The Monument to the Battle of the Nations is a huge colossal monument that dominates the skyline in Leipzig. The monument commemorates Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig and was commissioned in 1871 and funded mostly by private donations and the city of Leipzig. The monument was officially opened in 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Nations.
The Battle of the Nations was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon aided by Polish and Italian troops as well as German-speakers from the Confederation of the Rhine. Napoleon's army was defeated and compelled to return to France while the Allies invaded France early the next year. Napoleon was forced to abdicate and was exiled to Elba in May 1814. It is said to stand on the spot of some of the bloodiest fighting where some 600,000 people lost their lives.
The colossal size of the monument can be taken as a measure of the significance attributed to the great battle: at 911 meters tall it is the largest memorial monument in Europe. The architect Bruno Schmitz, who also designed the Kyffhaeuser monument, was commissioned to design it. The exterior of the structure has the stately shape of a temple. At its base stands a towering sculpture of the archangel Michael who is joined in his vigil over the monument by a ring of giant stone guards circling the second story. Inside the, monument contains two floors. The first floor is known as the crypt and features eight statues representing fallen warriors in the form of massive medieval knights. These knights are joined by a number of other figures known as the Guards of the Dead. The second story, known as the Hall of Fame contains four more giant figures, each standing over 31 feet tall representing the four legendary historic qualities ascribed to the German people: bravery, faith, sacrifice, and fertility. If you continue up the stairs (over 500 of them), you will get a scenic view of Leipzig.
During the Third Reich, Hitler frequently used the monument as a venue for his meetings in Leipzig. When the US army captured Leipzig on April 18, 1945, the monument was one of the last strongholds in the city to surrender. One hundred and fifty SS soldiers with ammunition and foodstuffs stored in the structure to last three months dug themselves in, but were blasted with artillery and defeated.