After extensive preparation under the management of Annette Tietz, in 2019 the district office of Pankow invited entries from all over Germany to the competition Artistic Commentary on the Ernst Thälmann Monument. 110 artists submitted proposals, from which the jury selected ten projects to be elaborated further. In September 2020, the jury recommended Betina Kuntzsch’s THINKING FROM THE PEDESTAL for realization.

This marked the start of some exciting research. Together with dramaturge Christina Schmidt, Betina Kuntzsch spent a year scouring public and private archives, museum depots and municipal collections, talking to people who live in Ernst Thälmann Park, interviewing historians and the composer of the pioneer song, and visiting Thälmann’s granddaughter.

In cooperation with producer Maria Wischnewski and her Koberstein Film team, subsequently ten short, entertaining film essays were created from the findings. Ten more films could be made from the remaining material. Betina Kuntzsch employs the artistic commentary on the Thälmann monument for a multi-layered visual arc documenting the history of the site in all its complexity – and tells a vivid and humorous story of growing up and living in the GDR.

Secret protocols from the Nazi era as well as children’s drawings around the SED’s Thälmann cult demonstrate how incisively the political can sneak into the private sphere and even into our children’s bedrooms.

The invitation to tender called for an improvement in the quality of the open space in front of the monument. And where better to think from the pedestal than on one? Betina Kuntzsch designed five concrete elements for her artistic intervention, perfecting and realizing them in cooperation with the company Betonware. Coral red pedestals on a human scale. Counterpoints to the monotony of the former parade ground as well as to the monument’s own overpowering aesthetics. Reduced to scale, now people can sit on them, lie on them, engage in conversation with each other, or take their own turn on the proverbial pedestal – perhaps as a COAL PALM, HEAD FIST FLAG, or NECKERCHIEF: film titles that are carved in relief on the sides of the coral elements. They are also modelled on the original, set in place of the words “Ernst Thälmann” and “Red Front” written there.


Artistic commentary on the Ernst Thälmann Monument

Idea, Concept, Realisation

Betina Kuntzsch

Concrete Pedestal

Manufacture and erection: Betonware Berlin
Consultation: Arthur Numrich
Model building: Friedrich Gobbesso
Typography: Cornelia Ellinger
QR-code signs: Becker Schilderfertigung


Design and programming: Jens Hoffmeister
Texts: Michaela Nolte
Translation: Lucinda Rennison

Heartfelt thanks to the District Office Pankow, Berlin
Office for Further Education and Culture, Department of Art and Culture
Annette Tietz, Paula Böttcher, Enkidu Leyendecker

Film Team

Screenplay, direction, animations, editing: Betina Kuntzsch
Dramaturgy, research: Christina Schmidt
Camera: Sven Boeck, Martin Langner, Claire Roggan, Betina Kuntzsch
Producer: Maria Wischnewski
Production assistance: Lilly Rinklebe
Composition: Joachim Gies
Saxophone, percussion, electronics: Joachim Gies
Sampling, electronics: Michael Walz
Percussion: Denis Stilke
Speakers: Claudia Mehnert, Betina Kuntzsch
Speech recording: Urs Hauck
Sound design, sound mixing: Michael Walz
Technical support: Helmuth Schneider
Subtitling: Babelfisch translations

Archive material

AFC Energie Berlin | ars cinema berlin e. V. | Rainer Hässelbarth | Filmmuseum Potsdam
Stasi-Unterlagen-Archiv Berlin, Bundesarchiv
Deutsche Fotothek
Stiftung Deutsches Historisches Museum
Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv
Wolfgang Fischer
Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück, Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten
Betina Kuntzsch
Prof. Dietmar Kuntzsch
Hansgert Lambers
Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin | Jochen Haupt
Regina Scheer
Hans Scherner
Andreas Strozyk
Museum Pankow
Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft e.V. | Werner Fischer | Rolf Zöllner
Stadtarchiv Neubrandenburg
Kunstgussmuseum Lauchhammer
dpa Picture-Alliance GmbH
Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH

Children’s drawings

Betina Kuntzsch
Annette Schulze-Röger
Philipp Karstädt
Olf Kreisel
Uta Rinklebe
Christina Schmidt
Sabine Schmidt
Claudia Kuntzsch
Maria Wischnewski

Poem ‟immerdar” by Kathrin Schmidt from ‟sommerschaums ernte”
Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2020

Song ‟So ist ein Pionier” by Reinhold Andert, recorded in the Friedrichstadtpalast 1974
Amiga | Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH

Thanks to:

Reinhold Andert, AnwohnerInitiative Ernst-Thälmann-Park, Sören Benn, Paula Böttcher
Wolfgang Cortjaens, Vera Dehle-Thälmann, Ralf Forster, Philipp Herb, Ines Hahn, Philipp Karstädt
Anne Dorte Krause, Reinhard Krause, Olf Kreisel, Claudia Kuntzsch, Prof. Dietmar Kuntzsch
Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Annette Leo, Martin Lutzens, Enkidu Leyendecker, Ingrid Meyer, Michaela Nolte
Christoph Ochs, Britta Pawelke, Uta Rinklebe, Regina Scheer, Hans Scherner, Sabine Schmidt
Antje Schneider, Annette Schulze-Röger, Hans Soost † and Martina Nischewoff
Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH, Annette Tietz, Robert Wein, Eleonore Wolf, Nina Ziesemer

Special thanks to the Museum Pankow, Beate Böhnisch and Bernt Roder

© KOBERSTEIN FILM | Betina Kuntzsch | Bezirksamt Pankow von Berlin