Silke Wagner, münsters GESCHICHTE VON UNTEN, 2007, 51°57'37.1"N 7°38'02.0"E

Silke Wagner, münsters GESCHICHTE VON UNTEN, 2007. Installation view


For the skulptur projekte münster 07, Silke Wagner (born 1968) created a counter-proposal to the city’s Prussian-militaristic commemoration of heroes. The work münster’s HISTORY FROM BELOW has the Münster resident Paul Wulf (1921–1999) acting as projection plane of civil disobedience. With the roughly 3.40-metre-high concrete sculpture that appears as a hybrid of statue and advertising column, the artist has drawn attention to one of the most prominent activists of post-war German society, regarded to this day as an icon for victims of violence under Nazi rule.1 His political work can be traced back to a traumatizing caesura in his life: shortly after he was transferred to St. Johannes-Stift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie (a clinic for child and adolescent psychiatry) in Marsberg at the age of eleven, the National So-cialist regime enforced the “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Off-spring” in 1933.2 Under this law, the Nazi state not only declared people suffering from mental and physical illnesses to be “unworthy of life”, but also took the right to sterilize them by force in order to prevent them from passing on their genes. On condition that Wulf underwent sterilization, the clinic management agreed to his par-ents’ application for release in 1937. A year later, the then 17-year-old was sterilized. Yet this also marked the beginning of a lifelong commitment.

From 1945 on Wulf became increasingly involved in politics in Münster, joining left-wing circles, adopting communist and anarchist positions and taking part in demonstrations, squats as well as campaigns aimed at reappraising the Nazi era and ex-posing the biographies of perpetrators.3 It was not until 1979 that he was able to suc-cessfully claim compensation in court for the suffering he had endured.

With münster’s HISTORY FROM BELOW, Silke Wagner, together with the Friends of Paul Wulf and the Umweltzentrumarchiv (UWZ-Archiv), has succeeded in creating a symbol of social-revolutionary movements, self-empowerment, anti-fascist resistance and educational work.4 With a suggested long coat covering his gaunt body and thick horn-rimmed glasses, the figure draws on two characteristic elements of Wulf’s ap-pearance, while the oversized head emphasizes his striking facial features. Alternating documents from the UWZ archive, which was digitized in the course of the work’s realization and thus made accessible to a wider public, are displayed on the coat. The documents, which are regularly hung on the figure like posters, are devoted to Paul Wulf’s life story, to the history of the housing struggle in Münster, the political censorship and criminalization of texts from the 1970s to the present day and the Münster anti-nuclear movement.5

With her work, Wagner intends to represent individuals whose activism and socio-political endeavours run outside the bourgeois norm determined by economic interests. The documentation of Wulf’s efforts is intended to give a voice to those people who—resulting from their particular perspective and form of resistance—are likewise exposed to repression. münster’s HISTORY FROM BELOW aims to counteract this ongoing imbalance in information policy.6

Shortly after the end of skulptur.projekte 07, a controversial discussion arose about the future location of the work, which had originally been situated in front of Stadt-haus 1. In November 2007, the majority of the CDU and FDP in the Culture Commit-tee positioned themselves against the memorial’s right to remain. The politicians’ re-fusal to grant the memorial to Wulf public space led to widespread criticism and incomprehension. However, with the help of an ensuing fundraising initiative and a citizens’ petition, the sculpture was acquired shortly afterwards by the Friends of Paul Wulf and donated to the City of Münster as a gift. Despite all resistance, “Paul” has remained, finding his permanent home on Servatiiplatz on Münster’s Promenade in 2010.

Along this green belt lie several war memorials that are increasingly the subject of critical debate. At its new location, Wagner’s work thus interrupts a certain remembrance culture that continues to transport reactionary content and symbolism into the present. In this respect, the sculpture not only proves its enduring relevance, but also embodies today what Paul Wulf’s explicit aim was at the time: breaking with familiar narratives and a collective rethink.

Alexander Duschek


Cf. Christoph Spieker, “Paul Wulf und die späte Resonanz eines Außenseiters,” in Mathias Frese/Marcus Weidner (eds.): Verhandelte Erinnerungen. Der Umgang mit Ehrungen, Denkmälern und Gedenkorten nach 1945 (Paderborn, 2018), 189.


Cf. Paul Wulf, “Zwangssterilisiert. Biographische Notizen,” ibid., 12.


Cf. Umweltzentrum-Archiv e.V. (UWZ-Archiv).


Cf. Bernd Drücke, “Paul bleibt. Punkt.,” in Freundeskreis Paul Wulf (ed.), “Ich lehre euch Gedächtnis,” 170.


Cf. Silke Wagner, “münsters GESCHICHTE VON UNTEN. Vor dem Stadthaus 1, Klemensstraße 10,” in Brigitte Franzen, Kaspar König, Carina Plath (eds), skulpturprojekte münster 07 (Cologne, 2007), 249.


Cf. ibid. 251 et seq.

This contribution was developed for the Skulptur Projekte Archives and was made available for the Kunsthalle Münster. You will find all works belonging to the Public Collection of the Skulptur Projekte on the website of the Skulptur Projekte Archive.

Accompanying Programme:

02/05/2023, 6:30 pm,

Commemoration of Paul Wulf and re-installation of münsters GESCHICHTE VON UNTEN by Silke Wagner

, Servatiiplatz