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Völkerschlachtdenkmal

The Monument to the Battle of the Nations – Völkerschlachtdenkmal is a monument in Leipzig, Germany, to the Battle of Leipzig of 1813, also known as the Battle of the Nations. It is one of Leipzig’s main landmarks. Paid for mostly by donations and a lottery, and partially by the city of Leipzig, it was completed in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the battle and cost around 6,000,000 Goldmark (approx. 31 million euro). The monument commemorates Napoleon’s defeat at Leipzig.

This was a crucial step towards the end of hostilities, which was, in essence, a victory for the German people. There were Germans fighting on both sides, as Napoleon’s troops due to mandatory conscription included Germans from the French-occupied left bank of the Rhine as well as from the Confederation of the Rhine. Additionally, it mourns the dead from all the nations involved, not only the German soldiers. The structure is 91 metres tall, making it the tallest monument in Europe. It contains over 500 steps to a viewing platform at the top, from which there are spectacular views across the city and its environs. The structure makes extensive use of concrete, although the facings are of granite. The monument is widely regarded as one of the best examples of Wilhelmine architecture. It is said to stand on the spot of the bloodiest fighting, where Napoleon saw his army destroyed. Thearchitect of the monument was Bruno Schmitz, and the carved figures, including the 5.5-metre (18 feet) high Totenwächter (“Guards of the Dead”, or “Keepers of the Vigil of the Dead”) are the work of sculptors Christian Behrens and his one-time apprentice Franz Metzner. The construction work took place over a period of 15 years under the direction of Clemens Thieme.

The statuary which dominates the entire structure is intended to evoke mythic images of Germanic heroism. It is a frequently visited tourist attraction and brings people from abroad as well as people from other parts of Germany. During the Third Reich, Hitler used it as a frequent venue for his speeches when in Leipzig. During the period of communist rule in East Germany, the government of the GDR was unsure whether it should allow the monument to stand, since it was considered to represent the staunch nationalism of the period of the German Empire. Eventually, it was decided that the monument should be allowed to remain, since it represented a battle in which Russian and German soldiers had fought together against a common enemy, and was therefore representative of “Russo-German Brotherhood-in-arms” (German: Deutsch-russische Waffenbrüderschaft). As of 2010, the monument is under restoration, with work scheduled to be finished by 2013, the year of the two-hundredth anniversary. The Monument of the Battle of Nations is located in the south-east of Leipzig and can be reached by tram lines 15 and 2 (stop: Völkerschlachtdenkmal).

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