Soviet splendour in Prenzlauer Berg

Ernst Thälmann monument. A remnant of the ex-GDR in Greifswalder Straße, Berlin.

It's a spectacular remnant of the former GDR, albeit one that many Berlin visitors simply miss.

An enormous - and magnificent - bronze in unmistakeably Soviet style looms over Greifswalder Straße on the edge of Prenzlauer Berg.

One of very few such monuments still remaining in central Berlin, the 14 m high (46 ft) bust was unveiled in 1986 to commemorate the centenary of the birth of socialist hero Ernst Thälmann, leader of Germany's Communist Party during the Weimar Republic.

Imprisoned by the Nazis for eleven years, he was finally shot on Hitler's orders in 1944, his death blamed on an air raid. 

Berlin attractions: designed by Russian sculptor Lew Kerbel, this huge bust of German socialist hero Ernst Thälmann bears all the hallmarks of classic Soviet-era sculpture

Rising from a wind-swept, unadorned square, Thälmann's determined profile is framed by a backdrop of high-rise apartment blocks. The entire ensemble - centred around a somewhat bedraggled park bearing his name - was designed as an exemplary GDR residential project, an amalgam of housing, sports facilities and even science in the form of an edifying planetarium.

The magnificent monument to Ernst Thalmann is one of Berlin's most spectacular remnants of the ex-GDR

Although, in truth, the complex exudes a rather joyless austerity (and for many years also exuded toxic residues, as it was built on the site of a former coal gas works), the monumental image of its namesake transforms this small, atypical corner of Prenzlauer Berg into a place of true spectacle.

Berlin off the beaten track: Ernst Thälmann memorial, Prenzlauer Berg
Flowers adorn the monument to Ernst Thälmann, Berlin

Look closely, too, at the statue's plinth, where someone has chipped holes in the granite to create tiny plantholders at each of its four corners. Filled with colourful blooms, it's anyone's guess as to how long they'll remain, but it's a gesture, no doubt, that Thälmann himself would have appreciated.

See also:
Lenin's last stand
Berlin's GDR museum and store
An Expressionist tomb

Ernst Thälmann Memorial: Greifswalder Straße 10405 Berlin

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