It started a couple of years ago, out of nowhere, but it took part of my life. Sometimes, when I travel around Europe, I look for him. Sometimes, I wonder where I can find Lenin in Berlin.
It feels like an unusual archeological expedition, and I have documented most of the times I stumbled upon Lenin around Europe.
Today, April 22, 2020, would be Lenin’s 150th birthday. Still, there aren’t many celebrations to remember the birthday of one of the people who shaped the world we live in today.
You might not agree with what he did and how he lived, but you live in a world shaped by his experience, and there isn’t much you can do about it.
But this article isn’t about Lenin’s revolutionary socialist life, his leading role in the October Revolution, or how he helped shape the Soviet Union. This article is about where you can find his traces around Europe.
Here you will find some of the pieces of Lenin in Berlin.
Finding Lenin in Berlin
The Parking Lot Lenin in Neukölln
One of the most unusual places to see a Lenin statue is in the back streets of the industrial part of Neukölln. In the parking lot of a company called Zapf Umzüge is where you will find the only statue of Lenin in West Berlin.
There are a few stories about how this Lenin statue ended up in a parking lot in Berlin, but I believe all of them to be urban legends. But I don’t want to know the truth.
Learning the real story here would ruin the surreal aspect of having a Soviet statue in the middle of nowhere.
The almost-forgotten Leninplatz
Nowadays, most people know this square in Friedrichshain as Platz der Vereinten Nationen. But it used to have different names. Before 1950, it was known as Landsberger Platz, and during communist times, it was named Leninplatz.
If you watched the movie Good Bye, Lenin!, this is the place where a massive Lenin statue is lifted by a helicopter.
During the reconstruction of East Berlin, this part of Friedrichshain was planned as a breaking point before Alexanderplatz. From here on, the buildings started looking bigger and bigger until they culminated in the city center.
In April 1970, a few days before Lenin’s 100th birthday, a massive statue was inaugurated in his honor, and more than 200,000 people were there to watch the ceremony.
The icon was in the middle of the square until 1991, when the district of Friedrichshain voted for the monument’s demolition.
Lenin Memorial Plaque in Friedrichshain
I must have cycled past this place countless times before realizing there is a Lenin memorial plaque next to the Frankfurter Tor S-Bahn station. If you pay attention, between the advertising and the main display windows, you will find a small memorial to Lenin’s participation in a worker’s assembly in Berlin in 1895.
Lenin was in Berlin trying to establish contact with foreign socialists. In that year, he traveled between Berlin, Geneva, and Paris under the surveillance of the Russian authorities. Still, Lenin stayed in Berlin from July to September 1895.
Here he studied for six weeks at Staatsbibliothek and even met Wilhelm Liebknecht, one of the principal founders of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.
Lenin attended the meeting on August 3rd, 1895, with the leaders from the Social Democratic Party of Germany. His presence there was one of the first steps towards the constitution of an international network that would later allow Lenin to keep up with his political work during his exile.
The Lenin from Einsleben in the Deutsches Museum
With some historical importance, Lenin’s statues were the source of some impossible satires during the GDR. East German propaganda had something to say about this Lenin statue from Eisleben, Martin Luther’s hometown in Saxony.
We know that this statue was made in 1925 by the Soviet sculptor Matwej Maniser and that it was the first statue of a Soviet hero standing on German soil.
But the legend says that this statue was saved from destruction by Soviet forced laborers who decided to protect it from being melted during the Second World War. But the story is filled with holes, and it seems like the truth is less glamorous. Historians say this Lenin statue wasn’t melted during the war because it was too big for the melting oven!
The Decapitated Head in Spandau
When the statue was removed from Leninplatz, it was buried and left to be forgotten in a forest deep in the outskirts of Berlin. But, in the middle of 2015, it was recovered from a sandpit, and it became a part of an exhibition called Unveiled. Berlin and Its Monuments.
This massive head, weighing more than three tons, can be visited at Zitadelle Spandau together with other statues that lost their home. But Lenin’s head is easy to spot between all the other figures since it’s so massive that it almost eclipses the statues of Prussian and Brandenburg rulers.
If you are curious about what remains of Lenin in Berlin, you need to read Lenin is still around, which was a great source of information for this article.
And look at the book that Carlos Gomes, who writes the blog, is launching. It’s called, in German, “Lenin lebt. Seine Denkmäler in Deutschland,” and can be found here.