In the year of 2015 a typical scene from the period immediately after the German reunification was seen again in the city of Strausberg: A Lenin-statue being lifted by a crane truck, in order to prepare its removal. The sculpture had been lying in the backyard of the Museum for Local History since 1991, covered by a black plastic. The German Communist Party had proposed its re-erection, but neither the mayor nor the director of the museum were convinced of the idea. Instead, they decided to give the statue to the cultural association “IFA-Freunde Trebus” (from the city of Fürstenwalde), in order to be exposed together with a collection of cars and everyday objects from the GDR. Weiterlesen
Only fifteen minutes walk from the Rostock city harbour lies one of the most impressive revolutionary monuments in Germany. It’s the „memorial of revolutionary sailors“ erected in honour of the 1918-November Revolution. The sailors‘ uprising in Kiel was the beginning of the revolution that led to the fall of the monarchy in the German Reich and the foundation of a parliamentary democracy („Weimar Republic“). Rostock’s monument consists of two parts: a twenty-metre-long relief wall with scenes of the international labour movement and a nine-metre-high bronze sculpture of two sailors in attacking position. Weiterlesen
A statue, which is under monument protection, but disappears twice without a trace. An old and forgotten bust, which suddenly is standing at the entrance of the Volkspark. Lenin’s existence in Potsdam is a succession of mysterious incidents and even journalists, politicians and public authorities lose track of it. Weiterlesen
After the Red Army left its base in Vogelsang, Brandenburg, the abandoned barracks turned into a popular destination for photographers and adventurous tourists. The main attraction was the large mural with a Lenin relief between the old café and the officers‘ house. However, a few years ago, following the decision to renaturalize the area, the demolition of the entire military complex began, which also endangered the Lenin Monument. But finally the monument to the Communist revolutionary was saved in spring of 2017 and taken to Wünsdorf, being placed in front of a museum. Weiterlesen
In 1974 Dresden received the second largest German Lenin statue, a 120-ton monument in red granite showing Lenin marching forward followed by two comrades. After the fall of Communism, the statue was removed from its former location and given to the private collection of an art collector from southern Germany, where it still stands today, dismantled into many pieces. The mural „The Path of the Red Flag“, which was made between 1968 and 1969 and depicts Lenin among other communist thinkers and revolutionaries, had a better luck: The thirty-metre long and ten-metre high work of art was put under protection and recently completely restaured. It is now shining in all its splendour again right in the centre of Dresden. Weiterlesen
The chronicle of the Lenin-monument in Großenhain in Sachsen resembles the plot of a Hollywood film. After the German reunification, the 4,80-metre-high concrete block weighing over ten tonnes was dismantled and hidden in a secret operation with the intention of preserving it from a possible destruction. For 25 years, the colossal monument was considered „disappeared“ until its surprising comeback in 2017 to be re-erected in front of the local Bunker Museum. Weiterlesen
During my investigation about German Lenin-monuments, the name of Sassnitz often appeared in different documents and lists. In April of 1917 Lenin had spent a night in this East-German harbour-city, before taking a boat to Sweden in order to continue his trip to Russia. On the occasion of this historical episode, a memorial stone, a bust and a small museum in honour of Lenin were erected in Sassnitz during the 60s and 70s. Weiterlesen
The train, which left Zurich the 9th of April 1917, returning a group of Russian socialists, which were living in exile, back to their home country is one of the most important happenings in the 20th century history: This was the train, which took Lenin to Russia, where he would use the politic instability in order to put into practice his revolutionary plans, prepared for years in the libraries and political circles of Zurich. This train crossed Germany from the Swiss border to Sassnitz, where the passengers had to get on a ferry boat to Sweden, from where they would finally head towards Petrograd (today St. Petersburg). Weiterlesen
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 story about how the biggest German Lenin-bust ended up in the small town of Burg (Spreewald) more than two decades after the reunification is another of the surprising chronicles of Lenin-monuments in Germany. Weiterlesen