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Back Then: Which Way is Peter-Weiss-Straße?

The university’s “primary address” – Bibliotheksstraße – was nearly renamed Peter-Weiss-Straße (“Straße” is the German word for road or street). But only nearly – a story from the university’s past

On May 10, 1982, the author, artist, and filmmaker Peter Weiss, who emigrated from Germany in 1934, passed away in Stockholm. He was a recipient of the Bremen Literature Award. That is why two months later, preparations were being made for a street to be named after him. The representative of the Senator for Construction suggested that the Bibliotheksstraße at the University of Bremen be renamed.

In its function as an assessor of street-naming procedures, the State Archive was reserved yet positive. Amongst other things, the archive noted that renaming was only possible in founded, exceptional cases, according to a Bremen Senate ruling. Furthermore, at the beginning of the 1970s, the university had “resolutely refused” to accept person-related names. The responsible clerk in the State Construction Department thus initiated a new naming in the Teerhof area.

Peter Weiss – A “Child of this City”

However, the Education and Culture Department contacted the State Archive once more with comprehensive information on Weiss and asked for another “positive and supporting” statement. It was only a few days later that the archive director announced that exceptional circumstances would allow for a street renaming in this case: “Apart from the first two years of his life, Peter Weiss spent his whole childhood in Bremen, where – as he publically stated in 1982 – the roots for his later literary work lie. Peter Weiss has every right to be called a Bremen citizen and a child of this city.”

Peter Weiss (on the far left) at the awarding ceremony of the 1982 Bremen Literature Award. He passed away only a few months later – a university street was to be named after him.
© Jochen Stoss

Apart from possible costs, there were no concerns regarding a renaming of Bibliotheksstraße. On the contrary; “Thanks to his roles as a critical author and artist, whose work was rated immensely as part of the history of the labor movement and the German anti-fascist resistance, the person Peter Weiss is connected to the university and its work and research approaches in a special way. Such a renaming would bestow regional and interregional acknowledgement upon this connection and his relationship to Bremen” – not least because the university’s official address would also be named after him.

The university agreed to the renaming but the Horn-Lehe Local Council blocked this decision.

Academic Senate Agrees to Renaming

In fact, the university as the resident had no objections. On February 9, 1983, the Academic Senate agreed to the intended renaming in order to honor the artist and author. However, the statement from Horn-Lehe Local Council , who also had to give their agreement, was still pending. On March 16, said council addressed the issue of renaming and explained that it would stick to its ruling from 1974 that stated that no streets in the area of the university are to be named after people. At the same time, the council demanded that the Bremen Senate “not lift its decision of principle from the same year and thus allow for the name ‘Bibliotheksstraße’ to remain.”

A Small Residential Street in the Neustadt District in the End

After that, the plans to posthumously honor a “child of the city” who was forced into exile by the Nazis disappeared into a desk drawer from some time. It was only a quarter of a century later, on July 14, 2009, that the Bremen Senate ruled to name a small new residential street in the Neustadt district after Peter Weiss.

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