Members of the Reemtsma family,
Members of the Brauer family,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
“Like many young workers, I hungered and thirsted for education and knowledge. […] I am willing and prepared to do everything in my power to pave the way for those who yearn so desperately for knowledge and education. I will steadfastly devote myself to improving elementary schools and adult education centres and to fostering music and the theatre.”
Those words were spoken by Max Brauer in his inaugural speech as mayor of the city of Altona in 1924.
Today, almost a hundred years later, fresh tribute is being paid to Max Brauer’s unreserved dedication to the arts and his outstanding service to this city.
On behalf of the Senate of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg it is a great honour and a pleasure for me to welcome you in the Elbphilharmonie for the ceremonial naming of the Max Brauer Foyer.
I extend a warm welcome to all the members of the Brauer family, in particular to Dr. Ralph and Prof. Donna Brauer, Claudia J. Liebler and Christopher Crandall, as well as to Max Brauer jun., his wife and his child; they have all come from the United States specially to be here for this ceremony today.
Delving into the archives of a Hamburg newspaper, I found an article on the visit to the city in 1998 by Ralph and Donna Brauer with their son Max, who was then 13 years old. In July of that year they were seeking traces of their grandfather and great-grandfather in Germany.
Asked whether he could speak German, little Max replied with unabashed confidence: “Ich möchte ein Bier” - I’d like a beer. I am quite sure, Max Brauer, that your vocabulary and experience have been greatly extended over the past twenty years!
I should, of course, also like to extend a very warm welcome to the Reemtsma family, for it is to them that we owe the naming of the Max Brauer Foyer. This concert hall would never have seen the light of day without the exceedingly generous support of benefactors such as Hermann-Hinrich Reemtsma. It is hard to find appropriate words of gratitude, particularly since the modesty of the benefactor forbids any mention of his commitment in the form of a nameplate.
Therefore I am all the more delighted to be able to congratulate you personally on your birthday today, Mr. Reemtsma.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In his inaugural speech in Altona in 1924, Max Brauer promised to “devote himself steadfastly to the promotion of the theatre and music” – and he kept his word.
At his behest the Stadthalle, now the Altona Theatre, was planned and built as a new cultural centre; the city’s archives, libraries and museums were expanded; artists such as Hans Leip and Hans Henny Jahnn were sponsored. After the war, as mayor of Hamburg, Brauer laid the ground for the rebuilding of the city’s main churches and the extension of the public libraries, and he installed the young Rolf Liebermann as artistic director of the Hamburg State Opera (in defiance of the Minister of Culture). Max Brauer had his portrait taken by Oskar Kokoschka in 1951 – this, incidentally, was a gift from Hermann Reemtsma to the Hamburg Kunsthalle. Max Brauer remained president of the Deutscher Bühnenverein (German Theatre and Orchestra Association) until 1966.
However, Max Brauer’s “deep yearning for knowledge and education” is best expressed in the enterprising story of the founding of the Ruhr Festival. Let me recount it for you now.
In the bitter cold post-war winter of 1946/47 the theatres in Hamburg were on the point of being closed down because there was no coal to heat the rooms and operate the stage equipment. So Otto Burrmeister, executive director of the Deutsches Schauspielhaus theatre, and Karl Rosengart, chairman of the works council of the Hamburg State Opera, drove two wood-gas fuelled trucks to the industrial area of the Ruhr to ask the collieries for help. Spotting the King Ludwig mine in Recklinghausen-Suderwich from the motorway, they quickly took the next exit and described their dilemma to the colliery staff. The miners promptly loaded the trucks with coal.
Of course this activity – which was repeated several times – was completely illegal and was soon uncovered by the military police. But the theatres in Hamburg were able to keep going.
Under the motto of “Art for Coal”, 150 actors at the three Hamburg theatres gave guest performances the following summer at the Städtischer Saalbau Recklinghausen. Mayor Max Brauer, who was there for the occasion and opened the first Ruhr Festival, was given a miner’s lamp as an expression of gratitude on the part of the miners.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was planned that we should be witness today to the final chapter of this astonishing story. The Brauer family had the wonderful idea of bringing the miner’s lamp back to Hamburg to serve as a permanent memorial to the events of the winter of 1946/47. However, the current customs and security regulations in the United States make it too risky to export this historic artefact to Europe – its loss would be unforgiveable. Nonetheless, we look forward very much to the arrival of the miner’s lamp as soon as the circumstances in the United States permit.
By the way, the only pieces of music performed at the Ruhr Festivals up to 1965 were cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach; at least that’s how the story goes. So I am all the more pleased that, immediately after this ceremony, we will be hearing a few bars from Bach on the organ in the Grand Hall. I know, Mr. Reemtsma, how much you revere the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The mayor of Altona ended his inaugural address in 1924 with a quote from a play by Goethe:
“For who stands not firm, when the weak-kneed masses are swaying, adds his own weight to the press, and intensifies the disaster.”
Those words exerted a lasting influence on Max Brauer’s activities. They made him a great son of this city. For he was resolute in his views and courageous in his deeds. He remains an outstanding role model to this very day.
On behalf of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg may I express my deep-felt gratitude to the benefactor, Hermann-Hinrich Reemtsma, and the Reemtsma family of founders for their honourable and splendid decision to pay tribute to Max Brauer by naming this foyer after him.
Let me now pass the floor without any further ado to Max Brauer jun., the great-grandson of our wonderful mayor.