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UNESCO

Why Germany’s Augsburg has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status

The German city of Augsburg was on Saturday granted World Heritage status by UNESCO for its over 800-year-old water management system boasting an aquaduct, water towers, ornate fountains, canals and hundreds of bridges.

Why Germany's Augsburg has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status
Photos: AFP

The 2,000-year-old city in Bavaria state calls the system which has since the Middle Ages provided clean drinking water and sanitation an “intricate interplay between the innovative spirit and a technical tour de force”.

The old town centre of Augsburg, located on Germany's Romantic Road, is criss-crossed with canals and boasts over 500 bridges, “more than in Venice”, according to the city.

“The history of water in Augsburg is linked to the cultural and artistic wealth of this city,” Thomas Weitzel, the city's cultural affairs director, told AFP.

“Augsburg considered water such a precious asset that it has always sought to protect it.”

Augsburg's resourceful engineers were European forerunners in damming and redirecting river water, from the Lech, Wertach and Singold streams.

Water flowed via an aquaduct and into water towers from 1416, making the waterworks at the city's Red Gate “the oldest in Germany and also in central Europe”.

The water flowed through hollowed pine logs connected with metal casts to ornamental fountains in the city, including the Mercury and Hercules fountains.

It also entered the city's butchers house, the Stadtmetzg, where the flowing water helped to cool the meat and dispose of the waste.

Later water power was used for industry, with water wheels driving mills and pumping stations as Augsburg became an early centre of textile and paper production.

With the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the city saw the creation of the first large hydroelectric power plant, at nearby Wolfzahnau.

One of the waterways, the Ice Canal, was designed to keep free floating ice from entering the city, and in 1970 became the world's first artificially created whitewater canoe course, used for the 1972 Olympics.

Photo: wassersystem-augsburg.de
 

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NAZIS

‘Insurance against forgetting’: Auschwitz trial files classed Unesco heritage

Documents from the post-war Auschwitz trial have been classed part of the UNESCO "Memory of the World Register", underlining their significance as "common heritage of humanity", Germany's foreign minister said Wednesday.

'Insurance against forgetting': Auschwitz trial files classed Unesco heritage
Photo: DPA

The 1963-1965 trial of 22 Nazi officials who ran the Auschwitz death camp marked a turning point when Germans faced up to their role in the Holocaust.

Unlike the better known 1945-1946 Nuremberg trials where judges from the Allied powers presided over the hearings of top Nazis, the Frankfurt trial was the first in which Germans prosecuted Germans.

In 183 days of hearings, the trial “paved the way for an entire society to take a critical look in the mirror at the role of Germans as citizens, participants, followers and criminals,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

READ ALSO: Three German sites up for Unesco recognition

Classifying the court material from the Auschwitz trial in an international register is an “insurance against forgetting”, said Hesse science and arts minister Boris Rhein, in remarks carried by national news agency DPA.

The documents are “an important element in the fight against ongoing denial and relativizing of Nazi violations,” added Maas.

The material classed in the international register includes 454 volumes of files stored at the Hesse State Archives.

They contain 430 hours of recordings of the testimonies of 319 witnesses — including 181 survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and 80 members of the camp staff, the SS, and the police — on 103 tapes, according to the UNESCO website.

Maas also underlined the role played by former prosecutor Fritz Bauer, one of Germany's fiercest Nazi hunters.

He fought against a conspiracy of silence on the Holocaust at a time when many Nazis still occupied prominent roles in the justice service.

Bauer in 1957 handed to Israel's Mossad secret service information that led to arrest of fugitive top Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who was later convicted and hanged in Israel.

Some 1.1 million people, most of them European Jews, perished between 1940 and 1945 in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp before it was liberated by Soviet forces.

SEE ALSO: Four in ten German school kids don't know what Auschwitz was, survey finds

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