German city famous for giant Marx head marks anniversary of statue

Photo: Courtesy dpa

Chemnitz, the East German city famous for its towering sculpture of Karl Marx’s head, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its best-known landmark.

With nostrils large enough to fit the heads of small children and a stern bearded face spanning more than 7 meters, the bronze bust is the world’s largest head of Karl Marx, and the world’s second-largest bust after a head of Lenin in Russia.

For Mayor Sven Schulze, the monument remains one of the most important symbols for the city, which was renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt (Karl Marx City) in Communist times.

“However, it has changed in recent years in the perception from a political symbol rather in the direction of a tourist sight,” Schulze says.

Indeed, in few other cities in the world are visitors offered more Karl Marx souvenirs, with numerous mugs, coffee and even USB sticks available as a miniature busts.

The Marx landmark is a reminder of both GDR times and German reunification, as well as the city’s name changes from Chemnitz to Karl-Marx-Stadt during GDR times, and back again after the fall of the wall.

The giant philosopher’s head, which weighs 40 tons, was created by Russian sculptor Lev Kerbel (1917-2003) and unveiled on October 9, 1971, in front of 250,000 people.

The monument ensemble includes lettering with the Marx quote “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” It is emblazoned in several languages on the building behind it. Today, the sculpture is a popular photo motif, meeting place and a venue for demonstrations.

The 50th anniversary is to be celebrated in October with a new exhibition behind the monument, as well as guided tours of the city, concerts and a light installation.

About 4 hours by train from Berlin, Chemnitz is about an hour from the regional hubs Leipzig and Dresden, and given its location near the Czech border is also closer to Prague than to Berlin.


Text by Peter Endig, and photo: Courtesy © dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH