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Lise Meitner Denkmal

HZB co-funded the construction of the Lise-Meitner monument in the Cour d’honneur of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Since July 2014, a monument stands in the Cour d’honneur of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin to commemorate one of the most eminent female scientists. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin supported the construction of the Lise-Meitner monument, which was unveiled at a ceremony on 10 July in the Cour d’honneur before the main building Unter den Linden.

With her drive for research, physicist Lise Meitner was formative for the first generation of female scientists at the Berlin university who made outstanding achievements in spite of gender-specific barriers. As a Jew, she was stripped of her right to teach in 1933, and in 1938 she fled into exile (see info box).

Berlin sculptor Anna Franziska Schwarzbach created this monument to Lise-Meitner. The Humboldt-Universität announced a multi-stage competition in 2013, in which prominent artists from all over Europe and Israel took part. A panel of judges ultimately gave the award to Schwarzbach’s design. It depicts a delicate, yet graceful bronze figure standing on the edge of an imposing, black pedestal. Together, the two form a single ensemble of particular significance: “Outstanding women are rarely put on a pedestal. How difficult it must have been for a woman to work in science, how even more difficult to be respected. That gave me the idea to make the pedestal as wide as possible, as a way to commemorate the many ‘non-pedestalled’."

Anna Franziska Schwarzbach in her studio

Anna Franziska Schwarzbach at work. ©HZB

The monument is also a memorial for Jewish scientists

The broken, divided structure of the pedestal has further significance: The viewer’s attention is drawn not only to the achievements of one exceptional woman, but also to the conflict and alienation in Lise Meitner’s life. The multilayered meaning of the monument is an important aspect for the initiators Angelika Keune, Curator at HU Berlin, and women’s representative Ursula Fuhrich-Grubert: They conceived the monument also as a memorial for the Jewish scientists who were pursued, driven out and murdered under the Nazi regime.

HZB shows its connection with Lise Meitner

The Lise-Meitner monument was realized thanks to the many sponsors and private donors. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin decided early on to support the construction with a donation of 10,000 Euro. With this support, the HZB highlights its connection with Lise Meitner: The Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin was formed from the fusion of the Hahn-Meitner-Institut (HMI) and BESSY GmbH. The traditional research location in Berlin-Wannsee has since borne the name of the “Lise-Meitner Campus”. The HZB pressed for a public square in the immediate vicinity of the centre to be renamed, since when the square has been a reminder of the work of Lise Meitner and Otto Hahns.

About the artist

Anna Franziska Schwarzbach was born in 1949 in the Ore Mountains. She studied architecture at the Berlin Weißensee School of Art and then studied portrait sculpture. Since 1977, she has worked as a freelance sculptor and medallist in Berlin. Her work has been commended with important awards; the busts she has sculpted are exhibited in numerous museums and public spaces. Since 2013, she has been Second Chairperson of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medaillenkunst (German Medal Art Society).