Residents hope Kolmar Park in Old Irving can be rededicated in honor of poet Gertrud Kolmar, who was murdered in Nazi concentration camp, but park district hasn’t responded to request after 1 year
by BRIAN NADIG
A group of residents has been seeking to have Kolmar Park, 4143 N. Kolmar Ave., rededicated in honor of poet Gertrud Kolmar, who was killed in a World War II concentration camp, but the Chicago Park District has not responded to a formal name change application submitted to the agency a year ago.
The approximately one-acre park takes its name from the adjoining Kolmar Avenue, which itself was named after a European town, and the residents are hoping that the park can be rededicated and officially named in honor of Gertrud Kolmar, who grew up in a Polish-Jewish family in Berlin.
Her works include more than 450 poems and two short novels, and while manly of her writings were destroyed by the Nazis, others were preserved by her sister in Switzerland and published after Gertrud’s death in 1943. Kolmar, who as born in 1894, often wrote about her experiences in Nazi Germany.
Dan Pogorzelski, one of residents pushing for the park dedication, said that it is not clear which former German town of Kolmar that the street was named after. There were two such towns, but each has been renamed and is no longer part of Germany due to border changes of European countries after World War I, he said.
Pogorzelski had a great grandfather who once lived in Chodziez, which is a former Kolmar town and is now part of Poland. The great grandfather’s daughter married a survivor of Auschwitz, which is the concentration camp where Gertrud was murdered.
The nonprofit From The Depths, which was started by descendants of Holocaust survivors, has told the group that it can make a video of Chodziez for the group, Pogorzelski said. The group has been in contact with Jonny Daniels of From The Depths.
The other Kolmar is now named Colmar and is part of France.
“To me, it is particularly important that we continue to educate people about the history of the Holocaust, as today an alarming 15 percent of young adults believe the Holocaust was a myth or did not happen. It is also important to educate ourselves about our history, so we we can stop hatred and violence when it re-emerges,” said Old Irving Park resident Merry Marwig.
In addition to Marwig and Pogorzelski, the other members of the renaming groups are Jacob Kaplan, Daniel Egel-Weiss, Mark Dobrzycki and Michal Niemkiewicz.
The name change application was in adherence with a process that the park district formulated and included letters of support from Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-6), the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center, Old Irving Park Association, Kaplan and Egel-Weiss, according to Marwig. Also attached to the application was a petition with the signatures of more than 50 neighbors and other concerned individuals, she said.
The park district has not sent the group any acknowledgement of the application, which was submitted in October of 2020, Marwig said. The park district was asked to comment for this story but has not responded.
“It is immensely disappointing that the Chicago Park District has taken no action for almost an entire year on dedicating Kolmar Park in Gertrud Kolmar’s honor after we submitted our application per their rules.” Marwig said in a statement.
“Not only do we have local support from immediate neighbors of the park and many residents of Chicago, but we also have received letters of support from folks literally all around the world, including Gertrud Kolmar’s own grand nephew, Paul Chodziesner, who lives in Australia,” she added.
Members of the renaming group said that it is not clear how the recent resignation of park district chief executive officer Michael Kelly wold affect their application but that they are hopeful new leadership will help the process.