a democratic state assembly met in the Kaisersaal for the first time in Baden after 1933. There, the French governor Pierre Pène handed over the independent leadership to the people. The assembly drew up the constitution, which was put to the vote on 18 May 1947. The Baden State Parliament, elected at the same time as the referendum, held its first session here on 29 May.
  • Lörrach – In the former inn Hirschen was a meeting place of the newspaper reading club. Gustav and Amalie Struve. Emma Herwegh, a republican and the first female army leader in German history

Republican Government Gazette No. 1 (Gustav Struve)

Memorial for the killed democrats in front of Bastion 30 in Rastatt


  • A regular local street of the same name, incidentally a rarity, exists in Breitenworbis and in Battern (district of Haynrode). Rue de la démocratie is also not common in France, possibly because of its echoes of the years after 1789. Instead, a Rue de la République is often found, with the term ” republic” being representative of ideals such as freedom and equality.
  • With the “Road of Remembrance and Human Rights”(Chemin de la memoire et des droits de l’homme; with a focus on the years 1943-1944), there is a similar project in Alsace, supported there by private individuals and municipalities, which crosses the Rhine near Rastatt.
  • Dani Karavan created the artwork “Way of Human Rights” in Nuremberg near the Germanic National Museum.
  • The Neue Rheinische Zeitung was given the subtitle: Organ der Demokratie. Cologne, 1848 and 1849.
  • The Democracy Wall – the opposite, in word, of any democracy movement – was a wall newspaper that was the focus of a movement in the People’s Republic of China in the late 1970s as a form of democratic publication.
  • The expression “road to democracy” often stands for political movements or objectives in various countries, e.g. Portugal 1974, Eastern Europe 1989, as in the book by Václav Klaus: On the Road to Democracy. 2005. ISBN 1-56808-143-X. See also civil rights movements
  • In 2006 Ren Zhiyuan, a 27-year-old teacher, was sentenced to ten years in prison in China for, among other things, posting a dissident essay on the Internet entitled “The Road to Democracy”. (According to A I and Human Rights in China, report by of 17 March 2006 and dpa/ai-medienteam of 19 March 2007)

See also

The Bill of Rights

  • The Bill of Rights regulated the rights of the English Parliament vis-à-vis the King as early as 1689 and is considered one of the fundamental documents of parliamentarianism.
  • Forty-Eighters, English for the “Forty-Eighters”, in the USA and Australia means the immigrants who emigrated and found asylum from prosecution after the Revolution (Many monuments).
  • Fundamental rights – especially history of G.
  • Human Rights, Charter of Human Rights of the U N
  • Timetable of Revolutionary Developments from the End of February 1848 in the German Confederation (and the Austrian and Prussian Provinces – including the subsequent Counter-Revolution)
  • Carl Schurz Streets in Germany and USA
  • Tourist themed routes
  • The category Historical Museum in Germany lists relevant museums in the Federal Republic of Germany
  • October Uprising Vienna


  • Susanne Asche, Ernst Otto Bräunche (editors for the S d D Working Group): Straße der Demokratie – Revolution, Verfassung und Recht. Info Verlag, Karlsruhe, 2011, 2nd edition. 300 pages with overview map. ISBN 978-3-88190-483-4 (A scholarly guidebook produced through the joint efforts of those involved. The price of this book, by the way, is symbolic of the year of this German revolution: 18.48 euros)
  • Ralf Burgmaier: A Road Station of Democracy. Offenburg and Karlsruhe have launched the “Road of Democracy” / Presentation at Hambach Castle. In: Badische Zeitung of 25 August 2007.

Historical Overview:

  • Wilhelm Blos: The German Revolution. History of the German Movement of 1848 and 1849, illustrated by Otto E. Lau. Edited and introduced by Hans J. Schütz. Reprint of the 1893 edition, Dietz, Berlin / Bonn 1978, ISBN 3-8012-0030-2 (With contemporary illustrations and documents).
  • Dieter Dowe, Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, Dieter Langewiesche (eds.): Europa 1848. Revolution und Reform. J.H.W. Dietz Nachfolger, Bonn, 1998. 1295 pp. ISBN 3-8012-4086-X (European Contexts)
  • Alfred Georg Frey, Kurt Hochstuhl: Wegbereiter der Demokratie. The Baden Revolution 1848/49. The Dream of Freedom, Verlag G. Braun, Karlsruhe, 1997, 187 pages. ISBN 3-7650-8168-X (concise, historically well-founded)
  • Lothar Gall (ed.): 1848. Aufbruch zur Freiheit. An exhibition of the German Historical Museum and the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt on the 150th anniversary of the revolution of 1848/49. Nicolai, Frankfurt am Main, 1998. 465 pages. ISBN 3-87584-680-X

Web links