The History Woman's Blog

A Museum full of Statues

Posted in exhibitions, History by thehistorywoman on October 2, 2020

 

Lenins_head

Lenin’s head.

As a country that has seen empire, Nazi dictatorship, two world wars, division and reunification, Germany has a lot of experience with unwanted monuments and statues. Some of them are now kept in the former provisions depot on the grounds of the Spandau Citadel in Berlin where you can see, among others, statues of Prussian monarchs, a church bell with a swastika its embarrassed post-war owners were unable to remove, and the famous head of Lenin.*

This giant head lying on its side as if it had rolled off the block on the scaffold belonged to a giant statue of the Russian revolutionary and Soviet leader Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov unveiled in 1970 at Leninplatz, the present Platz der Vereinten Nationen, in the eastern Berlin district of Friedrichshain. The statue was destroyed in the early 1990s after German reunification because the then mayor of Berlin, Eberhard Diepgen, would not tolerate symbols of a ‘dictatorship in which people were persecuted and murdered’. The parts of the statue were buried in a forest in the south-eastern part of Berlin. However, the head was recovered in 2015 when it found its way into the museum in Spandau, where it is now part of the ‘Unveiled’ exhibition.

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The ‘Hitler bell’.

The church bell has its own inglorious history. Known as one of several ‘Hitler bells’, this bronze bell with Nazi symbolism was made in 1934 – one year after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power – for the evangelical parish church of Wichern-Radeland in Berlin’s Spandau district.

Only in 1962, however, did a new pastor point to the untenable situation that ‘the bell which is calling (the faithful) to the service should still carry the symbols of Third Reich ideology’. It was decided to remove the swastika from the bell, but attempts to do so failed. Some 55 years later, in 2017, the bell was finally silenced for good and another two years later removed to the Citadel. (more…)

Experiencing museums in times of crisis

Posted in exhibitions, History, museums, Uncategorized by thehistorywoman on June 13, 2020

Brecht_Weigel

The little house in Buckow where Brecht and Weigel spent their summers. 

Now that the lockdown is easing in many parts of Germany I thought it would be a good idea to visit a few museums. It was definitely nice to be out and about again  despite the ongoing pandemic, but following social distancing rules in smaller local museums was clearly not easy.

My first trip took me to the Brecht-Weigel-Haus in Buckow close to Berlin, where the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) and his actress wife and long-term collaborator Helene Weigel (1900-1971) spent their summers from 1952.

The little house by the lake Schermützelsee is a beautiful and quiet place which looks ideal for writing, relaxing and meeting friends. It is very bright and cosy and surrounded by a lovely garden overlooking the lake. Alas, due to the social distancing rules, only two people were allowed into any room at a time, which did not work too well.

Especially the first room after the reception was way too small to cope with even small groups of visitors. The little room contained much of the biographical information on Brecht and Weigel as well as reproductions of original documents from the 1950s, some of them dealing with the East German uprising of 1953, which took some time to read. We could have spent at least an hour in there, but felt we had to move on quickly to let other visitors in.

The second and main room of the house, a large and airy living room was much better, partly because you could walk around and look at the furniture and pictures without colliding with anyone. But there was little information to contextualise what you were seeing. Much of the fun of the visit consisted in imagining how Brecht, Weigel and their friends were sitting on the odd collection of chairs around the big central table smoking, drinking and debating. (more…)