The Coppel family

Stop 7: Alexander Coppel Comprehensive School

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Wupperstraße 126 go to map – go to starting point

We are standing here at the Alexander Coppel Comprehensive School. Solingen’s first comprehensive school began its work in 1982. In 1983, the first classes of the new Municipal Comprehensive School of Solingen moved to this location in Wupperstraße.

It was not until 2015 that the school was renamed the Alexander Coppel Comprehensive School. It had taken three attempts. But how had it come about? Armin Alfermann, an artist from Solingen, had suggested to the then mayor Gerd Kaimer that a school be entrusted with the care and maintenance of the Jewish cemetery on Estherweg.

Wilhelm Bramann, a teacher at the Solingen Comprehensive School from 1986 to 1990, founded the Jewish Cemetery After-School Group in 1987, which took on the job of looking after the cemetery. The cemetery is still looked after and maintained by this group of pupils. It seeks and maintains contact with the descendants. It also takes part in school exchanges with a partner school in the Israeli town of Ness Ziona, which has been Solingen’s twin town since 1986.

In 1994, Wilhelm Bramann published his impressive biography of the Coppel family, which had lived in Solingen since around 1770. In it, he describes, among other things, their strong social commitment, especially to their promotion of culture, education and health.

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Wilhelm Bramann with Eleonore Reiche, daughter-in-law of Anna Reiche, née Coppel. Photo: Daniela Tobias

Stimulated no doubt also by this publication, in February 1996, the general meeting of the GEW union for education and science (Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft) demanded that a street, public building or similar be named after Gustav Coppel, his son Alexander, or after the Coppel family. The GEW resolution stated:

It is about time that a suggestion of Georg Meistermann, the cultural representative of the American occupation authorities for Solingen, to name a street in Solingen after Coppel, be taken up once again (…).”

In fact, Georg Meistermann, the famous Solingen painter and graphic artist who created more than 1,000 stained glass windows at 250 locations in Europe, had already proposed in vain in 1945 that the Cologne street renamed “Street of the SA” by the National Socialists be named after Alexander Coppel.

The city administration then submitted the following proposals to the council of elders: to choose one place to rename when Mühlenplatz square was being redeveloped; to rename the park in the Maltesergrund or the botanical garden next to the Coppelstift; or to name a section of Malteserstraße or the barely inhabited Lindenstraße in the vicinity of the former synagogue after Coppel.

The council of elders just took kind note of the suggestions. Above all, it supported the proposal of the later Lord Mayor Uibel – also considering the commitment of the pupils –“to suggest to the staff and the school community of the Wupperstraße Comprehensive School that this school be renamed the Coppel School”.

Although the History/Politics Conference of the Comprehensive School had approached the Teachers’ Conference in the spring of 1996 with a proposal to rename the school the Alexander Coppel Comprehensive School, the latter rejected the proposal by a clear majority. A further attempt failed in July 2002.

There were many reasons for these rejections. At that time, it was clear how important the good example of the family is for forming the character of young people and for the school’s educational mandate. In the case of the Coppel family, their outstanding support for the social, educational and health-promoting development of the town’s society, as well as the cooperative way in which the company handled conflicts and cooperated with the trade unions, stand in stark contrast to the subsequent persecution of the family during the National Socialist reign of terror.

On 28 April 2015, the school committee finally decided to rename the Solingen Municipal Comprehensive School, after it had previously been recommended internally that this be done in recognition of Dr Alexander Coppel’s social commitment and attitude. The renaming was celebrated with a ceremony on 28 September 2015. Three members of the Coppel family attended, as well as the teacher Haya Cohen, who is responsible for the school exchanges at the Ben-Gurion School in Ness Ziona.

Against this background, a cooperation agreement was also signed between the school and the Old Synagogue of Wuppertal. This includes, among other things, regular visits of groups of pupils to the meeting place, the organising of trips to Nazi memorials, and advice and help with project lessons. Cooperation is also planned with the educational and memorial site Max-Leven-Zentrum Solingen, founded in 2019.