A to Z of Statues – B is for Otto Von Bismarck

I noticed that one thing that makes Berlin stand out against other grand European cities is that it has very few statues; it is that history thing again, Berlin can’t very well have statues of Kaiser Wilhelm II or Adolf Hitler because they were both responsible for unleashing hell in Europe.

Midway along the Tiergarten we did eventually come across a famous monument, the Berlin Victory Column, commissioned in 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War and later dedicated also to victory in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and then the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Prussia did like going to war it seems.

It is indeed a grand column that soars into the sky and at the very top stands a golden statue of the Roman God Victory.

Prussia had become a modern European State in 1701 and for the next one hundred and seventy years was at war with someone or another for a total of ninety years, or over half of its existence. Not surprisingly Prussia was seen as a militaristic threat to the stability of Europe and so was abolished by the victorious allies in 1947.

This wasn’t especially difficult, two years earlier the Russian offensive in the Battle of Berlin had demolished and removed almost all Prussian heritage. East Prussia was absorbed into a redefined Poland and the remainder became East Germany.

Battleship Bismarck – what a beast…

Nearby we found a statue of a man that I was expecting to find – Otto Von Bismarck, the architect of modern Germany who was responsible for the creation of the country in 1871 following the defeat of France in a short-sharp war – the sort of quick victory Germany expected again in 1914. The sort of victory, it has to be said, that Great Britain also anticipated.

A grand statue but not on prominent display but instead tucked discreetly inside a corner of the Tiergarten, adjacent to the Victory Column.

Not really surprising because Germany looks mostly to the future. To some extent this is explained by Germany’s post war efforts to confront its past, The Germans have a word for this – Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, which translates as “working off the past”.

In 2003 in a television poll German viewers bypassed Otto Von Bismarck (voting for Adolf Hitler was not allowed) and voted post-war Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as the greatest German of all time. Hands up anyone who has heard of Konrad Adenauer? It would be like voting John Major as the Greatest Briton. I mention this now just as a comparison, if you think Adenauer is an odd choice, in a similar poll in the USA they voted Ronald Reagan the Greatest American and in terms of Presidents alone that was ahead of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D Roosevelt.  Astonishing.

There were also some odd results elsewhere, Russia voted for Josef Stalin (responsible for an estimated 60 million deaths), France for Charles de Gaulle instead of Napoleon or Louis XIV, Portugal for Antonio Salazar (a dictator), Spain for King Juan Carlos (now disgraced) and Canada for someone called Tommy Douglas who turned out to be Scottish.

34 responses to “A to Z of Statues – B is for Otto Von Bismarck

  1. CDG is a giver of course! as Bismarck his grandson married an American socialite in Paris created the mona bismarck foundation I visited as a center of arts now the American arts center ave New York Paris! fyi https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2018/12/06/mona-bismarck-an-american-in-paris/

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  2. The aggression of the Germans (five wars in 80 years) is one of the reasons that the Allies used their bombers to flatten the place totally by 1945. Bombing them back to the Stone Age would guarantee an end to their warmongering. The Russians voted for Stalin who saved them from Hitler.
    Wikipedia quotes a number of different scholars’ figures of Stalin’s victims. They are much more accurate because the Russian archives arew now open to scrutiny:
    “Wheatcroft and Ellman attribute roughly 3 million deaths to the Stalinist regime, including executions and deaths from criminal negligence.[898] Wheatcoft and Davies estimate famine deaths at 5.5–6.5 million[899] while scholar Steven Rosefielde gives a number of 8.7 million.[900] In 2011, historian Timothy D. Snyder summarised modern data and states that Stalin’s regime was responsible for 9 million deaths, with 6 million of these being deliberate killings. He further states the estimate is far lower than the estimates of 20 million or above which were made before access to the archives.[901]
    However many it was, though, is too many.

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  3. Well, I have heard of Konrad Adenauer!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Given that it was Bismarck’s principles of war that took the Germans tearing through Belgium in 1914, I would have thought it was also dicy to retain his statue. But then again, we can’t rewrite history.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have heard of Adenauer, and would argue that actually that was a good and logical choice by the Germans.

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  6. Interesting choices

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  7. The way we’re going no statues will exist as to many nutters have decided that history should be erased for whatever reason and any body left standing should be blamed for what is past regardless of how many centuries have passed

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  8. I stopped attaching any significance to polls like this when in the 1980s a poll to establish the 100 greatest pop/rock songs of all time wound up voting the then current No 1 as the best ever. And it was a song by Bros. Case closed I think.

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  9. I think close reading of your blog posts would equip me to win every pub quiz going. Salazar as most popular Portuguese for instance. Who knew?

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  10. Always interesting what popular polls capture, Andrew. Historical knowledge certainly isn’t their strong suit.:) –Curt

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  11. Well, I have heard of Konrad Adenauer and also Tommy Douglas. Gold star for me?

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  12. One of the interesting things with polls is this . . . they can’t force you to answer.

    For example, if I get a call from a pollster (or an email link, or a link on a web page), I hang up, delete, disregard, in that order.

    That’s because opinions are complex (unless one is a complete and utter simpleton) and answers to polls are anything but nuanced. So, for me to answer a question on a poll, the question itself would have to be specific, and the offered answers — if any — would have to 100% match the scope of the question. Not to mention that most polls are commissioned, so the questions and answers often have specific agendas in mind.

    I mention all that because . . . well, I think people who answer polls fall into three categories. 1) complete and utter simpletons, and 2) people who answer based on what they think people want to hear, and 3) people who think it’s fun to mess with the pollsters.

    Regardless, when I read “a recent poll says”, I interpret it as “here’s a useless piece of information” . . . which I promptly ignore.

    The exception might be a well-crafted poll, but even then, I’m aware that the same people being polled a day later might give different answers.

    Now, offer up a well-moderated group debate on a subject, and then . . . I’d question the process used to select the people participating, but I’d still be interested in hearing the opinions expressed.

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    • There has to be a difference if the poll in unsolicited and people take the trouble to respond without prompting.

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      • Only people with strong opinions (either way) are likely to take the time to answer, meaning, you’re still getting a skewed picture. I can’t see a situation where I’d completely trust polls . . . unless there’s a way to get people’s opinions where they don’t know they are taking a poll.

        I would trust actions . . . meaning, tell me what/how people do/live, and I’ll tell you what they believe (be it justly or not). Even then, people may “do” things for appearances. Then there’s the crowd effect (hence why polls are used to sway opinions), meaning, people in a crowd act differently than they might otherwise be acting because they want to “fit in”.

        Really, individual actions and how a person lives is (in my opinion) the best indicator of who/what a person is/believes. And that’s only for stable circumstances. Throw in hardship or a crisis, and you don’t know what you’ll get.

        Liked by 1 person

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