Neukölln’s monument to the Russian revolutionary
Lenin could hardly have imagined he’d be spending his 150th birthday alone in a parking lot in West Berlin. Of all places, West Berlin!
But that’s just where he is, cast in bronze outside the offices of the Zapf Umzüge removals company in an industrial estate in Neukölln, clutching some undoubtedly important papers in his right hand and holding his lapel with his left. His jaw is set and his gaze unwavering as he stares out across the uninspiring grey yard at presumably nothing at all – there’s nothing to see.
How the hell did he end up here? Nobody knows.
“The old boss, who’s unfortunately dead now, got him somewhere somehow around the time of the Wende (Mauerfall, the reunification of Germany) and put him outside. I don’t know any more, sorry,” said the woman at the Zapf front desk when Abandoned Berlin called by on Monday.
The Berliner Zeitung wrote about this Lenin’s strange resting place in 2008, when his home was at Köpenicker Straße in Kreuzberg.
An employee told the newspaper that he used to tell curious visitors, “I say that Lenin was an alias for Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov and how it was with the Bolsheviks and the revolution.”
Klaus Zapf, a socialist who was the founder of Zapf Umzüge, brought the Lenin statue to his firm’s yard in the summer of 2001 as a monument against forgetting the past, Berliner Zeitung wrote.
When Zapf Umzüge moved to Neukölln in 2016, the company took Lenin along too. Well, it is a moving company.
Zapf himself sounds like he was a remarkable guy. He fought capitalism from within, according to British newspaper The Telegraph.
Unfortunately he died in 2014 aged just 62 from a heart attack while on honeymoon with his third wife. His removals company made him a millionaire but he shunned the trappings of wealth, gave most of it away, and lived off a meager wage, shopping at Aldi and even reportedly collecting bottles for their Pfands (deposits).
“I don’t need any money. It just makes us unequal,” Zapf reportedly said. “There are just so many bloody idiots with money around – you don’t need another one.”
Zapf moved to West Berlin in the 1970s, like so many others to avoid military service. It was the carrot West Germany offered to populate its half of the divided city during the Cold War.
Zapf founded his company in 1975 despite never getting a driving license. He hired others to drive a decrepit old Transit van and did the heavy lifting himself. As the company grew, he gave employees profit sharing schemes, and Zapf charged people in rich neighborhoods like Charlottenburg and Zehlendorf more than those with less money in Wedding and Kreuzberg.
No doubt Lenin would have approved. But it still doesn’t explain how the Russian revolutionary ended up in a Neukölln parking lot for his 150th birthday.
Carlos Gomes, who just published a timely book on the surviving Lenin monuments in Germany, gives three differing versions of the story.
The first is that Zapf received the Lenin statue from a Russian businessman as a guarantee for a loan that was never paid back. The second is that Zapf was supposed to move the statue to be destroyed, but decided to buy it and save it instead. The third version suggests it had been a guarantee for another entrepreneur’s loan, but that he got rid of the statue after receiving complaints from neighbors and politicians about having Lenin standing outside his building. Chances are none of them are true.
What matters is that Lenin is still there, still standing proudly as a beacon despite the odds in the heartland of the capitalist west.
LOCATION AND ACCESS (HOW TO FIND GUIDE)
- What: Lenin statue outside the Zapf Umzüge removals company’s offices.
- Where: Nobelstraße 66, 12057 Berlin.
- How to get there: Go on your bike or – I hate to say it – take your car if you have a car. Best to avoid public transport when a highly contagious virus on the loose. Here he is on a map.
- Getting in: There’s no getting in as such, but do be aware that the statue is on Zapf Umzüge’s premises. So they may get a bit arsey if busloads of people arrive and make a hullabaloo outside their door.
- When to go: Go today and wish him a happy birthday!
- Difficulty rating: 2/10. It’s a bit out of the way, but that’s the only difficulty.
- Who to bring: Your socialist friends.
- What to bring: Bring some good news. Lenin hasn’t heard any for a long time.
- Danger: This is actually a relatively safe place to visit, but stay alert and don’t forget you’re in the heartland of the capitalist west.
Many thanks to Fotostraße for the tip and Mark Rodden once again for proofreading!
Lenin’s last stands
Vogelsang still clings to its nuclear secrets. One sneaky deployment of bad weapons was so damned secret it was even kept from the Soviet soldiers involved.
Fürstenberg’s military traces
Years after he first visited, Lenin’s Soviet comrades brought him back to Germany for what they thought was a long haul. He still lingers in Fürstenberg.
Wünsdorf was the Soviet military forces’ HQ in Germany, Little Moscow, the Forbidden City. The Nazis used it before that for their underground army HQ.
Went there today to greet him for his 150. birthday. Definitely one of the coolest insider tips in Berlin 🙂
he used to stand on their premises on Kopernicker strasse
Went there on June 9th, 2020.
It was easy to find.
Took a picture and left.
Was there today but seems the statue wasn’t therr anymore
Nooooooo!! I’m very sorry to hear that. Maybe it’s been taken away for an annual wash, or a trip back to the Soviet sector. I need to investigate. Thanks for your comment!
Went there again, the statue is back! They are renovating the all garden, that is why before it wasn’t there or maybe just covered…now you can see the statue but still cannot access the garden because of the renovations, so u can take a picture from distance
Phew! Good to hear he’s back! Thanks for Lenin us know! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
hi! Where can I find the name of the person who wrote this article? I am working on a short film about this sculpture and I have a few questions.
If you want to get in touch directly, email is best! Explore at Abandoned Berlin dot com is the address 🙂
Thank you! I will!