The Canton of Zurich war memorial on the Forch
In 1920, the NCO’s Association in Zurich proposed an initiative to construct a war memorial for the Canton of Zurich. A committee was formed with the objective of erecting a simple memorial to commemorate the soldiers who had died on active service during the First World War.
Numerous communities submitted applications to be chosen for the location of the memorial. After examining each proposal meticulously the committee voted unanimously for the Forch. A competition for the design was launched and 95 projects were entered and reviewed. The competition judges awarded the contract to the architect Otto Zollinger in Zurich. His design “Das Opfer” (The Sacrifice) was judged as follows:
In this design the concept of the memorial is expressed in a profoundly pleasing manner. The hilltop is accentuated by the memorial and appears to merge with it. With its pyramid-like construction and rising flame the memorial structure incorporates monumentality, gravity and honor in a fresh and innovative manner.
The monument consists of an enormous iron sacrificial flame on top of a stone step pyramid. The mighty spire reaches high into the skies. It measures 18 m in height. The step pyramid has 11 steps, each 38 cm high, bringing its entire height to 4.18 m. To facilitate climbing up to the base, steps of 19 cm height, with a width of 2 to 3 m, are made on all four sides of the pyramid. It is therefore possible to climb up to the base as easily as one would an ordinary stairway of 22 steps. The base, which has a commemorative passage chiseled into it, is 79 cm high. The passage reads:
This memorial was built by the people of Zurich as a symbol of the sacrifices that were exacted by the World War 1914 – 1918 for the protection of their fatherland.
The solemn inauguration of the memorial took place on Sunday, September 24, 1922 in the presence of 30’000 to 50’000 people. Federal President Dr. Haab enjoined those present to commemorate in a fitting manner all those who had died in defense of Switzerland.
On November 21, 1946, the Cantonal Council decreed that architect Otto Zollinger be given the assignment to enlarge the memorial. A commemorative plaque was to be added listing the names of all soldiers who had died on active service between 1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945, and had been residents of the Canton of Zurich at the time of their demise. Obtaining the names of the fallen proved to be an inordinately difficult task. In World War I, 370 soldiers had died and in World War II, 760 soldiers from the Canton of Zurich lost their lives. The planned enlargement, however, was never realized.
Each year, Küsnacht celebrates its 1st August (National Day) public festivities beside the Forch war memorial.