Marx directs traffic in hometown on 200th birthday

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Opium of the masses

This traffic light man is the recognizable German socialist whose leftist theory is still referenced today in the fight against capitalism. To celebrate Karl Marx's upcoming 200th birthday on May 5, the Mayor of Trier — Marx's hometown in far western Germany — inaugurated this traffic light in March in honor of the author of "Das Kapital." The red Marx pictured does also turn green.

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Mainz little men

Novelty pedestrian lights abound throughout Germany. In Mainz, for instance, the beloved "Mainzelmännchen" (Mainz little man) have taken charge of pedestrian traffic. The six characters (Anton, Berti, Conni, Det, Edi and Fritzchen) have been gracing lights in the center of the Rhineland-Palatinate capital since late 2016, with more little men planned to feature at intersections across the city.

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Green-only Kasper

The popular puppet character Kasper appears on traffic lights in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, but only when green — it remains a conventional red stop light for safety reasons. Indeed, the 17th century character remains one of the most popular performers at the Augsburger Puppenkiste, a local puppet theater for children.

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Pferdle and Äffle: Waiting for go

The cartoon characters "Pferdle and Äffle" are yet to be immortalized on traffic lights in Stuttgart. The official fan club of the lovable donkey and monkey that are well-known to German-speaking children are still fighting for traffic lights adorned with the characters to go up in the Baden-Württemberg city. A petition has collected more than 12,000 signatures, showing broad community support.

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Beethoven gives the green light

Former German capital Bonn is the birthplace of Beethoven, and in 2020 the city celebrates the 250th birthday of the master composer. But the fanfare has already begun, with Beethoven's portrait now featured on a traffic light at Bertha von Suttner Platz, not far from his birthplace. But again, it only comes in green. Karl Stieler's famous painting from 1819 inspired the traffic light portrait.

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Lights with (same-sex) heart

Not only famous people and culture icons make it onto traffic lights. For the Christopher Street Day season, the city of Frankfurt plans to celebrate gay and lesbian couples on traffic lights in the city center. But it won't be the first time. Same-sex traffic lights were installed outside the Wiener Stadthalle concert venue in May 2015 (pictured).

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Traffic-light women

In March 2017, ten female pedestrian crossing signals replaced male traffic light symbols in the center of the city of Melbourne in Australia to further debate about gender and sexual discrimination — if only for a twelve month period. The traffic light project initiated by a charitable organization particularly aimed to address unconscious gender bias.

Novelty traffic symbols light up German cities and beyond

Real Berliners

Germany's best-known pedestrian traffic light symbol is surely Berlin's iconic Ampelmann, who can not only be found on street intersections, but also on key rings and t-shirts. The figure was invented by Karl Peglau, who was not a designer but a traffic psychologist in the GDR. In 1969, the first Ampelmann shone in East Berlin's Friedrichstrasse. Peglau once called them "real citizens of Berlin".

While Karl Marx was exiled from Germany and died in England, the author of "Das Kapital" remains a celebrated figure in his hometown of Trier, where he now adorns pedestrian traffic lights in the city center.

The Lord Mayor of Trier, Wolfram Leibe, inaugurated on March 19 a pedestrian light on which the silhouette of the city's famous socialist philosopher, Karl Marx, flashes. In addition to the communist red associated with Marx, who was born in Trier nearly two centuries ago, the traffic light also illuminates the spiritual father of revolution in green. He's depicted wearing his unmistakable beard and frock coat.

Read moreKarl Marx's 'Das Kapital' still fascinates after 150 years

Birthday tribute

Installed to celebrate the 200th birthday of the philosopher who was born in far western Germany on May 5, 1818, the Marx traffic light won't be the only one — another will start flashing at an intersection close to Marx's actual birthplace in May, when the birthday celebrations reach their crescendo.

In addition, a massive and somewhat controversial Marx statue donated by the People's Republic of China will be erected for the anniversary in Trier. While no doubt impressive, some locals have voiced some concern about the towering height of the "Mega Marx."

Marx spent the first 17 years of his life in Trier before moving to Bonn and then Berlin. The exiled radical philosopher finally ended up in London, where he passed away. It has taken 200 years, but the prodigal son is back.

sb/eg (with dpa)

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monuments in Germany

A present from China

China offered to donate a 6.3-meter (20-foot) statue of Karl Marx to the German city of Trier, where the philosopher was born, for his 200th anniversary in 2018. After intense debates, the city council decided to accept the gift. Pictured here is the wooden dummy that was previously set up to give an impression of what the statue would look like.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monuments in Germany

Reflecting on Marx

Trier celebrated another anniversary of the political thinker in 2013, 130 years after his death. The German conceptual artist Ottmar Hörl installed 500 plastic Marx figures in front of the impressive Porta Nigra. The artist aimed to provoke a discussion on the historical figure and the legacy of his works.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monuments in Germany

Friedrich Engels in a thinker's pose

The four-meter-tall bronze sculpture of the other philosopher of communism, Friedrich Engels, is a bit smaller than the planned Marx statue in Trier. This Engels monument in his hometown, Wuppertal, was also made by a Chinese artist and offered by the government of China in 2014.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monuments in Germany

Spiritual brothers

The Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monument in Berlin shows both authors of "The Communist Manifesto" together. The short work was published in 1848. The East German government had this monument, built in 1986, dedicated to the fathers of communism. After it had to be moved during construction works in 2010, Marx and Engels were turned to make them look towards the West, instead of the East.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monuments in Germany

Carved in stone

A huge Karl Marx monument can be found in Chemnitz - a city that was named after him until 1990. The 13-meter-high monument is the second largest bust in the world. On a wall behind the bust, Marx's well-known phrase from "The Communist Manifesto," "Workers of the world, unite!" is written in four languages: German, English, Russian and French.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monuments in Germany

Marx instead of Bismarck

This memorial stone in Fürstenwalde, a town located in former East Germany, used to feature the first chancellor of the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck. The Prussian was replaced by Karl Marx in 1945. After German reunification, the bronze was stolen and the city council had to decide if a new one should be dedicated to Bismarck or Marx. The latter obtained this new plaque in 2003.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monuments in Germany

Relief with potential for conflict

Karl Marx is also depicted on this bronze relief, called "Aufbruch" (Departure). For over 30 years, it decorated the main entrance of the Leipzig University, formerly named after the thinker in East German times. It was moved during renovation works in 2006, leading some to argue it should disappear completely. Finally, the relief was set up on the Campus Jahnallee with an explanatory text.

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