Postcard from... Berlin


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Paris is miserable in the rain. Water cascades from balconies. Streets turn into torrents. Motorists seem to take delight in splashing pedestrians.

The giant head is made from red Ukrainian granite, it weighs 3.5 tons and once featured in Goodbye Lenin, a 2001 hit film about the fall of the Berlin Wall. But for the past 22 years the stone head of the former  Soviet leader Vladimir Iliych Lenin has lain buried, like  some dirty secret, in a sand  pit on the eastern edge of  the German capital.

It is now about to be exhumed. East Berlin’s Lenin monument was the focal point of the former Communist capital’s 1970s-built “Leninplatz” (now renamed United Nations Square). It was put up with revolutionary fervour in 1970 just three days before Lenin’s 100th birthday. But after German reunification in 1990 many Berliners saw it as a hateful symbol of  oppression and in 1991, despite vociferous objections, the borough responsible for its upkeep demolished it.  Gregor Gysi, leader of Germany’s reformed Communist Left Party, complained that the decision was wrong and insisted Berlin had to accept its history.

Two decades on it seems his words have not fallen on deaf ears after all. Lenin’s head is part of a whole collection of totalitarian architecture which remains banned from Berlin. It includes Nazi, Communist, and German Imperial monuments. But plans are now underway to put many back on display in a permanent exhibition to open next year.  The organisers want  to show how the disposal of  “politically incorrect” monuments leads in turn to the “disposal of history”.  Lenin’s granite head is expected to feature prominently.