I'm a/an . I live/have lived .
archive educator

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I remember the day well. I was sitting in the reading room at the Archive preparing material for pupils who wanted to do research there for a research paper on the history of Cologne. I was startled by a loud rumbling on the flat roof of the reading room. I initially continued working because I assumed the noise was caused by construction work being carried out. Then it got more and more hectic in the building. I could hear voices and shouting from outside but didn’t realise what was going on. Finally, a former staff member came into the room and told us to vacate the building immediately. Then I heard a colleague yelling from the front entrance: “Everyone out now!”

I pushed my chair under the table and went to the exit. From outside someone called, “Run, run, don’t stop!” I ran to the next street corner, turned around and saw the ruins of the archive building.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

I see a colleague who left the building just after me coming towards me as he emerged from the cloud of dust from the collapsed building. Behind me a passer-by asked, “What happened?” The former staff member of the archive who had warned me answered, “The Historical Archive of the City of Cologne has just collapsed.”

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

I immediately tried to get hold of my daughter so that she didn’t hear about the disaster over the news first. I finally got hold of our neighbour’s daughter and asked her to meet my daughter on the way home from school and let her know that I, and probably all of my colleagues, had managed to get out of the building in time. We spent the whole afternoon in a neighbouring hotel where we were provided with drinks and food. Somebody brought a large box. It was full of small chocolate bars. The Chocolate Museum had sent them.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

The collapse still influences my everyday working life in the Archive. Initially it involved shift work at the site of the collapse and in the so-called emergency recovery centre. Today, it still means that we don’t have access to all archive materials.

journalist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

At work. I’m an eyewitness. The building where I work is about 150 m from the site of the collapse. I was sitting with my boss in his office on the fourth floor that looked directly onto the archive. It was a very bright and sunny day. It began with a loud rumbling and the windows and walls started vibrating slightly – it was as if a very old and heavy cargo plane was flying over the building (we even went to the window and started looking for it). Then there was a huge bang and I heard a colleague yell that the building, the house was collapsing and then I saw the Archive collapse towards Severinstrasse. My colleague yelled something about “blasting” and that nobody had been informed but it was obvious to me that it was an accident. Our building shook, there were aftershocks.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

How quickly it got really dark and everything was covered in debris. A bright spring day that changed into a 9/11 scenario in a matter of minutes. – The monstrosity of the whole disaster. This colossus of a building that simply collapsed. (Whereby “simply” is of course completely inappropriate. It had already been known for several years that the foundations were riddled with holes. The buildings had been swaying for months and you could see how the pipes that pumped the water out of the construction pit were increasing in number every day …).

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Yes, great fear. Fear that our building would collapse too, after all it is also located over a large subway tunnel. Fear of the fountain that gushed 50 metres into the air out of the site of the collapse (gas, water, explosion?). Fear because nobody really knew what had happened. The press called us to get an exclusive report … so much for the authenticity of live media coverage … the fear and confusion of everybody who called here e.g. the people running the old people’s home next door. – Astonishment at how quickly the air was literally full of rescue helicopters making an infernal noise and all that against the background of a completely darkened sky with masses of debris in the air.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

So far every day, because, among other things, traffic is still greatly disrupted. Immediately after the disaster our building was off limits because it was thought that it could collapse too. I clearly remember how it was when we were allowed back in for the first time. The feelings of anxiety and at the same time the emotion with which we greeted each other. It really was as if we had “escaped the jaws of death”. Apart from that I also pass the site where the new archive is to be built on my way to work. Five years and still a huge hole. However some changes did happen on the new site this year. Some of the vacant buildings have been pulled down … for outsiders though there is no construction in sight.

visual artist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

It was a sunny spring day and I was standing on my balcony talking to my neighbour, we had both recently moved into the new building. It wasn’t until later that afternoon – I was teaching at an art school for young people – that I heard about the collapse. A girl told me about it. But I wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation. In the evening, I returned to Cologne after work and ate at the Turkish place next door. Some men from the THW (Federal Agency for Technical Relief) were just getting something to eat and their emergency vehicles were parked outside. The snack bar didn’t want any money from them.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The sunny, fresh spring day on the balcony with a clear, peaceful view to the south and the Severin’s Quarter (scene of the accident). A blue sky, similar to the sky on the 11th September 2001.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

A collapsed building like in an earthquake zone. I remember a report in the newspaper about a construction worker who told some of the archive visitors to immediately evacuate the building.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

By various attempts to come to terms with what had happened: “ArchivKomplex” and “Köln kann besser”.

pensioner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Yes, I remember well! I was on the ‘last bus’ that drove past the archive coming from the cathedral and heading towards Chlodwigplatz. I heard about the collapse when I got there. I was shocked and couldn’t help thinking that if it had happened about 5 minutes earlier it could have hit the bus.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

Every time when something about the Archive is broadcast, discussed or in the newspaper I’m reminded of the bus story.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

I was at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Bonn and helped to empty boxes of documents that were then entered into the computer. Other than that I collected “Sträußchen” (small bouquets of flowers) – on the corner of Löwengasse / Severinstrasse – for the Rose Monday Carnival Parade in 2014.

artist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Yes, I remember very well! I was working as a production assistant at Deutschlandfunk (German National Radio). My boss called out from the next room that a house in Cologne had collapsed and we immediately tried to find out where the house was, the approximate address was already published on the Kölner Stadtanzeiger website. Just by chance a colleague had been there a week earlier and he immediately phoned the director to ask whether it was the Archive. It was a crazy day. Many of my colleagues live in that part of town and were affected in one way or the other.

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Yes, I remember very well! I was working as a production assistant at Deutschlandfunk (German National Radio). My boss called out from the next room that a house in Cologne had collapsed and we immediately tried to find out where the house was, the approximate address was already published on the Kölner Stadtanzeiger website. Just by chance a colleague had been there a week earlier and he immediately phoned the director to ask whether it was the Archive. It was a crazy day. Many of my colleagues live in that part of town and were affected in one way or the other.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

Worry, disbelief, stress at work – everything was focussed on the collapse, both on a personal and professional level. One colleague went straight home. It wasn’t clear where his daughter who went to the neighbouring school was. Another colleague is friends with a couple that lost their apartment – the blue cupboard belonged to them … so many crazy stories!

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

In the weeks following, another colleague told me that she had been in a bus that went past the Archive and stopped in front of it. A construction worker told everyone in the bus to get out quickly, that it was collapsing. She ran, hailed a passing car and asked the driver get her out of there before she even knew what had happened.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Before the collapse I didn’t even know the Archive existed although I often passed it on the bus. Now, I’m constantly confronted by it … often in the course of my everyday life, simply because the bus still takes another route or because the KVB has yet again increased its prices. It is constantly reported about; it has become a part of the city’s history, landscape, identity.

architect

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Yes, I remember the day of the collapse. I was at the funeral of the father of friends of mine – a well-known Cologne Architect. I was on my bike on Aachener Strasse, on the way from the Melaten Cemetery to the wake, when my phone rang. It was my father’s secretary who was very agitated: where were we, she was so worried – the city archive had collapsed. She had just heard it on the radio. A few minutes later my eldest daughter called. We pushed our bikes while she told us that the “ugly building opposite the Friedrich Wilhelm High School” had collapsed. Her friend L. – a student at the FWHS at the time – had been sitting in the school’s large glass hall and had seen as the building came crashing down towards her. For us it was completely unreal: The sky was blue with only a few clouds, it was seasonally cold but fine, we had just buried someone – and then this building had supposedly just fallen into a hole? And for me personally there was the further reason that the majority of my father’s comprehensive archive, the “Vorlass” or “pre-death estate” of his large and acknowledged body of architectural work, had also just fallen into that hole. My father was also at the funeral. Many people from the Cologne community were gathered; several of them also had their Vorlass in the City Archive. Among other things it wasn’t clear how much of the – recently turned – “Nachlass” or “post-death estate” of the architect who had just been buried had fallen into the hole.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The blue-white sky and the quiet in the Gereons Quarter in contrast to the surreal-incomprehensible-overwhelming images in my head.

The room where we stood next to a low table with food on it holding glasses or canapés, while I talked to my parents about the collapse. My inner downcast gaze – in reality I was of course looking at my parents – and my bated breath.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

I changed my routes. I didn’t go to the site of the collapse, on the contrary I ignored it for a long time – weeks, two months?

The former city archive, the site of the collapse, is on the route that I always took by bike to get to the centre of town from our place. After the collapse I always rode along the Rhine. I remember that I could only let it get close to me bit by bit. To do this, I needed a blind spot.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Yes, I was confronted by it in many ways: I began to suffer because of Cologne. Everything that has gone, went – and is going – wrong in the city really hurt me. For me personally a break with the city and my feeling for it took place. Even though I had previously felt at home here, a completely different feeling now dominated: Something like resignation and anger linked this event mentally with the waste incineration plant, trade fair halls, … (“Damn it! The tower of St. John the Baptist Church starting leaning some time ago, how stupid can you be?”)

sociologist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was sitting in the community library and heard some boys talking about the collapse of the archive, which had just happened (on the same day).

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

A) The neighbouring house was ripped open giving a view of the inside, not a doll’s house but a terrifying cross section. B) The picture of the office wing that was partially left untouched… by the collapse and was left standing as a fragment next to the pit.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Luckily my former colleagues all survived the collapse, but some of the neighbours were unfortunately not so lucky.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I occasionally encountered the initiative “Köln kann auch anders” (Cologne can be different). The question of what caused the collapse is still occupying the courts and the public.

The Archive was THE collection of sources on the history of Cologne. I haven’t come across such comprehensive and sensory access to large quantities of handwritten and process-generated sources anywhere other than in Cologne.

draughtswoman

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

In my office. Masses of emergency vehicles drove past on Bonner Strasse heading towards the city centre. I was on the phone to a colleague in Leipzig who asked what was going on in Cologne – he could hear the sirens in the background. Disbelief when I found out what had happened.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

None? Or perhaps yes – the emergency and rescue teams that were shown on television.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Mr Feldhoff (Neuhoff) the chief of the fire brigade at the time and his calm and composed way of talking about what had happened.

Mr Schramma, the then mayor, who was the first to deny “all” responsibility.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Every time I pass it.

I personally had nothing to do with the Archive, I was never inside.

librarian

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I work close-by and heard a lot of fire engines and police around lunchtime; I saw a massive cloud of smoke and lots of helicopters. Then I heard about it on the radio. I drive past it every day on my way home. It makes me feel uncomfortable, the sight of it.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The huge cloud of smoke and the helicopters hovering overhead.

artist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

“Yes, I was in Düsseldorf and heard about it on the radio – I was paralysed and terrified that more people may have been killed!”

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The hole, black, full of water, cold smoke, dust, muted screams, …

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The traumatised children in the bus that had managed to stop at the last moment!

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I work around the corner – i.e. I’m often confronted by it!

In collaboration with ArchivKomplex we constantly think about how the site could be used in the future! The construction of the new building at another site is also a problematic issue!

scientist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Yes, I remember. I had been to the Archive only a few weeks before. Colleagues and friends of mine were working at the Archive on the day of the collapse. I was in Berlin and read about the collapse on a live ticker on the FAZ (newspaper) website. I immediately reached for my phone and tried to get in touch with my contacts in Cologne.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

I don’t have any image in my mind because there were no real pictures of the day of the collapse.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Opposite the Archive is a school. It was pure luck that the Archive collapsed and not the school. Instead of two fatalities there would have been hundreds of dead school pupils. The public outcry in Cologne would have been much greater.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Initially we were told that the Archive was lost forever. Meanwhile, it seems that a lot of material can be painstakingly saved and made accessible again. The fact that State of North Rhine-Westphalia has now already reduced initial plans to build a new, adequate Archive is regrettable. A cultural memory of European standing should be better supported and protected.

kiosk owner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was in Cape Town and a friend in Munich sent me a text message about the collapse.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

I rode past the site of the collapse on my bike – gaping emptiness! Shocking.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The cat that died in the collapse.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

An autonomous group of young people has to make way for the “new” Archive that is to be built on the property that has been their meeting point for years… sad.

a dance and theatre actor

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

On the 3rd of March 2009 I had Tango training with a dance partner and immediately after the collapse I was on my bike heading straight towards the accident site. I saw the huge number of fire engines and looked for a detour around the cordoned off area. I constantly heard police sirens and constantly saw police vehicles. The first news I heard was at 3 pm when got home.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The cordon at Severinstrasse and the row of six to eight heavy fire engines.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

I saved a lot of photos that were published on news websites. Two of those photos always come to mind when I think about the day of the collapse: 1. The pile of rubble with a cloud of dust above it. 2. The view of the relatively small pile of rubble after the cloud had dissipated. Most of the rubble of the seven-storey building had disappeared into the depths on both sides of the construction pit.

My first thought after hearing the news: This should never have happened. This must be the thoughtlessness and irresponsibility of several institutions and people put together, otherwise this could never have happened.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Several weeks after the collapse, I joined a citizen’s group that was formed out of outrage over what had happened and over the excuses of the mayor at the time. To this day, I participate in ground-level politics dealing with this topic.

I am concerned with the question of how the work of the city council, administration and mayor need to be changed so that responsibility is perceived effectively and consciously. But also the question of how more transparency and more citizen participation can be achieved in Cologne politics.

The Archive and its collapse are important reasons for me to take political action. The Archive has little meaning for me culturally or as a source for research.

IT specialist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

At work. I heard about it on the news. After work I passed nearby the accident site on a tram. You could already see the first crane from there. I followed the news during the day and watched it on television in the evening.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The image of the construction pit and the half-collapsed house in which people lost their lives.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Wreaths and flowers were removed from the fence at the site of the collapse.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Although I didn’t use it, the “memory” of the city was administered here and made available to those who could use it. This is also very important for later generations.

vicar

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I worked at the Melanchthon Academy on Kartäuserwall (about 800 m from the Archive). When I heard the news on the radio I went to the site of the collapse to see if anybody needed support in the form of counselling. I was told to go to the Mercure Hotel and ask if anybody needed help there. Only a few of the victims had gathered there and they were already provided for. The air was dusty and spirits distraught.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The half ripped-open house with the young man on the second storey who was making a phone call in his living room right next to the gaping hole.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

A lot of memories and stories. The memorial service (2014) at the site of the collapse was outstanding. While the Rose Monday Parade passed by only a few metres away – both turned out well!

trade fair and event constructor

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

At home – in front of the television – disbelief.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The blue cupboard in the half-collapsed house that belonged to a friend of mine who first heard about the accident on television while on holiday in Australia.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The words of warning spoken by the pastor of St. Stephan’s church, who talked about the history of the quarter and the meaning of the street names with the ending –bach before the collapse.

customer advisor

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was at school in class. My mother worked there as a cleaner after the collapse.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

There was chaos everywhere.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I was confronted by it because my mother helped out and told me how much still needs to be done and how chaotic it is.

journalist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

For everyone who lives in this city the collapse of the Historical Archive of Cologne is probably an event like 9/11 for the people of New York – even though of course the number of casualties is thankfully incomparable. Everyone will always remember where they were, when they heard the news. On that day, I was in the editorial office when just after 2 pm the news came over the news agencies that a building in the city centre had collapsed. We saw on a regional website that the building was at Waidmarkt. I was aware that, besides two schools, the Historical Archive was also there. After a few phone calls it was confirmed that it was in fact this building. I immediately got on my bike and cycled the 10 minutes to Waidmarkt, which was already provisionally cordoned off. Nevertheless, it was possible to see the site of the collapse. A short time later, the first press conference was held by the city and fire brigade, at which I asked whether they were aware that employees of the Archive had complained about movement in the building for some time and that this had also caused cracks in some pipes in the cellar.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

Of course the huge pile of rubble at the site of the former Archive is what I remember most about that day. And the apartments of the residents half-destroyed by the collapse of the neighbouring house. One had green wallpaper; in another there was a blue cupboard – cheerful, bright colours above a field of debris. In that instant it became clear that this wasn’t just about historically valuable archival materials, but above all about people. Shortly before, my youngest son drove in a bus with his school class along that street, where there were now only piles of rubble.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

In particular my last visit there not long before [the collapse]: a tour through the archive with Eberhard Illner who knew the inventory like no other. He accompanied me through the dark rooms, past hundreds of metal shelves. Occasionally he would stop, pull out archive boxes and say, “Look, these are Paul Celan’s letters, this is René König’s legacy, those are Jacque Offenbach’s musical scores. Illner, now director of the Engels House in Wuppertal, loved this archive. He understood the immeasurable cultural value of hundreds of years of Cologne, German and European history. When I spoke to him immediately after the collapse, he felt personally accountable to the lenders to whom he had promised the safety of their loans in his house. For this reason, time and again in the lead up to the collapse, he drew attention to the movement of the building and photographed the resulting damage.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

At Deutschlandfunk (German National Radio) we have reported regularly about the Archive, the collapse, the following investigations and the reluctance of the City of Cologne to take responsibility. Personally I am affected by the absence of the Archive in one area that I have been pursuing journalistically for many years: The search for Nazi plunder in private and public collections. The Historical Archive of the City of Cologne, for a long time one of the leading art capitals of Europe, was home to the estates of many art collectors, which are now inaccessible. For a long time to come, it will therefore be impossible for many, primarily Jewish families, to establish claims to artworks that were stolen between 1933 and 1945.

pensioner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Yes, I remember the day of the collapse. I was at home. I had the day off. I was listening to the news when it happened and heard about the accident on WDR (West German Radio). I couldn’t believe my ears and thought, that’s not possible! Our City Archive!? I carried out research there only recently. But we need it! I know people who work there. What about Mr Frehde who sits in the glass box at reception? Later, I turned on the television and saw the first images. Speechless. It was unreal.

For several years, I have been very involved on a voluntary basis with the association “Werkstatt für Ortsgeschichte Köln-Brück e.V.” (Workshop for local history in Köln-Brück). On the evening of the 03.03.2009, we had our traditional beginning-of-year dinner at a restaurant in Brück. Of course the collapse of the Archive was the main topic of the evening. A merry gathering of doctorates and no less committed hobby historians on the day the City Archive collapsed. WHAT AN IRONY OF LIFE! One member of our group had connections to the Archive administration and told us details and circumstances. It was quickly decided: We’ll help with the recovery. In the following days we put our names down on a list of possible helpers.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

I see myself standing shocked in front of the television watching the images from Severinstrasse – without comprehending what had happened.

I see the silhouette of the Church of St. Georg.

I see fire fighters in “full regalia”.

I see flashing lights, fire engines.

I hear sirens.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Yes – a lot. I could write a book about it.

– The grief over the death of the two young men.

– The grief over the death of the elderly lady who survived but didn’t have a home anymore.

– I see our Lord Mayor, Fritz Shramma, who had hurried back to Cologne from holiday looking as if he had aged by decades and making a confused statement in front of the television cameras.

– The joy about a cat that survived, found unscathed in the ruins by a young fireman from Köln-Brück. Stefan L. was at the same Kindergarten as my daughter.

– The astonishment of holding a book about the Geschichtswerkstatt Brück that I helped publish during the “wet recovery”.

– The wound in the city that is accessible in the form of an accident site.

– The never-ending detours around the Waidmarkt area.

– Taking part in the memorial service on the first anniversary of the collapse.

– The funeral music played by the bands Tröt op Jöck and Dicke Luft.

– The black tears in the city’s coat of arms on the construction site fence.

– The gathering on the second anniversary of the collapse – during carnival, this time in costume.

– The subway song to the tune of Karl Berbuer’s “Do laachste dech kapoot, dat nennt mer Camping” (You laugh yourself silly, that’s what we call camping). Since 2011, everybody sings: “Do laachste dech kapott, dat nennt mer U-Bahn, do laachste dech kapott, he jeng dr Zoch” (You laugh yourself silly, that’s what we call a subway, you laugh yourself silly, the ‘parade/train’ used to pass by here”)

– The new slogan of the KVB: “We move people” … and houses.

– The sentence, “we’re going for an Absacker* in the Südstadt” now has an awful connotation. It’s not used anymore. (*“Absacker” is German for “one for the ditch” or “nightcap”, the literal translation is “a collapser”.)

– Irritation and stomach-ache when I once again held original documents from the Mülheim District in the Regional Archives in Düsseldorf.

– The grief that I would never see the original documents pertaining to my children’s great grandfather.

– The joy that I still own some of the documents from this man’s life and that I scanned and translated his diary.

– Of the Day of Archives 2010 and the exhibition about the restoration.

– Of the new technical term “Köln-Flocken” that has a bad aftertaste, very different to the Kölln-Flocken from Elmshorn. (Kölln-Flocken from Elmshorn are rolled oats from the company “Kölln”. The term Köln-Flocken is a play on words and refers to the tiny fragments of archival documents destroyed when the Archive collapsed. They have little text and there is no way of tracing their origin.)

– Some nice friendships were formed during the time at the EVZ (Emergency Recovery Centre).

– The enjoyment of working with history has remained.

A much-used quote by Erich Kästner, “Nothing good will come, unless you do some!”

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I helped with the recovery of buried archival documents. I showered the documents in the schoolyard of the neighbouring Friedrich Wilhelm High School, packed them in plastic wrap, wrote down any information still discernable about their origins and then put the fragile things in crates. They were collected every evening by the company Reisswolf and transported for shock freezing.

The archive staff who lost their jobs took good care of the helpers. At the end of a shift we’d sit wet and grubby with a packed lunch in the schoolyard. It was good to be able to do something. It was a process of mourning.

I have to find new approaches for my personal historical research and in the research carried out by the Werkstatt für Ortsgeschichte.

The Werkstatt no longer has access to the documents 868/23 – 26 and 403/V-1-129 for its current work on the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the mayor’s office of Merheim and the district office of Mülheim into the City of Cologne on the 01.04.1914. Thank goodness we had a lot of these documents reproduced in 1992.

 

school-leaver

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

On the day of the collapse, I was playing basketball in the gymnasium of a school right next-door to the City Archive. We didn’t notice the collapse at all. We did notice that a surprising number of rescue workers drove past the hall. About half or three-quarters of an hour later, the caretaker came into the hall and told us the Archive had collapsed. We had to leave the hall immediately. When we went out onto the schoolyard we saw a half-collapsed house and that was when we actually realised what had happened.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The image that I remember most is the sight of the half-collapsed house. Most of all, the apartment on the top floor which still had an armchair in it.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

It was my girlfriend’s birthday that day and by chance I ran into an old friend whose daughter went to the FWHS (Friedrich Wilhelm High School).

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

It was a huge issue at my school. We were transferred to the polytechnic and for the first week after the collapse we didn’t have any classes. We couldn’t go back to our school for weeks and lessons at the polytechnic were very improvised. The teachers didn’t talk to us pupils about it much. We were told we could visit the school psychologist but as far as I know nobody went. The collapse remained present for us pupils because a running track was ripped open. Other than that it was never talked about at school again.

-

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was at work. I heard the news and then I immediately cycled to the site of the collapse – because I just couldn’t believe it.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

Concrete mixers. Hundreds of concrete mixers in a long line backed all the way up to the street ‘Im Weidenbach’, waiting to fill the enormous hole.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Nobody was responsible. The construction site is not accessible.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

My cousin (who I don’t like) now has a job restoring the archive materials. He’s an historian.

businesswoman

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

When I heard about the accident on the news I was shocked. The Archive is the memory of the city.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The building was gone, completely gone, like in a war. It looked just like August Sander’s photographs from 1945.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

I remember the two casualties, the destroyed apartments and the hole in Severinstrasse.

employee

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was in Bergheim and was at work.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The roof of the building – BLACK –.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The silly excuses and ridiculous attempts at explanation by the city officials and the KVB. Everybody in Cologne has learnt not to assume responsibility!

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Press, media – my own thoughts.

History is memory that can and should show the way to the future.

teacher

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was at work and a colleague told me about it.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The photograph of the collapse in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger. Complete chaos.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

My girlfriend works with people doing “one-euro jobs” (a government scheme for reintroducing long-term unemployed back into the work force). One participant pointed to a picture of a half-destroyed apartment in the local newspaper and wept, “That’s my bathroom”.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Only by articles I read in the newspaper and reports on TV. I find the death of two people and those responsible pointing fingers at each other much “worse” than the collapse itself.

businesswoman

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was in my office at work. Colleagues from Cologne called from overseas and asked what was going on in Cologne.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I found the recovery of the documents quite spectacular. I was also impressed that the construction site workers were able to warn the people in the neighbouring house at the last minute. Unfortunately it will never be completely clarified what actually caused the collapse. Two people were killed in the collapse.

accountant

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Oh yes, unfortunately, I shudder to think about it…!

I heard about it later in the bus because I couldn’t get to Severinstr.!

Even the bus drivers were only given the information that all roads too and from Severinstrasse and Heumarkt etc. were closed… you could only use the lines 1, 9 and 7! But that only worked to a limited degree, because you couldn’t get any further than Deutz! Luckily, I could take a (huge) detour with the regional train…!

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

A scene of complete destruction…! It reminded me of the time around 1952/53 and 54 when there were still a lot of bomb sites …!

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Yes, good memories – of the many years in which we saw the house full of life and intact, and not just at exhibition openings!

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

For me it represented and still represents a huge wound, not external but specifically “internal”, i.e. I just don’t want to think about which and how many treasures have been lost!!! In the one or other case it cannot only be regarded as “Cologne”, but also as “European” belief and knowledge!!

graphic designer

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

At the time of the collapse, I was working at the advertising agency. I heard about it straight away because a colleague works for the THW (Federal Agency for Technical Relief) and he was called away from work for the large-scale operation.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The ruins and crater from the news.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Many dramatic accounts of colleagues searching for buried people under the rubble.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I have often followed the collapse of the Archive with interest, above all the priceless loss of the Archive. I myself have little to do with it.

pensioner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was at the Claudius Therme with a friend: She was in a panic because both her children go to the High School across the road…

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The accident site and the faces of the two young people who lost their lives. I knew one of the young men a little and knew that he worked as an apprentice at the Zimmermann Bakery (central city) and was well liked there. His colleague (Bianca from Croatia) was very, very sad.

artist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

On that Tuesday, the 3rd March 2009, I got a phone call from an acquaintance just after 2 pm who had heard the news over the news agencies. I immediately called one of the archivists I’m friends with at home and who usually works part-time at the Archive, i.e. till 2 pm. Her son answered the phone and told me that his mother had got the news at home but was already on her way back to the Archive… (I later heard that she had had a pile of documents in her hand to take up into the archives when her son had called to say that he was finishing school early. She put the documents back down and went home…)

I had a dentist appointment that afternoon – I cancelled it and tried to get to the site of the accident by bike. A large area around the site of the collapsed building was cordoned off. The police weren’t letting anyone through (not even a young woman in tears asking after her brother who lived in one of the neighbouring houses and who she couldn’t get hold of – perhaps the sister of one of the two victims…). I tried to get a view of the accident site from one of the side streets behind the Archive – in order to finally understand the unfathomable. All I could see was that where the Archive had been, there was now a ghostly gaping emptiness… Helicopters were hovering overhead and you could hear police and fire engine sirens from every direction. Finally, I got hold of my boyfriend in the north of Cologne. He couldn’t believe what was happening and I too had difficulty accepting the “reality” of what had happened. It wasn’t until that evening, when I was sitting on a friend’s bed and saw the images of the ruins of the collapsed building on television that I finally began to realise what this actually meant for the “things” (above all, the artistic and literary works in the widest sense) of my deceased partner. I thought of the more personal, perhaps “insignificant” things that I was particularly attached to. For me it was as if he had died for a second time.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

There are three images:

First: I see the desperate young lady at the cordon trying to talk the policeman into letting her through so that she can look for her brother.

Second: I’m standing in a harmless looking side street in the middle of wailing sirens trying to convince my boyfriend of the reality of the collapse that I myself cannot yet fathom.

Third: I’m sitting next to my friend on her bed and almost physically feel the injuries that have been inflicted on the handwritten manuscripts, small drawings and other personal legacies of my long-term partner; finally my tension dissolves …

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Of course – because I was very closely connected to the archive due to the estates of three family members (my grandfather, my mother and my partner) and particularly through an exhibition that I organised in the archive’s exhibition space in 2005 for my partner and his estate. During this time I got to know the place and people very well. My partner’s estate was listed over a period of three years; the register was completed at the end of January 2009. It alone comprises 350 pages; luckily that survived so that we now know what we could have …

Pretty much immediately after the collapse I started thinking about who decides what or rather whose artistic estates are to be stored in an archive – and whose are not? And who is even in the position to leave behind an artistic estate? If we lived at the other end of the world we would potentially be busy securing our livelihood from early to late and we would possibly not even have the (educational) background necessary to leave behind something like art, literature or recorded history … Admittedly, a somewhat helpless intellectual construct in light of my grief and anger – and in light of the scandalous events that led to the collapse!

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Not long after the collapse I was asked by the StadtRevue to give a statement, as my partner – writer and photographer – was a well-known figure in the Cologne cultural scene. 2009 was a busy year for me with my art and curatorial practice and a long trip in America so that it wasn’t until the big memorial service on the first anniversary of the collapse that I could really confront the subject and slowly began to understand the true implications of the collapse and the loss it had caused. Of course, most of all for the relatives of those who were killed and for those who lost their apartments and belongings, but also for me personally and for the work of my partner as well as research and historical writing in general. It took another year until I could become engaged by dealing with the subject of the collapse artistically – through Elfriede Jelinek’s theatre play “Ein Sturz” (a wordplay for “collapse” and “demise”) and particularly through the exhibition “Best Before …” by Sara Levin in the Neues Kunstforum in Spring 2011, which I helped organise – and was able to talk about the subject in public despite my own traumatic experiences and personal involvement. I found this to be very “healing”. Thus, in the context of discussions about future plans for the site, the idea was born to use temporary artistic interventions on site and elsewhere, to focus on the collapse and its causes and consequences; to keep the memory of this Cologne disaster alive beyond the anniversaries and in so doing “deal with” this “non-place”, which many of those affected are still not able to visit. This idea led to the founding of the initiative ArchivKomplex (www.archivkomplex.de) at the end of 2011, which since then promotes awareness of the many aspects of what happened with public actions and events.

Over and above this, I try to exercise my rights as estate benefactor and holder of the rights to my partner’s written works in the “Interest group of pre-death and post-death estate benefactors”. This group addresses legal questions such as the limitation of claims for compensation, but also the dispute with Archive management about respecting our legitimate interests in the further process of dealing with the consequences of the collapse.

artist and writer

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

After the death of my mother in London 10 years ago I brought the estates of the last generations of my family back to Germany – to that place that not all survivors of nationalist socialism could escape from. I specifically chose this archive because the estate of my great uncle Wilhelm Unger had been kept here since his death in 1985.

Our personal archive comprised of – in addition to original scores from my father (two operas and other musical compositions) and film scripts from my grandfather Alfred Unger – photographs and letters from those family members who were murdered in Nazi Germany. We have no copies of these documents.

pensioner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I heard and saw the helicopters, then I watched the news. I walked to Georgstrasse (directly behind the Archive) because my mother lives there and brought her back to my house.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

It looked like a pile of ruins from my childhood, it seemed familiar to me.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The damage in my mother’s apartment and that a fireman had to accompany me, because I wasn’t supposed to have access.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

By the two deaths.

A large chunk of family history that disappeared. Great pain and very much anger.

commercial clerk

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I can’t remember anything about the day itself. I heard about it on the radio sometime on the 3rd March. The previous evening, my daughter and husband had been to an information event at the Friedrich Wilhelm High School to find out about her changing to the FWHS in the following school year. Well, and on the 03.03. the school was pretty much no longer there.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

Fear for the people buried under the rubble and the realisation that such a catastrophe can even happen in Germany, in Cologne.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The unsettling days until it was clear that the FWHS would continue and would also accept external pupils. The meeting at the Humboldt High School with many parents, pupils and city officials with one question: What now?

civil engineer

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Yes, I remember. I was at home, from where I have a view over the city, and saw that several helicopters were hovering over the southern part of the central city. On the radio news I heard the first reports of the accident in Severinsstrasse. First of all, I couldn’t believe that something like that could happen. But I didn’t go to the accident site because I didn’t want to get in the way.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The images on television and in the newspaper on the next day really shocked me. Because of my earlier line of work I was well aware of the problems involved in working with rail switching systems. As an engineer and tunnel builder the events that led to the collapse of the archive building and neighbouring houses was utterly incomprehensible to me. This is still the case today.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The political and expert statements were completely unsatisfactory and some of the adventurous speculations that were expressed in the aftermath were, from an expert point of view, utterly absurd.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Yes. Because I was director of the municipal Department for Bridges and Urban Railway Construction until 2013, I was very familiar with the plans and construction preparations.

My successor already asked me in April of the year of the disaster to help with clarifying the causes and securing evidence. I was professionally involved with the measures taken for recovery and clarification until April 2011 – for around two years.

I knew the Archive itself quite well, although I never used it on a professional level.

One example of the points of contact:

The Department for Bridges and Urban Railway Construction planned an exhibition in collaboration with the City Archives for the 100th birthday of the Stuttgart professor Fritz Leonhardt, an acclaimed expert who played a significant role in the construction of many buildings and structures in Cologne, in particular the Rhine bridges. This exhibition was to take place in the year of the collapse in the Foyer of the City Archives; to a large extent the preparations were already completed. This was no longer possible. It then took place in the former Diocesan Museum.

pensioner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I remember and was at home. When the news came on the radio, I couldn’t believe it at first. It was the television report that shocked me. I will never forget this disaster.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The collapsed houses – shock. Images like you see in war regions. The worst thing: People died.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Tunnel construction has always been an issue in Cologne. In this case the City of Cologne has failed!

privatier

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was driving back from a holiday and heard about the accident on the car radio.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

I was really shocked and wondered whether any pupils from the FWHS were affected.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

As a school pupil at the high school opposite I saw the building every day for nine years and nevertheless I had no connection to it because it was a sober purpose-built building.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I find the progress or rather the (lack of) clarification utterly scandalous = typical of Cologne?

As already mentioned I had no connection to the building.

businesswoman

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

After I heard about it, I thought about all the people affected by it. I don’t remember where I was anymore. I was worried about a friend of mine and her daughter, who had planned to meet near the Archive that day.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

An enormous deep hole.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Not long before the carnival procession went past there.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

A huge construction site on Severinstrasse. The Archive was of no importance to me – I prefer to live in the now.

artist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was travelling, on the ferry between Santa Teresa/Sardinia and Bonifacio/Corsica. Then I got a text message and then another. I was very anxious because it wasn’t clear how many people had been physically affected/injured/killed by the collapse.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

A photograph taken from the back window of the lecture hall looking across the field of debris at the Icarus on the Friedrich Wilhelm High School.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Yes, I watched a lot of television on the day of the collapse and the days following, as much information as I could get on the local TV on Corsica. I began writing emails and the first controversies started, about whether EVERYTHING could have disappeared. I was shocked, but it was only an objective view of the damaging event (as far as was possible with the feared fatalities that still hadn’t been found at that point in time).

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

My work, which often took me to the archive from 1991 onwards, has been made very difficult by the collapse. I am actively involved with the initiative ArchivKomplex and produced the book “Zeitraffer Waidmarkt – Bildarchiv 2004-2011” (Time lapse Waidmarkt – Photo archive 2004-2011).

historian

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was teaching and wanted to go to the Archive afterwards, I was in the process of finishing my PhD. I saw on my cell phone that my mother had tried to call me ten times. I called her back and she asked me where I was. I answered that I was at the university. She started crying and between sobs said, “The Archive has collapsed! And I’m so happy you weren’t in it!”. She was crying because she was so relieved. But I immediately told her she was a terrible radio listener. She must have misunderstood. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. She picked me up in the car and we drove to the hole that had once been the Archive … now I too wept bitterly.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

My mother and myself standing in shock at the site of the collapse and my colleagues who looked just as shocked. We hardly spoke!

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Afterwards I started calling various colleagues. We didn’t know whether anyone was buried under the rubble. Then I called my doctoral supervisor and told her what had happened. I assured her that I had transcribed all my sources and that my work wasn’t jeopardised.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I wanted to do my postdoctoral project there with the DFG (Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany). The digitalisation of two large collections: Wills and guilds. It was a project very close to my heart. I had to go abroad first to process everything and to appease my anger. This construction site had only ever cost money and caused trouble and had never made any sense. A senseless disaster without rhyme or reason.

photographer and author

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

Research in the Rhineland-Westphalian Industrial Archives. Afterwards deskwork at home. Then a friend who knew I was doing archival research called from Frankfurt. He was pleased to hear my voice.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

No image. Just a vague idea of the loss of cultural heritage and human life. And immense anger about the irresponsibility of it.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

Lots of memories of researching and working in the archive: creating a publication series and the book ‘Jazz in Cologne’ that was largely illustrated with photographs from the Historic Archive, meetings with old staff, visiting exhibitions, researching for texts, e.g. the essay “Die Akte Cologne intim” (The Nude Intimate Cologne) for the historical background Chargesheimer’s first book.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

E.g. by photographs not being available from the estates of Peter Fischer and Theo Felten for the book “Köln nach dem Krieg” (Cologne after the War), a collaboration with Wolfgang Vollmer. It was a stockpile of regional historical memories believed to be secure in a building that didn’t require air-conditioning, because there was adequate passive air-conditioning, brilliant!

pensioner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I remember very well. I heard about it on the news.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The people who died.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The memory of it is very vivid because to this day not much clarification has taken place and you could almost think that something is being hushed up. Very sad.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

I often go to the site of the collapse. Activities by certain people are prohibited and impeded. For example, the erection of a memorial.

freelance editor

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I didn’t live in Cologne when the Archive collapsed. I have no clear memories of the day itself, but I know that I was in Bremen when I heard about the collapse of the Historical Archive in Cologne. But, like a lot of news, it was far away and abstract.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Since I’ve lived in Cologne, the collapse has been ever-present: the cordoned off area in Severinstrasse, requests for donations for the restoration of the archival material in order to save what can be saved. But much more so through stories told by friends and acquaintances here in Cologne – more or less second-hand memories. This all makes the day very real for me – or there is a report about a school class waiting for the bus in front of the Archive. As a result the news that was once very abstract for has become a living reality.

writer

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I was at home and heard the sound of the collapse. But I didn’t know what it was. A neighbour, who knew that I did research at the Archive, called me. I was sitting at my computer, working on a manuscript for a novel. After her call, I was shaking so much that I couldn’t continue writing and working.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

No “image”, just a feeling. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it. I felt as if I had fallen into a hole myself. There was a huge void in me. An incredible void.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

I could hear the police and fire brigade sirens everywhere. Dreadful. It took two weeks until I could go to the site of the collapse.

kiosk owner

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

It was jam-packed with customers here. I heard a noise that I had never heard before and went outside to see what it was. A dark brown wall of dust was coming towards me and I ran straight back inside and yelled, “Everybody out!” And we ran outside and in the other direction. I left everything open and on: the lights, the coffee machine, the doors. When the police and fire brigade arrived, everything was cordoned off. I wasn’t allowed back for three months because it was uncertain whether the ground was stable.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The image that is on the cover of the book “Der Einsturz” (The Collapse). I can’t really describe it. A huge pile of rubble.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

The sound of stones flying in all directions. The sound, a sound I’d never heard before.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Every day. The infrastructure has broken down. Severinstrasse has been an important, much frequented business street since Roman times. After I came back everybody was missing; the Archive staff, the people whose homes had been destroyed, the evacuated residents. There are still seismographs everywhere, giving a sense of danger. Unfamiliar sounds still frighten me.

structural engineer

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

We were on a skiing holiday and turned on the television in our hotel room after skiing in the afternoon and heard about it on the news.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The news coverage and a helpless Lord Mayor at the site of the disaster.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

What would the outcome have been if it had happened a few days earlier on Rose Monday?

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

We now live in the new houses here at Waidmarkt and are confronted by it every day.

journalist

Do you remember the day of the collapse? Where you were, what you were doing when you heard the news?

I met my daughter in the city centre – about 500 m from the City Archive. I didn’t hear anything about the collapse. In the afternoon I saw the shocking news on my phone: “30 feared dead after collapse”. I tried to get more information on the internet and television, everything was very uncertain.

Which image of that day is most vivid in your mind? Can you describe it?

The terrible image of rubble piled up on Severinstrasse and the fire fighters carefully looking for victims.

Do you have any other memories related to the collapse?

I remember this street very well because 30 years before the collapse I spent nine years at Friedrich Wilhelm High School, just opposite. The sight of the Archive’s façade was part of my life although I’d never been inside.

Were you confronted by this event in the following years? How? What meaning does/did the Archive have for you?

Not long after, I researched the story and possible causes of the disaster and wrote the book “Der Einsturz” (The Collapse). In the process – from a personal point of view – I became more aware of my own school days and – from a political point of view – the mechanisms of irresponsibility in political and economic committees. The collapse triggered a shockwave in Cologne resulting in citizens becoming more involved in political decisions: For example, the demolition of the city theatre could thus be prevented. Also, many initiatives have become more active, e.g. ArchivKomplex, which campaigns for remembering the collapse.