Even 97 years after his death, Lenin still makes an appearance in the most unusual places. But considering that at one point, 1.5 million Soviets were stationed in Germany – it shouldn’t be too unusual to bump into a Lenin or two. If you pass through Fürstenberg/Havel, you’ll not only stumble across 3 depictions of Lenin, you’ll also find quite possibly the largest Lenin head that’s left out in the open in Germany.
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Fürstenberg, the Nazis, and the Soviets
Like many cities throughout Germany, Fürstenberg had a sizeable Nazi presence by the 1930s. In 1938, through the aid of slave labour the Nazis built the KZ Ravensbrück, which would house a predominantly female prison population who would primarily be forced to work in the industrial factories nearby.
With the Nazi bureaucracy having gotten more complex over the years, the Sicherheitspolizeischule Drögen – one of seven Security Police Schools in the German Reich – was established in the Village of Drögen just outside of Fürstenberg. We have an entire article dedicated to the former Sicherheitspolizeischule Drögen so we wont go into it here. Both the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe had sizable contingents stationed in and around Fürstenberg, including units of the Latvian Legion.
The advancing Red Army moved into Fürstenberg in May 1945, liberated the KZ Ravensbrück and took over the former Nazi military instlations. By 1946 Fürstenberg had become the headquarters of the 2nd Guards Tank Army (the first Red Army unit to enter Berlin) and slowly became of strategic importance to the occupying Soviet forces. Large parts of the city and its surroundings became a restricted military area – cutting off access to the local german residents. When the Soviets, now Russians left in 1993, they handed back 23 military installations spanning over 2000 hectares.
While it was common practice that the Soviet Military installations were turned into mini russian exclaves , fully equipped with super markets, cinemas, schools, kindergartens and sports facilities – it wasn’t extremely common for the Soviets to build their infrastructure directly in the heart of a german city. But Fürstenberg was different.
Fürstenberg Schule № 13 and Fürstenberg Schule № 27
When the Soviets marched into Fürstenberg, they relatively quickly took over the area around the Röblinsee with its luxurious Villas. The residents and owners were unceremoniously removed from their properties which were then turned into officer homes amongst other things. In the late 1950s Fürstenberg had just over 6000 residents, but this was dwarfed by the over 30,000 Soviet soldiers stationed in and round the city.
Fürstenberg Schule № 13
The Soviet Military administration in Fürstenberg decided to establish the School Nr. 13 (Школа №13 ГСВГ Фюрстенберг) atop a hill surrounded by a large forrest and overlooking the picturesque Röblinsee. Several details seem to have been lost over time – we couldn’t deduce exactly when the School Nr 13 was founded, or what the school building originally used to be or if it was built by the Soviet Red Army. Even an exchange with one of the Fürstenberg city officials and the local planning office yielded no results as the relevant documents “were no longer available”.
We did on the other hand establish contact with a former student* who now lives in Moscow, who was able to give us some insights. According to him, the larger building which accommodated the older classes was built in the 1950s by the Soviets, while the other buildings dated back to the 1920s and 1930s.
The School Nr. 13 was originally established as a boarding school. Students from grades 9 and 10 from other military bases such as Vogelsang, Groß-Dölln, Prenzlau and the nearby Drögen were brought here as well to complete their education. This was primarily down to the fact that not every military base has enough children from all age ranges to accommodate every schooling level required – so it was easier to send them to the nearest soviet military base with the appropriate school level.
Fürstenberg Schule № 17
In 1971, the School No. 33 in Vogelsang was expanded, so the schoolchildren from Groß-Dölln, Prenzlau and the other military bases didn’t need to make the long journey to Fürstenberg anymore. In the same year, the Fürstenberg School No. 13 underwent a transformation, turning the boarding school into a middle school. With the addition of the middle school, the Soviet School in Fürstenberg now had one building dedicated to Primary Education, and one for secondary education – and was promptly renamed to School Nr. 27 ( Школа №27 ГСВГ Фюрстенберг).
Rather than me describing what the School Nr.27 complex looked like, have a look at this “home video” from the year 1992, it’s an amazing time capsule into a parallel life in Germany. It is worth mentioning that the school was surrounded by some small villas, some which still stand today, While on the exterior they might have a slight russian datcha feel, they were in fact also built in the 1920s and 1930s, and housed the russian teachers of the school.
The Lenin of Fürstenberg School Nr.27
If you’ve paid close attention to the video – you’ll spot a giant Lenin head in the background at the 1:24 timestamp! If there’s one thing that we always like tracking down, it’s a statues and murals– or in this case a head – of Lenin.
Rumor had it, that while the buildings were in disrepair, the head along with another Lenin statue (that’s a different post) were still there. So all the way back in 2014, we decided to head over to Fürstenberg and check it out for ourselves. We’ve visited Fürstenberg a few times since then – most recently in 2021 to visit a soviet military mural in Drögen with yet another large lenin mural – so we decided to swing by the giant Lenin bust and take some photos of its current condition.
After the (now) Russian troops left Germany in 1993-1994, the former Soviet Military installations were handed over to the unified German government. Fürstenberg had the challenge of receiving the one of the largest formerly Soviet Military property portfolios in Germany. While some former residents in Fürstenberg seized the moment ro reclaim their unrightfully expropriated homes back (many weren’t even “formally” dispossessed at the end of the war), many buildings simply remained empty, with the local government neither having the time nor the will to do something about them.
Over the years, the School buildings fell into a state of disrepair. Some buildings were gutted and torn down (the main school building was torn down roughly around 2014), some were renovated and some were just left as they were – boarded up and abandoned. The boarding school on the other hand was downsized and renovated into rather snazzy looking apartments.
It’s unclear when, but Lenin’s gigantic white head suffered a similar fate as many of his likenesses across eastern europe – and was toppled from his 1.8 meter high pedestal (the Lenin in Eberswalde suffered a different fate – with the pedestal remaining in place and the Lenin moving). The pedestal has vanished over the years, but Lenin’s head remained (though it moved a few meters to the left from its original position) – possibly too much of an effort to completely remove, or maybe just macabre enough to have as a garden ornament.
The once former white paint has mostly washed off, with only traces left on his tie – but the poor old chap is sporting a Trotsky sized hole in the back of his head, revealing a hollow interior. Like the Sphynx and roman statues before him, Lenins nose has seemingly vanished – probably because it was the most fragile part of the bust.
Fürstenbergs Lenin bust today
While Lenin’s head is in poor condition, with the hole and the missing nose, its been like this for several years – so relatively unchanged. While some blogs seemingly make out his location as a secret, hidden somewhere in the undergrowth, he’s actually located just a few meters from here he once originally stood – which is now the garden of the residents of the refurbished school. To be more precise, he’s sitting in a little shrove just opposite a small building which used to be the canteen of the junior school. Some of the trees Lenin is surrounded by were actually planted by the students of the school.
The local children have seemingly adopted the comrade and have been exploiting him for capitalist gain ever since – cashing in on his popularity by asking for donations from curious visitors and photographers. A word to the wise: While you can easily visit Lenin’s head in Fürstenberg (there’s even a small pathway which leads directly up to him), you are virtually in someone’s garden – or next to it. You wouldn’t want random strangers trampling around on your property, so it’s best to go in light footed and respectfully.
Finding Fürstenbergs Lenin
Finding the Lenin bust is relatively easy. Once in Fürstenberg, you need to traverse up the Peetscher Höhe, until you reach the large mansion like building. If you walk down to the left past the smaller of the two buildings (if you walk past the concrete rubble you’ve gone too far), you will find a small path next to the building leading directly up to the Lenin bust. If you still cant find it, feel free to ask around as everybody in the area knows about the Lenin in the bushes. Who knows, maybe you’ll even encounter some of the former students who regularly make trips back to Fürstenberg to visit their old school.
* Спасибо за помощь Руслан!
The Lenin Bust of Fürstenberg School Nr.27 Address