A relic from GDR times that I had never heard of is the Marx Engels Forum. I went in search of clues and am amazed at what people don’t know.
Where is the Marx Engels Forum located?
The Marx-Engels-Forum is located in Berlin Mitte. It stands on a green area surrounded by Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, the park at the TV tower, Rathausstraße and the river Spree.
History of origins
The air raids of World War II destroyed the Holy Spirit Quarter and the Marienviertel with the New Market in Mitte. The GDR government planned to develop the area as a political center for the capital of the GDR after the rubble was removed.
Plans called for the construction of a government skyscraper based on models from Moscow and Warsaw (the Palace of Culture). In front of the building, it was planned, a 25 meter high monument to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels should be erected. Financial problems meant that the project was never realized. But a representative replacement was created, the TV Tower and the Palace of the Republic. Between these places, squares were to be created to represent the GDR.
One of these places was the Marx-Engel Forum, which was to be built at the request of the state leadership. The state leadership wanted to honor the important theorists of communism by erecting a monument.
In addition to the sculptor Ludwig Engelhardt, numerous other people were entrusted with the implementation of the project. It took several years to get from the first draft model to the finished sculpture. However, the party leadership did not really seem to like it, and a counter-draft emerged. Engelhardt pushed through his idea, but the monument was assigned a new place. The monument was to be placed behind the Palace of the Republic on a meadow on the other side of the Spree.
The last difficulties, such as the amount of bronze for the casting, could also be overcome and after more than 10 years the monument finally stood in 1986 in the capital of the GDR in a new park.
A pompous monument unveiling, as known from many other monuments of the GDR era, was missing here and even until the end of the GDR era, no political event ever took place here.
What does the Marx Engels Forum look like?
The Marx Engels Forum consists of several art objects placed on a circular paved area.
In the central place there is a sculpture made of bronze: Karl Marx is sitting and next to him is Friedrich Engels. The standing figure is 3.85 meters tall, both figures stand on a flat pedestal.
Around the sculpture are eight stainless steel steals. On the double-sided flat steals, approximately at eye level, are 144 photographic documents that have been permanently applied using a state-of-the-art technique of the time…. These show the history of the workers’ movement.
Behind the figures of Marx and Engels is a relief wall made of Bulgarian marble. According to the description of the artist, the relief shows groups of people in early capitalist environment (underdevelopment, lack of freedom, threat and need of man).
There are two bronze reliefs on the square, which are part of the monument ensemble. Here the scenes of life in a liberated society are shown (beauty and dignity of the liberated person).
The monument after the political change
Like so many other relics of the GDR era, discussions about the Marx Engels Forum ensued after German reunification in 1990. Some wanted to reconstruct the historical Berlin and there the monument disturbed, the others were for the preservation, because it belonged to the contemporary history of the city.
In 1993, the Monument Commission decided that the monument ensemble should be preserved. The figures of Marx and Engels honored two Germans whose social impact was undisputed.
Until today, there have been repeated demands / ideas to redesign and build on the site, which would mean the disappearance of the Marx-Engels-Forum. In 2010, the monument had to make way for the construction of the subway and was moved within the green strip. In the process, the figures were turned so that they now face west and no longer east. The round square was destroyed during the construction work.