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

The first German Lenin monument

The first Lenin monument in Germany was inaugurated in 1929 and placed in the building of the German Communist Party (KPD) in Halle. After a trip to the Soviet Union, a group of members of the KPD described with enthusiasm the “Lenin corners”, which could be seen all around the country. These memorials consisted of a representation of Lenin and other Communist symbols, located in buildings of the public administration or political organizations. Following this model, the KPD of Halle-Merseburg decided to erect the first German monument dedicated to Lenin. The central element of this installation was a ceramic mask 1,10m in height and 80cm in width, made by the sculptor Will Halle. Weiterlesen

Residents save Lenin-monument

In the small city of Bützow in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern there is still a street named “Leninring”, where a commemorative stone dedicated to the founder of the Soviet Union can be found. The monument stands in front of an apartment block with the typical Socialist architecture style and is in bad shape, partially overgrown with moss. But nevertheless the Communist revolutionary still seems to matter to the residents, who in the year 2011 rebelled against a proposal of the local CDU, to change the name of the street (which would also have meant the demolition of the memorial stone). Weiterlesen

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

Damnatio memoriae (ENG)


The abandoned military area of Wittstock has turned into a ghost town. Entire apartment buildings, schools, office-blocks and hangars are falling apart. In front of the former cultural center we find an image, which is rich in contrasts: Lenin is standing there with his typical statesmanlike pose, but he is mutilated and completely covered with lichen. It was not possible to get more information about this act of vandalism, but the view of this half-destroyed statue seems like an exemplary representation of the neglect of the East-German monumental landscape. 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.