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Lenin's Lonely German Birthday


A Vladimir Lenin statue belonging to the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany stands alone in storage.

The date April 22 was supposed to be a special day for a statue of Vladimir Lenin in the western German city of Gelsenkirchen.

The Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany (MLPD), a radical left-wing group reportedly under surveillance by German police, had sparked local opposition and international media attention after announcing it would install a 2.15-meter-tall effigy of the founder of the Soviet Union in front of its headquarters ahead of Lenin's 150th birthday.

Peter Weispfenning, a member of the MLPD's Central Committee, told RFE/RL the coronavirus pandemic had forced the activists to postpone the unveiling after the Gelsenkirchen city council asked people to cancel any large gatherings.

"We discussed it and we said, 'OK, we will not do it on our own,' because more important is the question of the health of the people, and Lenin is a statue so he has to wait until the situation is better.... I'm also a lawyer and we think we would have had a chance to win if we'd gone to court, but we didn't want to make this a small gathering with only five or 10 people. It shall be a bigger thing."

Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin photographed in 1922. The communist revolutionary founded an authoritarian state responsible for mass killings and widespread social and political repression.
Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin photographed in 1922. The communist revolutionary founded an authoritarian state responsible for mass killings and widespread social and political repression.

Weispfenning says the MLPD purchased the Soviet-made, 1930s-era statue for 16,000 euros ($17,314) but "originally the price was much higher."

The 1.3-ton, cast-iron statue was purchased -- with money raised by the MLPD -- from an Austrian dealer who Weispfenning says sourced the monument as being from Slovakia.

The planned installation of Germany's first large public statue of Lenin outside the formerly communist East Germany was fiercely opposed by many Germans. Gelsenkirchen's city council took the Marxists to court in an attempt to stop the action, calling Lenin a "representative of violence, suppression, terror, and immense human suffering."

But the council's case that the statue would "disturb the view" of a nearby historic bank was thrown out in March and the Marxists were given the green light to erect the monument.

Martin Schulmann, a spokesman for Gelsenkirchen's city council, told RFE/RL that "only a very few people around the Marxist Party want [the Lenin monument], no one else." But he said the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic had not changed the situation and after the council's legal defeat, "we have no choice but to accept the court's rulings, since the piece of land where the statue is due to be installed is privately owned [by the MLPD]."

With large gatherings in Germany banned until August, the Gelsenkirchen Lenin is likely to remain in storage until then, facing a wall to prevent media from photographing his face before the big reveal.

Weispfenning told RFE/RL his organization had not yet decided whether to gather in the scruffy workshop where the iron Lenin is being stored to mark his big birthday.

"I have not confirmed [if we will do] this [but] I will discuss it today with my friends. It is a good idea."

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