Plans for a Madame Tussauds in Berlin


Berlin : London has one, so does Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Washington. Now it seems that Berlin is about to get one, too – a Madame Tussauds Waxworks Museum on the city’s prestigious Unter den Linden boulevard.

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The British-based Merlin Entertainments Group, which operates a diverse network of pleasure facilities worldwide, including Legoland, Heide Park and the famous London Eye, seeks to open a Madame Tussaud’s at premises on the boulevard this summer, if an agreement is reached with the Berlin authorities.

The group gained control of Tussauds in 2007, and company executive Johannes Mock says the Berlin project is destined to become the world’s eighth waxworks museum when realised.

Wax figures of former US president John F. Kennedy, Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich and present-day film idols George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder are envisaged for display at the 2,500 sq metre facility.

A trio of exclusive locations on the Unter den Linden are being debated for the Museum, but Merlin says a hitch in reaching an agreement remains, due to a clash with Berlin officials over strict city advertising regulations.

The company is eager to display a shield on its facade, drawing attention to its attractions, and also clad an awning with material on both sides, but Berlin city officials are objecting to the plans.

Ephraim Gothe, a Berlin building official, argues that the structure would have to adhere to regulations approved by city authorities in 1997 aimed at protecting the “historic form of the boulevard”.

Mock says the dispute needs to be settled within a month – if the waxworks museum is to be “operative for the 2008 season”.

Should the city authorities fail to relax its advertising regulations, the Merlin Entertainments Group might be forced to drop Berlin as a venue, Mock hinted. That would leave only Munich as the only possible viable alternative, with an opening date delayed until 2010 at the earliest.

Merlin’s talks in Berlin are continuing, but Mock remains miffed at the city’s strict planning guidelines.

Madame Tussauds dates back to the 1800s when Marie Tussaud, the daughter of a French housekeeper, took up wax modelling under the guidance of Philippe Curtius, a physician skilled in wax modelling, and who would later leave his collection of waxworks to Marie.

She created her first wax figure, of Francois Arouet de Voltaire, in 1777. Other famous people to be modelled included Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. Later, during the French Revolution she made wax death masks of prominent victims.

She would search through bodies to find the decapitated heads of the citizens, which the death masks were to depict. Later, she went to London where she exhibited her collection at the Lyceum Theatre for a spell.

She established her first permanent exhibition on Baker Street in London in 1835. One of the main attractions of her museum was the Chamber of Horrors, which included some victims of the French Revolution, and also newly created figures of murderers and other criminals.

Some of the sculptures done by Tussaud herself still exist. In 1842, she made a self-portrait, which is still to be seen at the entrance to her museum, which moved to its current location on Marylebone Road in 1884.

In 1925, a fire destroyed many of the figures, but the moulds survived, allowing the historical waxworks to be remade.