Rizal in Germany
Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal is probably one of the most well-known Filipinos who lived in Germany. Born on 19 June 1861 he arrived in Heidelberg in February 1886 after he had studied medicine in Spain. Rizal spent a significant part of his life studying Ophthalmology in the town of Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld with the aim of operating his almost blind mother, in which he later succeded.
The beauty of the blooming flowers in springtime inspired Rizal to write one of his best poems, "A las flores de Heidelberg" (To the flowers of Heidelberg) evoking intense emotions of longing for his homeland.
Enlarge image The German text says: Dr. Jose Rizal, Philippine National Hero. Here, Bergheimer Street. 20, Rizal practiced Ophthalmology from February until August 1886 under Prof. Dr. Otto Becker, Director of the university eye clinic. (© Dr. Johann Leonardia)
Today, a golden plaque in Heidelberg’s Bergheimerstraße 20 reminds visitors that Jose Rizal, an avid supporter of reforms in his Spanish-ruled home country, once worked there at the university eye clinic.
Rizal’s most famous works of literature include Noli me tangere (translated as ‘A Social Cancer’) and El Filibusterismo. Both novels depict the ills of a society ruled by the Spanish government and clergy. Rizal portrayed corruption and abuse under the Spanish colonial rule at that time. After he had started to write Noli in Spain, Rizal completed its final part in Berlin, where it was published in 1887.
Rizal travelled extensively in Germany. The places he visited included Wilhelmsfeld, where a statue was built in his honor, Koblenz, Cologne, Bonn and Leipzig. Enlarge image Statue of Dr. Jose Rizal in Wilhelmsfeld (© Dy)
As a result of his works which are said to have encouraged a desire for change, his works were banned in parts of the Philippines by the Spanish and Rizal was charged with revolt and rebellion.
On December 30, 1896, the poet and doctor was killed by firing squad in Manila in what is called Rizal park today. A statue and mausoleum which contains his remains were built in honor of the country's national hero.