The Unearthed Head of Lenin

A visit to a piece of East Germany in Zitadelle Spandau

It weighed more than three tons and was buried and almost forgotten deep in a forest around Berlin. But nowadays, you can visit the head of Lenin at the Zitadelle Spandau in an exhibition focused on German history.

Some people called this a comeback of sorts. Others thought it was an offense to the so-called victims of the Soviet Union. I think it’s a piece of history and shouldn’t be buried deep into the forest surrounding Berlin.

This is why I decided to visit it just to see how large the head of Lenin is.

During the height of the Cold War, one of the neighborhoods of East Berlin was home to a square called Leninplatz. There, a Lenin statue that towered almost 20 meters was surrounded by tower blocks in Friedrichshain.

When it was inaugurated, there were 200,000 people on the square where it stayed until 1991, when the first mayor of a reunited Berlin decided it was time to get rid of icons that were connected to a dictatorship that murdered and persecuted so many people.

The classical scene in the movie Good Bye, Lenin where the head of Lenin is airlifted across Berlin was inspired by this. It symbolizes the demise of the communist regime in East Germany, and it stuck with me after I moved to Berlin. When I first heard about the digging of Lenin’s head, I knew I had to go to the Zitadelle Spandau to take a look at it.

But the story of this head of Lenin statue is a little bit tricky.

Let’s go back to the 1990s, a few years after the Lenin statue was dismantled, an American photographer was contacted about making a book about all the Lenin monuments in Eastern Europe. But, every time that Rick Minnich arrived to photograph of these statues, it was already too late.

Based on that, Rick Minnich decided to try something different, and this is how the short film “The book of Lenins” came to be. And, in this movie from 1996, there is a scene where he and his crew located the head. This happens with the help of a photographer that documented the burial of the dismantled statue in the outskirts of Köpenick, southeast of Berlin.

You can watch the surreal scene below.

The Head of Lenin is part of an exhibition called “Unveiled. Berlin and Its Monuments.” that feels to me like a place for statues that lost their home. There you can see political monuments that were once part of the urban landscape of Berlin but due to the Second World War and the Cold War, lost their place.

For me, it was fascinating to see the statues that were part of the Siegesallee with its Prussian and Brandenburg rulers. The Zehnkämpfer, designed by Arno Breker during the Nazi years in entertaining as well but all I could see there was the massive head of Lenin that lays on its side in the middle of the exhibition.

I took my camera to see the long lost head of Lenin in the middle of a snowstorm in early 2017. But I’m only publishing this now because I thought I had lost my pictures! This week, I went through my backup files and realized that everything was just named weirdly. All the images are here, and this is why this article only came to life now.

If you want to visit the head of Lenin and the Unveiled. Berlin and Its Monuments exhibition, you have to go to the Zitadelle Spandau. More information can be found on the link here.

The Unearthed Head of Lenin at Zitadelle Spandau

If you want to explore Berlin looking for traces of Lenin, we have the perfect article for you.

The Unearthed Head of Lenin at Zitadelle Spandau

Am Juliusturm 64, 13599 Berlin

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