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Court’s Verdict on Lenin Statue: Death by Jackhammer

November 5, 1991 GMT

BERLIN (AP) _ Caged by a cell of scaffolding, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin stood mute and emotionless in a blustery Berlin square on Tuesday as a court decided to let workers lop off his head.

Berlin city officials had planned earlier to begin dismantling the 63-foot statue cut from red Ukrainian granite, one of the most spectacular Lenin renderings still standing west of the Urals.

But a Berlin district court hearing on a lawsuit filed this week by the widow and daughter of the Soviet sculptor, Nikolai Tomski, offered a brief stay of execution.

Late Tuesday, the court threw out the claim on the grounds that Tomski did not bequeath the statue to anybody. City officials say they will go ahead with the removal on Wednesday, starting with Lenin’s huge, spheroid head.

Tomski, who died in 1984, used 125 granite blocks to create the sweeping, heroic image of the man who led the Russian Revolution. His family says to remove the statue would desecrate his art.

City officials have offered vague assurances that the statue may be reassembled later as part of a permanent exhibit of Communist icons.

A small but hardy group of statue supporters, many of them members of Berlin’s anti-everything anarchist scene, kept up their round-the-clock vigil at Lenin Square, which is to be renamed United Nations Square after Lenin is dispatched.

Red roses and banners covered the temporary fence surrounding the square. Someone had drawn a caricature of a jowly Chancellor Helmut Kohl wearing a Prussian helmet topped with a Mercedes-Benz hood ornament.

One sign wondered why Berlin officials didn’t tear down the Olympic stadium where Hitler presided over the 1936 Olympics.

Passers-by signed petitions to keep the statue intact, snapped pictures as mementos and argued vehemently among themselves over Lenin’s fate.

People who want their German history with a twist of Lenin say to remove the statue is to deny the past.

″How unfortunate,″ said Rudy Hintze, 60, a pensioner who signed the petition. ″This was part of our past. What do they remove next?″

He pointed to a sign stuck to the fence that said ″When do we burn the books?″

But Herbert Kolander, a 65-year-old east Berliner, said he could not understand why anyone would want to keep a statue that glorified a system that he said brought ruin to former East Germany.


″Should we name a square Adolf Hitler Square, a street Hermann Goering Street?″ he said.

The removal of the Lenin statue is only his latest indignity. Recently, Soviet officials allowed a German television crew to film the man himself as he lay in state in his Moscow tomb, something once strictly forbidden.

Local governments throughout former East Germany are going through a painstaking process of deciding, statue-by-statue and street-by-street, which remnants from the Communist past should be changed.

This typically German soul-searching, and the surgical precision with which Lenin was to be removed, is a far cry from the spontaneous, jubilant toppling of Communist icons that occurred elsewhere in the former East bloc, and in the Soviet Union after the failed August coup.

In the southern Russian Federation city of Grozny, local people yanked down their Lenin statue with such joyous abandon that the revolutionary’s left boot still sits alone atop the pedestal, like a monument to footwear.

Hannelore Vogelsang, an unemployed east Berlin mother of three, could not understand why anyone would care about the Lenin statue in Berlin.

″There are so many more important things to worry about,″ she said. ″Maybe they should keep the statue as a symbol of unemployment.″