Leipzig’s monumental Lenin in Pirna

How Germany’s largest bust of Lenin ended up in the Saxon district town of Pirna three decades after the reunification is one of the many surprising chronicles of German monuments to Lenin. The bronze sculpture, two and a half meters tall, two meters wide and weighing nearly four tons, was erected in 1981 in front of the Kremlin-like Soviet pavilion at the Old Exhibition Center in Leipzig. It is a work of art by sculptor Georgij Neroda and a copy of the world’s largest bust, a bust of Lenin by Neroda in Ulan-Ude, Siberia. It shows Lenin with slightly Asian features and a friendly look. Weiterlesen


The pedestal of the old Lenin bust

Shortly after I posted the photos of a painted Lenin emblem on the former nuclear bunker site, I received a tip regarding a bust of Lenin that used to exist there. In old black and white photos, Lenin’s head can be seen on a black pedestal over two meters high. The monument stands in front of a stylized Soviet flag made of concrete. In the left back you can see the year of construction 1977 on the outer façade of a two- or three-storey building. Weiterlesen

The golden Lenin

With a fresh, golden layer of paint Lenin shines again in its old splendour. This bust certainly deserves it; after all, its history is one of the most spectacular monumental chronicles in Germany. It is a sculpture from the Soviet Union stolen during World War II, which was to be melted down in Küstrin-Kietz and turned into raw material for the arms industry. Out of ideological conviction, however, two workers of the scrapping company hid the bust and thus prevented its destruction.

Sassnitz‘ Lenin polished up and exhibited in Trebus

Almost thirty years ago the Sassnitz Lenin bust was stained with red paint and wrapped in a plastic cover in the local municipal depot. Now the sculpture came on lent to Fürstenwalde, where it is part of the GDR collection of the association IFA-Freunde Trebus. Before its presentation, the Lenin head was thoroughly polished so that it can now receive visitors in its old freshness. Weiterlesen

Lenin daubed with red ink

Red is known to be the color of the Communist movement and of the Russian Revolution. But the act of vandalism carried out in 1990, in which the bust of Lenin in Sassnitz was daubed with red ink, was certainly not meant as a tribute to the Bolshevik revolutionary, but rather as an attack against him.

The sculpture, a creation of the Soviet artist N. Gaumig, was almost one meter high and stood on top of a two meter high pedestal. It was a gift of the Communist Party of the Lettish Socialist Soviet Republik, inaugurated the 11th of April 1970, on the occasion of Lenin’s 100th anniversary, right in front of the recently built secondary school (which was named after W. I. Lenin the same day).

The city of Sassnitz has an historical link to Lenin, since in April of 1917, heading towards Russia in order to start the revolution, he spent a night inside the train in the station of Sassnitz, before taking a ferry boat in order to get to Sweden and carry on the trip to Saint Petersburg. Due to this episode, the figure of Lenin became omnipresent in this little town: Besides the bust, a memorial stone was placed in the center of the village, while in front of the train station a Lenin-museum was opened. Finally, one of the six reliefs composing the Monument to the Victims of Facism was dedicated to him.

With the German reunification, the public worship to Lenin came to an end. The bust in Sassnitz was removed in January of 1993 and taken to the town depot, where it is still standing today, enrolled in a big plastic tarpaulin. The traces of the attack with red ink are still visible, what turns this monument into a unique relic that reflects the last decades of East-German history, from the foundation of the GDR and the origins of the Lenin cult until the protest against the Socialist government, the reunification and the damage or destruction of most of the symbols of the GDR. Due to its historical value, it could be a good idea to place this monument in a public spot again. It would certainly be a unique opportunity for many people to have a direct contact with the real traces of Eastern-German history.


Der rot beschmierte Lenin

Rot ist bekannterweise die Farbe der kommunistischen Bewegung und der von Lenin angeführten Russischen Revolution. Aber die bis heute ungeklärte Nacht-und-Nebel-Aktion, bei der die Sassnitzer Leninbüste im Herbst 1990 mit roter Farbe beschmiert wurde, war vermutlich alles andere als eine Huldigung an den Revolutionsführer. Sie scheint eher ein Angriff auf die Figur Lenins zu sein, die wie keine andere kommunistische Ikone nach der Wende den ostdeutschen Denkmalsturm zu spüren bekam.

Die knapp einen Meter hohe Büste wurde anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstags am 11. April 1970 vor der neuerbauten Oberschule (die an diesem Tag den Namen „W. I. Lenin“ bekam) festlich eingeweiht. Die auf einem über zwei Meter hohen Sockel aufgestellte Skulptur aus Stein war eine Schöpfung des sowjetischen Künstlers N. Gaumig. Sie kam nach Sassnitz als Geschenk von der Kommunistischen Partei der Lettischen Sozialistischen Sowjetrepublik. Schließlich hatte Sassnitz einen historischen Bezug zu Lenin: Er hatte hier im April 1917 auf dem Weg nach Russland eine Nacht im Zug verbracht, bevor er am nächsten Morgen in die Fähre stieg und dann über Schweden und Finnland sein Ziel Sankt Petersburg (damals noch Petrograd) erreichte.

Zu DDR-Zeiten war Lenin in Sassnitz vielerorts vorzufinden. Außer der Büste gab es noch einen Lenin-Gedenkstein,ein kleines Lenin-Museum und am Denkmal für die Opfer des Faschismus war ihm eins der sechs Reliefs gewidmet.

Doch die Wiedervereinigung brachte das Ende der öffentlichen Verehrung Lenins und so wurde im Januar 1993 die Büste in das Stadtdepot gefördert, wo sie noch heute samt roter Farbkleckse von einer Plane bedeckt aufbewahrt ist. Das beschädigte Denkmal spiegelt einen wesentlichen Teil der ostdeutschen Geschichte wider und erinnert uns an die Gründung der DDR und die Entstehung des Leninkults, sowie an die späteren Proteste gegen die SED, die Wiedervereinigung und die Beschädigung bzw. Beseitigung der meisten DDR-Symbole. Angesichts seines historischen Wertes wäre es vielleicht keine schlechte Idee, dieses Geschichtszeugnis wieder in der Öffentlichkeit aufzustellen. Selten bekommt man die Geschichte so unvermittelt zu spüren wie vor diesem Leninkopf…

The „x“ marks the spot of the former monument:

Photos from the town-archive in Sassnitz (so the upper b/w picture):

Special Thanks to: Dieter Holtz and Stadtarchiv Sassnitz

At the border


In April 2016 a bust of Lenin was erected only a few meters from the border between Germany and Poland. During World War II, this sculpture had been stolen by the German army in the Soviet Union and sent to Küstrin-Kietz, in order to be destroyed and reused as a raw material for the arms industry. But two workers of the scrapping facility decided to hide it, saving it from the imminent smelting. Weiterlesen

In the shadow of the Berlin Wall


When the allies designed the border separating West-Berlin from the Eastern occupation zone, which would become the Democratic Republic of Germany, they set the line just before the city of Falkensee. After the building of the Berlin Wall, this small city lay literally in its shadow. When after decades of separation, Germany was finally reunited, the local population didn’t want their past, marked by the division, to be simply forgotten, so that in contrast to what happened in other towns, some monuments and elements of the life in the Socialist Germany were preserved. That’s why even nowadays we can still run into Lenin or Karl Marx in Falkensee. Their busts are exposed in the backyard of the museum for local history just in front of an authentic part of the Berlin Wall.