Breezing Through German History

Visiting the Deutsches Historisches Museum [German History Museum] has one important pre-requisite, namely the capacity to accept incompleteness. There’s just no way that a visitor will be able to get an overview of their massive collections from more than 2,000 years of German/Germanic history. Which is why we had asked our tour guide to focus more on the last 150 years, the period from the unification of the German Empire to the re-unification of the two Germanies (FRG and GDR) in 1991. Still plenty to deal with!

I’ve been to this museum many times in the last couple of years, but there’s always something new to discover. And I just like the way one can trace the development of nationalism and Germanness in the visual art of the respective time period. Yesterday, for instance, we saw the painting Die Wacht am Rhein [The Guard on the Rhine] (1873, by Hermann Wislicenus], a revealing allegory of the difficult relationship between Germany and France. It’s interesting to see how the German landscape and topography is combined with the pensive watchfulness of Germania, resting on her sword and surrounded by the German eagle.

The tour guide also did a very good job emphasizing that any museum on national history must be understood in the context of ideology. As it happened in many other areas, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany had two museums about German history, one in East-Berlin and one in West-Berlin. After the Wende, the museum in the former East-Berlin, located on the prominent Boulevard Unter den Linden, became the site of the unified Deutsches Historisches Museum.

Berlin History Museum
Full concentration on German history: Our tour guide discusses an allegorical painting featuring the founding of the German Empire in 1871.

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