Tag Archives: leipzig

The University that brought down a regime

By Carlos S. Francis

St Pauls church Leipzig
University of Leipzig with St Pauls Church © Universität Leipzig

For more than 700 years St Paul’s University Church, the heart of the University of Leipzig (1409), had survived. The Thirty Years War (1618-48) that killed 20 percent of all Germans, the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), and even the ferocious Anglo-American air raid on December 4, 1943 that showered bombs on the city, had not touched it. The bombs slid off the steeply sloping roof and the interior of the church was untouched. The brave people of Leipzig threw water at the roaring flames and rushed into the burning church to save priceless artifacts.

After all, the Church was the symbol of the city. Just as Notre Dame is the symbol of Paris.

First founded in 1229, as a Dominican Abbey, just inside the Eastern city walls, the church had become the center of the city as the city grew, prospering from trade and then industrialization. Dedicated in 1240, and renovated in the 15th century, Martin Luther, the monk at the center of the 16th century Reformation, preached in the Church, which became Protestant in 1545. It was left unscathed by the religious wars that swirled around. A quote from an old travel book captured its splendor. “St Paul’s Church was known as one of the most splendid, well preserved, open churches of Middle Germany it was ornate with tombs, epitaphs and other artifacts, intertwined with a tradition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music and the history of the Reformation”

The use of “was” is significant. It no longer exists. 

University of Leipzig with St Pauls Church
University of Leipzig with St Pauls Church

The Church was destroyed. Not by war. By a deliberate act. An act that eventually, a mere 21 years later, would destroy the GDR.

After 1968, there are no references to the Church in official guide books of the GDR. For the regime itself had brought down the Church, using explosives, on May 30, 1968. That was the Day the GDR actually ended. For a regime that had a semblance of legitimacy based on the anti-Fascist resistance, starting in the 1930s, showed a brutality as callous as  Stalin’s Russia. In 1968, the hardline regime of Walter Ulbricht, a Leipziger mockingly called the “goatee” by the citizens of the GDR, decided to blow up the Church to redesign St. Augustus Square or Platz. At the center of this campaign was Paul Froehlich, the SED regional secretary who wanted to bring down the university church and the Augusteum to design what the party promised would be “the most beautiful square in Europe.” Of the five plans that the GDR regime had to redesign the Square only one let the church survive. This was the plan that the Communist GDR politburo would not approve. Four wanted the church destroyed.

To the shocked surprise of the people of Leipzig the Communist party chose the dull designs of the Berlin architect Prof. Henselmann, who had built the Stalin Allee in Berlin, over that of the local architect Siegel. The only difference was that Henselmann’s plans got rid of St Paul’s University Church.

The reason? Opposition groups, especially the Church, gathered in front of St Paul’s. Such protest was inspired by the Biblical verse “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”(Isaiah 2:4). A verse that is on the wall of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. A verse that inspired Christians to show up in small numbers to protest the GDR regime. As a symbol of their protest, inspired by pure idealism, they wore the ploughshares on their sleeves. For the regime this was an intolerable provocation. Just three hours away by road, the people of Prague had risen against their oppression, and the Warsaw Pact, including East Germany, had sent tanks against the people. 

The GDR, under the regime of Ulbricht, wanted to send a message. That message was the destruction of St Paul’s University Church.

St Pauls Church Leipzig being blown up
St Pauls Church Leipzig being blown up

To show the people of East Germany that the Communist party stood mighty over the people the party decided, on May 7, 1968 that the Church and the Augusteum, a neoclassical building of great beauty, were to be demolished. On May 30, the decision was carried out. At 10 AM on that day, all the church bells of Leipzig rang at the same time. A few minutes later the first muffled explosions were heard. Contemporary eyewitnesses describe how the first explosions knocked down the foundations of the 700-year-old Church. And then an enormous cloud of dust enveloped downtown Leipzig. It was the end of an era.
A brave graduate student and a friend at the Department of Physics at the University decided to protest. Their act would change history. Harald Fritzsch, and his friend, Guenter, bought a large piece of yellow cloth, about 2.5 x 5 square meters in a shop in Potsdam, painted the picture of the destroyed University Church with the inscription: “We Demand Reconstruction!”  and rigged it with a clock. Disguised as a worker, Gunther smuggled the banner into Congress Hall, part of the Leipzig Zoo, where the award ceremony of the International Bach Festival was to take place at the on June 20, 1968. At precisely 8.08 PM, during the award ceremony, the banner unfurled. The applause, the whistles, and the stomping of feet, lasted for more than six minutes and was a grand gesture of defiance from the people under the Communist regime since 1945. A Japanese and a Czech television crew recorded the act as cameras clicked. West German television picked up the event and broadcast it around the world. 

The regime was furious and the entire city was turned over. However, Fitscher and Guenter had made their plans. A few months earlier they had noticed that while East German police boats closed in on anyone who was sailing a boat on the open sea near the East German coast the same was not true of Varna in Bulgaria. They escaped to Turkey on a folding canoe. 

The event turned East German history. Paul Froehlich, Secretary of the East German Communist Party in Leipzig was seen as a possible successor to Ulbricht. He flew into a rage and had a heart attack. His death, a few months later, paved the way for Erich Honecker to become the next leader of East Germany. A moderate, unlike Froehlich who  destroyed the Church, Honecker set East Germany on a path of economic modernization in the 1970s. 

This wanton act of destruction did not destroy the spirit of resistance. The Evangelicals merely moved to St. Nikolai Church a mere 200 meters away. It was here that, in 1989, the protests that would eventually bring down the Soviet Empire, took place. 21 years later the Church had taken it’s revenge.

Top Sehenswürdigkeiten in Leipzig

Leipzig hat viel zu bieten, da fällt die Wahl auf die Attraktionen für den ersten Besuch oft schwer. Ich möchte euch deshalb hier einige meiner persönlichen Highlights vorstellen. Einige davon sind im Rahmen unserer Free Tour Leipzig auch zu bestaunen, andere etwas weiter außerhalb zu finden.

barthels-hof-leipzig_www.leipzigfreetours.com

Barthels Hof Leipzig

Wer in Leipzig ankommt, der kommt zunächst and der Innenstadt und den herrliche Fassaden des Stadtkerns nicht vorbei. Besonders imposant sind hier die zahlreichen alten Handelshöfe mit ihrer Jahrhunderte alten Geschichte. Der älteste und versteckteste ist hier Barthel’s Hof – der letzte Handelshof mit erhaltenem Ein-und Ausgang (früher für Pferdefuhrwerke) und der ersten Leipziger Renaissance Fassade. Hier lässt sich auch gut speisen, für traditionelle Küche noch mehr zu empfehlen wäre jedoch der unweit gelegene Ratskeller.

Eine weitere wünderschöne Fassade findet sich ganz in der Nähe in Gestalt des Alten Rathauses aus dem 16. Jahrhundert, direkt am Markt der Stadt Leipzig.

Figuren aus Goethe's Faust um Faust und Mephisto

Von dort aus gelangt man recht einfach zu einem der Wahrzeichen der Stadt – der Mädlerpassage. Eine wunderschöne Passage, im Design angelehnt an die Viktor – Emanuel – Passage in Mailand wie an der Dachkonstruktion leicht ersichtlich. Die Passage des frühere Kofferfabrikanten Mädler bietet neben allerlei Shopping auch ein Glockenspiel von Meißner Porzellan zu jeder vollen Sunden, genau am Kreuzungspunkt der Passagenarme. Es lohnt sich ein Blick in Auerbach’s Keller mit seinen herrlichen Deckengemälden. Wem es nach edlen Spezialitäten zu Mute ist der wird sich in den Feinkostläden der Galerie wohl fühlen.

Kaffeehaus Riquet

Kaffeehaus Riquet

Für einen anschließenden Kaffee empfehle ich das Wiener Kaffeehaus Ambiente des Café Riquet. Das imposante Gebäude zeugt von der Tradition des Kaffee-, Tee und Kakaohandels der französischen Hugenottenfamilie die einst nach Leipzig kam.

In punkto Kaffee findet sich in der Südvorstadt außerdem das Café Grundmann im Art Deko Stil. Hier trifft man die Leipziger und kann sich bei hervorragendem Kuchen und einer großen Zeitungsauswahl am Interior des Kaffeehauses erfreuen.

Uni-Riese-Leipzig

Uni-Riese Leipzig

Ebenfalls im Zentrum der Stadt und für seine herrliche Aussicht bekannt ist der Uni-Riese mit seiner Aussichtsplatform auf 142m Höhe. Der Aufzug ganz rechts im Gebäude bringt dich im Handumdrehen nach oben.  Mit nur 4 EUR Eintritt zur Platform eine Erlebnis für jedermann.

Nach dem Erkunden des Stadtzentrums empfehle ich den Weg zu den Leipziger Parks ganz in der Nähe zunehmen und durch den Clara-Zetkin-Park zu schlendern. Zu einer Erfrischung lädt im Herzen des Parks das Glashaus ein.

KARL-Heine-Kanal, Leipzig, Plagwitz

KARL-Heine-Kanal

Dem Weg folgend ist es nicht mehr weit und man stößt auf die ersten Kanäle der Stadt. Sehr zu empfehlen ist hier eine Bootsfahrt, zum Beispiel beim Bootsverleih Herold oder auch einfach nur ein Spaziergang entlang des Karl-Heine-Kanals in Plagwitz. Folgt man den Weg hinunter am Westwerk Richtung Kirche öffnet sich eine super schöne Route der man bis zum Mörtelwerk folgen kann.

Für den Abend lohnt sich der Weg zum Völkerschlachtdenkmal um von den Treppen aus den Sonnenuntergang über der Stadt zu genießen.

monument of the battle of nations Leipzig, Völkerschlachtdenkmal Leipzig

Völkerschlachtdenkmal Leipzig

Völkerschlachtdenkmal Leipzig, Monument of the battle of nations, Leipzig, Germany

Seien Sie auf einem unserer city walks in Leipzig mit dabei und entdecken Sie Leipzig mit unseren lokalen Stadtführern.

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

 

I took a walk around Westwerk last weekend and was amazed by the density of street art just in the vicinity of this building in the neighborhood of Plagwitz in Leipzig.

Merely by walking around the building, you can find all sorts of different works from different artists.

The most obvious would be graffiti, but also artists working with stencils, stencils on paper, wood blocks, tapes and vinyl. Some of which carry political statements, others are just pieces of art as such.

I evens saw some lego pieces placed between the gaps of bricks, or larger figures that reminded me of the quite well known spaces invaders works of a French artist. In addition to that you can find quite a number of simple tag like pieces all around Leipzig. One of them, that reminds me in the structure of a version of the twin peaks symbol was even the reason for a local to write a book about her pursuit of trying to track down the artists …. which eventually failed but made her write this book nevertheless.

Another quite striking work for me was a spider sprayed on a large transparent foil stretched between two scaffolding bars.

A walk around Westwerk is certainly worth it, especially as you can combine it even with a visit to the local flea market and one of the many bars and restaurants close by.

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig 1

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

StreetArt Leipzig

 

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Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig - Free Walking Tour Leipzig - Leipzig Free Tours

It all started with …. Beer at Braustraße, next to Feinkost in Leipzig

Braustraße (brew street) hints until today to what was the initial use of the area at today’s “Feinkost” in Leipzig.

A brewery was erected there in 1852 by Carl August Friedrich Lange as “Langesche Bierbrauerei” and converted to “Vereins-Bier-Brauerei” in 1857. In the middle of the 19th century, what is now Südvorstadt, was still out of town of Leipzig in 1830 with its merely 40 000 inhabitants. Following the rise of the trade fair in Leipzig, factories were moved south to keep the inner city smoke free.
In addition to the brewery, there was also a dancing hall and beer garden, conveniently located along the horse drawn tram line linking the boroughs of Connewitz and Gohlis. The unfortunate end of the brewery was caused by the start of WWI and its subsequent acquisition and ultimately halt of production after the war.

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig

Vereins Bier Brauerei Leipzig

Riquet House Leipzig

Also known as the “House with the Elephants,” Riquet House’s architecture is a mix of Art Nouveau and oriental styles. Built at the turn of the 20th century, it housed an oriental trading company which imported goods from China and Japan. Now a restaurant, wine cellars and a cafe, it serves homemade goodies with an historical ambiance. The entrance attracts attention with its beautiful roof and two elephant heads.

Riquet House Leipzig Free Tours

Riquet House Leipzig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barthel‘s Hof Leipzig

From 1747 to 1750, George Werner built this magnificent trade house ensemble for the merchant Gottlieb Barthel including its inward facing baroque facade. The buildings marks one of the last existing trade buildings with entrance and exit in Leipzig and was part of the real estate conman Dr. Jürgen Schneider as construction site back then. Its later renovation led to a redecoration of almost the entire building,except the restaurant in the vault which remained largely original.

Barthels-Hof-Leipzig
Barthels Hof, Leipzig