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Visiting Berlin, Germany, and its statue of Frederick the Great, Prussian arch-militarist: restored by Communists, 1980

Updated on March 3, 2016
Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Equestrian statue of King Frederick II of Prussia, in Unter den Linden Boulevard, Central Berlin
Equestrian statue of King Frederick II of Prussia, in Unter den Linden Boulevard, Central Berlin | Source
Erich Honecker (left) meets Leonid Brezhnev
Erich Honecker (left) meets Leonid Brezhnev | Source
Map of Germany
Map of Germany | Source

Remembering is complex

This striking work of sculpture stands on the central boulevard known as Unter den Linden , in Berlin, Germany.

Some history and features

One could say that the history of the statue itself is almost as interesting as the historical personality that it depicts. King Frederick II of Prussia (1712-1786), known as Frederick the Great, has gone down in history as an arch-militarist, who in the 18th century greatly strengthened the Kingdom of Prussia (later the dominant entity in the German Empire founded in 1871).

This equestrian statue was sculpted by David Rauch (1777-1857). Its height is 6.65 metres; with the plinth its total height is 13.5 metres. Frederick was known for wearing his triangular, military hat, and this feature is also depicted on the statue. On the plinth are representations of many of Frederick's contemporaries; in fact, 74 of them, in all. The weight of this substantial work of commemorative art is calculated at 36.6 tonnes.

It was erected at its present location in 1851, but its presence did not survive the immediate post-World War Two period following the defeat of Nazi Germany, and it was removed to Sans Souci Palace.

Significantly, however, in 1980 the East German Communist authorities decided to restore to its Unter den Linden location this statue of arch-militarist Frederick the Great. At this time, East Germany, or the German Democratic Republic (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik ), the capital of which was East Berlin (2), was led by Erich Honecker (1912-1994).

The statue was further refurbished after the unification of Germany and of the Eastern and Western sectors of the city of Berlin.

The statue is situated outside the Humboldt University of Berlin (Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin ) at 6 Unter den Linden, which is one of the world's leading academic institutions, and was founded in 1810. (Associated with the university have been 40 Nobel prizewinners, including Albert Einstein , later forced to academic exile at Princeton, New Jersey. After 1933, many of the university's books were burned by propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels. The fine, pillared stonework of the University's entrance has been restored in recent years.)

The existence of this statue in a city and country which has in the past been linked with undeniably excessive expressions of militarism makes for thought-provoking reflection. I honestly do not think that contemporary Federal German officials can be accused of attempting to promote aggressive militarism. Rather, the statue's active preservation and maintenance would point to the place of Frederick as a very prominent historical figure in Germany. (Maybe this contrasts somewhat with the attitudes of some officials in North America who seem to pursue 'political correctness' to a degree whereby remembrances of the past, which do not happen to conform to the latest, perceived insights of politically motivated activists, should supposedly be sidelined? But I'll leave the thought there.)


(1) Sculptor Rausch is also known for statues of Immanuel Kant, Albrecht Duerer, Friedrich Wilhelm von Buelow, and many other, prominent personalities.

(2) Interestingly, East German usage was to use the word 'Berlin' simply to refer to the capital of the German Democratic Republic; indeed, much of the historic capital of the city lay in the Soviet sector.

Also worth seeing

In Berlin itself, where visitor attractions abound, some of these include: The Brandenburg Gate, the Fernsehturm (TV Tower), the Reichstag building , Charlottenburg Palace (German: Schloss Charlottenburg ), Berlin Cathedral (German: Berliner Dom ) and many others.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Berlin Tegel Airport (Flughafen Berlin-Tegel ), where car rental is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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