German Historical Museum in Berlin

by Steve
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German Historical Museum Exhibits

The German Historical Museum is one of the most popular museums in Berlin.  The museum tells the history of Germany from 500 AD  through reunification.  It also does a very nice job of  integrating the German history with European history.

German Historical Museum Buildings

The German Historical Museum is located in two different buildings.  The older building, as seen in the picture below from inside the courtyard, is an old armory that dates back to 1695.

German Historical Museum - Armory

German Historical Museum – Armory

The new building is very modern, was designed by the world famous architect, I. M Pei and houses temporary exhibitions of the museum.

German Historical Museum-I. M. Pei Wing

German Historical Museum-I. M. Pei Wing

Exhibits of the German Historical Museum

The first floor traces German History from AD 500 – 1918, the end of the First World War.  One section was dedicated to the Reformation.  I spent a lot of time in this section of the museum.

I attended  and worked at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa which is named after the Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther hid and translated the New Testament from Greek to German.  Since attending the college, I’ve always had an interest in Martin Luther.  This past summer I had the opportunity to travel through Wittenberg and the surrounding area as they were preparing for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, was a good friend of Martin Luther and did many paintings of Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina.  The museum has two of these paintings on exhibit.  These were painted in 1529.

Martin and Katherins by Lucas Cranach

Martin and Katherins by Lucas Cranach

The exhibits continue on the ground floor beginning after World War I and focusing on the rise of The Third Reich.  Hitler wanted to make Berlin into the “World Capitol”.  A building he planned on constructing was the Great Hall of the People.  A model, seen in the picture below, illustrates the monstrosity of those plans.

Great Hall of the People Model

Great Hall of the People Model

The building was to hold 180,000 people and its dome was to be 290 m (951 ft) high.  That’s more than three times higher than the US Capitol dome!!

German Historical Museum – Special Exhibits

Special Exhibits are located in the I. M. Pei wing of the museum.  The one on display now is about the 1917 Russian Revolution and it’s impact on Europe.  On display is a statue of Vladimir Lenin.  This statue was first installed in a town near Leningrad.

Lenin Statue - German Historical Museum

Lenin Statue – German Historical Museum

Legend says when the German troops invaded the town during World War Two, they asked the residents to use either the statue of Lenin or the church bells to melt the metal down for war production.  The people decided on the statue.  The statue was shipped away, but it was too big for the furnace.  Because of that, it ended up surviving the war.

After the war, when the US troops were replaced by the Red Army, the Soviet Troops became aware of the statue in the German town where it had never been melted down.  They were so moved by it having been saved, that they presented the statue to the city.  After the reunification of Germany, the statue was taken down and given to the German Historical Museum.

Travel Tips

If you’re planning on visiting Berlin in the very near future, be aware there is major construction in front of the museum.  That’s one reason for one of my building pictures being taken from the courtyard.  They are building a new Underground station to better serve tourists visiting all the historical landmarks in this area.  It is to be finished in 2020.

The German Historical Museum is extensive.  You can choose to read about the exhibits you are interested in, which is what I do, or use an audio guide.  You can walk through the museum quickly, you can single out areas that are of interest to you or you can take hours to do it all.  It’s your choice!  Whatever you do, I’m sure you will find it of interest.  It was certainly good for my day of History Thru Travel!

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