Every year in July, Ulm celebrates ‘Oath Monday’ in front of the traditional Schwörhaus in the city center. The festival goes back to a centuries-old oath that was once misappropriated by the National Socialists.
‘Oath Monday is Ulmer’s day’, it proudly says on the city’s official website. Every year on the penultimate Monday in July, the city celebrates its traditional folk festival and repeats an oath that goes back to the 14th century.
In the free imperial city of Ulm there was a conflict between the patricians, i.e. the nobility, and the guilds, the craftsmen. The latter gained more and more influence not only in Ulm in the 14th century and fought for a share of political power. Traditions tell of sometimes bloody battles in the southern German city between these two most important estates, which were not settled until 1397 with the ‘Great Oath’, which gave the guilds a clear majority in the city council.
What is sworn here?
Every year since 1397, the mayor of Ulm has been giving an account of what has happened in Ulm in front of the city’s traditional oath house. Then he raised his right hand and swore to ‘be a common man to the rich and the poor’ – that is, to work equally for all citizens. With this ‘oath’, which has existed since the onset of the Great Oath, the annual ‘oath’ ends, which to this day intends to equate all strata of the population.
Instrumentalization of the National Socialists
In the years of National Socialism, however, the festivities and the custom of Oath Monday were given a new purpose that no longer had much in common with its origins. The mayor, Friedrich Foerster, who was appointed on August 14, 1933, still gave an account of past developments in the city, but the oath turned into a pledge of allegiance between ‘leaders and followers’, as stated in a letter from the city.
After the Second World War, Robert Scholl, a staunch democrat and father of the resistance fighters Hans and Sophie Scholl, took up the post as the new mayor of Ulm. During his term of office, there was no oath ceremony, and Scholl did not take the oath either – the National Socialists had claimed both of them too much. It was not until 1949 that the Schwörakt was reintroduced with Scholl’s successor, the education politician Theodor Pfizer – and is today again the traditional festival that aims to bring all the citizens of the city together.
How will Oath Monday 2021 be celebrated?
Until the 1980s, the swearing ceremony was limited to the Friedrichsau, the large gardens in the west of the city – then the celebrating Ulmer spread over the entire city center. Dozens of live concerts, festive meals and loads of drinks also attracted tourists.
Not so on Oath Monday in the second Corona year. This time the celebrations will be severely restricted, only the oath ceremony with the oath speech by Ulmer Mayor Gunter Czisch (CDU) will take place – but in front of a severely restricted audience. Around 650 guests are allowed to come, including employees from Corona intensive care units and vaccination centers as well as doctors from Ulm and the surrounding area. 500 invitation cards were raffled among the citizens. The celebration will be broadcast from 10.45 a.m. live im Internet and on the Social media channels the city.
The traditional ‘Nabada’ water parade and the serenade of lights, which resembles a lantern parade, are also canceled this year. The city has called on its social media channels to share pictures of the Festival of Lights from last year.