September 24, 2009 / 4:02 PM / 9 years ago

Scottish governor makes return to centre of Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - A Scottish-born former governor of Berlin made a return to the city on Thursday when a statue of him was unveiled in the center of the German capital.

The restored bronze sculpture of Field Marshal James Keith, a rebel exile from his homeland whom Frederick the Great of Prussia appointed governor of Berlin in 1749, made his public comeback after an absence of more than six decades.

Keith’s emergence into the afternoon sunlight reflects a growing interest in the country to explore Germany’s military history prior to the Nazis, as well as a desire to restore major cities to how they were before World War Two.

Klaus Gehrmann, director of the Schadow Gesellschaft, the organization behind the restoration, said he hoped Keith’s statue would remind visitors to the Zietenplatz square of the capital’s international ties in a bygone era.

“It’s something that’s been forgotten, obviously partly due to World War Two,” he said. “Whether you’re Prussian, a German, a Scot or an Englishman, we’re united in Europe. And this unity is ultimately going to stand the test of time.”

A crowd gathered to watch the unveiling of the Keith statue and those of three other Prussian generals, bringing them together again on the square for the first time since the war.

“The aim is not to resurrect the old military,” Gehrmann said. “This is about reconstructing the historic center of Berlin.”

The statues of Keith and five fellow generals were taken down at the war’s end and languished in dusty archives until two were put back on the square earlier this decade.

Some 300,000 euros ($441,800) were spent returning the remaining four, all funded by private donations, Gehrmann said.

Large areas of the city were destroyed in the war, but since the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago, much has been done to rebuild it. Some moves, like the plan to rebuild the old Stadtschloss palace as a cultural center, have sharply divided opinion.

A native of Peterhead near Aberdeen, Keith was forced to flee his homeland in 1715 at the age of 19 after taking part in an abortive Jacobite rising in support of James Stuart, son of the deposed King James II and pretender to the British throne.

Before arriving in Prussia, Keith fought for Spain and then Russia, during which time he governed Ukraine and was briefly de-facto ruler of Finland during the 1741-43 Russo-Swedish war.

Keith died in October 1758, fighting for Prussia during the Seven Years War. Hochkirch, the Saxon village where he fell, unveiled a monument to him last year.

His biographer Sam Coull said Keith would probably have been quietly amused by Thursday’s ceremony and offered some “pithy comment” to onlookers had he been present.

“In French though, his German wasn’t too good,” he said.

Reporting by Dave Graham, editing by Paul Casciato

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