Löwenbrunnen / Lions’ Fountain

Children’s Memorial on former schoolyard

Former Jawne student Henny Franks speaks at the commemoration event in November 2019 in front of the Lion Fountain. (Photo: Rainer Lemaire)

In 1990 the square between St.-Apern-Strasse and Helenenstrasse, the former schoolyard of the Jawne, was given the name Erich-Klibansky-Platz after the last principal of the Jewish grammar school.

Since 1997, the small square has also been home to the Löwenbrunnen Children’s Memorial (Lions’ Fountain), which commemorates the deportation and murder of more than 1,100 Jewish children and young people from Cologne during National Socialism.

The figure of a roaring Lion of Judah, who desperately stretches to the heavens tops the fountains column. One of his claws rests on the tables of law.

Regular commemorative events are held at the Children’s Memorial, involving schools, children and young people. It is a place of memory and information.

On the plaque lying on the fountain’s edge it says (translation):

The Lion of Judah by the sculptor and Jawne student Herrmann Gurfinkel stands on the site of a center of Jewish teaching and learning from 1884 to 1942, which included: the synagogue of the Adass Jeshurun community and, in the building of the teachers’ seminar, the Moriah Elementary School, the Jawne Gymnasium and, from 1939, the Lützowstrasse Elementary School. Here the children of the Children’s Homes Lützowstraße and Abraham-Frank-Haus together with families from Cologne and surroundings had to wait for their deportation. We commemorate more than 1,100 Jewish children from Cologne who were murdered by the National Socialist tyranny between 1938 and 1945.

Love your neighbor, he is like you

Leviticus 19, 18

About the history of the Löwenbrunnen Children’s Memorial (Lion Fountain)

Hermann Gurfinkel’s “Lion of Judah” created in 1997 (Photo: M. Paret)

Dieter and Irene Corbach began their research on the history of the Jawne and the other institutions of the orthodox community Adass Jeschurun, that were located at St.-Apern-Strasse 29-31, as early as in the 1980s.

In 1990, the couple could finally push through that the site of the former schoolyard of the Jawne was named Erich-Klibansky-Platz. Moreover, it was their aim to transform the octagonal fountain, which had been decorating the courtyard of the building complex since 1982, into a place of remembrance of the history of the Jewish center, located there until 1942.
Dieter and Irene Corbach contacted the owner of the site (Allianz Grundstücks-GmbH), and the company finally agreed to the project.

They succeeded in getting Hermann Gurfinkel (1916-2004) on board for the project – a former Jawne student who escaped to the United States in 1938, living near Chicago and working as an artist and sculptor there.
In memory of the heroic efforts of his former principal Erich Klibansky, Hermann Gurfinkel suggested to place the Biblical “Lion of Judah” on the fountain column.

The Lion Fountain on Erich-Klibansky-Platz in 2020 (Photo: M. Paret)

Gurfinkles Lion is a powerful figure with massive claws and teeth bared to the heavens, crying out, as the artist recited: “This is a difficult task you gave me, dear Lord. Why don’t you help me?”
Even the lion, the strongest of animals, needs help for the task that was assigned to him: guarding the Ten Commandments. 1

However, the path from the idea of the sculpture to its realization proved difficult. Due to a stroke, Hermann Gurfinkel could initially only work on the statue with his left hand. When the Lion was finally finished and was sent to the bronze foundry in Denver, due to mistakes made during transportation it arrived there destroyed. Hermann Gurfinkel modelled the lion a second time and was finally able to unveil it personally in September 1997 on the site of his former school in Cologne.

The names of more than 1100 deported children and young people are listed on eight bronze plaques surrounding the fountain. (Photo: M. Paret)

Dieter Corbach had already died in 1994 and could not witness the completion of the memorial fountain. However, a list of deported and murdered children and young people from Cologne, researched by him, formed the basis for the eight bronze plaques surrounding the fountain. They contain more than 1,100 names.
Irene Corbach, who successfully completed the Löwenbrunnen Children’s Memorial, died in 2005.

Audio recording of the inauguration ceremony

In 2015, former Jawne student Fanny Englard (née Dominitz) donated an audio recording of the inauguration ceremony on September 25, 1997 to the Jawne Memorial and Educational Center, which can be listened to here. The inauguration ceremony was held in German language.

Audio recording, Inauguration Löwenbrunnen Children‘s Memorial / Part 1

00:00 Osse Schalom (instrumental) | 01:10 Welcome and history of the creation of the Lion Fountain (Irene Corbach) | 06:28 Der kleine Chaluz (from the light opera »Der bunte Weg« by Jawne teacher Philip Moddel) | 10:30 Greetings State Secretary Dr. Hans Jürgen Baedeker and Renate Canisius (Mayor of the City of Cologne) | 21:50 Leschalom (from the light opera »Der bunte Weg« by Philip Moddel) | 23:15 Unveiling of the fountain sculpture »The Lion of Judah« and speech by the artist Hermann Gurfinkel | 32:15 Reading of names of murdered teachers and educators (Almuth Corbach) | 34:35 Unveiling of the memorial plaques and reading of the text (Johannes Corbach) | 36:40 Reading of names of murdered children by students of six Cologne schools | 42:22 Inauguration of the Löwenbrunnen Children’s Memorial by Rabbi and former Jawne student Erwin Schild (Toronto)

Audio recording, Inauguration Löwenbrunnen Children‘s Memorial / Part 2

00:07 Continuation of the inauguration speech by Rabbi Erwin Schild | 11:55 Prayer El Male Rachamim (Cantor Shimon Ben Zev) | 16:00 Words by Rabbi David Bollag, Cologne City Dean Dr. Johannes Westhoff and Superintendent Karl Schick | 31:05 Shalom chawerim (Canon) | 32:35 Words of thanks (Irene Corbach) | 33:35 Hatikvah (Instrumental)

1 Quotation out of Barbara Stodola’s biographical text in the companion booklet on the exhibition Hermann Gurfinkel – Hidden Northwest Indiana Legend (May 15 – August 9, 2015, BRAUER MUSEUM OF ART, Valparaiso University, USA). (Link to brochure, PDF)