Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
Some time between 5 and 6 PM on February 18th, 1891 in Berlin a famous and widely respected sculptor Professor Eduard Lürssen fails to go on his daily walk. Instead, standing in the middle of his studio in Kurfürstenstrasse 71 he puts a small gun to his left temple and pulls the trigger. He is almost instantaneously dead.
Berlin is deeply shocked. Prof. Lürssen, an active artist and a teacher of Dekorative Plastik (decorative sculpture) at Berliner Bauakademie, was a well known personality in German capital. Everybody knew him as the author of the wonderful works adorning the impressive Kaiser-Wilhelm-Brücke next to the Royal Castle as well as one of the best art teachers in Germany. His depression, on the other hand, was not a widely discussed topic.
At the time of his death only relatively small number of people realised that also one of the four group sculptures guarding both side of Belle-Alliance-Brücke (Hallesche Brücke today), as well as the keystones and the medallions decorating the span of the bridge on the outside, came from Lürssen´s studio.
Out of those four groups – Fischfang (Fishing) by Julius Moser, Flußschiffahrt (River Navigation) by Otto Geyer, Fruchthandel or Marketverkehr by Friedrich Reusch and, of course, Lürssen´s Gewerbefleiß (Industry in the sense of “working hard”) – only two still exist. Fischfang and Flußschiffahrt were removed from the bridge in 1921 or 1922 during the construction of the new underground level of the station for today´s U6 line.
Both of them found their new home on Melachton-Brücke in Urbanhafen but after the bridge was blown up in 1857 Fischerfang and Flußschiffahrt had to change their address again. This time they were placed on the lawn next to the old Krankenhaus Am Urban. But after a while they will be back to the waterfront again, looking at Landwehrkanal from Sedanufer not far from Waterloo-Brücke (Sedanufer is gone – today it is a path along the canal between Prinzenbad and Zossener Brücke). Until in the 1980´s Kreuzberg authorities decided to put them back where they belong: on their old bridge, now known as Hallesche Brücke. They took the place of the other, missing sculptures.
Because the other two groups were definitely less lucky. Although they both survived the war (almost) untouched – despite the rumours Fruchthandel was not hit by a bomb in 1943 or 1944 as in the picture made in April-May 1945 it´s still very much standing where it always was – like so many other Berlin sculptures they simply vanished in the air and could never be found again. Lürssen´s Gewerbefleiß counts as officially stolen.
And as if Lürssen´s tragic death were not enough, his wife Marie who discovered the artist´s body, died only hours later from a massive heart attack. They were buried together in Kreuzberg at Friedhof I der Jerusalems- und Neuen Kirchengemeinde – one of the cemeteries between Mehringdamm and Zossener Strasse. Standing at their grave you can almost see the bridge where some of Eduard Lürssen´s most beautiful works used to make people stop in their tracks.