Thursday, July 23, 2009

Europe photo leftovers 2: Leipzig Völkerschlachtdenkmal


On my way across Germany last summer, I stopped for a night in Leipzig. On recommendation from coworkers I made a point of seeing the Leipzig Völkerschlachtdenkmal (roughly: memorial to the peoples’ battle). This monument (seen above, partially under restoration) is the largest monument in Europe, marking the place of Napoleon’s critical defeat at Leipzig. The monument was built to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1813 battle, which was a decisive turning point in European history.


Inside the memorial, immense statues line the walls  - see the people standing by the statue’s knee. I was primed (by a 6’8” guy, no less) that one truly feels tiny beside the immense titans seated in the memorial, but still found myself somewhat shocked by just how goddamn huge the statues were. Seriously - their sandaled big toes were fatter than my leg.


The monument, constructed in the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm II, garners mixed feelings in Germany. It stands as an emblem of German nationalism, and I think it’s an understatement to say that German nationalism was a pretty bad thing. Hitler was known to deliver speeches in front of the monument, hijacking the powerful imagery conveyed by the 91m concrete and granite monument. While it was erected to commemorate the liberation of German peoples from invading forces, and celebrate national unity, it was used as part of the Nazi propaganda machine. One might imagine, then, why the monument is a little controversial.


Off the radar on many tours of Europe, this made for an interesting stop in my trip. If there’s a take-home message to be had, it would be to definitely consult with any locals and find out what exists where you otherwise might just stay a night or pass right through. I can guarantee you’ll always find something interesting.

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