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Visiting the Lindenplatz at Luebeck, Germany: memories of Bismarck

Updated on April 9, 2011
Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
Emil Hundrieser's Statue of Bismarck, Lindenplatz, Luebeck
Emil Hundrieser's Statue of Bismarck, Lindenplatz, Luebeck | Source
Bismarck in 1895
Bismarck in 1895 | Source
Luebeck in 1910
Luebeck in 1910 | Source

Where Bismarck's monument is, and isn't

I was impressed by the Bismarck monument in the City of Luebeck's Lindenplatz . This leading figure behind German Unification is shown with the familiar military helmet.

The sculptor Emil Hundrieser (1846-1911) finished his statue in 1903, for the vicinity of the Holsten Gate (which I have elsewhere tried briefly to describe). This was just a few years after the death of the subject of his compostion, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898). Hundrieser was a successful and much commissioned artist, and his name is associated with many noteworthy works of sculpture in Germany and beyond. Among many others, these include the Luther memorial in Magdeburg and work on the Old Opera House of Frankfurt am Main.

Researching something of the history of this statue by sculptor Emil Hundrieser , I find it maybe just as striking to note where the monument isn't, as it is to note where it is. This fine statue used to stand near Luebeck's Holsten Gate (German: Holstentor ), leading symbol of the Queen of the Hansa, as the city is sometimes known. I would not necessarily suggest it is somehow problematic for this memorial to Bismarck to have been moved, although I cannot escape the feeling that the Iron Chancellor has been intentionally relegated to the Lindenplatz .

In some countries, there will be a revolution, after which the street names change overnight. Then there may be another revolution and among these names there are those which change again; some of the historical personalities whose reputations had previously waned undergo a sudden rehabilitation. My definite impression is that German civic leaders are by now (and within reason) capable of being mature enough to cope with the totality of their historical experience. This statue is hardly a representation of someone such as an ethically dubious figure from the Third Reich. After all, it is not as if a statue of a long-serving, 19th century Chancellor is somehow a threat to someone. Bismarck was certainly known for his close association with Kaiser Wilhelm I , (to whom the Lindenplatz also harbours an equestrial memorial) but to a lesser extent with the latter's two successors, Friedrich I and Wilhelm II . Of these, Friedrich died shortly after ascending to the Imperial Throne in 1888 and Wilhelm II constructively dismissed Bismarck ('the dropping of the pilot') when it was apparent that the aged statesman was not happy with Wilhelm II 's (and his entourage's) ambitions for military expansion.

Today Bismarck is sometimes dismissed as a reactionary, militaristic figure, yet at the time of his parting of the ways with Wilhelm II , it was as a statesman with a reputation for having striven for a certain moderation and equilibrium that many of his contemporaries remembered him, as he retired from the German Chancellorship in 1890. There is also a certain contemporary trendiness in people being quick to dismiss the makings of Bismarck 's commitment to workers' welfare. It is true, however, that the Bismarck of 1890 in the face of Wilhelm 's increasing militarism, and the Bismarck of the years leading to the 1870 Franco-Prussian War are somewhat distinct figures.

Luebeck is a most fine city, in any case, and the municipal authorities may rightly be satisfied at their many and sustained efforts to preserve and enhance the city's cultural treasures for posterity.

Also worth seeing

Luebeck has numerous other noted buildings in addition to the 15th century Holsten Gate, but these include: the spired Cathedral (Luebecker Dom ), which was built mainly in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries; the Marienkirche , in Gothic brick style, which was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, with twin spires each nearly 125 metres high. The city has strong associations with writers Thomas Mann and Guenter Grass , and with another German Chancellor, Willy Brandt .

The port of Travemuende (literally, the mouth of the Trave) nearby has been a possession of the city of Luebeck ever since the Middle Ages. At Travemuende there is an interesting old lighthouse, which dates from 1539.

...

How to get there: Lufthansa flies from New York Newark airport to Hamburg Airport (Flughafen Hamburg ), where car hire is available. For North American travellers making the London, England area their base, Ryanair flies from London Stansted Airport to Luebeck Airport (Flughafen Luebeck ), where care hire is available. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

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

For your visit, these items may be of interest

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