|HISTORY OF THE FOUNDATION|
The history of the Wilhelm-Leuschner-Foundation
In March 2000, the directorate of the Club for Cultural and Social History Bayreuth heard of the owners’ request submitted at the city council of Bayreuth to have Wilhelm Leuschner’s birthplace, which has been listed as an ancient building since 1998, demolished. The owners based their request on the lacking usability which was due to the edificial condition of the house built in 1878. The directorate decided to concentrate their initiatives, which had already been started in 1996, and to publicize the planned demolition.
A letter-writing campaign was started, aimed at reputable personalities of Germany’s political life such as former Federal President Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker, former Federal Minister and chairman of the SPD Dr. Hans-Jochen Vogel and many others, who were asked to support the preservation of the house. At the same time, the Club started a campaign called “Building Blocks for the Leuschner-Haus” and presented its idea of the establishment of a memorial place to the public. A water colour depicting the birthplace drawn by local artist Christl Gollner was made the representative postcard of the building-blocks-campaign.
The well-known supporters, e. g. Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker and others sent letters to the Lord Mayor lobbying for the preservation of Leuschner’s birthplace. The Club received especially strong support by Prof. Dr. Peter Steinbach, scientific head of the “Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand” in Berlin. On 30th November 2000 Prof. Steinbach attended a presentation held at the Old City Hall (“Altes Rathaus”) of Bayreuth, which produced the Club’s concept of the preservation of the house and of its future type of use. A documentation of this event including the concept concerning the future use was published in January 2001.
In the context of the event mentioned above, the Lord Mayor of Bayreuth had originally announced the purchase of the house by the public authorities. In March 2001 another event concerning the contents of the future work at the memorial took place in association with the Protestant Educational Institute of Bayreuth (“Evangelisches Bildungswerk”). But in spring 2001 it became clear that there would not be a majority for the public purchase in the city council of Bayreuth. Another solution had to be looked for. A private investor offered to purchase the estate and to redevelop the birthplace, promising to rent the house to the Club and the City of Bayreuth so that they could realize their memorial project. The representatives of the Club, Mr Hacker and Mr Hasibether helped as mediators in long negotiations with the City of Bayreuth to clear the way for the purchase and to establish the legal foundation for the restoration of the house.
The restoration finally began in summer 2001 and was finished one year later. The City of Bayreuth declared its willingness to become the responsible body for the Wilhelm-Leuschner-Memorial and started renting the rooms on the ground floor of the house on 1st June 2002, even though the rent was inflated from the beginning. In order to assure a permanent support of the memorial with regard to content and pedagogical aspects, in March 2002, the families Hasibether and Höhn, supported by the Club, founded the Wilhelm-Leuschner-Foundation equipped with an endowment fund of € 50,000 and asset values of € 35,000 constituted by archive stock and office equipment. This capital stock has been the basis of the work at Wilhelm Leuschner’s birthplace ever since. On 5th April 2002 the Foundation was acknowledged by the Government of Upper Franconia. At the same time, on behalf of the department of arts and culture of the City of Bayreuth, Wolfgang Hasibether developed a suggestion for the basic concept of the memorial and the cooperation with the “Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand” in Berlin started.
On 1st July 2002 the Foundation moved into the apartment on the top floor of the birthplace. The three-headed directorate of the Foundation, namely Wolfgang Hasibether, Fritz Höhn and Christa P. Meist, took over the management. In addition to the organisational tasks concerning the development of the Foundation’s activities, the preparation of the commemorative exhibition dedicated to Wilhelm Leuschner’s life and significance began. The basis of all the activities were the documents entrusted to the Foundation by Leuschner’s grandson, who had inherited them from his father. Numerous pictures and written documents of Wilhelm Leuschner’s life were incorporated into the archive. Wolfgang Hasibether’s scientific research on Leuschner’s biography became the prerequisite for the concept and the design of the commemorative exhibition.
The foundation board of the Wilhelm-Leuschner-Foundation consisting of 11 members came into being at the Old City Hall on 10th August 2002. Hans-Otto Hemmer, historian from Düsseldorf and former chief editor of the “Gewerkschaftliche Monatshefte”, was elected chairman. Lawyer Dr. Stefan Specht, who is member of the city council of Bayreuth for the CDU, became Hemmer’s substitute. Further members of the foundation were: former Lord Mayor Dr. Dieter Mronz, Leuschner’s grandson Wilhelm from Düsseldorf, Fritz Schösser, former Bavarian head of the Confederation of German Trade Unions, former President of the European Parliament Klaus Hänsch from Düsseldorf, former Federal Minister Norbert Blüm from Königswinter, as representative of the founder families Ursula Leibinger-Hasibether, art-historian, Elisabeth Abendroth, Member of the Hessian Ministry of Research and Art, Member of the Bavarian Parliament Wolfgang Hoderlein from Kulmbach (resigned in August 2004, now: Oskar Brückner from Bayreuth, head of the Bavarian Union of Education and Science) and Prof. Dr. Peter Steinbach from the University of Karlsruhe.
In 2002 the major tasks were the preparation of the commemorative exhibition at the memorial, the presentation of the future aims of the foundation at numerous events and the organisational and financial setup of the work at the office. After long-term negotiations with the owners the rental agreement concerning the rooms for the office and the archive on the top floor of Leuschner’s birthplace was finally agreed on.